Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bungo Stray Dogs Review

Bungo Stray Dogs Review

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the first season of Bungo Stray Dogs. If you wish not to know some plot details, or simply don't wish to find out what happens in the series, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched the show. Or you know, you can continue to read, since you don't care about spoilers.

Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:

When I first heard about Bungo Stray Dogs, I was instantly reminded of Karneval, the show that got me into watching anime more frequently. As I've mentioned before, while Black Butler got me into watching more anime after a while away from it, Karneval was the one that led to an anime craze, one that has tapered down the older I've gotten, but still has been present in how I make time in my day to at least watch a few episodes of any series.

From the main character looking to be a complete cutie while getting more confidence as the plot moved along, to the two rival organizations, as well as some of the personalities themselves, I immediately knew that this was a series I'd had to watch out for. It unfortunately did take a while for a season confirmation on when it'd start, but I was excited to know that 2 cours were announced so that if one half ended, another would come down the road (I'd still very much like another season of Karneval, but Manglobe did go bankrupt, so that hinders things. At least there's manga).

Going along with the show's unique premise, and the fact that Yuto Uemura FINALLY got another role after doing a great job in Kamigami no Asobi as Tsukito, I was all ready to go. So, how did the first half/season/cour of Bungo Stray Dogs go?

It managed to go very well. The story is very interesting, the characters all show bits of their personalities off equally even though their development isn't the same, the animation is really good, and the score still proves that Taku Iwasaki can make something great. The show may not be as great as Karneval was for me, but both shows have a great charm to them that I think certain fans will appreciate, myself included.

As for why Bungo Stray Dogs isn't as strong as Karneval was to me, the tonal shifts from a more lighthearted comedy to an intense action are more off than they should be, plus our main protagonist's writing is a bit more inconsistent in terms of his growing confidence going back into his shell at most times and only coming out when necessary. But regardless, I still really liked this series, and I can't wait to see what the second half offers.

Let's move on to the anime's story:


Atsushi Nakajima was recently kicked out of the orphanage where he was making his home. and he currently has no place to go, stuck in the clothes on his back with no money. Though he wasn't treated with kindness there, it was the only home he had, since his parents seem to be completely out of the picture. Vowing to try and find a source of money, he sees a man floating upside down in a river and rescues him.

The man in question turns out to be Osamu Dazai, a member of the Armed Detective Agency who just happens to love finding ways where he can peacefully kill himself. When Dazai decides to treat Atsushi to some food after finding out that the is hungry (on his co-worker, Doppo's, tab). Doppo explains what the Armed Detective Agency is and the case that he and Dazai are working on, which is to find a tiger that has been reported to be in the surrounding area the past few days. Hearing about this causes Atsushi to immediately clamp up, feeling that the tiger is after him since it was a threat to the orphanage on a few occasions.

When Dazai convinces Atsushi to come out and help him find it due to some hefty pay, the tiger is unveiled to be Atsushi (I mean, who else would it be?), as Dazai figured out the connection between the tiger's appearances in certain areas where Atsushi was matched up and that the orphanage realized the identity of the canine and kicked him out so that he wouldn't cause any more trouble. Atsushi is then invited to be a part of the detective agency in question after a later test, whose goal is to fight evil with their supernatural abilities and get s**t done.

Of course, they're not without their enemies. The Port Mafia is determined to get Atsushi due to his tiger ability, as it racks up a high price on the black market. And there could be an even worse threat out there lurking beneath the shadows. But as Atsushi gets to know more about his fellow agency members, one thing's known for sure: his life isn't going to be the same.

The cool thing about this series as a whole is that the characters are all based off of famous Japanese writers or characters in their works. Later on, this gets expanded to feature authors internationally, including Russian, English, and American, which is super interesting considering that the characters in question seem to exhibit traits that the actual person had. 

But what I think made me like this anime a fair bit (aside from some of the Karneval parallels) is how much fun this show's plot is. I found myself really entertained by this show's comedy, but also really liking when the show got serious, with some fierce fights (ha ha, that alliteration) and tense moments that had me on the edge of my seat.

