「羅生門と虎と最後の大君」 (Rashoumon to Tora to Saigo no Taikun)
“Rashoumon, the Tiger and the Last Emperor”
「若し今日この荷物を降ろして善いのなら」 (Moshi Kyou Kono Nimotsu o Oroshi te Yoi no nara)
“If I May Shed Away My Burden Now”
The similarities and differences between Atsushi and Ryuunosuke are so uncanny. I love how the author pits them against one another and forces them to talk things out. In another world, I’m sure they would make great compliments to each other in a crime-fighting duo team. While one may lack a certain skill, the other makes up for it and I think that’s clearly shown in this week’s episode of Bungou Stray Dogs. Atsushi – being the main character – will always be my bias and while I do think he has some main character symptoms, he also has flaws. One of which is carrying a lot of the baggage from his past and his life at the orphanage. Ryuunosuke on the other hand, is constantly trying to seek the approval from Dazai of his abilities and his worth. I think this is probably where I empathize with Ryuunosuke the most because I understand what it feels like to seek approval from someone you look up to. Clearly Dazai has a huge hold on Ryuunosuke; so much so that even though he’s fighting for the other side now, Ryuunosuke still feels the need to prove himself. However, both Ryuunosuke and Atsushi are able to come to terms with these issues that they’re facing alone by seeking comfort in each other. Even though it’s not blantently stated, I like how there’s a mututal agreement from the both of them that they can move on and let go of the past that’s been tying them down.
Of course, just after Ryuunosuke and Atsushi realize each others’ motivations for fighting and learn to ovecome these obstacles, we see them working together to defeat Francis. It’s a bit cliche and certainly expected, given that we’re really at the end of the season now but still a joy to see. Francis was given a very (and I empathize very) thin backstory about how and why he’s doing what he does (and that’s for his wife and dead daughter) but I just couldn’t sympathize with him this far in and I found myself extremely proud of Ryuunosuke and Atsushi for defeating him. Yay! The bad guy is dead, the Guild is disbanded (or what we see of it) and Ryuunosuke and Atsushi even have a moment of mutual respect and understanding. It’s like they’re old friends but not – and they have a good rivalry going like Chuuya and Dazai do.
Breaking it down, the whole plan to take down the Whale as well as admit Kyouka into the Agency was a plan that I didn’t even see coming to light. I knew Kyouka was a critical part to the plan, but I wasn’t expecting Dazai to convince her to die… and then actually have her resecue herself because she suddenly has the powers to control her powers! Say what?! That’s crazy just how many answers they provided in a limited time. Plus, they even gave away what Yukichi’s powers are – which aren’t as impressive as I thought they’d be. Then, he himself actually can’t do much without his team because it’s not like he has any supernatural abilities otherwise. While Kyouka and Atsushi share a sweet moment between the two of them, Dazai and Ryuunosuke share an even better moment between them. It would’ve actually brought tears to my eyes too if I knew that my mentor actually thought I did good work so an applause goes to Ryuunosuke for finally getting his wish come true. A few other characters get their moments of closure as well, including those members left over from the Guild. They still want to uphold the Guild/find Francis (even though I’d like to think he’s dead now) so let’s leave it at that. Even though I don’t necessarily like any one of them in particular, I find John’s reasoning for sticking by him to be quite thoughtful and understanding. Herman is a guy that we’ve seen briefly and has very little to say in the grand scheme of things, but it’s revealed by Ango that he was the prior leader of the Guild! Bum bum bum! That would make sense why they’re headquartered inside a giant whale, but it doesn’t really say much about the Gulid and the originally purpose of it then. Maybe Herman wanted to do other things and somehow Francis led it down this path. Either way, I’m intrigued as to what everyone’s going to do now.
The rest of the episode tied up further holes and loose ends that the audience might have. Everything including a brief introduction to the new mysterious stranger, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Ishida Akira) and we don’t really know what his powers entail right now. Kyouka is thrown a party in celebration of her joining the Agency (and we see Edgar Allan Poe reappear with his raccoon) and there’s also the case of Dazai’s involvement in this whole plan. Obviously there were a lot of moving parts to the battle against the Guild but Dazai was really the star here. He didn’t do everything himself, but he laid out a lot of the groundwork for others. Influencing Ryuunosuke from afar to make it “seem” like a random act of him being on the Whale was ingenious! It wasn’t random at all and the shocker is, even Ougai doesn’t realize the strings that Dazai is pulling. To me, there’s no way that the duo of Atsushi and Ryuunosuke can beat the Double Black duo… maybe I’ll be proven wrong when a new season hits. But I think I’m just biased – I want to see more Dazai, period.
