Original film by Wes Anderson
Adaptation & Art by Minetaro Michizuki
Translated by Zack Davisson
Lettering by Susie Lee with Studio Cutie
Published by Mike Richardson
Edited by Daniel Chabon
Assistant Editing by Chuck Howitt
Design by Patrick Satterfield
Digital Art Technician by Allyson Haller
It’s been a few years since Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs came out, but it’s hard to deny that it was pretty unique. Wes Anderson drew inspiration from the work of Akira Kurosawa, resulting in a film that stood out among traditional western animation. With its Japanese influence, it only made sense for there to be media tie-ins for the film in Japan. Among these was a manga adaptation from Dragon Head creator Minetaro Michizuki. With Dark Horse having recently released this adaptation in English, let’s take a look at what it has to offer readers.
The Isle of Dogs manga follows roughly the same plot as the original film. In the wake of a canine influenza within the futuristic Japanese city Megasaki, all dogs are banished to the isolated location of Trash Island. Separated from his pet Spots, a young boy named Atari Kobayashi travels to the island in search of him.
While the film was presented from the perspective of the dogs, the manga opts to shift the focus towards Atari himself. We gain a deeper understanding of Atari’s love of Spots and the drive that made him visit the island in the first place. The transition to a manga format has also caused the language barrier between Atari and the dogs to be less apparent. While it’s clear that Atari cannot understand the dogs on the island, the text presents both the human and canine dialogue in English. It makes the conversations feel more transparent than they were in the film, allowing the reader to fully understand the stances of both Atari and the dogs.
While this is an interesting adaptation, it’s hindered by its short length. Spanning only 80 pages, the manga ends up being a heavily abridged version of the film, only hitting key plot beats to reach its conclusion. This results in the title feeling more like a companion piece to the film, rather than a work that can stand on its own.
The biggest draw of this manga is by far Michizuki’s artwork. Perfectly recreating the aesthetic of the original Isle of Dogs film would be extremely difficult in a manga, but Michizuki finds a visual balance that stays true to his own work and the film itself. What’s most interesting is the difference in detail that Michizuki draws the dogs and Atari. While Atari’s design is fairly simple, the dogs have a rougher appearance. It emphasizes the drastic difference between Atari and the dogs’ lifestyles, serving as a solid foundation for the tension between them. Michizuki’s artistic choices help the manga stand out, providing the story with new and distinct visual flair.
Isle of Dogs is a fun manga adaptation that showcases Michizuki’s strength as an artist and provides fans of the original film with more content to enjoy. While it’s short in length, the manga is a pleasant new take on its source material. If you are looking for a light read, throw this dog a bone.