Hoshi Mamoru Inu by Murakami Takashi

Hoshi Mamoru Inu

A story for people who love both dogs and life.

Hoshi Mamoru Inu begins at the end.  A man’s corpse is discovered in a rusted station wagon, left to decay untouched for a year.  Nestled below that body was a smaller, less decayed form.  It was a dog that had been dead for  only about 3 months.  What led these two to this journey’s end?

Hoshi Mamoru Inu is told from a unique point of view–a young puppy narrates the story, giving it a simplistic, yet genuine voice.

The puppy’s first memory is a box.  Stuck in there, he barked with all his might until a young girl picked him up and took him home.  He was fed, bathed, and left to rest in a clothes basket.  However, he was startled awake by the unaware Dad and bit him.

The fateful meeting!

Despite the less than magical meeting, Dad agrees to his daughter’s Miku’s plees and the puppy gets to stay.  Miku names him “Happy.”  Happy’s new home life begins–Miku plays with Happy and gives him occasional tasty treats, Mom feeds him his daily meals, and Dad takes Happy on walks.  Walks are a special time. Not just for Happy, but Dad too.  While Dad is a gruff old man, he never fails to walk Happy and is much more talkative than when he’s at home.

A reoccurring theme: "Be grateful" ; "Yes, Dad!"

Time passes.  As they all grow older, Happy notices how things change greatly with time.  Miku becomes a rebellious teenager and no longer plays with Happy.  Mom no longer is the one to feed him and pulls away from the family.  Dad always tells the family to do what they want, yet doesn’t seem to personally invest any effort or opinion.  Even their precious walks change; they start happening earlier in the day, last longer, and sometimes Happy waits strapped to a pole for Dad’s return from stores or bars.  They all grow apart until one day, Mom requests a divorce.  Like usual, Dad just accepts it.

This is a bit heart-breaking to watch–any of the older readers who have long-term relationships with parents, siblings, lovers, spouses… seeing this  neglect turn into inevitable deterioration from a simple, pure point-of-view like Happy, who just doesn’t understand, is sad.  Even though their family is changing and Happy is scared, Hoshi Mamoru Inu is a bittersweet story and continues past this hardship.

Left with little money and unable to afford an expensive apartment that allows dogs, Dad decides they’re going on a journey!  They’ll drive south to the ocean and return to his hometown area.  Although there’s not much there, there’s more than enough for one man and a dog to survive and that’s all that matters.  They pack up the wagon with his few belongings and start to drive.

Along the way, the two hit some bumps in the road.  A street kid tags along and bonds with the two, only to steal Dad’s wallet in the end.  Happy falls ill and Dad has to sell their few remaining possessions other than the car to pay for the treatment.  Soon, Dad begins to experience chest pains.  With Dad’s health failing and the gas gauge approaching empty, they pull off into a large field near a campground.  With little time left, Dad both thanks and apologizes to Happy, who is left wondering why Dad will no longer move or go on walks with him…

I’m not moved easily.  I scoff at your average, self-described “sentimental” manga that usually fails to evoke genuine emotion.  However, Hoshi Mamoru Inu is not like that.  It’s funny that a story that starts out with an uncoventional sunflower-covered grave ends up being a tale about the celebration of life.

Although no one is really talking about it in the English-speaking manga circles, Hoshi Mamoru Inu is enjoying some well-deserved popularity in Japan.  According to my book, there’s been 22 printings of the manga in just one year’s time.  A live-action movie has also been announced (Bonus live-action shots:  Image 1 and Image 2 on Tumblr).  While not as well-known as a certain Hachiko, the tale of Happy’s love and loyalty will be around for some time to come.

4 responses to “Hoshi Mamoru Inu by Murakami Takashi

  1. Ugh, I’m not reading this and I feel a bit like crying. Mostly for the dog hahaha.

    • I tried and failed to hold back tears while reading this. I stopped right when it starts to dig into you. Happy is left alone with Dad’s decaying corpse, still wondering what’s wrong, yet he stays close and tries to bring him food… it mercilessly rips at you D:

  2. Thanks for the Paji and Hoshi reviews. I just discovered the Hoshi manga, thanks to a Japanese friend who recommended the movie. The book arrived today from Amazon JP (all the way to Canada) along with the sequel, Zoku – Hoshi Mamoru Inu. Did I miss a review of the sequel on your blog?

    • Hi 🙂 Good to hear the movie was enjoyable enough for someone to rec it. I really want to see it… well, someday. Although I got the sequel, I didn’t cover it on my blog. So many books, so little time. But the pug puppy was so adorable (and a bit pitiful) and it was great seeing Happy again.

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