Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Oct 15th 2013
Dog & Scissors
Episodes 1-12 Streaming
Harumi loves books. He loves reading so much that he leaves his family to stay with his book collection and claws his way back to life when a deranged robber blows his head off with a shotgun. The problem? He comes back as a dachshund. Luckily for him, he's adopted by Natsuno Kirihime, the only person who can hear his thoughts and also—coincidentally—his very favorite author. Unluckily, Natsuno is extremely ill-tempered and frequently attacks him with her customary weapon, a pair of inexplicably sturdy scissors. Together they have many adventures as Natsuno does her best to finish her masterpiece and Harumi deals with being dead.
By most measures Dog & Scissors is a pretty bad series. So why is it so easy to like? In a show with many in-series mysteries, none looms larger than that.
Dog & Scissors is a mess; a big, chaotic jumble of ill-fitting moods, bewilderingly weird situations, and outlandish characters acting, occasionally, outlandishly out of character. From a quality-of-writing standpoint, it's a total nightmare. The show is constantly doing things that no show should. Like the old “hero whose face you never see” gimmick, or the little sister with the ravening brother complex, or human/dog romance. For reasons unknown it decides that fierce, intimidating Natsuno occasionally needs to act like a blushing schoolgirl. It loves wallowing in the masochistic perversions of Natsuno's editor and the incestuous yandere insanity of Harumi's sister. Whenever it seems to be getting into a narrative groove, whether by dealing with Harumi's grieving family or Natsuno's authorial rivals, it'll jump track to put together a (seriously screwed up) human harem for its doggy protagonist or to end the series with a flagrantly wasteful episode of romantic delusions. One moment the series will be dabbling in bad action—all its action is poorly conceived and executed—the next it'll dial the emotional volume up to 10 and then it'll go right back to the codified hijinks of its two-dimensional cast.
The show is outrageous, sloppy, and generally perverted. And it just doesn't care. It is wholly and cheerfully unconcerned with its own badness. That's a big part of its elusive charm. It's hard to hold the show's mistakes against it when it's so good-humored about them. It's always willing to point out the ridiculousness of its own conceits, usually by blowing them up so big that you can't help but laugh. Find yourself sneering at the series' belief in the transformative power of reading? Just try and keep that sneer from warping into a smile when Natsuno's books turn Harumi's wild-eyed murderer into a self-possessed martial artist who can use every idiotic, far-fetched technique that Natsuno ever put to page—even the magical-girl ones. Is the trip to a hot springs making your stomach churn? Throw in a zombie melee and a masochist convention and feel your lunch return to its lair. Even the bad action can be redeemed when the show takes it so gleefully over the top that it becomes its own kind of boneheaded genius. The battle between Natsuno and Harumi's sister is a wonder of seriocomic bombast, in which the sister hashes out her deadly-serious psychoses while wielding the Tuna Eater, a food processor that doubles as a weapon of mass destruction.
The sooner you realize that the show will do what it wants when it wants, regardless of logic, taste, or the dictates of quality entertainment, and simply surrender yourself to its madcap vagaries, the better off you'll be. There's something to be said for a show that is a chaotic jumble, especially one that doesn't take itself too seriously. You genuinely cannot tell what is around the blind turns in Scissors' plot, if only because there's no rhyme or reason to the plot or its turns. How can you predict that Harumi's sister will be a food-processing psychopath? Or that an eerie stalker will turn out to be an elderly man with a bladder problem? Or that the zombie plague will resolve itself with a dirty-fighting, speed-writing contest? As long as you can jettison unreasonable expectations of logic and coherence, there's a lot of fun to be had just riding this nonsensical rollercoaster as it cruises through its bizarre bends and mystery-action loop-the-loops. And there's a modicum of method to all that madness as well. There's no way to know, in the midst of the chaos, which showdowns will get shrugged off with a joke and which will try to punch you in the emotional kidneys.
Be aware, though, that however enjoyable it may be or become, Scissors is not a traditionally “good” series. Definitely not in its scripting or plotting, and not in its execution either. Gonzo's animation is at best decent, at worst thoroughly wooden. Shortcuts are a way of life, especially during the dopey, laxly-assembled action scenes. Characters move stiffly, if at all, and even the fan-service is unenthusiastic. Akito Matsuda's score is nondescript and sometimes used too bluntly. Most of the designs are standard-issue anime, when they aren't goofy jokes in their own right (the afro guy; the fleet of bodybuilders who roam Natsuno's neighborhood). Settings have neither any distinguishing characteristics nor any appreciable contribution to atmosphere. Any visual appeal the show has comes from slender, strikingly-designed Natsuno and the potent doggy cuteness of Harumi. Any energy it has comes from the unhinged momentum of its plot and the infectious zip of its thoroughly fantastic dog-dancing opener.
Don't let all the talk of how terrible Scissors' script is throw you off. It is indeed terrible, and the show has to be enjoyed for that terribleness or not at all, but there are also little nuggets of actual quality squirreled away between the S&M beatings and canine harem hijinks. There's one there, when Natsuno reveals how her role in Harumi's death has affected her. There's another when we see how and why Harumi's sister got all twisted up inside. And yet another when we spot the hard lump of true self-hatred hidden within one of fledgling author Hami's cutesy storms of self-debasement. They're not nearly enough to mitigate the frenetic badness of the rest of the show, but they do let you know that that badness isn't entirely accidental. Which may explain why it's so strangely enjoyable.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C-
Animation : C-
Art : C+
Music : C
+ Crazed, unpredictable, and mysteriously fun to watch; Natsuno is usually pretty great.
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