Hello again and welcome to another edition of President Dog Takes On... continuing the look at summer 2013's new crop of anime. This time around we've got a doozy, probably my favorite show so far of the entire lot and it doesn't waste any time getting good, so get your head out of that summer reading and let's dive into reviewing Dog and Scissors. As with my previous review of Stella Women's Academy, I'm going to basically summarize the first episode and add my own remarks here and there, so once again, advance warning for spoilers.
Oddly enough on the production side, this series comes to us from the studio GONZO, and no, it has nothing to do with the weird blue Muppet of the same name. Rather, this studio is made up of former staff members from Gainax (a coincidence in my choices to be assured), whose lineup of previous works also speaks for itself, given its short span of existence in producing full animated series and OVAs. Hellsing, Full Metal Panic!, Welcome to the NHK, Rosario + Vampire and the Toonami classic Blue Submarine No. 6 are just a few of their previous creations. This studio was also highly involved in the animated sequences for the Lunar series of RPGS, Blazblue and Super Street Fighter IV, which I have all highly enjoyed, and even the music video for Linkin Park's song "Breaking the Habit." So needless to say, another studio with an excellent pedigree for their newest creation to live up to, so let's see how it holds up.
The first episode begins with books, a big wall of them, and a girl all in black writing at a desk. On the floor next to her is a small dachshund dog with another book, seemingly reading.
All of a sudden the girl turns to the dog and says “Hey, why don't you try dying for me?”
… okay, what?
The dog even reacts in your typical anime rage-mark-on-head fashion and... TALKS BACK TO HER.
Something is very odd here to say the least, but don't worry, the rest of the first episode will explain it. We quickly get the impression that the girl is pretty morbid and sadistic by her thoughts and her dog, getting past the method it's communicating to her, is a pretty snarky son of a bitch (no pun intended). He quickly shuts up however when the girl whips out a pair of scissors (from a holster on her thigh, no less) and begins to try and stab him.
It actually turns into kind of a funny fight scene, with the dog dodging each attempted stab and getting chased by the girl around her room. I do have to note that the room overall is very visually appealing between its rows of books, plants and different colors and patterns. As the dog is getting chased, our narration begins explaining how the dog, named Kazuhito, loves books and up until very recently was a... human?
Once again... WHAT?!?!
Like I said, this will all get explained as we go on, but this opening scene establishes pretty quickly how crazy this show can get. And trust me, this is a good, entertaining kind of crazy, which gets reinforced by the opening sequence and music. Suffice it to say, it would be hard for me to describe this in any rational thought bit by bit, but I'll just sum it up with pictures. Tons of bright colors, characters dancing in dog and cat ears, characters dancing like dogs and cats, there's even barking worked into the opening theme! It really is a lot of fun and establishes a mood very quickly that Dog and Scissors is going to be a silly fun ride from the start.
(EDIT 8/21: I finally figured out how to embed videos into these posts, so enjoy the craziness of this intro in its entirety.)
Anyway, the story begins with Kazuhito, still as a human, running to his favorite bookstore where he fills up a pretty sizable bag of new books. So okay, he likes to read, a lot of us do. Flash forward to him arriving to his apartment. Outside of a small futon, every available surface from the floor up to the ceiling is stacked with books. Kazuhito's narration even explains how he didn't want to move with the rest of his family in fear of delays on the release dates of his books. Okay, this has clearly gone from innocent pastime to crippling hording and obsession very quickly. Oh well, people could always be obsessed with worse things...
He then begins to profess an appreciation for his favorite author, Shinobu Akiyama, a very famous up-and-coming author who has gripped the populace harder than J.K. Rowling ever did with the Harry Potter books and in every genre under the sun, also. Kazuhito mentions specifically a series the author wrote based on the seven deadly sins that changed his life, noting that the final volume, Lust, has yet to be released and says he couldn't die without reading it. We then see him in a cafe reading Akiyama's latest book, when suddenly a scruffy looking man at the counter pull out a shotgun (kind of excessive, don't you think?), aims it square at the waiter and starts to rob the cafe.
The robber shouts 'You two over there, stand up!' and aims his shotgun at Kazuhito. He does as he's told, but notices a girl in the other booth (the girl from the opening scene) simply writing. She appears not to notice her surroundings and doesn't see the robber or anyone else around her booth in the cafe, focused solely on her writing. The robber moves closer and closer to her telling her to stand up and getting angrier with every moment of cold shoulder he's receiving from the girl. He then shouts, aims his gun at her and begins to pull the trigger. Kazuhito shouts and charges at the robber, attempting to wrestle the gun away from him; all the while the girl continues to write. He gets knocked to the ground by the robber and the gun aimed right his head. BANG! Kazuhito gets a headshot for all his nobility. Well this is wonderful, we're killing off our main character seven minutes into the first episode. That's got to be close to a record here.
Even after the shot, the girl continues to write, as if the whole scene never occurred in the first place. We fade to black then cut to a brightly colored field of stars with Kazuhito's soul floating and his life flashing before his eyes, all his loved ones and all the books he still hadn't read, including the last Deadly Sin book he pined for earlier. Suddenly in a flash of light a book with the title Lust appears before him. He reaches out for it but it turns into a small dog and sucks him into it.
