My Review of Dog and Scissors!

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Harumi Kazuhito isn’t your ordinary bookworm. His entire life revolves around books. I know that may sound like hyperbole, but oh no, I mean that with complete sincerity. I also mean it literally, but we’ll get to that. For now, Harumi is a high school boy who has dedicated his life to the pastime of reading. He basically chain-reads, buying up books by the handfuls, burning through them at supernatural speeds, and hoarding every volume he finishes. He even refused to live with his family, opting instead to live in an apartment by himself so he could go to school in an area where the books he wants are able to come out slightly quicker. One day, while he’s reading in a cafe, a crazed robber bursts in and begins to wave a shotgun around. He threatens a young woman who’s distractedly writing away in another seat, and Harumi gets up to defend her… Not because he’s generally a nice person, but because he can’t stand to see a fellow book-lover get hurt. Yes, that’s how his mind works… Or, how it DID work, until the robber blew it out of his skull.

Now freshly dead, Harumi decides he can’t cross over to the land of the dead yet… He has so many books he still wants to read, including the final book from his favorite author, Akiyama Shinobu. He manages to pull himself back to the land of the living with the strength of this passion… So, like I said, his life literally revolves around books… But through some mix-up, he’s reincarnated into the body of a dog. A miniature dachshund, to be exact, who’s kept in a small cage in a pet store even though he’s not for sale(this is never explained). He’s soon adopted by the girl he rescued, as the connection they share has given her the ability to hear his thoughts(at least I think that’s the reason?), and she takes him home… To murder him. Until he finds out she’s really Akiyama Shinobu, she finds out he’s a fan of her work, and she inexplicably becomes sexually attracted to him. And as it turns out, these are not going to be the only extreme oddities in his life going forward, as the world around him just gets weirder and weirder. Good god, let’s just get this turkey over with already.

Studio Gonzo may have some acclaimed titles under their belt, what with the Fullmetal Panic franchise and arguably Linkin Park’s best music video having been produced by them, but when you tally their output together, the bad far outweighs the good. They’ve put out some visual wonders like Gankutsuou, but they’ve also let out some real clunkers like Gantz, and while Dog and Scissors, may not be THAT far down the ladder, it’s pretty close to the bottom. The animation is stiff and cheap in a way that’s honestly hard not to notice. They’re clearly able to save a lot of money with the fact that the central character, living in the body of a dog, is able to speak telepathically, without the burden of having to animate lip flaps, so all they have to do is repeat animation cycles when he’s on screen… Be it slight movements in his fur, or wagging the tuft of hair on his head… But this advantage becomes stale very fast, as it’s just a variation on the talking heads that make up the rest of the cast.

And speaking of the cast, I’ll be honest, the character designs look pretty good. If you’re just looking at still images, the series actually looks really crisp and pleasing to the eye. A few of the designs look a bit cliched, and they all look a bit standard, but they’re all pleasant to look at. Harumi makes for an adorable little doggy(which makes up for how intentionally bland he looks as a human), and maybe this is a matter of personal taste, but I love the design of his chop-happy new owner Natsuno. She’s like a grown-up version of Ai Enma who walks around dressed up like an extra from the Matrix movies, and I dig it, she looks really cool. I also really like the afro guy who runs the pet store. not only does his apron feature a clever Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure easter egg, he just looks like he’d be a really chill dude to hang out with. The backgrounds are also immaculately detailed, with shelves full of diverse looking books giving our characters’ collections their own sense of personality, and each character’s living space is detailed enough to add a new dimension to their personalities, especially in the case of Natsuno.

Of course, that doesn’t excuse the animation. Despite what the premise may have suggested, there’s action in this series, but considering how well it moves, you may as well just read the damn light novels. The only thing that looks like it had any real money put into it was the opening, which is fast moving, full of visual effects, and actually manages to translate the characters’ awkward movements into some really fun dance cycles. You’ve probably seen an anime where characters imitate dogs or cats by moving their half-clenched fists in a certain way to resemble paws, haven’t you? This opening features nearly the entire cast doing step-dances that heavily incorporate that kind of movement, and it’s so adorable you just can’t help but smile when seeing it. They also have doggy ears and tails, and as a possible result of the video’s fast pace, it’s disquietingly easy to not notice this the first time watching it. This video has no right to be as fun as it is, but at least it was SOMETHING to look forward to.

