Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 15 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?
Virginia Woolf maintained that a writer needed a room of one's own (and sufficient money) in order to create. She was specifically addressing women writers at the time, but the advice holds true no matter the gender of the would-be author: without a place to write, to truly concentrate on the creation of worlds and lives, a writer can't function. This, as it turns out, is the driving force behind Oda's refusal to kill: he wants to remain a creator rather than a destroyer until he is able to find that room (with E.M. Forster's required view) and write. Never mind the fact that authors kill as often as they birth new creations; in Oda's mind, becoming a writer is the precise opposite of his current mafia life, and he doesn't want to sully his dreams by dirtying his hands. It's a frankly unexpected nod to the fact that all of the characters in Bungo Stray Dogs are either great authors or their creations, and it adds a sort of yearning feel to the story that it lacked before.
This almost ineffable wish of Oda's fits right in with the writings of the story arc's villain, French author André Gide. La symphonie pastorale is probably the best example of this, as it deals thematically with the idea of blindness, both literal and metaphorical. That's a direction that Gide's speech takes this week – he tells Oda (whose gift of brief foresight he shares) that he and his fellows in Mimic are ghosts looking for someone who can end their existences. When Oda refuses, Gide tells him that he is essentially blind to reality and that he will force Oda to see. Gide's appearance, that of a tired older man, follows the basic trend set by the show with its other foreign authors: he looks like the protagonist of La symphonie pastorale, a pastor whose blindness to his own feelings and those of his ward Gertrude lead to her death.
As a character, Gide is definitely more than Oda and Akutagawa (his first challenger) have faced before. Gide is clever, perhaps even moreso than Dazai, and he immediately spots the holes in Akutagawa's defenses, much to the younger man's horror. His ruthlessness has a greater edge to it than the other characters, a single-mindedness that seems somehow perfectly sane. His refusal to come off as crazy makes him scarier; this is a man who knows exactly why he's doing what he's doing.
In terms of the ongoing plot, the revelation that Ango is a triple agent, working for the government as well as Mimic and the Port Mafia, indicates that the time the three men spent in Lupin was in fact stolen, making the name of the bar significant. Dazai chooses to overlook the fact that Ango is several differet kinds of traitor and tells him to leave before he decides that he can't, which may signal the beginning of his break with the Port Mafia. Oda, meanwhile, learns that his hope of keeping his hands blood-free isn't possible when Gide hits him where it will hurt him the most. When Oda goes to visit the children he's saved, he finds their caregiver dead and the children trapped in a van, which blows up before his eyes. This is a particularly well-done scene, with Oda's narration over a sound that we come to realize is the ringing in his ears, as it fades and we can suddenly hear his anguished screaming. It's the kind of scene that actually hurts – we may not be the ones screaming, but can feel it in our throats nonetheless.
It's clear that Gide (I can't see this being an inside Port Mafia job) instructed whoever was in the van to wait until Oda arrived before killing the kids; equally clear is that someone was in the van with them, because we see the children get pulled away from the window. Was it someone with the ability to teleport out of there, or did Mimic just sacrifice one of its own? We'll likely find out next week if it's going to be revealed, but more important is the fact that Oda apologizes to the mysterious old man who told him he ought to write, saying he can't do it anymore. This is Oda's admission that he just can't let this one go – he will kill whoever murdered those children. Whether this will spell Oda's own death or Dazai (and Ango?) will somehow step in and take revenge for him isn't clear. Given the closeness between the three, I am hoping that next week, which ought to wrap up this storyline, will send Oda off to his room with a view of the sea, free to write the stories he wants to.
But then again, none of the men at the center of this episode were particularly given to writing happy endings.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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