Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 34 of
Bungo Stray Dogs (TV 3) ?
If you had any doubts before that Dostoyevsky needed to be stopped, this episode should take care of them. Not only does the man commit crimes against beautiful string instruments (how dare he break that cello!), he's also not above using children to fight his battles. That's a calculated move on his part, which shows that his intelligence is paired with a frightening lack of scruples and a willingness to do whatever he deems most effective. Kunikida and Atsushi are the two sent after his virus-wielding Ability user; that means that the best way to combat them is to make use of kids, which will bring them up short because of their respective pasts. (Kunikida's, I believe, has not been covered, although I could be forgetting if it showed up in season two. The relevant material is in manga volumes ten and eleven, at any rate.) We already know that Atsushi is sensitive to the plight of children based on his own troubled past, which has been brought to the fore by the director's death, so it's hard to deny that this is kind of a brilliant move by our pal Fyodor. It also isn't much of a stretch for him to decide that Atsushi and Kunikida would be the two sent after Pushkin, given that he's taken Dazai out of commission personally and that no one else is really suited to this particular mission.
But that doesn't erase the horror of Atsushi seeing what he might have become under different circumstances or Kunikida having to shoot a child and then watch as another blows herself up in front of him. There are lines you do not cross, that we saw that even the Mafia isn't willing to tread on in the opening episodes of the season, that Dostoyevsky just trampled all over. He's not just breaking a few eggs to make his omelet, he's killing the chickens as well – which, if you think about the name of his organization, is what feeds the rats who live in the houses of the dead.
This really is an overall brutal episode, and the little details do a good job of making that sink in on an almost subconscious level. Kunikida's shaking, which begins when he has to shoot the boy, grows progressively stronger as the episode unfolds, so that by the end we can see that it's moved from a physical discomfort to one that's haunting his soul. Tanizaki's increasing fear and anguish is also evident in his swift movements that peter out into slow descents (literally as he slides down a wall) and the way that he's well and truly broken by episode's end. (Although that could change if someone else threatens his sister. Seriously, don't do that.)
Basically Dostoyevsky's poisoning gambit has taken out both Kunikida and Tanizaki (although in a more obvious sense it was the Mafia who got the latter), showing how he's slowly whittling away at the Agency's resources. They're down four people, and they've got to hope that Rampo really can reason his way out of this mess.
That and the fact that Lucy is cooperating with the Agency are the real beacons of hope here – because it still looks like Dostoyevsky isn't factoring the former Guild members into his equation. We've already seen Poe come to visit Rampo, so what one can't do alone, two may be able to do together. It's also interesting that at least one of the poisoned has woken up, and the other certainly doesn't seem to be dead, so someone's successfully doing something behind the scenes. I'd guess that Rampo is aware of it, but he's not talking this week.
The tension is high as we have to wait for next week's episode, and knowing this show, it could be a three-or-four-part storyline. It's really Dostoyevsky's first true assault on the gifted of Yokohama, and it's by no means a certainty that Alexander Pushkin (a Romantic Russian poet, playwright, and novelist about whom I'll say more when we know more about his character in-show) is actually the one controlling the poison seals. Things are only going to get uglier from here, and we'll just have to hope that our heroes are up to dealing with them as their own numbers dwindle.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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