Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 33 of
Bungo Stray Dogs (TV 3) ?
Fyodor Dostoyevsky has a plan: to kill all of the Gifted in the city of Yokohama. Unfortunately for him, the alliance between the Mafia and the Agency is still around, so that means that he has to get a bit craftier than he was perhaps planning before, and that's where we are this week: Dostoyevsky has used Hawthorne and an unnamed Ability user on his payroll to attack the leaders of both organizations. According to him, only one of the two can be saved, and that's only possible if the other is killed. It's a win-win situation for him – either he gets rid of both heads of his chief impediments at once or he disposes of one while breaking the alliance and sending the two groups headlong into war with each other. Either way he gets them off his back and decapitates their organizations.
Even if this doesn't work, it certainly demonstrates how dangerous a foe Dostoyevsky really is. Apart from the fact that he's got someone on his team who can use their power to parasitize a host (and I can't wait to find out who that is), he's also a strategic thinker. Not that we didn't know that before, but this shows a level of planning that's truly impressive; he's basically mapped out all the branching paths his attack could veer down and made contingencies for each of them. So when Elise uses her Ability to save Mori from the car explosion, he's ready to stab the Mafia leader just in case. When Dazai confronts him where Hawthorne attacked the Agency leader, Dostoyevsky has a sniper ready to ensure that Dazai can't bring his information to the Agency, or at least that he can't help out with the aftermath of learning what's really going on. (I'm not sure why Yosano couldn't heal Dazai, but I'm fully willing to believe that Dostoyevsky took her power into account.) He's detail-oriented, and since he's the bad guy here, that's definitely a dangerous thing.
Equally interesting is his true goal: he wants the same book Fitzgerald is after, but in his case it's because he wants to recreate the world so that Abilities don't exist. The book, it turns out, is one in which anything written becomes reality, sort of the ultimate in metafiction. Fitzgerald clearly wants it for his family, to save Zelda and Scottie, but Dostoyevsky wants to remake the world entire, which makes sense with the period of his life the show seems to be basing the character on. The powers of the book in question are also particularly interesting literarily – the idea of a metafictional work in a story based on real authors and their works adds a layer to the storytelling, but it also is a potential reference to an entire school of literature that plays with ideas of reality and fiction. For many people, the go-to book is likely Italo Calvino's 1979 novel If On a Winter's Night a Traveler…, which is both a metafictional novel and a musing on the art of reading, but a better parallel would be John Kendrick Bangs' 1896 book A Rebellious Heroine, about a character who will not do what her author wants. The novel plays with the fine line between what is written and what is real, and the actual author and the author character write themselves into the book to meet with the characters, essentially using the book and the act of writing to rewrite their own realities. It not only works with ideas of what Dostoyevsky wants to use the mysterious book in the show for – rewriting the world – but also with the scene at the end of the Dazai/Chuuya flashback episodes, where we see their story being written down.
That Bungo Stray Dogs would have these ideas present shouldn't be surprising, given that it's a story using authors and their works. Watching Hawthorne go full Arthur Dimmesdale (the priest from The Scarlet Letter) this week and the presence of both Naomi and Elise, characters in Tanizaki and Mori's works, take their places beside their authors, already supports the idea of fiction and reality only being thinly separated. And if ever there was a time for someone to figure out how to rewrite reality, this moment, where the alliance between the Mafia and the Agency is on the verge of a bloody breakdown and both their leaders' lives are threatened, would be it. (It is perhaps significant that the Ability killing them both is represented as something written.) But maybe what's more important right at this particular moment is that Dostoyevsky seems to have missed one group in his planning: the Guild. I doubt that we got Fitzgerald and Louisa's return last week just for giggles, and it may be up to the last tycoon to come along and save the day.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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