Bungo Stray Dogs
Episodes 13-14

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?

How would you rate episode 14 of
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 ?

Although I was not initially thrilled that the second season of Bungo Stray Dogs wasn't going immediately jump back to the story where we left off, further reflection and an excellent episode two (technically fourteen) have changed my mind. These episodes, detailing Dazai's life with the Port Mafia and specifically his relationship with two other Mafiosi, Sakaguchi Ango and Sakunosuke Oda, are not just important to the character, but also the world the story operates within. Where last week introduced the three and set Ango up as a betrayer, this week explores Oda more fully as a guy who is really too nice for the organization he belongs to but who serves as a humanizing element, an integral part of who Dazai will become. Oda, it turns out, not only doesn't kill (for which other Mafiosi malign him), but he also takes care of the children orphaned by the Mafia's actions. This clearly influences Dazai, who, while still brutal in this incarnation, later takes the orphaned Atsushi under his wing, an action we can now attribute to Oda. It also sets him at odds with Akutagawa specifically, sowing the seeds of their increasingly adversarial relationship.

In terms of world building, episode fourteen makes mention of the overseas authors/organization that are set to play a big part when we return to the main story, but also drops some interesting information about other international groups. The American contingent was apparently forced out of England by their own Guardians of the Clock Tower, and Mimic turns out to be led by a man of terrifying power named Gide. All of a sudden the fact that Dazai, Oda, and Ango meet at a bar called “Lupin” after the famous creation of French author Maurice Leblanc – Gide is undoubtedly André Gide, renowned French author and winner of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature. Gide is said to a have great and terrible power, which could very easily be a reference to his deep grasp of human psychology, a chief factor in his winning of the Nobel Prize – this Gide could be someone who has an uncanny knack for getting under your skin. We could see this in his ultimate take-down of Oda at the end of the episode: he rolls a child's ball towards Oda and Ango after Oda has saved the other man from a building rigged with explosives. Due to Oda's kindness and care for orphan children, Gide would know that a toy was the easiest way to get to him.

Not that Oda's death is an inevitability at this moment, although it is highly likely. Of the three authors, often grouped together as buraiha or decadent in the worst sense of the word, Oda died first, and Dazai openly blamed the harsh criticism he received from the literary establishment as a factor in Oda's death. If Gide is in fact responsible for Oda's passing in the show, that would be a nod to Dazai's real-life accusations: you don't get much more “literary establishment” than the Nobel Prize.

It looks as if we are going to get a third episode to wrap up this storyline, something I am no longer upset about. While episode thirteen last week functioned to primarily set up Ango as a traitor, an interesting plot piece in itself given that now he appears to be a double-agent and potentially double-traitor, episode fourteen picks up the pieces scattered around and starts to put them together. Dazai's cheeriness becomes unhinged when he faces Akutagawa, and together all three buraiha appear to speak for the dead – by taking care of their children, by finding out who they were from the belongings in their pockets, and by trying to make sure that perhaps they aren't dead in the first place. Dazai also is less suicidal thus far, with only a few mentions in episode thirteen, so we can wonder if the breakup of the buraiha is somehow instrumental in his death wish – if you recall, it was real-life Akutagawa's death that sparked Dazai's many suicide attempts, so this would be an interesting and fitting fictional equivalent. Regardless, this “prequel” to the rest of the series is more than earning its keep with episode fourteen. Its air of inevitable tragedy fuels the action – and makes me think of André Gide's works. I cannot think that is a coincidence.

Rating: B+

Bungo Stray Dogs 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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