BowWow Wata Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, January 01, 2004
What They Say
A Wonderful Tale of Man and Man's Best Friend
Imagine being born into a family where your father is a Shinto God and your mother, a statue! Imagine being able to talk to animals and all the good (and not so good) things that come with it. Sound enviable? Find out in the adventures of Tasuke and Wata -- as they discover themselves and a whole new world of furry surprises!
The cover is straight from the original. The three main characters are presented on the front on a trippy background with a pawprint holding the volume counter. The spine features a close-up of a cute looking Wata above the manga info. On the back is a red-tone image of a happy Misato in her old-school uniform to the right of the blurb. This image is placed on top of a page of rainbow patterned tiles. Each tile sporting an animial image or an SD image of Tasuke. Very very nice!!
Logo Check!! (©2003 Megs)... is almost as creative as the original (found the volume header inside the cover.) Its has "Bow Wow" in a stylish font with fangs on the B. "Wata" is spelled out in all caps in a balloon font with paws in the "A"s. Very cute. The original was similar where "GauGau" had teeth in the weird looking "ka" kana and inside the kanji for the "ta" in Wata there is a paw. I like how Gutsoon!/Coamix worked to keep the feel similar by using similar techniques.
Inside there is an intro to the mangaka, Umekawa Kazumi, along with a short message from her. There is a volume header with a cute Misato with Wata in a flowery frame; and the volume finishes with an ad for Fist of the North Star: Master's Edition.
Bow Wow Wata is just cute. Character designs are pretty simple for most characters. The gals are a little on the long side (really long legs) but they also tend to be a little curvy at the right places. Tasuke looks like most shonen characters but his hair is not as wild or as sharp. Faces are a little square but the facial expression are strong and the jaw-lines are consistent. Costume designs are very fun. In some series the main characters (especially guys) never change. You cannot say that about this series. Tasuke, Misato, and even some of the pets wear different costumes quite often so things look fresh and fun.
The animal designs are great. I like them better than the humans, myself. They have detailed lines, very expressive faces and good shading on their coats and muscle tone. I really wished that Gutsoon! could have added some of the water color animal theme chapter headers cause while they look nice in B&W they would look fantastic in color.
The layout for this series is not very memorable but its actually pretty fancy. Panels come in a variety of sizes and forms. Techniques like "out of panel," " overlapping" and "multiple character perspective" are used with good tone techniques to set moods and tempo. The backgrounds are also pretty good so readers can easily find point of view by seeing where the characters are in relation to their surroundings. This is vital in a series where people and animals are interacting so often and its done very well.
Like all Gutsoon!'s titles Wata is printed right to left. It's published in a TP/Viz sized book with numbers in every panel. I do not mind the numbers but I really do not believe it can be that hard to understand without them.
SFX are rarely translated. Most of the SFX translated are active FX. So if there is an action and the FX is describing the action not the sound made it will be translated. The concept is strange and one Gutsoon! has been working on mainly on Fist of the North Star: Master's Edition but its now creeping over to the rest of their titles. Personally I think it's not enough. Why do some and not do the others? And why bother translating manga if all of it is not translated?
The translation for Bow Wow Wata is great. Full of honorifics and cultural notes its a smooth read that does not have some of the grammatical issues that I have experienced from Japanese translators. A unique aspect to BWW is the technical jargon. Gutsoon!/Coamix does a great job by explaining diseases and treatment when the situation comes up. Signs and other text is left intact and subbed in a tasteful manner as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Yashiro Animal Clinic is pretty unique. It might not look fancy but it offers some services that are rarely seen in Japan or else where these days. Dr. Yashiro can provide one-on-one human-to-animal counseling along with the veterinary treatment that you would expect at any animal clinic. How he does it is hard to explain. As hard as it is to believe he can talk to the animals. And to be honest there is a lot that is hard to believe about Dr. Yashiro; just ask his son Tasuke.
Tasuke grew up in this clinic with his dad. And while he may not be as passionate about animal care as his father is he tends to help out a lot and has a decent feel for the profession. Like many kids Tasuke would rather not go into the same line of business as his parent but fate? or more specifically, love changed that. When, high school senior Funakoshi Misato brought in her dog Wata to the clinic Tasuke gained an interest in veterinary sciences that he could not shake.
Misato is not only cute but the gal is nuts about animals. She has had dozens of pets through the years and ever since she was a very young girl has wanted to be a vet. Her passion for animals sometimes makes her seem blind to the other realities of life but she has a good heart. While we see her very dedicated to the lives of strays and hospitalized animals (yup, she soon volunteers time at the Yashiro Clinic) she may not notice the feelings or suffering of the humans around her; unless those humans are harming those animals. It's pretty easy to imagine how Tasuke feels about that. Unluckily for him he cannot make things better at the moment because of?..
Wata. That 13-year-old honorable mutt protects Misato with all his life. So strong are his feelings that he once bit his master to force her to put him down before giving him to another master. Wata is old and wise but he often puts on a front to humans that want to get close to his master, and for a good chunk of this volume Tasuke is crossing that line. He does not hesitate to take chomps at Tasuke. He also does not mind telling Tasuke that he is above him, either. That does not make things easy for Tasuke, especially when he finds out that he too can talk to animals. Biting is one thing but getting taunted by mutts and stray-cats is too much to handle. Even if you are the son of the Komainu (the Shinto god of dogs) and the Oinari (the god of rice) no one (man or beast) gives you any respect.
Fortunately, Tasuke takes things in stride. He has a decent heart himself. Tasuke might not like getting involved in the affairs of the neighborhood animals but the kid almost always follows through and getting to talk to these beasts only makes him more concerned. Whether it's a missing puppy or a sick kitty Tasuke is almost always there to help. Besides, deeds like that could give him points with Misato-chan!!
Bow Wow Wata comes from a genre that has not been seen in the states before. Vet/nurse manga can be often found in josei manga magazines but ever so often you will run into them in shojo or shonen form. Knowing that this came in a seinen magazine (Weekly Comic Bunch) makes it even more special. Umekawa's veterinary skills and her love for animals really comes through with each story. She mixes in real diseases real treatments and a few social issues to make every story come close to home whether you have pets or not. That is where this manga works. She keeps it real enough for adults but at the same time the characters are so cute younger audiences can enjoy Wata as well.
For those looking for a solid comedy with some tense issues mixed in here and there Bow Wow Wata should not be passed up. The comedy is good its not great but the drama is what carries this series. Ever wondered what your pet is thinking? Ever wished you could communicate with them? A few of Umekawa-sensei's characters can and they have to experience the good and the bads that comes with that ability.
For those looking for drama with less cuteness pass. Everyone in Wata is cute (well Dr. Yashiro isn't too cute but he is a dog-boy ) so you cannot escape that. And while the stories are not often cute some people might want to see the spotlight on the humans instead of the pets.
Me, I fell in love with Wata from day one. I do not know what Tasuke sees in Misato (I like Hanako-sempai ) but I can feel for him trying so hard. I also like the dynamic with him and Wata. Those two tend to share the majority of the panel time together and while their personalities completely clash they tend to work well off of each other when the situation calls. Best of all the experience that Umekawa-sensei brings to this series really brings up the realism in this fantasy that is a must for a seinen reader like myself. I just wish Gutsoon! could publish Umekawa/Coamix's cell phone manga MofuMofu Animal as well.
Different but good.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Gutsoon!
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left