Bungou Stray Dogs finished airing during the official Spring 2016 season and has promised its second season for the Fall 2016 season. As a sort of preview of what to expect, what it needs to do and an overall recap of everything it got right and didn’t during the first season, I though I’d write up:
When anime and manga get slapped with the label Seinen, you can pretty much expect an action-packed anime with great fight sequences and a large cast of characters. The main ones will have somewhat predictable backstories of pain/anger that lead to their current status in life. The anime doesn’t have to run for long, in fact most of them finish up with one season. They deliver a short, adrenaline filled romp through a universe that usually brings up more questions that it answers.
Bungou Stray Dogs hits some of the typical Seinen characteristics but it also manages to avoid some by quite a distance. In this viewer’s opinions it hits the important ones that draw in the audiences and it avoids the right ones that make Seinen anime and manga tired and predictable.
Bungou Stray Dogs is certainly an adventurous little anime. It narrates a story of a special crime fighting unit whose members each have a special power. And to this group is recruited our seemingly gutless, cowardly and overall wishy-washy protagonist Nakajima Atsushi. It’s an interesting premise and with a bit of special ‘uber-cool’ otaku trivia in association with the character names (the names are based on famous authors and the powers of the characters are usually named on those authors’ most popular works), one can hardly call the storyboard and plotline of Bungou Stray Dogs slow or boring. It glues together a compelling yet simple plot, a good cast of quirky characters and a great bit of animation work to pull off one of Spring 2016’s most overlooked anime.
But what this anime should get its standing ovation for: Comedy
It’s hard to mix comedy and drama. Anime usually tend to mess things up with genre mixing and often does best with purist commitments to single genres. Truly, I can only remember only one anime that successfully pulled off comedy and action to be able to qualify as part of both those genres on equal basis. (I’m thinking of Kill La Kill)
Bungou Stray Dogs comes quite close to that masterful piece of work. Its comedy is impeccably timed and while some other reviews called the comedy misplaced and blamed it for destroying the climatic moments of the anime, I found the comedy to be a welcome surprise. With recurring gags (Dazai’s suicide fixation) as well as spur-0f-the-moment quips (Dazai’s taunting of his former associate jumps to mind), Bungou Stray Dogs does a great job balancing the action and drama with comedy. Without the comedy, the plot would end up looking half-hearted, with no one able to take this world of inexplicably poetic superpowers seriously. But when the character who’s about to deliver knockout punch quips out a grimacingly painful one-liner, you settle in comfortably.
Yes, character development is severely lacking. Except for two of our main characters, everyone else pretty much stays the same shade they were originally painted. If you’re expecting a mystery filled thriller because this anime has a crime fighting unit, you’ll be disappointed. In that regard, here’s the typical Seinen we’re all used to and quite frankly kinda tired of by now.
When the anime ends, you’ll no doubt end up feeling like you got of the ride halfway. And that’s with good reason: there’s a second season coming this October. Dazai’s backstory, why everyone has power and the details of the Port Mafia will hopefully all be revealed. If the anime doesn’t spin itself into a million knots and fall of the cliff that is. Anything is possible.