There's a common misconception that you can make a good action anime series by following the age-old formula: the protagonists must have a colourful past, eye-opening gun skills and an arsenal that would stun Jack Bauer into silence. Sadly, what you also need is a plot and this is where most action series slip up.
Dogs unfortunately falls into this trap. In its defence, at a running time of just an hour, there's very little story it can really eke out in the time it's been given. You also get the feeling that this set of OAVs are a taster – a set of prolonged character sketches, if you will. Histories and motivations are unfolded in an avalanche of events with no space for even a touch of suspense or mystery, turning what could have been some memorably violent scenes into damp squibs of pointlessness. While I admit that my gore taste-buds tingled ever so slightly when one of the characters was found gloriously dismembered, the complete lack of impetus to the story reduced it to a passing fancy.
Nothing spectacular, but it won't cause your eyes to bleed either. Animation in the last few years has found a certain rut to furrow and set up camp in, and it seems as though the animators followed the trend here. Stylistically, Dogs is a cross between the urban malaise of Pumpkin Scissors without the stunning set-pieces and the dark underworld tinge of Baccano! The character designs are unique enough to bump this mark a little higher than normal but hilariously retro title screens and an ending theme that looks like it was created a decade ago ensure that this will never be held up as a stunner of its time.
The opening teaser of a theme tune works perfectly in its attempt to strap the viewers into their gun-toting adventure seats, even if the resulting storyline fails to deliver. It's a shame the same can't be said about the ending theme; the jazz instrumentals would be more suited to softcore porn (maybe that's the point though – the lazy pan of the camera on half-naked shots of the protagonists... maybe I've been reading this series all wrong). Luckily, in-episode music is of a higher calibre and there's very few occasions where the swell of the orchestra doesn't coincide with the action onscreen. The sound effects are equally well-done – the general hubbub of the city spills over to give the scenes a very real setting.
Have you ever read one of those DC vs. Marvel crossovers where the heavyweights of separate comics join together and fight evil? Dogs is a bit like that except it clones other series instead of creating a giant behemoth of fandom and it seems to miss the target by quite a bit. We have characters who resemble pretty much the whole cast of Baccano! (which I suppose is a pretty difficult feat considering how many people show up in that series), a young girl assassin who's got more than a little in common with Chiko from The Daughter of Twenty Faces and a leather-clad immortal who mirrors pretty much any overpowered hero with a general disdain for life (which is nearly all of them). Some draw a smile – Badou's over-the-top antics as a paparazzi with an uncontrollable craving for cigarettes reminded me of Fee's rampage in Planetes for the same reason – but their lack of originality becomes a major hindrance in actually identifying with any of the characters we're introduced to.
Want a decent action series with touches of noir, a mafia setting and oodles of insane shootings? Try Baccano! Want a series with a pumping story which makes the gunshots and violence worthwhile? Look no further than Black Lagoon. Want a rollercoaster that... See where I'm going with this? For all its pomp and hail of bullets (not to mention the promise of “carnage” in the title), Dogs fails to deliver on all fronts and is completely outclassed by the bighitters of the action genre. This looks like one of those series that's only been brought into being for fans of the manga, but even if you are one, this whistle-stop summarisation will leave you feeling wholly unsatisfied with the end result.
In a city laced with crime, four individuals face their own personal trials. Mihai, a middle-aged hitman, seeks closure with an old student; Badou the information dealer learns a little too much; Naoto, an orphaned girl, lives for revenge against her parents' killer; and Heine, the result of underground genetic experiments, hopes to save another like him. Each must find the strength to overcome their dilemma and continue to live in this tough world...