Bungo Stray Dogs Season 2 Series Review

Overview:

Season 1 ended with the Guild attacking the Agency and essentially declaring war. Season 2 continues following Atsushi (mostly) as he works with the Agency to protect the city. I reviewed this episode to episode if you want to check out my thoughts (which progressively got more negative as the series continued).

Review (full of spoilers):

Bungo is such an odd show to try and review because there are moments and little snippets of plot that I absolutely love and then there is everything else that the show mixes into its little pot and tries to serve up to us as something resembling a character focused narrative. I say character focused because it surely can’t be plot focused. There is still nothing in this show that resembles an overarching plot.

Villains are introduced and  then as quickly discarded in this season as the first. Remember how bad Akutagawa  was supposed to be in season 1? If you see him, run. And then by the end of the season, absolutely nothing. He was easily dealt with and turns out he isn’t all that impressive. This season does it again. Over and over. Talk someone up. Show them being unstoppable and powerful. And then nothing.

Even the ‘final’ boss (who it turns out is not actually the final boss) is stupidly overpowered at first but his power has one very obvious flaw. Eventually he will run out of funds so just keep hitting him. Apparently Atsushi is completely untouchable given regardless of damage he seems to regenerate (but only when he is mid-battle and only when he really knows he can’t afford to lose) so just keep flinging Atsushi at the guy and eventually he’ll fail.

This doesn’t make for compelling viewing.

The best moments of season 2 come from the fairly independent arc showing Dazai’s past with the Port Mafia and the moments between Kyouko and Atsushi. While that isn’t a romance made in heaven and isn’t exactly brilliantly written or balanced in any way, it is one of the stronger narrative arcs going through the series and the reunion between the two at the end was actually kind of touching.

Another positive is the half episode devoted to Rampo. Locked door mystery and no Atsushi made this one of my favourite post-flash-back moments in season 2 and I really enjoy watching Rampo. He’s one of the few characters in the show I find consistently entertaining.

Last positive point, Lovecraft. Okay, we got zero explanation for this guy but he kind of sold every scene he was in and when he finally dove into the ocean I just kind of thought ‘oh, are we not getting to see any more of you’. One of the few characters I am sad to see leave.

So this leaves everything else. Dazai continues to be smugly perfect at everything and while I loved his flash-back episodes and brief reconciliation with his old partner from the Port Mafia, pretty much everything else Dazai related grated on my nerves, yet he still managed to be on my top male character list  from 2016 because when Dazai is entertaining he is very entertaining.

There are just too many characters chopping and changing meaning none of them get proper development, their motives are explained in info-dumps and then they leave. The fight sequences range from awesome to completely tacky to just plain dull so it is always hit and miss what you will get. Oh, and did I mention the absence of an actual plot other than Guild wants something so Guild smash city?

Overall, Bungo Stray Dogs season 2 can’t be called a disappointment as most of these issues are just continuations of the flaws of season 1, but I’m disappointed anyway that none of these seem to have been dealt with. Is it watchable? Definitely. Will you enjoy it? That entirely depends on whether you liked season 1 and whether you will put up with the issues. Pretty much if you thought season 1 was okay, check this out and you’ll probably get a few good moments from it.


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Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 24

Review:

Apparently this show wants a season three as once again we’ve introduced a new villain in the dying minutes of this season. The thing is, after how unsatisfying this final episode was, I wonder how many viewers will stick through yet another season of messy tone and inconsistent story telling? And why is everyone celebrating? The whale dropped right in front of the city. I’m not great at science but something tells me that if the Moby Dick falling was going to destroy the entire city that dropping it in the water should have caused massive waves and some severe tremors still heaping piles of damage on the city. But no, we get a splash and move on. All and all this was a less than thrilling conclusion to the season and right now I’m kind of annoyed that I got my hopes up for anything more earlier this season. Oh well. Done now. I’ll write up a whole series review soonish.

However, one positive point, I liked Kyouko’s moments in this episode. It was nice her character arc finally got some closure.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 23

Review:

Apparently this episode is everyone clearly and slowly state exactly what your personal hang up is and draw some sort of moral across the screen so that the viewers can’t possibly miss the message. While it is nice that Bungo decided not to be confused in terms of tone or story this week, the dragging out of this conflict on the Moby Dick was really quite depressing.

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This battle is one of overpowered punches and occasional lengthy exchanges between any combination of the three main players which means it isn’t exactly compelling and what they are saying bordered on repetitive by the halfway point. I’m guessing we were supposed to see Atsushi and Akutagawa both help each other see what they were missing but mostly I just kind of wondered why Akutagawa didn’t use his gift to slice the Moby Dick into small pieces and call it a day.

Anyway, anyone who has paid any kind of attention to the opening already knows where this is going and the battle still didn’t conclude  so mostly lets hope that we get something a bit more interesting for a climax next week.

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Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 22

Review:

The first half of this episode of Bungo was great fun. Rampo was doing his thing and coming to the realisation he doesn’t have a gift and really not wanting to admit that.