However, Bungo Stray Dogs does need to improve on its tonal shifts. While they do get better as the series goes on, I think there's still some work that needs to be done so they don't feel as abrupt as they can be, changing between a heartwarming or funny scene to someone getting shot/attacked as if taking off after the signal during a track meet. It's a little odd.

Aside from adapting some of the manga's storyline, the anime's staff also took a plot from light novels that manage to develop more from Doppo, which was pretty neat, since those two episodes were some of my favorites out of the show. But I also appreciate that the writers tried to develop most of the main characters from the Armed Detective Agency in the first cour as they could, even if it wasn't the most consistent as it could have been in the end.

Speaking of the characters, why don't we move on to them now?


Aside from the fact that these characters are based off of popular authors, all of them have such a wide mix of personalities that makes the cast in itself very diverse and unique. The Karneval parallels don't continue on for these, since the characters in both series don't go check by check in terms of traits and how they act. Well, our leads are pretty similar.

Which brings us to the first topic of discussion, Atsushi Nakajima:

Also known as:

I warned you in my summer wrap-up that I was excited to talk about Atsushi, because he is legit the most precious thing ever.

But before I get caught up in making donkey noises and squealing, Atsushi is 18 years old and happens to have very low self-esteem. He doesn't consider himself worthy due to his treatment at the orphanage where he lived, used to people calling him useless. As such, he isn't very confident in himself, but he's able to become more sure of who he is after time spent at the agency, causing him to become more dead-set and determined when his life or others are at risk.

His ability, called Beast Beneath The Moonlight, grants him the ability to transform into a white tiger, even though he doesn't have much control in how to use it. He can turn into a were-tiger by looking at the moon or by having a strong sense of protecting someone or something (such as his own life) that arms or a tail pops out. He also is able to regenerate his body parts if they are hacked off, as evidenced by one of his legs being cut off by Akutagawa's ability in Episode 3 before it heals himself.

Overall, I was a big fan of Atsushi. He definitely reminds me a lot of Nai from Karneval, as he isn't the most useful at first, nor is that confident, but becomes stronger and more helpful as the series goes on. Atsushi definitely has the upper hand to Nai, as he is able to fend for himself in battle, whereas Nai doesn't have the strength to yet due to his timid and innocent nature.

But one thing that was odd during this show was how inconsistent Atsushi's confidence could be. Don't get me wrong, seeing him kick ass and be totally OP in battle is awesome, but it seems like he only becomes this in dire situations. So it's strange when we have an Atsushi literally wiping the floor with Akutagawa in Episode 10 to an Atsushi who cowers in fear over intimidating men in Episode 11.

But I'm pretty sure this will be able to stabilize as Bungo goes on, seeing as Atsushi has still come a long time from his first appearance. I wish him luck in the situations that will definitely come in in and outside of his work with the Armed Detective Agency.

Dazai's up next:

Dazai is incredibly carefree, shadowing his past in complete mystery, and loving to find ways to off himself, which is used as a comedic gag for the majority of the series (for people squeamish to suicide, you're definitely not going to like him). Doppo constantly has to get him in line for being unreliable on jobs and just being plain lazy in general, though he does care about his work. He takes Atsushi under his wing at the agency.

His ability is called No Longer Human, which lets him nullify other ability users and their powers, though it must be administrated through direct skin contact, such as touching someone's forehead. 

Overall, Dazai is definitely the most entertaining character out of the show. Despite him being pretty joyful and not seeming to give a care about anything, he actually can be very crafty, and he has a few secrets to his past that come to light that makes you question him a bit. His suicide gag isn't handled too badly, at some points being funny, and the writers do know when to not just rely on that, such as in tough situations. He's also a good mentor to Atsushi, despite the fact that his personality is far different than the latter's.

One thing I'm really interested in seeing from Dazai is more of his backstory, seeing as some of that I'm seeing a lot in official art from the series with one of the popular characters (who I'll discuss a bit in the big ol' paragraph), so seeing them interact more will be a plus. Or just seeing more of that one character; either will do enough for me.