Of course, it probably helps that the song was also really catchy. It’s by Inu Musume Club, and it’s called “Wan Wan Wan Wan N_1,” and that may sound like gibberish at first glance, but there’s a really popular Japanese pun behind it. Wan is the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound a dog makes, which any American would call Woof or Bark. Wan also sounds like One, hence why the title begins with barking and ends with an obvious abbreviation for Number One. This actually isn’t even the only opening theme to employ this pun, hell, it’s not even the best one, as Working!!! actually did it much better, but leaving that aside, it’s a funny little footnote. The ending theme is almost as delightful as it’s op counterpart, with Natsuno flying a scissors-inspired private jet, her rival’s black-suited bodyguards expressionlessly dancing in tandem, and generally just a bunch of creative and funny imagery gets paired to a slightly more low-key but still catchy song with the bizarre name Lemonade scandal.

I wish I could tell you more about the music, but unfortunately, I barely noticed it at all during the show. I guess that means it was doing it’s job? I can’t remember ever hating the music… At least not as much as generally everything else… And I can vaguely recall tapping my foot to a few fun-sounding tunes. This is normally where I’d be looking up each individual track online, but I can only find one, by the name of Mieta Kibo, and god help me, it sounds absolutely divine. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, as it’s credited to one Akito Matsuda, who Wikipedia says WAS in charge of the music of the series, but since there’s only one track available online, I’d have to rewatch the show to hear it’s ost… And I’d rather stick a thumb-tack through my eyelid. Thankfully, he’s done the soundtracks to a lot of other recent anime, and now that I’m hearing some of it, I suddenly REALLY want to watch Sound Euphorium. His composition, as I’ve heard, was the one and only interesting thing about Glasslip, so Dog and Scissors’ music was probably just as solid.

The English dub is… Well, it’s weird, but hey, this is a weird show. It’s a mix of bizarrely enthusiastic standouts and adequate, okay performances, with thankfully no real duds to speak of. At the very worst, some of the casting choices are standard, just the actors we know coming and doing their thing, catching an easy paycheck off of a role that they were suited for. Chief among these is Blake Shepard, who I’m normally not a huge fan of, playing the lead role of Harumi, and while his delivery skews the line between hammy and wooden whenever his character is excited, he manages to nail it whenever he’s supposed to sound serious or sarcastic. And then on the other end of the spectrum you have Jessica Calvello, an actor who… Well, if you assign her to one of your characters, you’re pretty much bringing out the big guns, because putting her in any role but the lead is fucking overkill. Luckily, she’s playing one half of the titular pair here, and her penchant for hitting a wide range within one single character adds a level of insanity that makes Natsuno far more tolerable than her disturbingly subtle Japanese portrayal.

There are other actors, of course, and I’d like to bring up Luci Christian as a highlight because she put an absurd amount of effort into a suicidal self-blaming character… And the adaptive script is really good at localizing the dialogue without straying too far from the original intent, although it does fuck up once towards the end and make i sound like someone’s responding to Harumi’s thought-comments… But I really want to skip right to the second half of this review, because I have a lot to say about the writing and meat of this anime, and none of it is pleasant. So let me just say that the dub is good, and I’d highly recommend it over the sub, because the sub just sounds too grounded, which makes a lot of it’s more problematic elements harder to stomach. The dub gives it more of a wacky and bizarre personality, allowing you to mentally remove it from the harsher implications of a lot of it’s so-called jokes. Then again maybe that’s just me being dumb American and not appreciating the Japanese language or whatever. If you’re going to watch this, I recommend doing it in English.

