Bungo Stray Dogs Series Review: Guys With Super Powers, What More Do You Need?

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in July 2016 and can be found here.

Now this post originally had those random circular images in it that just look kind of hideous and didn’t really have much in the way of flow. So I was kind of happy for the chance to revisit and to restructure just a little bit.

Review:

The first time I watched this series, my familiarity with the authors it was referencing was pretty much zero. I’d heard some of the names but knew little about them. After watching this and reading various blog posts that looked at how they were used in this series, and coming across many of these names in other anime, I spent a bit of time reading about these authors and their work and have even read small bits and pieces of some of their work. I don’t know that it appreciably adds to the viewing experience in the anime though I guess some things make a little more sense (but at the same time some things make a great deal less sense because while there is a reference there they seem to have taken a lot of artistic licence).

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The other thing with revisiting this series is that I’ve since watched season two and that of course very much changed my impression of season one and where things were going so I’m trying to just focus on this season as I revisit it.

The first few minutes of the first episode remain my favourite part of this entire season. My original post summed it up best:

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.

However, as glorious as those first few minutes are, the rest of what follows will be a mixture of success and failure and none of it ever quite lives up to that opening. It kind of reminds me of Zombieland Saga n that I loved the opening act of that, however, I will admit what follows in Bungo Stray Dogs certainly held my interest better than what followed so far in Zombieland Saga.

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My biggest issue remains the pacing, though characterisation when watching again seems even rougher at times with some characters overstaying their welcome in a scene and other characters seemingly missing in action for no reason other than the plot said so. I also never found the comedy quite as solid as that opening scene, though I will admit there are some genuinely funny moments to be had. Again, the original post kind of captured my feelings perfectly.

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.

As for the characters, Atsushi and Dazai tend to dominate a lot of the screen time and that’s a problem in and of itself because both of these characters are brilliant at times and at others kind of painful. Dazai’s particular character quirks are really funny in the beginning but feel stale and repetitive, or just ill-timed, elsewhere. While he is an interesting character, he is also quite annoying. As a protagonist, Atsushi has a lot of dull moments where he is kind of propelled along because plot said so and the jumps in his ability to use his power seem really inconsistent.

The supporting cast are made up of some interesting characters but not enough is done with them in this first season to really make any kind of connection. They are there, they have the potential to be really fun but it isn’t really ever achieved. I just kept thinking how much I’d like to get to know more of the cast but always feeling like they were just kind of there.

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And it is a shame that I still feel much the same way about the plot presented in season one. There is a plot and it does continue into season two, but it is really scattered all over the place and there’s a lot of different ideas that never really seem to consolidate. It is more just watching the characters reacting to events rather than having a clear goal and that is partially what hurts this anime in its pacing because we’ll have a series of events coming one after the other and falling over each other and then we’ll have moment of kind of aimless meandering before the next thing happens.

 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.

Still, it is fun enough and even rewatching it and seeing that I wasn’t mistaken and that the plot really does just trip all over the place, I actually enjoyed watching these characters in action. The cool moments are cool enough and there is enough humour and action to keep things going and enough potential for the story in the future to bring things together if it chooses to do so.

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The music was pretty solid and I like the visuals. The first time I had a bit of an issue with the way things hang off of characters, ties, belts, hair, etc, but this time around I just kind of liked how the show seemed to have a consistent style in its character design and that kind of made the whole thing seem very together so as much as I’d still like to trim Atsushi’s belt I think I’ll just go with it for now.

I still like this anime, though Bungo Stray Dogs is one of those that I probably won’t ever buy on DVD. I don’t feel I really need to watch it over and over and while there’s fun enough to be had there’s plenty of other titles I’d rather watch. Still, if you haven’t seen it and Dazai’s suicide joke isn’t going to upset you, watching this series is probably a fun way to spend a weekend.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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CALIGULA OVERDOSE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

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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.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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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.