This season of Bungo Stray Dogs is just knocking it out of the park as far as I’m concerned. The only thing I can seriously fault it for is that there are only two episodes left which means we are definitely not resolving the greater arc. The Rats n the House of the Dead will live to dance another day.
Don’t worry, I’m going to give you all my deep thoughts and insights on this week’s episode (that should buy me a dozen words or so), but if you would also like some visual aids, the full screencap gallery of this week’s episode can be found HERE, on my blog. Also as this is an episode review, there will be spoilers.
Thing’s were looking grim last week. When we left off, the Armed Detective Agency had failed to find the gifted virus wielder and were gearing up for plan B. Said plan being an all-out bloody confrontation with the Port Mafia, in order to murder their ailing leader. And of course, the Mafia was getting ready to do the exact same thing on their end. Pretty much the exact thing both leaders were desperately trying to avoid.
However, Ranpo still allowed room for one small contingency. Sure, it may seem like the only viable option left for the Detectives was to take matters in their own hands and then strangle them. But just in case there was still a small chance for peace, he did send Atsushi off to see if Katai had any leads. Deeply traumatized from having failed to save a small child right in front of him, Kunikida also decides to avoid battle and joins Atsushi.
For me, Kunikida’s little breakdown was just a touch too dramatic, although perfectly justified, but I was happy to go along with it because Hosoya, Yoshimasa (Doppo’s voice actor), really went all out this episode. He’s always good but he outdid himself. His performance as a man undone going from uncontrolled emotion to stoically restrained guilt and pain was impressive. It brought a lot of depth to a generally bland character. (I still like Kunikida though, sometimes you want vanilla).
From here, the episode splits between the two groups. Atsushi and Kunikida go to Katai’s home only to find it empty. A black box reveals that Fyodor has gotten to him first but if Dostoyevsky bothered to make a move, then Katai must have been onto something.
This is where the patient structuring of this season starts to pay off. That carefree episode 5, where we were first introduced to Katai and his one-sided crush was more than mere filler. By presenting the character outside the strict confines of the current story, it humanized and gave him an existence beyond a mere plot element. Bungo Stray Dogs was patient, taking an entire episode to set him up slowly. The gave us all this background and flavour that wasn’t really needed for us to understand what’s going on but we sneakily got a little connected to the character.
At least I did. I was really surprised by how affected I was to find he had been “erased”. Not that many series can make me care this much about a character. Certainly not one we’ve only seen in a handful of scenes. Something makes me think Katai will be back though. Maybe how prominent he is in the opening credits.
while this is happening, the rest f the Agency detectives are going in for a head-on attack of the Port Mafia headquarters. Gunfire and superpowers are just spraying all over the place. I thought to myself, I shouldn’t like this. Bungo Stray Dogs has carefully nurtured particularly affable villain personas for the Port Mafia members and as such I don’t really want to see either side get hurt. On top of that, seeing these two organizations fight is kind of lame.
I mean it’s a throwback to season 1. We’ve already been there, done that. Without Mori and Dazai or Fukuawa on the other side to escalate the stakes, it’s just a series of skirmishes that don’t add much more than noise and fury. It’s so expected, like a worn out shonen trope. And oh my was it fun. Why? I’ not sure. It wasn’t happy or funny. I couldn’t quite root for anyone clearly. But it was engrossing and energizing. I wanted it to go on. I’ve been talking about the framing of visuals this season, but the direction of the action is also stellar.
And then we got to our second payoff. Adorable Kyouka, trying to get to Mori on her own, finds herself in a one on one combat against her former….mentor? Akutagawa. As I mentioned previously, up until episode 6 of this season, Kyouka was pretty much limited to being a trope. A pleasant one but still, the show had not bothered to develop her beyond the standard stereotypes of her role. But another seemingly fillerish episode managed to give her a rich complex backstory and a very interesting emotional upheaval to deal with in just a few brief minutes. This went a long way to making her conversation with Akutagawa so much more meaningful now. The same scene even managed to give Akutagawa some depth at the same time. It was an odd moment to make peace, and a little pretty as well.
I’m just going to mention that in the meantime, Ranpo and Chuuya have managed to get themselves stuck in one of Poe’s books. I hope we see their adventure because they seem like a hilarious match up.
The Final act of the episode had the two organization patriarchs take matters into their own hands. In many ways, they are quite similar. And as they naturally came together n this stunning abandoned house to kill each other, I couldn’t help but think they must have been good friends at some point. They just know each other so well.
I skipped over a few things, I talk about the visuals on my gallery post. There was also a good payoff scene with Lucy’s character as well and a cryptic line from Dazai is hinting at yet another setup. We saw that in a twisted way Akutagawa sees himself in Kyouya and was trying to save her as his own “mentor” had saved him. In short, everything is coming together quite well. Even in an action-heavy episode, the plot is tightening its strings. I should really look into the writing team. If you are one of the few that are following along, how do you feel about the fact that the season is almost over?
Contributed by Irina
from I Drink And Watch Anime!