Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stargazing Dog

Murakami, Takashi. Stargazing Dog. New York : NBM, 2011. 124 pages, ages 10 and up.

I’m not sure if I have read any manga before. I’ve watched a lot of anime though and understand the style and some of the kind of shorthand that is used to express different emotions or circumstances. But it is unnecessary to have had any prior experience with the genre to enjoy the sweet sad story told in Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami. If you cried watching “The Dog Episode” of Futurama, or if you have a heart at all, you will cry reading this book. The story is told in two parts,  the first from a dog named Happie’s perspective and recounts his relationship with Daddy, the father of the girl who takes him in. The second story, called “Sunflowers” follows a social worker who is trying to bring some closure to the first. The art is very simple black and white line drawings with very characterized people. The narrative is told in the naive words of a dog who is blissfully unaware of human problems. His inability understand the increasing gravity of Daddy’s situation makes the story all the more sad. I’m not one for sappy stories usually, especially about dogs, but I didn’t feel that manipulated by this one. I think it is because of the unique perspective and the utter devotion that Daddy shows Happie, even when he has lost everything else. That human and dog bond is shown in a relatable and normal way. Some people will do anything for their pets - especially when they are sick - even sell every last thing they own to make sure they’ll at least have their companion back. Stargazing Dog was extremely popular in Japan when it came out and there is talk of a movie, but I’m not sure I’d see it. The most intriguing part of the book is the subtlety of the story and the way Happie is unable to pick up on clues that his family is falling apart that a human reader can see happening. This is a strong animal-perspective short story that I don’t think would translate well into a feature length film. But who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised.

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