Stargazing Dog is a heartbreaking story about the enduring bond between a man and his dog.
Happie comes into Daddy’s life when Miku, Daddy’s daughter, find the little puppy and takes him home. For a while, Miku plays with Happie, and sometimes Mom feeds Happie, but Happie realizes that “it’s always Daddy who takes me for a walk.” Even when things change for Daddy—his family is disintegrating around him, he loses his job, his health is failing and he is penniless—Daddy never forsakes his duties and relationship with Happie.
Author and illustrator Takashi Murakami states in an opening page that this book is “named after dogs that tend to stare at the stars wistfully. Just as we all wish for something that we will never possess…” Murakami has written a touching story, revealing the redeeming qualities of a relationship between an animal and his master, when the world around them is falling apart. Murakami’s human protagonist, Daddy, is well-developed as a sympathetic character who has trouble being involved with his family: his daughter has become distant and rebellious, while his wife is tired of supporting an uninvolved and jobless husband. In spite of these flaws, he proves to be a loyal and constant presence to his dog. He also proves to be a generous man who, though he is financially strapped, buys a loaf of bread for a hungry, homeless-looking young boy who is getting ready to steal it.
Happie, the dog protagonist, at times narrates the story with simple but telling observations: “we used to go for a walk in the evening. These days, daddy takes me out in the daytime. I like to go for walk in the daytime, Daddy!! The places we stop at on the way… are different now, too.” The illustrations for these captions show Happie waiting outside the ‘Job Centre’ and outside the ‘Yamamoto Cardiovascular Clinic.’
The ending is very moving, and Murakami does a good job of illustrating the ‘afterlife’ to make it a little uplifting.
The second story in the book is entitled “Sunflowers,” and the author describes it as a tribute to Daddy. “Sunflowers” tells the story of Mr. Okutsu, who respects and takes care of the gravesites of his grandparents. After hearing the story of Daddy and Happie, who stay together in their deaths, he remembers how he mistreated the dog that his grandfather gave to him after the death of his grandmother. The author’s message at the end of this story is a little confusing, because it states:
“No matter how hard we wish, the dream will never come true… that’s why we never stop wishing. Nothing more…everyone is the same…as long as we carry on living… we are all star-gazing dogs.” The Afterword explains the author’s intentions for his story in a little more detail, but isn’t really necessary since the manga’s plot and illustrations are compelling enough to impact the reader.
A moving story for all devoted pet owners and animal lovers. Some younger readers may find that some illustrations and the issues about death and divorce might be upsetting, so this manga may not be appropriate for children under 10.