Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 22 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?
If there's a theme for this week's episode of Bungo Stray Dogs, it's believing in yourself. A little corny, yes, but it's something that many of the younger characters have been struggling with for both seasons of the show, most notably Atsushi, Akutagawa, and Kyouko. We'll likely get to the latter two next week, since if the Agency wants government help in bailing Kyouko out, she'll have to pass the test to officially join them. But this week's divided episode focuses on Atsushi in the latter half and Ranpo in the first.
Ranpo's story is a mystery geek's showdown dream. Edogawa Ranpo versus the man he named himself after, Edgar Allen Poe. Poe is largely considered the father of the modern detective novel, but this version of him is embarrassed that Ranpo beat him in a game of wits six years ago, so wagers the Guild's plans in a rematch. Although Ranpo is supremely confident, he doesn't count on Poe's gift being the power to physically pull people into novels. Named after two of his best-known works, the haunting 1843 short story “The Black Cat” (don't read it if you love cats) and 1841's highly influential “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” Poe's ability is both a shout-out to his place in literary history and a nod to the power of his works, which are notoriously easy for readers to "get lost" in. More bizarrely, he's apparently got a pet raccoon, which I can only assume is a reference to the theory that he died of rabies, a disease often carried by these ring-tailed animals.
The most interesting thing about this face-off is that it's based around the inherent need of the detective character to be recognized for his brilliance. If you look at early detective tales, starring the likes of C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, or even Hercule Poirot, you'll see that much of the reveal comes not from actually following the detectives about their business, but from them explaining their arcane methods to a fascinated audience. The early detective is as much a showman as anything, often craving the rapt attention of the less brilliant. So when Poe was shown up by Ranpo, he lost some of his status as a master detective. Now he seeks to repay Ranpo in kind. Whether or not he knows that Ranpo's “gift” is actually nonexistent is unclear; the fact that he doesn't allow Ranpo to take his glasses into the book might indicate that he knows. Regardless, Ranpo himself has no idea that he's just a natural mystery genius, so the real challenge is for him to find a way around his sudden lack of self-confidence. With Akiko's help (she's been sent for backup), he does figure out the mystery and escape, which gives him the chance to once again demonstrate the master detective's preference for using a detailed explanation to showcase his superiority.
Apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald was anticipating this, because he's got a backup plan. When the Agency sends Atsushi in to take control of Moby Dick, that plan's already been put into motion: the ship will begin their planned conflagration when it crashes to the ground. Atsushi learns this after he musters all of his courage to finally tell the orphanage in his head to shut up, whereupon he finds only Herman Melville waiting for him. Melville explains that the captain will go down with a ship he no longer controls, unless Atsushi can stop it. It's a very Ahab moment for Melville, declaring his intention to perish with the white whale. Atsushi, on the other hand, is finally forced to put his newfound belief in himself to the test, something that will only get more difficult when he realizes that Akutagawa has managed to arrive onboard as well. We'll see just how well he's feeling his inner tiger next week.
The smaller moments of the show are also worth paying attention to this week. Anne and Louisa are clearly having second thoughts about the Guild – Louisa looks distinctly uncomfortable as the plan comes closer to fruition – and Poe mentions that he doesn't enjoy being a part of it. Melville's comment that the Guild was once something better is intriguing – has it somehow stumbled in its mission under Fitzgerald's leadership? Even Steinbeck makes a comment about how hard it is to be the bad guys, which may also indicate some dissatisfaction with the group's direction. I also have the suspicion that Ango has unwittingly been administered the entrance exam for the Agency, and his survival of the car crash (with its mysteriously missing passenger airbag) and agreement to help Kyouka in exchange for treatment clinched the deal. We'll just have to wait and see – there are still plenty of mysteries for us to ponder as we come closer to the series' finale.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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