Bungo Stray Dogs – Mid Season Review
Bungo Stray Dogs:
Original Air Dates: April 6th, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Near starvation, Nakajima Atsushi, who’d been kicked out of his orphanage just a few weeks prior, decides to rob the next person he comes across. Unfortunately that happens to be a man drowning. Atsushi instead decides to save the stranger, who actually had been trying to kill himself! As ‘thanks’, suicidal Dazai Osamu, and his annoyed partner, Kunikida Doppo, treat Atsushi to dinner as they explain to him that they’re looking for a man-eating tiger making its way through the city. For both of them are members of the “Armed Detective Agency”, tasked with solving incidents not even the military nor police will touch.
Atsushi freaks upon mention of the tiger, because he claims it’s been after him. But as he explains how the tiger followed him from the orphanage after he was kicked out, Dazai and Kunikida begin to suspect that not everything Atsushi is telling them is the truth….
Mid Season (6 episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: I started off loving this show… until it started trying to lay on the drama by repeatedly showing us the same, tired emotional flashback for Atsushi’s back story, almost back to back through several episodes. It doesn’t help that the dialogue uttered in this tragic scene feels extremely melodramatic. I’ve had to watch this scene again and again and again, and now any sense of sympathy has been replaced with annoyance.
Tom: Atsushi is understandable, even relatable as an outcast from society, made to feel different and unwanted by people who couldn’t understand him. They harp on this particular flashback so often, sometimes even twice an episode, that it feels significantly overplayed and goes from being an emotional origin to downright irritating. It becomes a waste of time within every subsequent episode rather than a moment of reflection or weakness.
Linny: If you dislike wimpy characters, Atsushi may irritate you as a central character who is constantly doubting himself and freaking out, but he is redeemed as the story gives him an understandable origin and has him develop into a self sacrificing and mature individual. Dazai is definitely the star of the series with his self centered, delusional, eclectic nature, his over the top gestures and orations which definitely help to put him in the spotlight. However, I worry that his shtick of being obsessed with committing suicide being used as a source of humour repeatedly may offend some people, and that even those not offended, by the sixth episode, will find the jokes losing appeal. Also this is yet ANOTHER odd couple show but there is some hope as the voice actors and Dazai’s almost child like expressions and quirks set against Doppo’s straight laced nature manages to be entertaining..at least for the first couple of episodes.
Tom: Outside of Atsushi, Doppo and Dazai we’ve met some of the less central members of this detective agency. The only one who really stands out as enjoyable is Ranpo, their resident brilliant detective who outshines the entire team at solving mysteries. The episode dedicated to him is easily one of the stronger episodes, and makes for quite an enjoyable watch. The others, unfortunately, are neither intriguing nor interesting. We’re introduced to two other members of the team, Junichirou and his sister with a brother complex, Naomi. Neither is terribly engaging, and forgettable to the point where the series actually drops them shortly after their introduction. Bungo also, quite often, undermines its own drama. In fact, two characters are brutally attacked, making for a gripping and shocking sequence of events, until it’s all swept under the rug and the consequences are entirely forgotten about. It’s all shock value, pure, non-committal shock value.
Linny: Ranpo definitely is one of the most interesting characters and the episode highlighting his power is easily the best in the series. The rest of the agency seems to be in the background for now and the biggest stand out for me besides Ranpo was how the show depicts Naomi pretty much sexually harassing her brother in front of everyone. It’s obviously played for humour but thanks to the voice acting, it does seem more awkward and disturbing than funny.
Tom: Bungo Stray Dogs switches between one off mysteries and plot driven episodes with reoccurring bad guys. The one offs are far stronger than the ongoing plot, as the villains are constantly undermined as a threat. They’re either beaten back with ease or the damage they cause is quickly remedied. As I mentioned above, in one such episode two characters are mortally wounded and what seems like a heavy blow to our heroes is quickly bandaged and forgotten. Bungo likes shock, but it doesn’t like the idea of actually following up with the consequences, preferring to keep things light which kills any threat I feel from the agency’s reoccurring enemies.
Linny: The reveals come hard and fast as literally every single mystery is solved within the episode every single time. Most viewers should be able to guess the incoming twists and reveals in advance as they are pretty common tropes. Sometimes, the show does try hard to make a surprise reveal by intentionally using bad cuts and hiding a character’s movements.
Tom: Bungo’s comedy is bound to touch a few nerves, with off color jokes surrounding suicide and other taboo topics. Beyond that, its suicide humor, whether you’re offended or not, becomes stale and predictable. As Linny mentioned it went from being a potentially amusing, if perhaps offensive, line of humor to something that’s become so overused I actually dread the jokes now. It’s simply too repetitive and forced to remain funny for very long.
Linny: At some point, the Agency members start to feel overly powerful as the show has them easily defeating villains that were initially built up as behemoths. It really dampens the thrill when you see your heroes kicking ass without breaking into a sweat every single time. Even when they are injured, as Tom previously mentioned, the show has them quickly healed or their injuries dismissed by the next episode.
Tom: Mystery really is where Bungo shines, as it’s weaving a tale centered around piecing together clues hidden throughout the dialogue or visual imagery. It’s the one off tales I look forward to the most, but they just aren’t enough to keep me satisfied whenever the overarching narrative rears its ugly head.
Linny: Bungou has an unusual aesthetic where it mixes modern landscapes and devices with characters in period clothing. It’s almost like watching a hipster agency conducting its business in a present day city. So make of that what you will based on your personal preferences. It also has some CGI heavy sequences, but generally the CGI blends well with the sharp design and movements of its characters.
Tom: Bungo Stray Dogs fluctuates often in quality. At times its entertaining, if ultimately forgettable, and at other times it delivers a melodramatic plot in a hamfisted manner where it beats the audience over the head again and again with information it thinks you’re incapable of retaining. If you don’t mind some melodrama and villains lacking in palpable menace, then Bungo Stray Dogs is a potential time killer. Otherwise there’s better offerings this season for people in need of something dark or quirky.
Linny: Bungou starts off quirky and could appeal to those who like its off beat fashion and humour. As for its mysteries, they fluctuate between dark and dismissive with a lot of it played up for shock value with no real follow through. If you find yourself unable to enjoy the first episode, there isn’t much to stick around for.
Bungo Stray Dogs is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com.