Books can turn into dogs when you follow the bright light to heaven. That's the power of faith for you.
Somehow, Kazuhito wakes up to see the bars of a cage and an older dark-skinned man with a giant afro. He's of course happy to be alive, knowing he can read again, but begins to question why the afro-man is calling him a dog. Looking around the room, he sees a mirror with the reflection of the dog we saw in the opening looking back at him. Fortunately it doesn't take him long to figure out from there he's actually become the dog.
After a brief shot of an odd girl in a maid outfit swinging a broom around and a girl in an idol outfit singing on a TV (A.K.A., foreshadowing future characters), we cut back to Kazuhito explaining how he ended up in the pet shop after being found abandoned by the afro-man. He's even accepted being a dog but he begins to throw a fit over not having read a book in a week and has read every single thing there is to read in the pet shop.
The only thing worse to him than getting hit with a rolled-up newspaper is not being able to read it afterwards.
He sees the afro-man reading a book and begs for him to bring it closer, but he just gets food instead. Things start to look bleak for our avid reader-turned-pooch (going by the calendar near Kazuhito's cage it'd been nine whole days) until who should walk into the pet shop but the girl in black, getting a pretty cool, yet ominous floor-to-head pan up, highlighting her scissors and her crimson red eyes, saying 'The protagonist has appeared.' A real nice touch in my book, knowing what her personality is. As she slowly walks up to the counter, her black heeled boots clicking on the floor, all the animals cower in fear.
She looks at Kazuhito and plainly asks how much he costs to buy. When told by the afro-man Kazuhito isn't for sale, her eyes narrow, she pulls out her scissors and gives the cage a flurry of cuts with an added acrobatic spin and sheathing. Somehow the cage practically explodes (slightly crushing Kazuhito with the roof of it) and she asks again, just as plainly as before, how much for the dog.
Jump to Kazuhito somehow tied up in a bag by a rope in what looks like the girl's basement.
Well, that escalated quickly.
Through another little scene of the girl torturing Kazuhito, he discovers that the girl can somehow hear his thoughts and read his mind (but only his, no other animals or anything), thus leading to direct communication and establishing the dialogue between the two for the rest of the series. It turns out of the last few days in the pet shop, our canine protagonist had been calling out to be saved in his thoughts, all of which were heard by the girl, who we finally find out is named Kirihime Natsuno.
Apparently, being a woman equals being James Bond.
Kazuhito pines for his luck, between the robbery, the reincarnation and Kirihime, the first of which makes him realize that she is the girl from the cafe he sacrificed his life to save from the robber. The first episode wraps up with some fanservice...
Kazuhito's discovery of Kirihime's massive library...
Like a man in a desert finding an oasis.
...setup for the next episode, and one final revelation: Kirihime is actually, by way of using a pen name, Shinobu Akiyama.
The ending theme and music are a bit more subdued than the opening, but in the way a jalapeno pepper would be less spicy than a habanero; there's still something plenty of spice and weirdness to go around. Flying jets shaped like scissors, the blonde idol girl from the foreshadowing moment singing another peppy song and more potential torture for our canine hero.
Sometimes a pair of scissors is just a pair of scissors. Other times it's a hypersonic jet. Go figure.
As for our main characters, Kazuhito is a decent enough protagonist, trying to make the best of a ridiculous twist of fate while his love of reading keeps him motivated enough to put up with it all. His wit to the situation unfolding around him definitely keeps the show lighthearted and silly enough for something with this premise. On top of that, I love his design as a dog and he gets very expressive despite his small stature; he even get made into several plush versions of himself for some of the girls in the cast to hug during the end credits. If that's not a sign of a well designed character, I wouldn't know what is.
Kirihime/Shinobu is certainly something else, in both looks and personality. She's an imposing figure to be sure, dressed all in black from head to toe, save for the bit of zettai ryouki we get from her black stockings and her red accents and eyes. Seeing her flash an ill-meaning smile at Kazuhito while inflicting her little tortures on him comes off both cruel and hilarious. Clearly sadistic and focused when we first get to know her, we find out she is actually a very well-rounded person when it comes to different skills outside of her writing, both domestically and in hobbies such as martial arts, all of which go into her writing.
The dynamic between the two is the centerpiece of the show so far as it expands out into a small mystery in the next few episodes trying to track down the robber from the cafe and whatnot. As of episode 3 it's still building the cast up a bit, so I can't comment too much beyond our main pair here, but from what I've seen it's bound to get even crazier once we mix more in (Keep an eye out for Kirihime's book editor and the idol girl I've mentioned previously if you decide to check this out). Art style, animation and music are all solid (both the opening and ending themes are catchy as previously mentioned), as well as the pace of the story. No big issues with characterization so far, like in the last review of Stella Women's Academy, so that also bodes well. The only downside I've seen so far is that the series will only be 12 episodes long, but if the quality stays consistent or even goes up it won't be a big factor. Overall, Dog and Scissors gets a 4.5 out of 5 for me, with positive potential to grow on top of that as the show progresses. The show airs on Mondays in Japan and simulcast the same day on Crunchyroll.
Next time, unfortunately, they can't all be winners. Bring out your dead, folks, they aren't getting livelier. President Dog Takes On... Sundays Without God.