Right, now that that’s over with, I’ve been holding this in for far too long. If I haven’t already given this away, Dog and Scissors is bad. Like, it’s really, really bad. It’s not funny bad… It’s not interesting bad… It’s the kind of bad that I only place among the worst of the worst, which, for me, is a list that not even School Days has been able to crack. I actually hesitated to write this review, and even thought about stopping a few times, because I honestly don’t think a review is necessary. This is the kind of show where you can immediately tell whether or not it’s worth watching… Yeah, it’s ironic that an anime revolving around books would be so easy to judge from a glance at the cover. In fact, here’s all you really need to know to get a feel for the series: A woman adopts a puppy because she wants to kill it, and then spares it because she wants to have sex with it. I know that’s not entirely fair, and it’s taking the scenario out of context, but it’s not inaccurate, either. That literally happens, and further details don’t do much to improve things.

Everything about this series… Well, aside from the music, dub and art… Is either stupid, confusing or awful. There is not one redeeming quality outside of those few production efforts. I could do an entire Inconvenient Questions post about each individual episode, but I won’t, because watching this show twice in my life was twice too many times, and I cancelled IQ for a good reason. Thus, I’m only going to focus on my biggest problems with this series. For starters, I failed to mention until now what the biggest connection between Natsuno and Harumi is. He can’t talk, being a dog, but she can hear his thoughts. This might not bother you, but it bugs the hell out of me… His thoughts aren’t treated like thoughts, but like regular conversation. She hears him as though he’s speaking. That’s not how thinking works. You never stop thinking. And yeah, you could SAY that she can only hear thoughts he sends to her, but this also isn’t true, because the only reason they met is because his thoughts, from elsewhere in the city, were distracting her, and she tracked him down.

Right there, it’s established that not only can she hear his thoughts without his consent or knowledge, but that there’s a long range, and she can’t shut it out, but there are possibly thousands of instances in the series that directly contradict this. Why does she ask him questions? Why does she ever think he’s lying about something? You can hear his thoughts! He shouldn’t be able to lie to you! Why do you each read a book at the same time, when you should just be able to hear him reading it? Did his thoughts distracting you from writing just stop? Did that problem go away the second you decided to not murder him? If you were able to track him down to the pet store he was being kept in(like a parrot), why do you EVER have to look for him in order to find him? I’m sorry, I really am, but this entire premise is so frustratingly inconsistent that I honestly found it distracting throughout the series. Even comedies… No, especially comedies… Have to take themselves seriously to enough of a degree that they pay attention to fucking detail.

Oh, and speaking of comedy, have you noticed how small Natsuno’s breasts are? Good, because I just spoiled at least 60% of this show’s comedy. The other 40% is largely made up of BDSM and animal cruelty. I don’t like speaking in absolutes, but I have to say this: In anime, jokes about a female character’s bust size are never, ever funny. I’m not saying that because such humor is sexist, or mean-spirited… although they are both of those things… I’m saying it because that is THE most overused joke in anime history. Characters bringing up cup sizes happens more often than tsunderes over-reacting to misunderstandings, and that’s saying something. The only time I can ever remember a boob-size joke being funny was in Yamada’s First Time, when Yamada was imagining what her best friend’s life must be like with big boobs, getting all jealous, but then we get a glimpse of said friend having to apply lotion to herself because of how much the damn things chafe. See, that was a clever subversion of expectations, and it’s an example of how hard a boob-size joke has to work to even be kind of funny.

Dog and Scissors relies heavily on this idea, but it doesn’t put anywhere near that level of effort into it. Despite the fact that he’s not into real live women, Harumi is constantly berating Natsuno on her bust, and even when he isn’t, she’s constantly seen obsessing over it. It gets to the point where I was seriously wondering why Natsuno didn’t just get a damn boob job already. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t promote a shallow image of beauty, and people look fine just as they are, but plastic surgery can help people who have confidence issues relating to their appearances. Natsuno’s a grown woman, she makes her own decisions, she lives independently off of her success, and she clearly has Seto Kaiba levels of disposable income lying around, so why doesn’t she just get some work done? Oh, right, because that would take away the one lazy-ass joke that this series keeps on dragging out of the dumpster to try and amuse us, to the point that even a dead horse would tell them to stop beating a dead horse.

