The Fall 2016 Anime Preview Guide
Bungo Stray Dogs 2
How would you rate episode 13 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?
What is this?
Four years before the events of season one, Osamu Dazai was an executive in the Port Mafia. He used to meet with two other Mafiosi, low-level Oda and intelligence officer Ango, at a small bar called Lupin, and the three soon struck up a friendship that ignored their differences in rank. One night after meeting up at Lupin, Ango goes missing, and Oda is asked to find him. Dazai seems to know something, and it soon becomes clear that Ango may not have been as loyal to the Port Mafia as he appeared to be, perhaps having allegiances with an unknown European group now targeting Oda. Now it's up to Oda to find out what was really going on, as Dazai drifts farther away on his own path – and despite his gift of precognition, Oda isn't likely to see his friend's choice coming. Bungo Stray Dogs 2 is based on a manga and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 1:35 PM EST.
How was the first episode?
Bungo Stray Dogs is not only back, it's also wasting no time diving right into a world of literary references. While I am somewhat sad that we're opening the season with Dazai's back story instead of the threat that ended season one, Dazai is undeniably one of the more interesting characters, and getting more information about what ultimately led to his departure from the Port Mafia is important. I'm also thrilled that the episode opens with Dazai walking into a bar called Lupin (as in the famous thief of French literature), where he meets with Sakunosuke Oda and Sakaguchi Ango. This is important because in real life the three authors knew each other, and were in fact members of a group of writers damned by critics as “buraiha,” or thuggish writers in terms of their style of writing and content. In a show that enjoys throwing together disparate authors of various time periods, putting these three together as friends feels like it has to be deliberate. There's also the small matter of Oda, whose special gift is six seconds of precognition, remarking that this would be their last meeting as a group, because one of them would soon die. Historically it was Oda himself who passed first, making me wonder how faithful to the group's history the story is going to be – it is well documented that Dazai blamed critics for Oda's death.
Literary geekiness aside, this episode does do a good job of pulling us back into the story's world. There are a few cameo appearances on the Port Mafia side, and Dazai is slowly becoming the character we met before through Atsushi – he's definitely more serious four years in the past, but he's still got his death wish and his talent for inappropriate goofiness that lightens the mood. It's a little heavy-handed this time around: we see a solemn scene of men standing over the bodies of their slain comrades and speaking of informing their families when suddenly there's Dazai, playing a handheld videogame in the midst of everything. It's also the rare scene where Oda is not the point-of-view character, which may suggest that he sees Dazai for who he really is while the rest of the Port Mafia views him as dangerously unstable, something driven home by the panic with which another Mafioso tries to finish up Dazai's game. It's an oddly light moment in a very dark episode.
That's really what's holding this episode back when you come down to it – the excessive darkness. Dazai as a character shows that the story doesn't need to wallow, but the tone and even the color palate for this episode are all very dark, with only one scene in full daylight (others during daytime appear to be cloudy) and a tendency towards cryptic phrases and dire implications. It's interesting, but at about the fifteen minute mark my attention did begin to wander. Hopefully next week we'll wrap this up and link it to current events, because how well they pull that off will ultimately determine the usefulness of this episode with its overreliance on grim foreboding. It's not a bad return to the series…it just isn't the one I was hoping for.
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