Action, Supernatural abilities, Quirky characters and an underlying beat of serious emotion. Bungo Stray Dogs is definitely one of the most alluring anime to have come out of the Spring 2016 anime season. The 12 episode anime came into my life and stole my heart but left me craving more in the most unfulfilling way.
Taking in a Stray
After being kicked out of an orphanage with no place to go an no food to eat, main protagonist Nakajima Atsushi opens the series on on a river bank on the brink of starvation contemplating his next move until he sees a man floating down the river, head submerged.
Having been saved from his whimsical attempt at suicide, Dazai Osamu offers to take Atsushi to dinner along with his partner Doppo Kunikida in thanks for his troubles. Over dinner it is revealed that Dazai and Kunikida are part of the Armed Detective Agency, private detective agency who take on the cases the police are not able to handle as each of its members posses a unique supernatural ability. The pairing of Dazai and Kunikida had been assigned a case to investigate reports of a wild tiger spotted nearby and track it down. A Tiger which is apparently has some connection to Atsushi as it turns out.
By the end of the first episode Atsushi is actually able to aide Dazai in finding and tiger, gaining a bit of self worth and earning himself a job with the agency. As the series progresses we are introduced to the various abnormal members of the agency – and i’m not talking about their abilities – as well as the infamous Port Mafia as Atsushi tries to settle into this new life and what is apparently a place where he belongs.
A pack of Strays
So one thing that’s always fun is a diverse cast of characters. A group so colorful and different from each other that you just have fun watching them interact. This anime has that in spades. The Armed Detective Agency is an eclectic bunch of weirdos. Every single one of them while seemingly normal has a trait that makes them unique, yes, but also very very strange.
Dazai is a massive flirt and very laid back but he also has an obsession with committing suicide. Kunikida his partner is very strict and dedicated to structure and order but suffers a bit from tunnel vision which makes him a bit gullible, much to the amusement of Dazai and others.
None of the characters are simple or easy to read. Ranpo Edogawa is brilliant and very egotistical while maintaining the a childish naivety. Kenji Miyazawa is happy go lucky and reflects his country upbringing in the form of a kind innocence which belies his fearsome abilities. Even the “villains” are more than they appear as the feared, bloodthirsty Akutagawa is seen to have very human motives behind his monstrous mannerisms.
The show really is interesting. Not many shows these days can pull of the gang war scenario without getting super heavy and serious but Bungo Stray Dogs does.
As a main character Atsushi is fun to follow. You can sympathize with his plight and he’s a great focal point for viewers to approach this world through. He doesn’t over burden you with unwanted emotions or personal struggles and as he learns about his place in the world we learn with him.
The characters are fun and multilayered. No one is what they seem at first and figuring out everyone’s true being is part of the fun.
Action scenes done well. Some times when we see shows with powered people we see a lot of explosions and flashy moves. Bungo doesn’t really do that. The show makes use of flash card screens for attack call outs and the fights, combat and action sequences are handled tastefully.
What he don’t
The show doesn’t go anywhere. A large portion of the show is set as a “meet-the-family” type thing where there various episodes are focused on having Atsushi meet the various agency members and get to know them. While there is a serious plot progressing in the background it is never focused on long enough for us to fully appreciate its significance even though we understand its importance.
In fact, even the clashes with the Port Mafia feel more like a “meet-the-extended-family” deal as, while fun and action packed, develops the members of the Port Mafia into actual people we want to know. While its a great thing that the conflicts were used to develop the characters, its not all the fun splitting your focus in such a way that nothing feels as meaningful as you know it should.
I would definitely recommend you watch Bungo Stray Dogs BUT I would also recommend you wait till next season. The show is fun and finds a great blend between light and heavy but by the end of Season 1 we don’t really feel like we’ve gotten anywhere. We’ve just met a lot of cool people and seen a few interesting abilities.
The stage is set beautifully for Bungo Stray Dogs to become one of the greats, but it needs a bit more diversity in its focus and plot development. Season 2 is already carded for Fall of 2016. I’m looking forward to it, however its not currently at the top of my list.