And speaking of Natsuno, try to wrap your head around this; She’s twenty years old, hasn’t written anything since she was 19, and is implied to have a bibliography that would make Stephen King jealous. She’s written a ton of novels spanning all types of genres, and at least six of her books are thick enough to contain at least a few thousand pages each. By the time she was 19. Not only is she considered one of the three top best-selling authors(the words “In Japan” is never attached to this, so it’s fair to say they mean worldwide), but the other two, who we meet in this series, are also young ladies of a similar age. Hell, her most vocal rival spends most of her time as a pop idol! The world’s best selling authors are seriously three teenagers?  Did any thought go into any of this?  Even her threats to kill Harumi don’t add up to anything, as all she ever does is cut off portions of his fur, which grow back in less than five seconds… And yet he still acts terrified of her, every single time she attacks him. Hey, dumbass, she may say she’s going to cut off one of your ears, but I think you’re gonna be fine.

And honestly, even it’s focus on books and reading was completely shallow. All Dog and Scissors knows is that reading and writing are things. Possibly fun things. Possibly lucrative things. It knows they exist, it knows they’re important to people, but it has no deeper understanding of any of it. Not only do we never find out anything about Natsuno’s books outside of their titles and a seven deadly sins gimmick, we don’t even technically know if they’re fiction or non. Harumi is extremely pretentious, being that he loves to read, he deifies books, he defends books from critics, he judges people(even his own damn murderer) on whether or not they’re readers, and get this; He has no defined taste. This moron would probably get his jollies off reading the ingredients on a packet of McDonalds ketchup. This series knows as much about books as Adam Sandler knows about video games. We never find out what literature means to anybody, but it wears it on it’s damn sleeve.

And if any of you are holding out hope that the plot and mystery aspect might have something to offer, don’t. Harumi’s killer is found and dealt with so early that it can’t even be considered a spoiler. It turns out that after killing him, the killer had time to rob him before running away, and has been hiding in the second apartment that Harumi’s been keeping secret from his family AND his landlady. Chew on that for a moment. They find him, they chase him down, and it turns out he’s got Natsuno’s six thickest books hiding in his coat(even though they’d definitely be weighing him down and banging into his body while he was running), and he uses them as weapons in the worst anime fight scene since Master of Martial Hearts. She beats him, and gives Harumi the choice to either kill or spare him, all while I’m screaming “Neither! Call the fucking cops!” Oh, and we never meet his parents, we hear nothing of any funeral, he has no drive to get his life back, and we meet his sister, but… Hoboy. Had to dip into the incest shit, didn’t you? Bottom of the barrel wasn’t low enough?

Dog and Scissors is available on both DVD and Bluray from Sentai Filmworks, and it’s available both in dubbed and undubbed formats. The manga and light novel are not available stateside.

I’m not gonna lie, guys, this was a tough one to get through. The only reason I even bothered is because I was on hiatus for a few months, and I needed something especially bad to rage on. Thus, I figured, why not an anime where one of the biggest running jokes is the main character commenting about shit not making sense, while completely missing the bigger picture each time? Like I said before, the artwork and character designs are good, the music is serviceable and the opening and closing themes are awesome, but these are really the only things it has going for it, and they’re the only qualities that pull it up from a possible 0 score, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s wrong with it. It falls apart if you give it even one seconds worth of thought, which is why I have to wonder if the people who enjoy and defend it checked their brains at the door, or at birth. I don’t condone threatening violence against dogs with a pair of scissors, but this is one tail that definitely should have been cut short. I give Dog & Scissors a 1/10.

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2 comments
  1. Irina said:

    I was curious about this show and now I know. Feels good not to add to my completely unreasonable to watch list an I always love a snarky review. Great post

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