Wow, this season of Bungou Stray Dogs has completely blown me away! Much like the second season of Noragami did, this second cour exceeded all my expectations coming in. I started blogging Bungou Stray Dog’s second cour because a) no body else on staff wanted it; b) nothing else really struck me on this season’s list; and c) I blogged the first season that I would’ve said was… just alright. It wasn’t a standout series that season (or that memorable in general) but Bones did put a lot of effort into the animation, there’s a lot of A-lister seiyuus on board, plus the story is decent (albeit, not spectaular). This second cour of Bungou Stray Dogs completely blew me out of the water almost consistently every week! The beginning started off as this prequel to Dazai’s life before the Agency – with some new characters emerging and actually, some great insight into the Port Mafia. There’s some bromance happening, but still a good continuous case underneath all the character development. I loved it! And suddenly, the story snaps back to the present, bringing us back to where the first cour ended. Still a lot of questions in the air and a new enemy fighting against both the Agency and Port Mafia. But the Guild aren’t just kicking around to stir trouble, each of the members also have their own reasons for doing so and if nothing else, the Guild serves as a good plot device to flesh out the members of the Agency and Port Mafia.
Without spoiling too much, I thought Bones took an average action series and turned it into something worth talking about and giving life and differentiation to the characters that reside in Bungou Stray Dogs. After the first cour, you get a good idea of who everyone is, what they do and even a bit of their past, but this second cour is where all that information comes in handy. Characters grow and develop right before you (a few key ones being Atsushi and Ryuunosuke) but you also meet a few new characters that might surprise you. At first I thought a lot of the new characters were just plain and average or there for the sake of building up others; but they actually have a personality of their own and most of them aren’t just tropes or sterotypes. Of course I still have a ton more questions than answers but at least this cour finishes on a clean arc ending and it’s very much a feel-good ending.
A huge reason why I started Bungou Stray Dogs in the first place was because it was listed as a “mystery” series and unlike so many that I’ve seen in the past, this isn’t your traditional mystery. It does have a few cases here and there (like Ranpo’s one-off encounter) but there’s a huge overarching arc that’s one large cat and mouse game. You’re always curious how one group is going to defeat the other and how the third will retaliate. You wonder if the Agency and Port Mafia will actually team up to fight or if Ougai will backstab someone to get what he’s really after… and out of all the characters leftover, Ougai still proves to be a mixed bag. Just when you think someone has the upper hand in a confrontation, someone else has already thought about it and planned ahead. My favorite example of this (and probably my favorite episode this season) was when Dazai and Chuuya worked together to take back Q but also gave Lovecraft a run for his money. Not only did it focus on my favorite character, but I thought it revealed a lot from both parties involved and it shows just how they continually try and one-up one another. Anyway, if that turns out to be your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed by what Bungou Stray Dogs has to offer this season. In my opinion, it’s miles better than the first cour and it makes me hopeful that another season will be on the horizon.
Author’s Note – As I’ve mentioned time and time again this season, even with only one show on my agenda every week, I’ve been struggling to blog and keep up with (not just BSD but) all anime in general. I’ll admit that this is probably the first season in my almost-4 years at RC that I feel THIS behind with blogging and as a result, I do realize that my efforts with the site have been decreasing in both quality and timeliness. And obviously, RC deserves better and its readership deserve the best. So with all that said, I’ve decided that I think it’s time that I go on hiatus from writing fo a bit. This is to focus more on my personal life – new job, settling in a new home, finding a social life – and hopefully my interest and passion for anime (and blogging) will come back after all the chaos has calmed down. I’ll still be a part of the site, both from an administrative POV and the season previews, but I can’t commit to blogging on a weekly basis right now when I know that everyone (including myself) expects more. I’m sure the existing staff will be able to pick up the slack =) Thank you all for being so patient with me during this time. I can’t apologize any more, but I’m sure someone more qualified for the shows I would’ve blogged will emerge. So to leave you all off on a happy note, thanks for sticking by me this season and happy holidays! Enjoy the last bit of 2016 and here’s to a better 2017! I’ll talk to you all soon.