The Dark Age
Nowhere to Return
A Room Where We Can Someday See The Ocean
Bungo Stray Dogs
Three Companies Conflict
The Conflict of Strategy
Will of Tycoon
Though the Mind May be Wrong
Poe and Rampo
Rashoumon, The Tiger, and The Last Emperor
If I May Shed Away My Burden Now
*In anticipation of season 3, I'm sharing my thoughts. This review is for season 2, but Plot/Story and Characters sections touch on aspects relevant to season 1. Beware: minor spoilers ahead.* Bungou Stray Dogs Season 2 is split into two parts: the first four episodes are flashbacks to Dazai's life as the youngest executive in the Port Mafia, told from his friend Oda's perspective; the latter eight episodes continue the main storyline, as the Armed Detective Agency takes on a new threat. The storyline and character arcs are deepened, the action kicks up a notch, and the score and animation are just as great as before. Overall, this is a step above season 1 but it's not without problems. - PLOT/STORY 6/10 - The plot remains frustratingly imperfect this season, despite good pacing. Plot was also the weakest link of season 1 due to an apparent lack of an overall goal, which left me constantly wondering when the show would drop the comedic front and get down to business. Season 2, at least, didn't suffer from lack of an overall goal. Rather, that goal just wasn't all that interesting. The show seems to struggle to establish relevant stakes. Part of the problem is that it's done such a great job of convincing us that the characters are overpowered (I'm looking at you: Ranpo-san). There's a serious disconnect between the established storyline and the character arcs. Dazai's character - being already so far removed from the plot - saves this season with flying colors (more on him below). But season 3 could turn out to be really disappointing if this issue isn't resolved. Overpowered characters aside, I have to say that Bungou Stray Dogs does a pretty good job of executing the overused superpower trope in a manner that feels refreshingly original. Yes, most characters are overpowered, but each has a specified weakness (except *cough* Ranpo-san *cough*) and Bungou Stray Dogs always makes it clear that the strongest characters are consistently the ones you least expect, often with the simplest abilities (a message I LOVE). It deepens character relationships significantly and kept me on my toes. For example, one might immediately assume Akutagawa to be the strongest, given how versitile and offensive his ability is, or Kenji, who literally has super strength. However, its Dazai's strategic mind and ability to nullify a person's gift with a single touch that consistently enables him to gain the upper hand in almost every battle (despite the obvious fact that he completely lacks combat skills). Dazai's former partner, Chuuya's, gift of manipulating gravity is also not an obvious candidate for strongest ability (just think of Ururaka from My Hero Acadamia). But Chuuya proves us wrong in one of the most epic fight scenes I've seen in awhile. Same goes for Oda's gift of seeing 5-6 seconds into the future - an ability initially disregarded by many, but one Dazai proclaimed to be too powerful for even Akutagawa to defeat. This show is not about physical strength and the emphasis on morality and strategy makes the overpowered nature of some of these gifts forgivable. - ANIMATION 10/10 - The animation is a cut above. I adore the style and art direction, particularly the character designs. No two characters look alike - their idiosyncracies are all represented on their person in some form and the colors/shapes of their eyes are striking (especially Atsushi's). They feel far more realistic than your average cast. Action sequences are also incredibly fluid. A real joy to watch. - SOUND 8.5/10 - The score for Bungou Stray Dogs is mostly classical - something you don't see too often in anime of it's kind. Somehow, it all blends well with the J-pop opening, which is up there with some of my favorite anime openings ever. However, there were multiple instances when the sweeping melodies of the score felt out of sync with the storyline, which annoyed me (though this seems more like a storyline problem than a sound problem). - CHARACTERS 10/10 - Here's where we see some major improvement from season 1. I don't think I've ever encountered such unique, interesting, and deeply realistic characters. You've got our main character, Atsushi, who struggles to let go of the pity he feels towards how helpless he was in his past, but who makes every effort to be a genuinely good person. Then there's Kunikida, whose openness regarding his struggle to manifest his idealistic worldview (which also happens to be his ability, quite literally) makes him one of the kindest characters I've encountered, albeit rigidly pragmatic. And then of course there's Dazai, our favorite mysterious, mischevious, morally-gray shadow king. His role in season 1 seems to be purely comedic, but Dazai proves to be the center of gravity for literally every plot point in season 2. Learning about his past experiences in the Port Mafia and his deeply depressive struggle to find meaning in his lonely existence makes Bungou Stray Dogs one of the most mature shows I've seen to date. But none of this is obvious - you have to do a little digging. Once you do, you'll realize our main character - Atsushi - and his rival - Akutagawa - actually represent the two sides of their mentor, Dazai. Atsushi represents the part of Dazai nurtured by Oda, which aspires to do good. Akutagawa, on the other hand, embodies Dazai's Dark Era, when he lacked any sense of righteousness and killed indiscriminately. Things get more interesting upon learning that while Dazai shows Atsushi patience and compassion, he repeatedly manipulates and abuses Akutagawa. Yes, Dazai is stupidly suicidal and the show somehow turns that into a genuinely comedic idiosyncracy. But by season 2, it's obvious Dazai could easily have killed himself by now if he really wanted to. To Dazai, living is unbearable and something he genuinely wants to escape. But it is the part of him that desperately desires to find a reason to live that leads him to foil his suicide attempts every single time. The tension between Atsushi and Akutagawa embodies, in part, Dazai's own struggle to reckon with his past motivations for living while still part of the Port Mafia. And it's a struggle that feels remarkably human. Couple all that analysis with the fact that each character is named for a famous Japanese (or American) author and you have a whole additional layer of depth to consider (for starters, real-life Dazai died by double suicide), though I wish the original author took this symbolism a bit more seriously. The best part is that there is still so much room for character growth, development, and exploration, especially considering how little we still know about Dazai. Season 3 has a LOT it could deliver on and I couldn't be more stoked. - CONCLUSION 8.63/10 - Bungou Stray Dogs is one of the most polarizing and underrated anime out there, with mature themes and complex, realistic characters who stick with you over time. You'll either love it or hate it. If you would rather piece together character development than feel wowed by an epic storyline, then this is the anime for you. Otherwise, consider passing.
