Fumiki Shimazaki wants to be a poet. And if not, he wants to die.
Or so he says, as a simple Japanese student cruising through his day-to-day life, having grown complacent with the world around him. While his classmates prepare to move on into their adult lives, Fumiki is content to hide away in a long-abandoned factory and hone his craft in poems, wishing for the world to drastically change.
During a writing session, Fumiki encounters something he can't quite make sense of; what appears to be an extinct Japanese wolf that is not only disarmingly friendly and even enjoys hearing poetry but, as he soon learns, is far more than meets the eye. The wolf, dubbed "23" after the number grafted into his left ear, possesses a slew of fantastic abilities and is even able to speak, but despite all this, 23 himself is mysteriously clueless as to what he truly is or where he came from. The only concrete memory he possesses, is a command of unknown origin: "Observe mankind."
The quest to decipher 23's true nature & objective soon unravels into a quagmire of esoteric cultism, corrupt pharmaceuticals, and plenty of Gorn. All the while, Fumiki and 23 must rely on each other to survive, but things only become more complicated when they realize 23 may not be the only one of his kind...
Inugami (犬神, "Dog God" or "Dog Spirit") is a horror/fantasy manga written and illustrated by Masaya Hokazono. It was serialized in Kodansha's Gekkan Afternoon from 1996 to 2002 and has been released several times over the years, most recently as Inugami Kai which has some redrawn art and bonus materials absent from previous releases. It has never officially been released in English, but scanlations can be found online.
Inugami provides examples of:
- Achilles' Heel: The most potent counter to the Inugami's Healing Factor is electric shock.
- Beast with a Human Face: One of the forms Eight takes.
- Big Bad: Kiryu, a mysterious monk figure with lots of connections who seems to be suspiciously familiar with the Inugami phenomenon.
- Big Friendly Dog: Despite being a wolf, 23 has the disposition of one of these.
- Bittersweet Ending: Much of Japan is wiped out by the resurgence of Eight, and what's left is destroyed by the Tree of Life, which then spreads its spores all across the world and does quite a number of humanity as a whole. Much of the main cast and most everyone associated with them dies, while Fumiki himself is absorbed into the Tree of Life and 23 vanishes to be with him. At the same time, humanity is bouncing back from the catastrophe after only 10 years, Mika and a few others survive, the environment appears to be slowly healing from years of pollution, and it's implied that Fumiki & 23 managed to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence and may even return some day.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: Zero pulls an Enemy Mine for Fumiki after he frees Zero from Kiryu's mental influence and shows him kindness for the first time.
- Body Horror: All of the Inugami possess a Lovecraftian Superpower that delves into this to some extent. 23 and Zero are comparatively tame since theirs simply entail protruding things from their flesh, but the likes of Eight and especially Lucky are far, far worse.
- Combat Tentacles: Zero's ability is to extrude these from his body. Not only are they tough & fast, they're also sharp and able to move around even when detached from him. Eight can use them as well.
- Creepy Good: 23 has a Lovecraftian Superpower just like all the other Inugami, and gives off a bit of the Uncanny Valley the way he's drawn at times, but he's a good boy through and through.
- Gorn: Between the Body Horror and many of the fight scenes, there's no shortage of blood & guts.
- Healing Factor: A trait that all Inugami have, as well as any organism that successfully integrates the 23 cell into its body.
- Humans Are Bastards/Humans Are Special: 23 believes the latter while Zero believes the former, with this being the duality between their characters. 23 has mostly positive interactions with humans and prefers to be optimistic about them, while Zero seems naturally repulsed by humans and is only motivated further by being mistreated by the first ones he encounters. As the manga progresses 23 does develop a more nuanced view of humans when taking into account their capacity for cruelty, but never abandons his affinity for humanity even so. Meanwhile, Zero spends most of the story staunchly hating humans, but lets up on it just slightly after Fumiki helps him. Eight starts off even worse about the former than Zero, then verges just slightly towards the latter right before being killed.
- Lovecraftian Superpower: Most of the Inugami's abilities delve into Body Horror by way of manipulating their own bodily structures. 23's blades are relatively tame, but things only get more unnerving from there.
- Numerical Theme Naming: Most of the Inugami are simply referred to by a number that has some significance to them or appears in their body in some way.
- Psychic Link: The Inugami seem to have a latent mental connection that works like this. At first it simply grants them Telepathy between each other within a certain distance, but later on it starts having other effects, such as implanting each others' memories or emotions into one another. It's because of this that Eight wants to Kill All Humans, as he was specifically implanted with all the negativity towards humans that 23 and Zero had at the time.
- Riddle for the Ages: Just what are the Inugami? Where did they really come from, and what is their purpose? Not even the Inugami themselves fully understand their true nature, and while some answers are suggested throughout the story, ultimately nothing is confirmed.
- Significant Name Overlap: 23, the main Inugami, and Twenty-Three, a normal husky pup who is actually also an Inugami with implanted memories of 23 and Fumiki.
- Spoiler Cover: Several covers and splash pages depict the puppy-Inugami long before they actually show up in the plot.
- Stealth Pun: Lucky is the only named Inugami to not explicitly follow Numerical Theme Naming, but given that he comes before Eight in the series of Inugami appearances, it could be said that he is Lucky Seven.
- Touched by Vorlons: This is where Kiryu's powers come from, after he accepted a deal from an Inugami in his youth that was intended to grant him eternal life. Fumiki also develops some powers due to his bond with 23 and possibly taking in cells from Eight, in particular the standard Healing Factor and later the ability to use Telepathy with the Inugami.
- Tragic Monster: Lucky is a man-made Inugami who was originally a normal family dog before being stolen by Kurata Pharmaceuticals and experimented on, turning him into a malice-fueled beast with a failing body and a particularly grotesque form of the Inugami's Lovecraftian Superpower. Even after the transformation he still has an innate desire to return to his family, but at that point he's become too much of a danger to both himself and others, forcing 23 to fight him.
- Undying Loyalty: Part of 23's Big Friendly Dog disposition is having this towards Fumiki, with just about everything he does being out of a desire to protect Fumiki's well-being. Sadly, due to circumstance the one time he wavers on this it causes an Apocalypse How.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: 23 only wants to protect Fumiki and, to some extent, the rest of humanity, but because he develops a slight Broken Pedestal for humans after realizing what atrocities they can commit, his split-second desire for humanity to be punished for their bad actions causes Eight to appear, which not only causes tons of deaths but also facilitates the Apocalypse How in the climax.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Zero simply leaves after helping the main characters in the manga's climax, and gets no mention or implication of where he might have gone afterwards.
- Wolverine Claws: Or Wolverine Horns in this case - 23 can extend blades out of his forehead in this fashion, as can many other creatures with the 23 cell. It later turns out he can extend them from anywhere on his body, but he typically prefers to just use his head.