Bungo Stray Dogs
Episode 18

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 18 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?

There are no surprises this week for the reveal of the two Guild members introduced last time: the lady in the Southern Belle outfit is indeed Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, while the gentleman in the priest outfit is Nathaniel Hawthorne, best known for The Scarlet Letter. Largely, the reason this doesn't come as a shock is due to Bungo Stray Dogs' habit of dressing authors, most specifically the Western ones, as their best known characters, so Mitchell looks like Scarlett O'Hara rather than a woman who wrote in the 1920s and 30s, and Hawthorne bears a distinct resemblance to Arthur Dimmesdale, a Puritan minister, rather than himself. The choices are deliberate – Margaret's power is “Gone with the Wind,” a wind-based erosion skill, and Nathaniel's is “The Scarlet Letter,” which is much more dangerous for the man he fights, Akutagawa: it's a blood-based version of Akutagawa's own shadow-matter manipulation, “Rashomon.”

This is really not shaping up to be Akutagawa's season. Not only is he hurting emotionally from the fact that Dazai has taken in Atsushi and Kyouka (although the latter doesn't seem to be as much of a threat), but Nathaniel's power takes him by surprise. Even though it's clear that he understands the other man takes his power from spilled blood – we have clear footage of him manipulating Akutagawa's at one point, so it's not just his own – he can't quite seem to believe it, and he doesn't seem to realize that wounding Nathaniel will only result in giving him more ammunition. It seems at this point that Akutagawa is so blinded by his own rage and pain that he can't quite focus on anything. He wants to cause violence and succeed as a Mafioso, but he doesn't seem clear on why he's doing it. All that he wants is “someone's” approval that he is allowed to exist, and that very wish is putting his continued existence at risk.

The rest of the Port Mafia, on the other hand, are taking steps to ensure that when the smoke clears, they're the ones left standing in this three-way power struggle. They arrange a two-way set up, sending John Steinbeck and Lovecraft to where the Detective Agency is hiding their office staff (I can't help but think of them as “Team Tanizaki” given that both women are drawn from his novel Naomi), and then telling the Agency what they've done. This is not-so-cleverly designed to pit the other two groups against each other while the Port Mafia sits back and watches, although I can't help but think that they've forgotten that F. Scott is still out there. Steinbeck and Lovecraft are fully aware that they're probably walking into a trap, and Ranpo calls the Mafia's messenger out on it immediately, but that doesn't mean they won't respond. The question is whether or not they'll allow themselves to be pulled into a full-scale fight with the Guild when it was so obviously a setup, or whether they'll try to either deal with them or just swoop in and save the women. Given that the rescue team is Tanizaki and Kunikida, it could really go either way.

Overall, this episode feels much more cleanly constructed than the last. The humor – in this case Kenji's reaction to Chuuya Nakahara's gravity control even extending to keeping his hat in place while he stands upside down – is much better integrated, and there's a better sense of pacing in general. We're really starting to get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes Akutagawa tick just slightly off-rhythm, and Ranpo's role appears to be about to get a boost, so things are at least beginning to develop in different directions. I'm looking forward to it!

Rating: B

Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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