Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?
While there are much more powerful moments in this week's episode of Bungo Stray Dogs, which brings the conflict between the three major powers to a head, hands down the best part is when Q skips up to Lovecraft and asks if he wants to play, only to be presented with a “dachshund” made out of Cthulhu tentacles. Poor Lovecraft. He just wants to make the little boy happy!
On a more serious note, we're getting into heavy thematic territory with this episode. After Kyouka's failed attempt to rescue Atsushi from the Guild reveals just how deeply her belief that her powers control her reigns in her soul. She sees her automatic attack of the police officers she called to the scene as evidence that there will be no happy ending for her, and although she recognizes that she cannot go back to living strictly in the shadows, she's also positive that she doesn't have a right to the light either. In this respect, she forms the third spoke of a wheel with Lucy (Canadian children's author L. M. Montgomery) and Atsushi. Lucy, heavily modeled off of Anne of Green Gables, Atsushi, and Kyouka are all orphans taken in by different groups. All three are tormented by their pasts and feelings of pain and worthlessness, so seeing how each chooses to act over the course of this episode proves very telling.
Atsushi, although he still struggles with his self-worth, ultimately admits that he does think that he has something to offer the world, even if it's only his determination to reach Dazai. When he embraces his power in a slightly too on-the-nose metaphor, he reaffirms that he is not the child beaten down by the orphanage. Even if he doesn't know how to find Dazai, he's certain that he will find him, and when Dazai shows up at the end of the episode, trusting that Atsushi would find a way to bring him Q's doll, Atsushi gains the final piece of courage that he needs. He has his proof that someone believes in him, so now he can believe in himself. This is a point Lucy appears to be reaching as well – when she sees that Atsushi has been through the same Dickensian horrors she has, she realizes that she doesn't have to be alone or stay with the Guild. Her life is not a one-way street, and Atsushi points out the alley she can turn down. She may turn out to be the direct opposite of Kyouka, who remains trapped in the notion that she cannot change, creating a parallel between the two girls to develop alongside the parallel between Atsushi and Akutagawa.
Speaking of hopes and dreams, it looks like Bungo Stray Dogs is where Hermann Melville finally fulfills his desire to control the great white whale – the author of Moby Dick and Billy Budd comes in this week and reveals that his power is to manifest a giant white whale-shaped airship. It feels slightly off for the author, but his Ahab-esque look is top-notch. More interesting is the show's portrayal of Mark Twain, who looks much more suave than most American readers might have assumed. (Of course, both of his other potential appearances have already been taken by Kenji and John.) He seems to be more of a shout-out to the author in his journalist days than to either of his most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, both of whom appear as little guidance sprites for his Gift.
Things have well and truly been set into motion now. Fitzgerald is clearly spooked, both by Nathaniel Hawthorne's defection (and condemnation of his attitude towards Margaret) and by the viciousness that Kyouka displays when she rescues Atsushi. This has pushed him over the edge, and he's done playing Jay Gatsby – it's time to become a combination of George Wilson and Tom Buchanan, acting cruelly without quite thinking things through. Atsushi's theory that the Agency and the Port Mafia ought to join forces to push out the Guild isn't unexpected, and will likely come to fruition if only to work through the numerous parallel character developments taking place, but it feels like a good plan regardless. Atsushi quotes his real-life counterpart's works in this episode, which may indicate that the cast are reincarnations rather than the authors themselves, so let's hope that we don't need to be thinking of what Shakespeare said in Richard III: “So wise so young, they say, do never live long.”
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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