NO SPOILERS - Anime "Bungo Stray Dogs" is my heart because the characters have really touched me. I love everyone, and I can't say that any of them are evil or good. Each has its own past and something that motivates this particular character. However, the story was so different at first that I would have published the first three or four episodes separately as OVA. Perhaps the story would be easier to understand in the form of films, because what happened in these few other episodes of BSD is incredible and complicated. If you are lovers of good action, drama and mystery, or surprise, don't hesitate to look at this series. I must say that Dazai Osamu's character is definitely someone who deserves my respect.
Much better than the first season; there are still some funny moments, but the comedy was toned down a lot in order to amp up the drama. Some things I had nitpicked in the season 1 review were explained as well, making me wonder why they didn't just put this out as a 24 episode series to begin with (even the episode numbering continues at 13 with the first episode of this season). Plot There are two plots in this; the first spans episodes 1-4 and goes into Dazai's past and how he came to be with the Agency, and episodes 5-12 deals with what was dropped in episode 12 of the last season. Like I've done with Fairy Tail and SAO, I'll divide the rating of the story arcs. As stated before, the first plot we get is into Dazai's past of the time he was working for the Port Mafia. We see his old partners, as well as the case which led him to leaving the Mafia to join the Agency and the reasons behind it. The arc is extremely dark, which certainly changes up the pace of the anime. I'd give the arc a 9 out of 10; it was very well done, but not without its issues which prevents me from giving it a full score. A new organization from America is making their move to try and retrieved Atsushi themselves, as well as to complete their own goals. They don't do this quietly, however, and their methods not only puts the members of the Agency in danger, but also all of the citizens of Yokohama. Even the Mafia is troubled by The Guild. I'd give this arc a 7 out of 10; due to the first 4 episodes being a prologue of sorts, they had to rush the confrontation with the Guild organization...and it shows. Characters We're introduced to a slew of new characters, some from Dazai's past and some from the Guild arc. Already established characters get a little more of an opportunity to grow, and the Agency's president participates much more than he did in the first season. Overall Once again...repeated footage! I'm sorry, but I can't let this go. There's a really tense scene in episode four with a gunfight, but it lost half of its impact on me when the animators repeated footage...again, within the same episode. Using the same animation is not okay regardless, but there's a huge difference between using the same frames of someone lighting a cigarette...and two characters engaged in a life-or-death battle. So, I take a major issue with that, and it's the biggest reason my score for the animation is lowered. Another problem with the animation is something which occurred in the first season as well: No lips moving when they talk (sometimes). At times, there will be a couple characters on the screen with "blank" faces...but they're talking to one another. As someone with auditory processing issues, I found it difficult to tell who was talking sometimes. Internal thoughts are one thing since the "camera" usually focuses on the character who is thinking, but this situation is different. Put another strike against the animation. Even if I didn't have auditory issues, that's lazy animation. Also deducted a couple points from sound due to a couple BGM moments where it was either distracting or didn't feel like it fit properly. THERE MIGHT BE MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD! The start of the "war" between the Agency, Guild, and Mafia was also extremely dull. In "The Final Problem" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes and Moriarty are engaged in a proverbial chess match which made the story interesting. In the start of the battles with the Guild, only the Mafia boss was playing everyone else like chess pieces...though Dazai did give him some competition (as Dazai seems to have that sort of natural ability as well), it just wasn't really outlined or optimized until later on. The motives of the Guild for wanting Atsushi remain unknown for a good duration of the arc, and even then their general scheme is also hidden until the final battle. The Guild's characters were made highly unlikable (with the exception of the girl from episode 12 of the last season), which makes it difficult to then turn around and sympathize with them when the anime wants us to see them in their "normal" lives. Once again, there were many moments when a character should have died and didn't. I was actually shouting at the screen in the final episode because one character whom we saw die on screen just walks in as if nothing had happened. I have my guesses, but we're never given an explanation as to that character either, which takes "suspension of disbelief" to a whole other level. While I am coming down really hard on the anime, that doesn't mean it was all bad. We see more of Atsushi's resolve, Akutagawa gains a little bit more as a character, and I really wonder if Dazai isn't some sort of psychopath (sorry Dazai fans, I'm being brutally honest here). So, I'm conflicted a lot on his character because it appears as if all his motives are for the giant game of chess he seems to be playing with life around him. I actually found myself disliking his character the more I thought about it. It did end by introducing a new bad guy, but I hardly expected it to end after only a total of 24 episodes since there are still things left unsaid and unresolved. All nitpicks aside, this season was much better than the last season as motives were finally revealed for various sides. It wasn't perfect, but the first four episodes certainly give it a leg up, as well as some incredible team-ups towards the end.
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