Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?
Although I was tempted to mark this episode down for the return of the orphanage flashback, it's hard to deny that this is one of the more interesting Guild vs Agency vs Mafia episodes. The threads are rapidly becoming very tangled in their three-way battle, which almost becomes a four-way fight when Dazai seeks out Ango's governmental help at the end. It might still add in that fourth Gifted factor – although it looks as if Ango has been killed (and Dazai almost certainly wounded) in a deliberate car crash, we don't know who caused it. Did Ango park where he did deliberately, knowing what was coming? That feels like a real possibility given his words to Dazai and the proximity to a side street. In that case, did he sacrifice himself to give the government the chance to take out Dazai? Or is he playing another double (triple) agent game? Given the importance of Ango in the flashback storyline, this scene feels like it will turn out to be very important.
That's true of many little moments this week. The creepy child that Team Tanizaki meets during their escape on the train is actually Q, a nickname for a Port Mafia agent named Yumeno Kyusaku. Q was imprisoned by the Mafia for being too dangerous, and although he has been released, Mori has also sent two Mafiosi (well, mafiose, since they're women) to actually protect Dazai from him. While this certainly says a lot about Mori's conflicted feelings about Dazai, it also tells us that even one of the Big Bads is afraid of this kid, which is a scary thought in and of itself. Q's power certainly is a scary one – when he rips his doll's head in half, anyone who has hurt him becomes subject to terrible hallucinations, causing them to kill their allies. To make sure that he can use this power at all times, Q has razor blades taped to his arms – a simple bump or tap from another person can put them under his potential control. Q can then cherry pick his victims without them knowing which one he will use, making him one of the most difficult foes the Agency has come up against and sowing emotional harm alongside the physical for our heroes. For someone like Atsushi, who already had self-esteem issues, this has the potential to be devastating.
As you probably guessed, Yumeno Kyusuke was a real Japanese author, best known for his 1935 science fiction novel Dogra Magra. More significantly, his first published work was a short story called “White Hair Boy,” which seems to be where Bungo Stray Dogs takes his character design from; his creepiness and the rest of his design may be an homage to his contribution to both Japanese Gothic literature and surrealism. This sort of tribute is also seen when Lovecraft reveals his Gift this week in the form of multitudinous tentacles bursting from his body. He also appears to be undead? Inhuman? I can't quite decide, but he's unharmed by both bullets and a broken neck, so there's clearly something else going on with Mr. Tall, Goth, and Creepy. Meanwhile, John Steinbeck's Gift and his appearance (as well as his backstory) are all torn from the pages of his 1939 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Grapes of Wrath. He looks like Tom Joad, protagonist of the book, and when he discusses his little sister, he seems to be talking about Ruthie Joad rather than anyone in the Steinbeck family, although he did have three sisters. His power, also named for the novel, definitely grossed me out: cutting open his neck, he sticks in a grape seed, which causes a vine to grow from his body. He can direct this into the ground where the plant will meld with the local vegetation, granting Steinbeck control over their root systems. Let's just say it's very effective. The fight between Steinbeck, Lovecraft, Kunikida, and Tanizaki is brief but good, giving everyone the chance to show off their Gifts in a bid to overpower the others. As it turns out, all four of them are evenly matched, which should make things interesting later on.
As the episode ends, we don't know if Dazai and Ango are alive or dead. Lovecraft and Steinbeck appear to have surrendered to the police, and although our old sport Francis has Atsushi in his grasp, Kyouka's just entered the scene. As the motivations of the Port Mafia and the Armed Detective Agency twist ever more tightly around each other and the Guild brings in more and more members (Louisa May Alcott shows up this week), tensions remain on the rise. I'm starting to think that The Moon is Down might have been the better choice of Steinbeck novel for this show.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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