VitalsDogs: Bullets & Carnage
Original Video Animation
Genre: Action, Seinen
Produced: David Production
I guess growing up in Brooklyn ghetto slightly confused me. Picking up Dogs: Bullets & Carnage, I was delighted that I finally found an anime that would dramatize the conflict of Bloods and Crips, highlighting my childhood daydreams. Though the show offered plenty of bullets and prostitutes the premise focused on a different sort of gang, a fictionalized version of the mafia.
Instead of the grungy streets of streets of the Bronx, the audience is welcomed to a city always blanketed in the pale sheets of snow. Within it’s icy confines, the narrative takes an episodic approach, centering on four individuals, a single installment devoted to each and their dealings with shadowy underworld. As consequence of the structure or poor storytelling, the plot never gets anywhere, struggling to find it’s identity. Does this show want to be a drama, action, science fiction or a comedy? Or does it seek to give us deep philosophical insight into the human condition? The questions remain, as Dogs never makes a stand, attempting to be a jack-of-all-trades, ending up a master of none.
Each outing is fraught with melodrama: an old man attempting to reconcile his life as a hitman; A smoker caught between the mob and a hard place; An orphan finding a meaning to her life; A genetic experiment finding comraderie. These short descriptions might seem intriguing, but the story ultimately fails to deliver on these promising threads. The fault lies with the writing, asking the audience to make an emotional commitment to the cast, who are unlikable to begin with. It’s not that there isn’t any backstory to look into, the characters are hard to identify with, making it difficult to care. Caused by stiff interactions and unexplored relationships, the show exhibits an untapped well for the scenarios.
Picturesque vignettes are meticulously crafted, bringing to life the white city, evoking images of a Italian metropolis. Sadly, the denizens aren’t so beautiful, disproportional bodies and elongated faces make them downright ugly. The animation doesn’t help, typified by clunky movement and liberal use of slow motion and cutaways during action scenes. This is somewhat redeemed by the fact the viewer only has to suffer for four short episodes. If only the cinematography was no so obsessed with actors, the camera often slipping into close-ups that spotlight the excessive shading and poorly drawn features.
Since when was elevator music cool? The opening theme is distinctly vaudevillian almost carny, as the blaring horns evoke images of clowns, twirling bowling pins and tightropes. Considering the heady subject matter, the sound direction was poorly executed. On the other hand, the voice acting fairs much better, the seiyuu doing a competent job. At times their performances feel strained when the script calls for an emotion other than angry, but blame the writers for that.
Cliched characters are on the menu this time around. Funny thing is, the show is conscious of the fact titling each installment with the name of the trope represented. The most interesting of the cast would be the “Gun Smoker”, Badou Nails, of Episode 2. Serving as comedic relief he lacks any sort of meaningful development, but his antics are hilarious and memorable. Badou’s a breath of fresh air amongst the tepid “Blade Maiden”, Naoto Fuyumine, and the angst-ridden “Weepy old Killer”, Mihai Mihaeroff, both of whom get fully fleshed out tales but never display any sort of depth. One dimensional, the former seems all too fixated with revenge while the latter’s melancholy seems unjustified. His dead girlfriend is a prostitute, how much sympathy can you muster for that?
Heine Rammsteiner, out of the ‘serious’ characters, is the most fascinating, meaning he’s the least boring. He’s the reluctant hero and experimental outcast, an interesting role to say the least. Heine shows the most growth over his fifteen-minute segment, accepting to learn from the past as well as welcoming the hand of friendship, maturing from his reticent nature.
Somewhere I believe that these series would have benefited from being about gangster culture in New York. Dogs: Bullets and Carnage makes many missteps, unfocused and unpolished. Though like cubic zirconium in the rough, there is no underlying quality to begin with.