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Okay, I just like Rampo so the diversion from the Agency/Guild/Mafia war to have a confrontation between two ‘detectives’ through the use of a locked room mystery novel was kind of awesome and thoroughly enjoyable.

Then we move to the second part of the episode which sees Dazai and Rampo concoct a plan involving getting Atsushi back on the Moby Dick and of course things go a bit wrong with the plan except that Dazai has of course accounted for that.

It’s weird that when Rampo figures things out that he really shouldn’t be able to I find it an endearing character trait but when Dazai does it I just find him obnoxious.

Anyway, looks like next week should be interesting.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 20

Review:

Bungo Stray Dog does a lot of things well, but it also has a lot of problems in terms of writing a cohesive narrative. We just seem to keep piling on more characters, abilities and craziness for the sake of novelty and for every explanation we get there’s a whole bunch more questions (and usually the explanations are a throw away line about someone’s ability). Did we really need a giant, mechanised, floating whale? Hello? Does anyone need that?

Kyouko has probably been arrested and is lost in despair, Atsushi is momentarily in hero mode before we get his next break down of patheticness, Dazai is still showing up to save the day even though there is no logical way he should have had any idea that Atsushi was going to dive out of an airship, have his parachute shot down and then run sprinting down that particular street (and don’t tell me Ranpo foresaw it because that actually makes it even worse), and lastly we have Atsushi suggesting an alliance with the Port Mafia. Who would have thought that both Japanese agencies would come together to defeat the Americans?

Anyway, even if the alliance does happen, and it does seem like the only plausible next step but that doesn’t mean much for this show, we know the Port Mafia  will ultimately betray the Agency when it is to their best advantage so it isn’t like we’re all going to forgive and forget the casual murder and property destruction the mafia have engaged in up until now.

Oh, and in case you think after reading that I disliked this episode, that’s not exactly right. I smiled most of the way through it and got a great laugh from the end. It’s crazy, over-the-top and absolutely ludicrous story telling running at full tilt and hoping no one looks closer because it all kind of falls apart and yet it was a really fun episode on the back of a so far superior second season.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 19

Review:

Bungo Stray Dogs seems to be stepping back to end of season 1 style, which isn’t too bad because it wasn’t as though season 1 was terrible, but it just lacks the impact and punch that the start of this season gave us. Kunikida finally does something this season as does the sister obsessed guy (I never remember his name) and while the fight is short it was interesting (though what that grape power is pretty disturbing considering the vines grow out of his neck and how would you ever he learn you had that power given most people don’t go around cutting themselves and inserting seeds into the wounds). The second half we get a lot more of Atsushi and we kind of head back down the vaguely pathetic path. Who would have thought that Dazai would actually give some practical advice?

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Why didn’t someone tell Atsushi that 18 episodes ago?

All and all, this episode was okay and continues on from where we left off but isn’t exactly thrilling.

Anyway, Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 18

Review:

Bungo Stray Dogs is going to get the award for most inconsistent not just in tone but in airing time the way this season is going. I could probably search and find out why the release date of the episodes has been all over the place but I’m really disinclined to bother. It just seems weird.

Anyway, episode 18 gets action heavy as we blow up a ship and then have a minor skirmish between the Port Mafia and the Agency. Atsushi and Dazai were both mysteriously absent from the whole episode this time (save for a few flashbacks of Dazai’s expressions) which gave us a bit of time to try to remember who all the other characters are. They all still seem death proof which makes you wonder how we’re ever going to get a victor out of the three way conflict, but that’s another story. The way this season is going this is actually going to be one of the few season 2’s I enjoy more than the original season of a show.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 17

Review:

We have transitioned back to the present but this actually wasn’t such a bad thing. Given at the end of the last season they had already introduced the Guild they didn’t waste any time with introductions and just kind of plunged us straight into a three way war. It’s amazing how much more tolerable characters can be when they aren’t just being goofy for the sake of it and actually have a real and pressing danger to deal with. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as the most obvious criticism is that there are so many characters that it is difficult to care about them, and the ones we’ve already met have pretty much established themselves to be death proof already. Still, a fairly enjoyable episode and a smooth enough transition from Dazai’s past exploits. Last point, I have to agree with Kunikida in asking why is Atsushi back to acting like the damsel in distress when we saw last season that somehow he magically became an awesome fighter in one episode.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.

Bungo Stray Dogs Series Review

I watched this series week to week and if you want to see my thoughts on individual episodes, click here.

Overview:

Down on his luck orphan, Atsushi, rescues a man attempting suicide in a river and then finds himself working for the Armed Detective Agency, an agency comprised of unusual individuals with powers (and the unusual part generally isn’t the power). There’s some stuff about a bounty and a group of mafia but otherwise that’s about the story.

Review:

I remember the first episode of this. I didn’t watch it in the week of release because I’d kind of decided I wasn’t all that interested in it. I don’t know anything about Japanese literature and so the fact that the characters are kind of personifications of the subject matter of the authors that they are named for (or something like that) didn’t really fascinate me. Though I must admit this season has been educational as reading the blogs of people who clearly were fascinated has actually introduced me to a whole lot of factoids about Japanese literature but that’s a separate matter. When I watched the first episode it was firmly with the view that I was watching the anime and I wasn’t watching for the references that are heavily interwoven into the story.

