More specifically, it’s a shojo manga that follows the misadventures of naïve 18-year-old virgin Suguri and her loyal pet mongrel Lupin as they run away from home to find a job in Tokyo. Along the way, Lupin accidentally humps Noa, a fetching purebred Labrador retriever, at a rest stop. Horrified, Noa’s owner, goateed 26-year-old dog groomer Teppei, reacts to this unplanned mating by…offering Suguri a job at Woofles, the dog shop he’s mysteriously inherited from some older guy who isn’t related to him.
Now, our collar-wearing heroine, Suguri, possesses an uncanny rapport with dogs—a connection so strong that she can even predict when and where they’re going to poop. Apparently, in the world of Inubaka (which literally translates to “Dog Idiot”), when a dog poops unexpectedly, you catch it in your bare hands. I sincerely hope that this is not the case throughout Japan. Upon meeting Suguri, all dogs emit “happy pee,” which is a cutesy Japanese way of saying “submissive urination.” Basically, she’s a walking health risk.
Daily life at Woofles centers on looking after an ever-changing roster of adorable, realistically drawn puppies, and every time a new pup is introduced, writer/artist Yukiya Sakuragi provides a few random facts about the breed. I’m not sure why, but this is kind of nice and quasi-educational. In her first few days at Woofles, Suguri accidentally loses a Welsh Corgi puppy, successfully introduces a French Bulldog to an acne-pocked, pop-idol obsessed Masi Oka look-alike, and—in a scene too bizarre to be believed—assists an untrained Papillon who stars in a TV commercial for bread with a supermodel who looks like Marissa from The O.C.
Meanwhile, Suguri seems to be developing a crush on Teppei, who spends his days grooming foofy little dogs. One minute, he’s bitching at her about how the puppies are “merchandise, not pets.” The next, he’s tenderly telling her that “every dog who leaves this shop is a friend,” and she can visit him or her anytime. Talk about mixed messages! Eventually, he consents to a “massage” from Suguri, in an attempt to divine the secret behind her mysterious power over canines. It’s weird. Really weird.
This book is rated “T + for older teens,” and based on the fairly juvenile humor and subject matter, I almost want to agree. But, for me, a “Teen” rating just doesn’t adequately account for the hentai-like panty shots that seem to occur every five pages, or the aforementioned “massage” scene. I’m interested to learn why Suguri has this power over dogs—it’s even hinted that she might be a dog in human form. All in all, Inubaka is a light, fluffy read for anyone intrigued by dogs, toilet humor, or Japanese culture.