Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 30 of
Bungo Stray Dogs (TV 3) ?
I almost rated this episode lower because it's all over the place – from chilling in the café below the Agency to taking on fingernail-stealing baddies to finding a former Agency member to zaniness with Chigusa. That's a lot of only moderately related stuff to happen in a single episode, and it doesn't quite work in the first eight-odd minutes. But I ultimately went with the higher rating because some of the Chigusa bits are so funny that I enjoyed it far more than I expected. Ratings are always “your mileage may vary,” but this may be one of the most pointed examples of that.
In any event, it is nice to have a more lighthearted episode after the four heavy ones we began the season with. Now that Dazai's backstory with Chuuya is taken care of and we've had a better introduction to Fyodor Dostoyevsky and his dangerous Ability, it's time to check back in with Atsushi and the rest of the modern-day Agency members. What have they been up to since defeating the Guild? The answer is “not much” – as might be expected, everyone is wiped out from their battles and in desperate need of some downtime. The two exceptions appear to be Atsushi and Kunikida, neither of whom may even be aware of the concept of “downtime”. For Atsushi, it's probably more that he's happiest when he feels useful; Kunikida's issue remains to be seen. Both are at their best and most energized when they're doing something, however, which is probably why they're the ones sent out with the Rats in the House of the Dead's bugged computer component to find a former Agency member whose skill lies in electronic manipulation.
This member would be Tayama Katai, best known today as the author of the short story “Futon” (called “The Quilt” in its 1981 English translation). Given that he lived between 1872 – 1930, casting him as a hacker may seem a little bizarre, but if you consider him as a founder of the “I Novel” in Japanese literature, it does make more sense. Apart from the fact that the genre is a confessional-style narrative, which we see today in online discourse like blogs, there's also pretty decent wordplay in there – rather than “I Novel” we could read it as “iNovel,” which has some definite electronic connotations. More interestingly, real-life Katai was close friends with Doppo Kunikida and had a falling out with Koyo Ozaki – who in the show is a member of the Port Mafia.
More importantly for this episode, he's got a crush on a mysterious beautiful lady he spied from his window, and he refuses to do any work for Kunikida unless he and Atsushi help track her down. It's just their bad luck that Chigusa of the Mafia also spotted the lady – getting close with Akutagawa, no less. Since she's got a major crush on Akutagawa, she wants to take out the competition, putting her at cross-purposes with Katai. That everyone's got the wrong idea about the woman, who turns out to be Gin, the Mafia's ninja and Akutagawa's sister, just adds to the insanity of the situation, and the whole thing is played out in an almost Scooby-Doo style that's not only pretty darn funny, but also a nice breather between two darker storylines. Between the panicked way Gin tries to throw on her disguise, Chigusa oh-so-kindly critiquing Atsushi's style, and Katai taking a header into a pile of recycling, it's a good mix of verbal and visual humor. It's also especially silly after one-off bad guy group The Park challenges the Agency only to discover to their horror how insanely good they are at their jobs – you know that Kunikida or Atsushi could have just ended the whole thing in a second, but they're so flummoxed by the whole crazy turn that they just sort of stand there.
Next week is likely to get back to the more serious stories (and more Sad Orphan Flashbacks), so for now treasure the image of Kunikida manically doing Katai's dishes and Chigusa trying to get Gin to call her “onee-san.” You may want those happy memories as things get back on track.
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