Before creating his best-known work Satoru Noda worked on a manga series based around ice hockey Supinamarada! The series was published for just over a year between 2011 and 2012 with six volumes released. For many reasons, including a hard to remember title, Noda’s Supinamarada! series did not find commercial success. From there Noda went on to create one of the most critically and commercially well-received manga series in Golden Kamuy. So Noda definitely proved he is a powerhouse mangaka.
Now Noda is using his elevated status to relaunch Supinamarada! with a brand-new title Dogsred. The series started being published back in the spring over in Japan. To catch-up to where Dogsred is at in chapters published Viz Media released the first eleven chapters this week translated on their app. With all the released chapters published at once it was a good chance to binge read Dogsred. Is this manga series one to add to your read list? Find out with our review of the first eleven chapters of Dogsred.
Writer & Artist: Satoru Noda
Fifteen-year-old figure skater Rou Shirakawa successfully performs his route to win the All-Japan Junior Championship shortly after the passing of his mother in a car accident. In a stunning turn of events right after his win is announced Rou throws a tantrum that gets him disqualified and turned into a national disgrace.
Sometime later, Rou and his twin sister Haruna move in with their grandfather in Tomakomai, Hokkaido. While skating for fun Rou ends up building a rivalry with the Genma brothers, who are local teenage hockey players.
Gaining an interest in hockey Rou joins his school’s hockey team. Rou tries to use his figure skating skills to compensation for his lack of hockey experience but that leads him to make many penalties during his first game. Eventually over the course of his first game he gains enough understandings of the rules to utilize his figure skating skills to give his team a point in the game so they don’t get shut out.
From there Rou tries to get himself into hockey more by attending a local championship game Koichi Genma is competing in. At the same time, Haruna appears to try to do her part to get her brother back into figure skating.
The sports genre has a long history in manga. Though one sport that we haven’t seen explored much of, if at all, in manga form is hockey. Its not a sport you think of when it comes to Japan. Sports such as baseball, basketball, soccer, and wrestling is connected to the country more. That’s definitely something Satoru Noda appears to take advantage of with Dogsred.
Right out of the gate it was for the best that Dogsred was released the way it was. After reading the first eleven chapters of the series it was definitely what Dogsred needed to get over. One or two chapters isn’t enough to hook the reader in as there is a lot to get over for this manga. Because its not just the characters or the world but the sport of hockey itself. Noda needed the eleven chapters to establish the approach of how hockey is the launching point for everything that will go on in this series.
But its not just the hockey that needed the eleven chapters but the characters themselves. Noda certainly goes for the juggler right away by establishing Rou Shirakawa heartbreaking backstory. Noda does a great job at using the announcers’ calls during Rou’s performance to emphasize the importance to the performance being one his mom taught him. It provides the context for why Rou would do what he does in his emotional outburst that makes him a national disgrace.
That said, it does take the full eleven chapters to get behind Rou’s journey. A big reason for that is the art style. Fans of Golden Kamuy will know what to expect. But while his style worked for the direction of Golden Kamuy it doesn’t. The biggest reason is that Rou looks like a 30 year old whenever he is the focus character, which is a lot. Especially when sharing screen time with the team he joins it does look like there is a major age difference between Rou and his thirteen year old teammates.
This is where Rou should’ve done a better job at making sure this world had more of a cohesion. It’s common to see manga artists draw teens who look like full-grown adults. Though when that is done the supporting cast are also adjusted so that when they interact with classmates or other kids there age there is a distinction they are all teens.
The art is massively improved during the hockey game scenes. You can tell Noda is taking everything he learned from drawing dynamic action scenes. Noda does a great job at making the big moments during hockey games hit the dramatic note that pops of the screen. Seeing this quality for the hockey games makes the non-hockey action scenes standout more for not being as detailed.
While the hockey is also where Noda still needs to do a better job at portraying. Hockey, like basketball and soccer, is a team sport. Noda is so focused on getting Rou over as the lead he ignores developing Rou’s teammates or the teamwork aspect of the game. Because of that it does take the full eleven chapters to get behind his character. If this was simulpub with its Japan release date I wouldn’t have gone beyond the third chapter.
Future chapters need to start focusing on building the team chemistry and not just Rou being a solo act. This will help the transition Rou is making from being a figure skater to hockey player come across more naturally. His figure skating skills will only take him so far as the surprise factor he got lucky with will get him knocked out the more games he plays. How he can still be a star while collaboratively working with his teammates will improve a lot of the weakness of this series thus far.
Because Rou is a mixed bag in these eleven chapters his sister, Haruna, stands out even more. Haruna is developed to make the most of the screen time Noda gives her. She clearly has her own story as their mom picked Rou over her to be the figure skating star of the family. There is a lot in the family story to explore. The death of their mom appears to open a door to Rou and Haruna’s sibling relationship to change. We definitely get those indications with the last few chapters that were bulk released, with chapter eleven promising something big happening next week.
Dogsred is certainly a refreshing addition to the sports genre for the manga industry. Hockey is the one sport we haven’t seen much manga or anime content. Satoru Noda takes advantage of that fact with how he uses the sport to develop Rou Shirakawa as a lead character. It was also to the benefit of Dogsred that it had an eleven chapter bulk release at it needed all those chapters to fully sell the story of this series.
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10