Doppo's turn now:

Doppo is pretty stern, especially towards Daizai, since the latter seems to go off in his own little world during missions assigned by the Armed Detective Agency. He carries around a notebook with him everywhere, which contains his ideals, as well as a schedule for the day that he likes to follow to the second. If it is impacted in any way, shape, or form, be prepared for Doppo to get incredibly pissed off.

Despite the fact that he's very diligent and strict to the point of becoming accidentally rude, there seems to be a caring side to Doppo that people rarely see. He's dependable to work with, as well as trustworthy and loyal to the agency he works with. Plus, he sometimes can become pretty naive, falling for some of Daizai's lies, which he may jot down in his notebook.

His ability, Lone Poet, allows him to create any object if written on one of the pages in his notebook. However, the object may only be the size of the planner and nothing bigger, plus obtaining a new one if he runs out of space could be expensive.

In the end, Doppo became my favorite character in the series, which I found rather surprising. Despite the fact that he can act hostile towards some of the others (his chosen nickname for Atsushi is Brat), he is still a very humorous character, his dramatic outbursts easily the best part about his character. But what I also liked about him was the development he got in Episodes 6 and 7, and how it further explained why he lives the way he does. Aside from that, he's a pretty cool character, and I'm really excited to see more of him.

Last but not least is Akutagawa:

Akutagawa is a part of the underground organization called the Port Mafia, and refers to himself as the dog of the company. He appears rather sickly, being extremely pale and coughing occasionally. He is mostly well-tempered, rarely losing his cool and appearing very stoic, but he does show moments of jealousy, especially towards Atsushi (though I won't say why). Akutagawa also has a very low view of the world, believing that the weaker people die for the stronger ones to live, and is willing to resort to violence in order to strengthen the Port Mafia.

Like the members of the Armed Detective Agency, he has an ability/power he can use in battle, known as Rashomon. The ability seems to serve as his coat, which can manipulate itself for attacking or protecting Akutagawa, as well as tear or consume certain items. Though it doesn't have a definite weakness, it could contribute to his potential sickness, sucking out a bit of his life force every time he uses it.

In the end, I was definitely intimidated by Akutagawa. Though he really isn't the scariest villain that this show has to offer, he easily proves himself to be one of the strongest, if not the most thus far. There are some moments where I did feel bad for him (one dealing with the jealousy, as well as hints of his backstory living in the slums on his own, which is very similar to Atsushi's past), and seeing more redemption for him will be good, since he's not the one we need to watch out for the most.

Other characters include fellow Armed Detective Agency members Junichiro Tanizaki, whose ability Light Snow is able to conjure illusions, Rampo Edogawa, the self-proclaimed "detective" whose ability Super Deduction isn't actually an ability, Kenji Miyazawa, a boy hailing from the country who can use his ability Undefeated by the Rain only when he's on an empty stomach, giving him super strength, Akiko Yosano, the agency's medic who can heal herself as well as others (if they are half-dead) if she uses Thou Shalt Not Die, and Kyoka Izumi, who was initially part of the Port Mafia before coming to the Agency and can summon a phantom via Demon Snow. There's also the president of the agency, Yukichi Fukuzawa, who has the ability of All Men Are Equal, which suppresses the other ability users' power.

As for the characters who are a part of the Port Mafia, we have Chuya Nakahara, who is an executive member of the Port Mafia and is quite popular in this show's fanbase (which means that I'm excited to see more of him), Ichiyo Higuchi, Akutagawa's partner who doesn't have an ability but has good shooting skills, Motojiro Kaji, an infamous bomber whose ability allows him to not be harmed by the bombs he creates via lemons, Ryuro Hirotsu, the commander of the unit known as the Black Lizards, Michizo Tachihara, a member of that unit who has a short temper, Ougai Mori, the leader of the whole rag-tag team, and Elise, a young girl under his personal care.

