Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?
Gatsby's in the pool and the great white whale's beneath the sea. Is all right with the world, as the last line of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables asserts? Well, sort of. The season finale of Bungo Stray Dogs does wrap up the ongoing storylines of the season while bringing things full circle with the Dazai's past arc that opened it, revealing to us just how persistent Oda's influence is in Dazai's life. If Atsushi lives by Dazai's words, Dazai lives by Oda's, making him the actual heart of the story, even if his own heart is no longer beating. Perhaps it's a statement about the way an author's words outlive the author himself – if we can still find meaning in something that someone once wrote or said, that keeps a piece of them alive. The entire series itself could be seen as a musing on that statement – these authors, although gone, are still relevant enough to be repurposed into new characters for us to enjoy along with their works, and those works themselves are good enough that references made to them are still viable, even after dozens or hundreds of years.
Ultimately though, this episode was about wrapping things up. The final showdown between Atsushi, Akutagawa, and F. Scott Fitzgerald is actually over in about ten minutes, with the two younger men realizing that if they have any actual hope of saving Yokohama from a whale-shaped demise, they're going to have to work together. Naturally this was Dazai's plan all along – he may not be the official leader of the Armed Detective Agency, but he's definitely the shadow leader. It turns out that everything that happened was because he made it so, planning down to the very last detail. Is this once again something he inherited from Oda, a sort of deliberate form of Oda's gift? It feels likely, considering that Dazai's final words seem to imply this. More interesting is that Dazai's orchestrations aren't simply to save his friends and the town – they're to enable his friends to save themselves. When he plants information that forces the Atsushi-Akutagawa team-up, he's making sure that both will survive; when he gives Kyouka a choice, he's not just asking her if she wants to go out with a fizzle or a bang, he's giving her the chance to pull herself up out of the darkness rather than being rescued. When we think about the real-life Osamu Dazai, the man who made many suicide attempts before finally succeeding, his character begins to seem less like a version of the man himself and more like the incarnation of his literature. Novels, short stories, essays, and poems can all help people to realize things about themselves, and for some readers, dark books like Dazai's No Longer Human are the most influential. His works have remained in print for a reason, and perhaps we see that embodied in his behind-the-scenes help as a character.
This isn't the strongest finish in the world – possibly because the actual Big Bad, Fyodor Dostoevsky, isn't revealed until the absolute last minute, working with Nathaniel Hawthorne on a sinister scheme. (I can absolutely see that, given their writing). Hopefully this will mean a third season, but that's by no means certain, so the ending does have some of that “read the manga, kids!” flavor to it, which can always sour a series finale. It also comes off as somewhat jumpy and rushed overall, skipping between characters in the aftermath before giving us that happy family feeling with a welcome party for Kyouka at the Agency. Still, given that it does resolve all of the story threads while making it clear that nothing ends here, I would call it good enough.
And so this is how Bungo Stray Dogs ends for now, with Kyouka hugging Poe's raccoon Karl (apparently a reference to the 2012 film version of The Raven), more plots brewing in the background, and Dazai's little ducklings all in a row. I wish there'd been more Kunikida in this second season, but overall it has been an improvement on season one in terms of pacing, tone, and storyline. Thank goodness the manga is now coming out in English, because I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to this series just yet.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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