Hiromi Arakawa was born and grew up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido, Japan. Desiring to be a shōnen manga artist, she adopted the more masculine “Hiromu” as a pen name. Her dream came true in 1999 when the magazine Monthly Shōnen Gangan (a Square Enix imprint) published her 50-page one-shot “Stray Dog.”
The story is definitely an early work, the type where an author hasn’t totally found their own identity yet, and so relies on familiar tropes to set their stage. Set in a vague fantasy world, “Stray Dog” is a riff on “Berserk.” The lead, Fultac, is a dead-ringer for Guts — a wandering warrior with one eye and a huge sword.
Arakawa’s spin on this familiar tale comes when Fultac examines a crate carried by some thieves he killed. Inside is a “Military Dog,” a creature, we’re told, was created as a living weapon via “combining magic and chemistry” (aka alchemy). Named Kilka, this military dog’s design is inverse of Nina’s; Kilka is a little girl with golden eyes and dog ears, rather than a dog with human hair and soulless eyes.
Kilka begins to follow Fultac around like, well, a dog. That is until they’re attacked by a bounty hunter named Bartley and his own fully-grown military dog named Brakshia. Fultac defeats Bartley but loses his left arm to Brakshia; Kilka gives her life to save her master.
A grieving Fultac tracks down the castle lab where military dogs are created and lays waste to it, freeing a young dog-child who replaces the lost Kilka. The final twist? When Fultac removes his eye patch before the lab’s mad scientist, it turns out he isn’t hiding a wound, but a golden eye. The “Stray Dog” was the human warrior we’d been following all along.