So I watched. And within the first few minutes just fell over laughing. The opening scene with Atsushi starving by the river and deciding to rob the next person who comes by. Then the motorcycle screams past and you see him realise that was never going to happen. Then the military group. Lastly, we see the floating legs going down the river. It was a beautifully written piece of comedy and the timing was perfect and the predictability of it and yet the still refreshing reveal just hit the spot.

I abruptly stopped the episode and rewatched the sequence. And laughed again. A few episodes in to this show I introduced it to someone else with the clear warning that, the first few minutes are golden, everything after is a bit hit and miss.

Now, at the end of episode 12 and facing a wait before we get anymore of this show, I’m going to stand by that statement.

If you’ve read anything about Bungo Stray Dogs, you will know that most people have had issues with the pacing, the comedy not always hitting the mark, the characters either being too present or too absent, the abrupt switches in tone, the abrupt changes in art style, the lack of any real substantial threat to the agency or overall plot. When said like that it kind of makes it sound like the show is dreadful. And the thing is, all of these are issues with the show. They persistently get in the way of the audience fully engaging with the world these characters are in and the events unfolding (even when we don’t really know what those events are they are unfolding).

Watching Bungo Stray Dogs makes you feel like you are on a see-saw. This joke hits the mark and things go your way, and then the next falls flat and you are just stranded up in the sky because someone left a rock on the other end of the see-saw and it won’t get off. That plot twist grabbed your attention… and then it went nowhere. That villain looks super-cool. Did they just unspectacularly knock him flat and move on without really dealing with why he even attacked?  For every moment of ‘now it’s getting going’ you get at least two moments of ‘what the?’. When reflecting on the whole, you realise the series seemed like fun but lacks anything of substance.

Characters – Questionable.

Atsushi has some great moments and then some dreadful ones. Worse though, he has a lot of dull moments. As the protagonist, the fact that he does very little other than give the over-exaggerated reaction to other character antics in several episodes makes him problematic. The fact that he is cowardly at times is fine, but the moments where he suddenly isn’t make him inconsistent. And don’t even start to try and figure out when he learned anything about using his power.

Dazai is amusing. For about three episodes. Then he is occasionally quirky, occasionally irritating, smug, self-confident, continuously suicidal (though why he hasn’t succeeded is also questionable), and generally just the filler of space in the series and the occasional operator of the massive coincidence required to solve an episode. He does get some good moments in episodes 9 and 10 but then he all but vanishes from existence again. Also, for those who find suicide jokes in ill-taste (enough to be offended by it), Dazai is not a character you will find any humour in.

I liked Ranpo (or Rampo – never did get a consistent reading on that one), but he features in two episodes at most and otherwise is a non-entity.

And that’s kind of the issue with all the other characters. They get an episode or two and then they get shoved to the background and kind of just blend in. The re-emerge when its time for their five minutes and then they disappear again.

Plot – Huh?

Oh, there was supposed to be a story. Maybe its Atsushi overcoming his traumatic past and dealing with his trust issue… No. We’re still having dark flashbacks up to episode 10 and episode 12 clearly illustrates he is just as hung-up on his abandonment issues as he was. The Port Mafia taking down the… No we have no idea what they are after. This new Guild thing from America challenging the Japanese agencies for… What? What did they want other than a permit? Um… Okay, plot?  Look, our characters are quirky and amusing and they have super powers. They fight each other over things that may or may not turn out to have any meaning and we’ll drop just enough hints that you think something may emerge from all of this.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoyed individual narrative arcs within this but I just couldn’t follow a greater plot thread (if one in fact does exist). Maybe season 2 will bring all of this together somehow but I’m really hoping we don’t see a teaming up of the Agency and the Mafia against the Guild. That would seriously suck.

Anything Else?

Music was appropriate and amusing. Colours and character designs were pretty cool, though I really want to trim Atsushi’s belt. Some of the transitions between dark and light storylines worked well whereas other felt flat.

Basically, I liked this show. There are a lot of flaws but it is still primarily fun. If I rewatch, I will skip episode 11 because to be honest it added nothing and bored me to pieces. Do I recommend watching this show? Not to people who dislike death, kidnapping, selling people, mafia references, weird medicine, suicide, or just things that are inconsistent. If you don’t fall into any of those categories, check it out, you may get a few laughs and a few moments of genuine enjoyment.

Bungo Stray Dogs Episode 10

Review:

While it seems late in the piece to reveal yet another antagonist (even though we knew someone had to have set the bounty) this episode worked very well. The balance of drama, action and comedy seemed to work this episode rather than having the show tearing itself in multiple directions all at once. It could be that this episode really focussed on Dazai and Atsushi and the main conflicts were already set up from the previous episode. Whatever it was, I really enjoyed this episode and was surprised at the end of it because I’d lost track of the time.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available on Crunchyroll.