Stray dogs is the manga name that's trying to sound like a band name, and that's already a statement in itself. Its main appeal is unique story and character design that is blended with a familiar concept (power user organization fights bad guys) that seems to draw people in. Crime noir/gangster theme? check. City where anything can happen? check. Main conflict being war between groups of special power users? check. If you happen to be a fan of Durarara or Darker than Black, chances are that this manga will appeal to you.
Atsushi, An orphan who is kicked out gets a second chance at life when
he is saved by a suicidal man (Dazai) who happens to be the head of an ability user centered detective agency. The man offers him a job, and Atsushi having nowhere to go hopes that he can finally feel accepted for once. The main story focuses on his role in the agency and how his view of the world changes as more is revealed about the various ability users. Right now I don't feel that story is necessarily the strong point of this manga. The author is able to create suspense rather well and presents pretty much all of its characters as enigmatic-they seem to have backstories or pasts that haven't been looked into yet and are inexplicably also connected with...something. But we don't know yet. Rather, as of now it reads like that of a good shounen, which is rather a straightforward approach of fights and exposition. However, I feel that the story will become more prevalent and complex because right now the author has just barely established the important characters.
The art is great. It well highlights in particular dramatic elements, where things like facial features need to be clearly expressed. The manga is drawn in a very clean way which is rather easy to look at but never skimps on details like costume and character design. In fact, each character can be identified by their clothes alone simply because the design of each one sets them all apart. Fight scenes are beautiful to look at and the effects around the powers that the characters use have a lot of impact. This is definitely one of Stray dogs strong points.
Where do I start? If you've noticed, each of the characters are named after rather well known authors in both Japanese and English literature (think books like the Great Gatsby or The Grapes of Wrath). The author's name also has a relation to what power the character has, and their powers are named after one of their works. This is a great way to familiarize the audience with the characters because it gives a small amount of interpretation as to what things they like and what their personality would be. A lot of their little habits are shown which gives us a better connection with them. At the same time, I feel that this concept could possibly feel gimmicky if future characters have nothing in common with their namesake other than it and their power, but that also would make it easier for the audience to follow without context. Nonetheless, I still feel that the author has so far kept consistent with naming. As for character depth, currently the only ones developed are Akutagawa, Atsushi, and Kyouka, but as mentioned earlier, all of the characters hold a TON of potential depth because the mystery atmosphere is captured so well. The series also has little symbols and metaphors throughout, like Atsushi's eyes or Dazai's use of the word "dog".
Although it isn't very developed right now and the arcs feel somewhat short, Stray dogs nails all of the unique concepts that it introduces and feels very fresh as a result. The story and characters are just beginning to come together and I feel that the series as a whole holds a large amount of potential. This is one to watch out for.
An enjoyable mix of action and mystery, I would recommend Stray Dogs to anyone who feels like watching either genre or wants something new. The art is refreshing as well as the characters, which both are the furthest from "generic".
*note This review was made with 4 volumes released, 24 chapters and is subject to change.