Bungo Stray Dogs
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 26 of
Bungo Stray Dogs (TV 3) ?
How would you rate episode 27 of
Bungo Stray Dogs (TV 3) ?
While I'm absolutely thrilled to have a third season of Bungo Stray Dogs, I'm not sure how I feel about the decision to start it by animating the novel spin-off Dazai, Fifteen Years Old, rather than picking back up with manga volume 10. It's not that the departure is unusual; we had another Dazai's past novel adapted in the middle of an earlier season, and they do give us insight into a character who hides behind a mask of joviality. It's more that we basically ended season two on a cliffhanger with the introduction of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (and Nathaniel Hawthorne's defection to his Rats in the House of the Dead), so drawing out the time until we get answers just feels like a combination of “mean” and “annoying.” (Granted, you can just pick up volume ten of the manga, which is currently available in English, but it's the principle of the thing.)
In any event, these two episodes focus on Osamu Dazai when he was a teenager with the Port Mafia, with an emphasis on his relationship with Chuuya Nakahara. When the story begins, Dazai is going through his proto-goth quasi-emo phase, which is probably familiar to those of us who've been fifteen before (I was strictly proto-goth with an emphasis on elegant Lolita, although I didn't know the words for it), and Nakahara is currently heading his own little group of mostly-teenage rebels while slouching around in a grubby hoodie. While the Sheep are a minor thorn in the Mafia's side, they really get Mori's notice when rumors of the previous leader of the Mafia (who Mori killed) being spotted around Suribashi begin to surface. Since the Sheep – and Chuuya's gravity powers – are often linked to these sightings, Mori sends Dazai out to see what's up. His aim appears to be twofold; he certainly does need to keep Dazai under his thumb as the witness to the murder he committed, but Dazai's nullifying powers are also a good safety measure against Chuuya's destructive abilities. For his part, Dazai doesn't appear to care about much of anything beyond his suicide ideations.
Dazai still clearly being a child does present its own issues. Real-life Dazai began his fascination with suicide at age 18, but fifteen-year-old BSD Dazai is already fully invested in it, which may be more problematic for some viewers. It's essentially what Mori uses to manipulate him – the idea that Mori alone can offer Dazai the peaceful and painless death he seeks above all else. Dazai is reckless when it comes to his physical well-being despite proclaiming not to like pain, and it's difficult not to want to drag him to the nearest psychiatric facility. Fortunately, the show does seem to be aware of this problem to some degree, and an effort is made in the second episode especially to show how interacting with someone his own age humanizes him. Hands down, one of the best scenes comes when he and Chuuya visit a seedy arcade and you realize that the visual novel-style writing is to disguise the fact that they're playing a video game. (Pink Lum vs Mecha Ranma, by the looks of it.) Chuuya brings out Dazai's adolescent self and gives him a sort-of friend (both would vehemently deny that) to talk with, and I would say that this is the moment when Young Dazai begins to become the Dazai we know from the main story.
Of the two episodes, I think the second is stronger, if only for the Dazai/Chuuya relationship, but it also builds nicely on some of the information given in the season's opening salvo. There's some good foreshadowing of the reveal that Chuuya is the “demon” who created the depression where Suribashi was built in tiers (“suribashi” meaning “mortar,” as in the grinding bowl), which perhaps Mori already suspected when he sent Dazai out. Likewise, Randou's design is a reference to Dostoyevsky's, with his winter gear and another little detail I'll avoid spoiling until later. Both have mixed production values and animation, with Chuuya's leaping being the best part visually, although his extension (how high he can raise his leg) beggars belief, even for a guy who can manipulate gravity.
I suspect we're in for one more episode to wrap up this past storyline before we get back to Atsushi and the others. If the way these two have gone is any indication, it may prove to be the strongest of the three and worth paying close attention for hints of what's to come.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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