Man’s Best Friend is a book that… stretches the boundaries a bit. It features an erotic love story about a boy and his dog, but it’s not bestiality. Not exactly.
The lead story is about a young man named Ukyo, who takes in a friendly stray dog he names Kuro (”Blackie”). But this is no ordinary dog; it’s a dog who has prayed to the moon to be with this nice human, and who turns into a human himself when he gets excited.
Yes, there are sex scenes, but in them Kuro is very much a human… with dog ears and a tail, that is. On the other hand, he’s still a (albeit very intelligent) dog, with a limited vocabulary, and the mentality of a canine. Such as Ukyo has to teach him that humans kiss by putting their lips together, not by licking. And dogs don’t place much importance on where they happen to get frisky.
Undoubtedly this is going to be too creepy for some people, and I can only imagine what the guardians of morality would make of it. But it’s really just a bit of fantasy role-playing. Kuro is certainly no victim of animal sexual abuse; he’s the aggressor in their sex play. And there’s nothing particularly perverse about a little growling in the sheets.
Man’s Best Friend is published by TokyoPop’s BLU imprint, and it’s very much both manga and yaoi. It’s read from right to left, and the illustration style bounces without a second thought between realistic and megacartoony as the mood of each panel calls for. Likewise, the sex scenes have that peculiarly Japanese combination of shamelessly prurient sexuality and half-veiled modesty that was once required by Japanese “decency” laws. It’s labeled “mature” and “explicit content” and was shrink-wrapped on the shelf at Border’s which is certainly appropriate; this is not a book for Naruto fans… though much of the angst-filled teen Death Note audience would probably benefit from reading it: it might even get their tails to wag a little.
The opposite of shelf-filling mega-series manga like Naruto or Ranma 1/2, the boy-and-his-dog feature only fills half of this book, the remainder of which consists of two more features by Kazusa Takashima.
The first is about Kentaro, a 20-year-old man who is surprised when his beloved childhood playmate Kasumi and first boyish crush, whom he hasn’t seen since they were 10 years old, turns out to be: a guy. Yeah, that’s right: he thought his best friend was a girl.
OK, Kasumi is a girl’s name, but other characters refer to the him using male terms like “man” and “he” and I’m reasonably certain that Japanese has enough gender-specific pronouns and terminology that any 10-year-old would have picked up on his best friend’s gender. Granted, this gender confusion is more “realistic” than a dog that turns human, but because the story doesn’t have that element of the fantastic, it seems less… realistic. Anyway, it’s the premise for a tango of conflicted emotions about Kentaro’s long-buried fondness for Kasumi, and the growing realisation that he never wants them to be separated again. And yeah, in between the bouts of longing and jealousy, they fuck. It’s the most typical example of the boys-love genre in the book, but not totally cliché
The final story is a single episode which manages to combine the genderfuck of the Kentaro/Kasumi episodes and the species switcheroo of the Ukyo/Karo episodes… then takes it one step even further. The English title is “Princess Goldfish”. I kid you not.
The book is padded out with a dozen or so pages of creator interviews, character sketches, character interviews, and the like.
Man’s Best Friend won’t set the world afire, and I hope it doesn’t kindle any book bonfires, but it might make the more “vanilla” reader a little hot under the collar. In my case it just put a warm smile on my face, and made me a little… hot.