Finally! The announcement of the license came in July of last year, but DOGS finally officially released middle of last week (though a few people have reported seeing them in stores before then). I had had my preorder through HeavyInk, which has only served me well in the past, but I’m beginning to think that their strength is only in subscriptions and US trades, rather than licensed manga — typical of a comic store, I guess. They seem to have had various complications/delays with my order, so I finally just canceled it and ordered through Amazon. It arrived within three days. Because they only included bubble packaging on one side, my cover was a little warped, but other than that: it’s beautiful~.
I’ve updated my MAL review for DOGS to include some commentary about Viz’s release, but I’m going to do an in-depth semi-review here because I feel like it.
PACKAGING & APPEARANCE — Since I don’t buy a lot of manga, this is actually the first Viz release that I’ve picked up since my old, old Gundam Wing manga — all my others have been TOKYOPOP releases — though I still plan to eventually pick up all of Death Note. The volume was actually shrink-wrapped and marked with explicit content, which surprised me until I opened it. The fold-out poster is this illustration on one side and this picture of Naoto on the other side. I forgot about all the nudity that’s in this manga, apparently, probably because none of it ever feels gratitious. The manga itself feels very slick — the DOGS logos and titles on the front and back covers, as well as the spine, are all shiny silver, and the graphic design on all sides is very clean and nice looking. The exception is the text that reads “Stray dogs howling through the dark” on the back; the font used is ill-fitting and kind of ugly, but that’s pretty minor.
The print size is a bit larger than most tankoban, and I noticed the paper quality is a little lesser. The pages aren’t as heavy and sturdy as I’m used to, and the volume itself is very flexible. I don’t mind the larger format at all, but I’m confused as to why the paper quality changed. It can’t be just a Viz thing since I’ve at least flipped through other Viz releases and never noticed a quality difference. I’m hesitant to call it a cost issue since this volume of DOGS is already quite a bit more expensive ($12.99) than other Viz releases ($7.99), so it isn’t like they couldn’t have offset printing costs on the larger size. It’s not that big a deal really, but it was a noticable thing.
EDITNG & TRANSLATION — As someone who doesn’t speak the language, I can really only judge a translation by how natural it feels and much it makes sense. Having read scanlations is a decent basis for meaning, especially since the scanlator always made a point to make notes on the portions she wasn’t sure of, but in the end, it’s really just about whether the story comes across in a way that isn’t confusing or choppy. I was, for the most part, really happy and impressed by Viz’s translation. There were a lot of things that were actually made much clearer through this translation. The slang and dialogue localization was less extreme than what TOKYOPOP usually does (though story setting may have something to do with this), so the inevitable shift in character tones wasn’t too jarring.
I was kind of confused about some of their choices in diction. For example, Badou once referred to cigarettes as “fags.” It’s all well and good meaning-wise, but fag in that usage is British slang, not American slang, and I don’t imagine that too many people even know that. There was also a part where Badou declares “U. B. DESTROYED!” which was kind of awkward since I think “you be” would have fit in the bubble just fine? Badou also says “Oh shi–” at some point, but that’s just awesome.
All of the sound effects in this release are edited and translated, which surprised me since I thought that sort of editing went out when everyone decided perserving the right-to-left reading format was the way to go. Still, compared to Viz’s older works, the translated sound effects are much improved. They’ve gotten more creative with the onomatopoeias (“twip” and “zsh” in addition to your standard “bang” and “whap”), and most of the sound effects actually seem to make sense. The chosen fonts are kind of plain and uninspired at times, but they fit in okay, and I think I’m just biased because I find katakana to be infinitely more interesting to look at even though the “sound” effect part will be lost to me until I sit my ass down and memorize that alphabet.
The font and copy choices for the normal dalogue were pretty standard, though the font size changed a lot to accomodate the bubbles — this always annoys me, but what can ya do. I always enjoy the out-of-bubble dialogue though (all those tiny comments made by chibi and background characters), and the translations for those were especially fun.
Last note here: Heine’s name is offically Heine because that’s a real German name. Some fans have been whining about this, and I understand that the change seems trivially annoying because the scanlations use “Haine,” but seriously, come on. The romaji has always been transliterated to “Haine” because that’s how it’d be pronounced in Japanese. For the transliteration to be “Heine,” the katakana would need to be ヘイネ, which the Japanese would pronounce “Hay-nay” or “Heh-ee-nay” instead.
FINAL THOUGHTS — I’m really happy with Viz’s treatment of DOGS for the most part and really look forward to the release of Bullets&Carnage vol. 1 in August (and vol. 2 in December!) It’s great to finally be able to hold one of Miwa’s works in my hands, though I’ve come to notice a lot more anatomical mistakes in his art because of it, lol. (Check out Heine’s left leg on the cover, serious!)