Out of The Guild, we have two definite members so far, but more will be coming. First we have Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and his subordinate Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose ability Anne of Abyssal Red can create an alternate reality in which she can imprison people.


The animation for this series was produced by Bones, who are also known for their work on the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, Snow White with the Red Hair, and Space Dandy.

Bones has always been known for being behind some beautiful productions, and Bungo Stray Dogs is definitely one of them. Overall having a better budget compared to the second show mentioned in the previous paragraph (mainly the second season), this anime in particular is very lush, having a great color scheme, along with some really nice attention to detail, such as in blood, lighting, facial expressions (including the funny ones that some of the characters are prone to make), and settings. The fight scenes are all well choreographed, and the animation as a whole is very consistent and doesn't stray off-model.

One minor nit-pick would be the moments where faces from far away aren't fully animated, which does work in some cases design-wise, but I can see it being called lazy by some. Overall though, this is a very smooth and lovely production from an already great studio, and I hope the second cour keeps up with this standard.


The score for this series was composed by Taku Iwasaki, who is also known for his contributions to series such as Black Cat, Noragami, and Soul Eater.

Whenever I see that Taku Iwasaki is on score for an anime I'm about to watch, I immediately become reassured, knowing that it's going to be a good one. And for Bungo, we have another winner! Overall, I really enjoyed this show's OST, as it has a mix of various styles that manage to work well together. It's not as diverse as the cultural mix that Jormungand has to offer, but rather in genres, mixing more electronic rock songs, jazz, plain electro and nothing else, and with stripped back ones that use piano. It manages to have a nice style to it, along with managing to be both memorable and fun to listen to on its own.

Onto the voice-acting, which is also pretty great. Mamoru Miyano still proves to be very entertaining no matter what role he gets, continuing to put a lot of passion into his work and easily running away with some of the best acting out of this show, and the rest of the main cast does a fine job as well (though I'm still not really sold on Hiroyuki Kagura's voice as Kenji, though that could change). The Port Mafia also has some pretty great talent, with Kisho Taniyama doing his best Hiroyuki Yoshino impression for Chuya (which is incredibly ironic, which I'll explain in the next cour's review). And of course, who couldn't forget Kana Hanazawa taking on another role showing that yes, even though she can pull off cute incredibly well, she's also got a knack for the psychotic roles just as much.

Of course, the main stand-out for me was Yuto Uemura, due to his work from Kamigami no Asobi having me instantly attached to his voice. Good news is that he's still showing why I immediately liked his voice in the first work, but this time showing off more of an emotional range that Tsukito wasn't able to give. As such, it makes hearing Atsushi all the more enjoyable, especially when he gets angry.

Also, Luke's taken an attachment to him, so expect obsessing once the B-Project review comes along.

Highlights outside of the ones I discussed are Yoshimasa Hosoya, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Hiroshi Kamiya (and that makes 4 Kamigami no Asobi seiyuus involved in this show. Well, then.....), Yu Shimamura, Chiaki Omigawa, Rikiya Koyama, Sumire Morohoshi, Kensho Ono, Asami Seto, Wataru Hatano, Yu Hayashi, Mitsuru Miyamoto, and Takahiro Sakurai.


This definitely landed on the mark for my expectations. Despite some slight problems, Bungo Stray Dogs is easily one of the most entertaining shows I've watched all year, and I'm incredibly excited that I have more coming. There's a lot to like here, and I'm itching to experience more of it. With a planned release state-side for the manga in a few months, and a dub potentially coming on the horizon, what more can someone ask for?

I'm recommending this show to Bones fans, viewers who like action anime, people who need more precious cinnamon rolls in their lives, or for someone that needs another show that could possibly latch onto them.

Score: 9/10


Intriguing story.

Atsushi Nakajima.

Show tries to develop most of its cast.

Good characters overall.

Great animation.

Nice score.

Yuto Uemura's voice acting.

Fine voice acting in general.

Show has a high entertainment value.

Super excited for what's to come.


Tonal shifts between humorous and serious bits need work.

Atsushi's growth isn't as consistent as it should be.

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