By Ema Toyama. Released in Japan as “GDGD-DOGS” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Aria. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Ema Toyama’s career over here in North America has been a bit slow to build. Pixie Pop came out back in the Tokyopop days, and if I recall had a heroine who was a bit flat. Del Rey then brought over I Am Here!, whose heroine, while slightly better, was still not quite there. Then came Missions of Love, which introduced us to the love quadrangle from hell. Yukina is on a whole other level from her other heroines, and even though some fans are grumping about her losing her ‘snow princess’ facade as she falls in love, there’s no doubt she’s fascinating. And now we have Kanna, the heroine of Manga Dogs, a high school girl who’s also an active manga artist with a story in the back end of a shoujo magazine. What will her character development be like?
As it turns out, any character developemnt is completely irrelevant! Because Manga Dogs is not another shoujo romantic comedy. Toyama has said in the past how Kumeta Koji is one of her favorite authors, particularly Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei and Katteni Kaizo. It shows here. Manga Dogs is an episodic gag manga mocking the manga industry, with Kanna surrounded by three pretty but vapid young men who are determined to become rich and famous drawing manga. The goal here is not to see which young man in the reverse harem Kanna will end up with, but to see if she can keep her sanity and health (already somewhat iffy given her weekly deadlines).
I’d joked on Twitter that, like Missions of Love, Manga Dogs had a main cast who were basically horrible, but Kanna is the Tsukkomi here, which makes a difference. By now the Western audience should be used to this type of humor, but I will say that if you dislike jokes that are framed as “Character A says something stupid, character B shouts at them that the thing they said is stupid”, with optional table flip, this isn’t the title for you. Kanna is mostly the straight man, though even she backslides at times, such as when she’s gathering reference photographs, or forgets she’s not drawing a BL manga.
Toyama jokes in her endnotes about Bakuman, and there is the occasional nod at showing what the life of a manga author is like, but it always takes a backseat to the gags. There are also many little references that fans of manga will get interspersed throughout – my favorite was the gentle mocking of the magazine Manga Dogs runs in, Aria. Aria is a smallish, cult shoujo magazine (though the Levi manga may have changed that), and the boys comparing it to Shonen Jump and Shonen Sunday is ridiculous (we do, at last, get a new guy who mentions Magazine – but he turns out to be a villain).
There’s not much to this manga in the end – so far the emotional depth is zero – but no one’s going to read it for that anyway. They have Missions of Love for that. This is 100% stupid comedy, and it does it quite well. It’s also only 3 volumes long, so won’t risk going on long past what folks expected, like… well, also like Missions of Love.