Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 37 of
Bungo Stray Dogs (TV 3) ?
Have you been wondering who the man with the lovely long hair who was absolutely not Pushkin was? Well, wonder no longer! Not only does Bungo Stray Dogs' third season end here, but it also finally gives us a name for him – Ivan Goncharov who, not coincidentally, was one of the authors Dostoyevsky most respected. He's not quite as well used in the story as some of the other authors, unfortunately; his power “The Precipice” is named after the 1869 novella that was Goncharov's third major work, and its plot is about a three-way romantic rivalry. I suppose that we could say that all three men who are the main characters of the novella are standing on a metaphorical precipice, which is commonly interpreted in the literal sense as a cliff, which is made of earth…so Ivan controls earth? It feels a bit more tenuous than some of the other powers in terms of connections, but I'm probably just feeling picky. In any event, the link between the two Russian authors in reality makes Ivan a nice choice for Fyodor's right-hand man, and his fight with Akutagawa and Atsushi is one of the more visually interesting. Ivan's super-creepy golem (it's those hands in place of a head) serves as a solid counterpoint to Akutagawa's tentacles and Atsushi's swift movements, and even without getting to see Atsushi wearing the Rashomon coat, it's really fun to watch.
The cooperation between Dazai's two protégés offers us a chance to see how the two really do balance each other out. Akutagawa is all action, never (overtly) doubting himself and unafraid to take whatever steps he needs to in order to secure the victory he wants. Atsushi is a classic overthinker, mulling over what to do and when to do it, even after the action has been taken. These qualities annoy the one who doesn't have them, but both need to absorb a little of whatever the other has in order to become balanced, both as fighters and as people. Akutagawa seems to realize this first when he brings up Atsushi's deceased “master,” the priest. He asks Atsushi, basically, why he's still listening to the words of a dead man. Atsushi's answer is that now that the priest is dead, he's always in Atsushi's head, and he's unable to escape him. You can't silence the dead, because they can no longer speak for themselves – we can only hear what we associate with them in their nonexistent voices. Until Atsushi can quiet the priest in his head, he can never stop being a stray, something he may not have fully realized until Akutagawa said something.
In a way, this is one of the links between Dazai and Atsushi. Although he hasn't said it, the flashbacks to his past, specifically his friendship with Ango and Oda, have made Oda the voice in Dazai's head. He may also be in Ango's head – we don't really know enough about him to say definitively – but there's a real sense as this series goes on that his death is the true catalyst for Dazai's actions, and therefore a major driving force in the series, even though he's long gone.
We really do see Dazai as the culmination of his experiences in the show thus far in this episode. His strategizing is very impressive, even as Fyodor almost manages to outwit him in the whole escape-from-the-mine sequence. It's a good thing that he hasn't been truly defeated with this finale, because more than anyone else, he's a worthy opponent for Dazai (and Ranpo, really), because he's so damn clever. I love his low-tech solution to avoiding Katai's detection, not only because we got to have that fight/chase scene to Tchaikovsky, but also because it's such a simple solution that most tech-savvy people would overlook in the age of internet and satellite radio. Likewise his decoration of the shipping container as almost identical to the café where he really was nicely circumvents anyone with clairvoyance or a similar ability. He's always thinking and always prepared, and that, more than anything else, makes him a truly interesting villain.
As far as places to end an ongoing story go, this is a good one. Dostoyevsky has been taken into federal custody (which doesn't mean he's gone), relations between Agency, Guild, and Mafia have all been decently patched up, and Dazai is slowly guiding Atsushi and Akutagawa to understand the sort of bonds he had with his friends Sango and Oda in the past, which, I suspect he hopes, will eventually put an end to the cycle of violence that has been plaguing Yokohama. He offers Atsushi a toast to the stray dogs at the end, and while that gives us our series' title drop (hooray!), it also offers us a reminder that they're “stray” dogs, not “wild” ones – and most strays are just looking for a home.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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