Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Bungo Stray Dogs ?
Allow me to geek out for a moment over the fact that not only is F. Scott Fitzgerald back, but he brought Lucy Maud Montgomery (L.M. Montgomery, Canadian children's author) with him and he addresses people as “Old Sport.” I am one happy little biblionerd. More interestingly, he appears to share at least one of his most famous hero's fatal flaws: he thinks that with enough money, he can have everything he wants. In this case, it is the Agency's special “gifted” business permit, which is difficult to obtain. But without it, the North American organization Fitzgerald runs, The Guild, cannot operate legally in Tokyo. While it is a nice show of good faith (sort of) that The Guild wants to function within the law, this permit is basically Daisy Buchanan to Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby: he can't buy it no matter how much money he throws at it.
Equally interesting is the contrast between the austere Fukuzawa and the ostentation of Fitzgerald. The latter seems to represent the glittering excess of America in the 1920s with his slicked back hair, gaudy timepiece, and charming attitude, while Fukuzawa is very much the staid embodiment of his era. While there are certainly references to the Japanese authors' greatest works and characters in their gifts and, in a few cases, their appearances, that seems to have been taken to much higher levels with the North American authors. I mentioned Fitzgerald's similarity to Jay Gatsby, and it's noticeable with L.M. Montgomery as well (just called Lucy in the show) – she's got her heroine Anne Shirley's signature red braids and wears an outfit evocative of what young girls wore in the late Victorian era, when Anne of Green Gables takes place. It's an interesting difference in author representation, and I would hazard that it's because the foreign writers may only be known for their most famous books in Japan, whereas viewers are assumed to be generally familiar with the homegrown authors. (So if that silhouette of the woman in the hoopskirt we briefly saw isn't Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, I'll be very surprised.) In any event, I believe Lucy is one of the only (if not THE only) anime characters I've ever seen with braces.
Literary commentary aside, changing up our bad guys makes a real difference for this episode. The Guild's members are almost entirely unknown to the Armed Detectives, so there's more tension as they try to figure out what's going on. When Kenji vanishes in the elevator as he's escorting the Guild members out, no one says, “Oh yes, that _____'s gift, _____!” Instead there's actual panic, made even more frightening when it becomes clear that Kenji isn't the only person or object that has vanished since they came to town. When it turns out to be a sick play on Anne Shirley's imagination in Anne of Green Gables, Atsushi proves that he's really learned from his experiences, with a boost in confidence and skill that forms a nice progression for his character. It's extra interesting that he gets this final push from someone belonging to the Port Mafia.
Yes, this week the man in the concealing shadows with the strange little blonde girl is revealed! The leader of the Port Mafia, it turns out, is Mori Ogai, born Mori Rintaro (which explains why that name comes up briefly this week), a 19th century military surgeon and author of a semi-autobiographical erotic novel, Vita Sexualis. (Please tell me that has nothing to do with his relationship with Elise, the little girl.) His reveal coinciding with the arrival of Fitzgerald feels significant, as does his coaching of Atsushi during the fight against Lucy. Mori clearly knows who Atsushi is (and presumably Tanizaki as well, since I'd guess he was counting on the two to combine their efforts to win against Lucy), so was this a case of using the tools at hand to escape, or was he just fattening the calf for slaughter? And why didn't Atsushi pay more attention when Kyouka audibly gasped and clutched his arm with a death grip when she saw Mori?
Things are heating up as we head into the new story arc. There was no preview this week, so we're definitely going to be left hanging until the second cour premiers in October. The professor in me can't help but mention that this is a great excuse to read some of these authors before the show starts up again, but mostly because this is one hell of a place to leave us, so that may ease the angst. We still haven't gotten an explanation for Dazai's sojourn (or what the reactions were when he resurfaced), and we don't know who the third Guild member is or why he's dressed like he's from the late 18th or early 19th century. Most of the characters we've been following for twelve episodes haven't developed much either, so while I'm excited for the new ones, it also feels overly ambitious for a story that barely uses the characters it has. I've spent this season wanting to love Bungo Stray Dogs but finding that no matter how I try, I only like it, because it's just not making the most of what it's got. Be that as it may, I'm very much looking forward to its second half, if only because now I want answers.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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