Atsushi sat within the white room in his head, with the great tiger standing across from him. It thrashed its tail like an angry cat. It uttered a low, rumbling growl and stared at the boy with savage, blue-and-yellow eyes. As for Atsushi, he felt he had proved that he was completely useless. It wasn’t that he had given up. It was that he didn’t know what to do in order to save himself and the others who needed saving. “Hello, it’s you,” Atsushi thought, directing his mind’s voice at the tiger. “You despise me, don’t you?” In answer, the tiger readied its massive body and pounced on the boy, digging its huge claws into his chest.
Atsushi took a minute to realize he was still conscious, and then to get his breath back. The impact had winded him. Now he lay on his back looking up at the tiger. Slowly, the boy raised his arms. “I’m sorry. I hate me, too.” His hands found the soft white fur and carressed it. “Thank you for everything.” Hearing those words, the tiger’s eyes widened and it stopped growling. It realized there was still a way to survive. All the tiger had to do was come out, for once. And to its astonishment, Atsushi was giving it free reign. That settled things. Falling from the skies, the boy landed lightly and gracefully— as a weretiger. For the first time, Atsushi began to think he and the tiger inside him might be able to get along.
Thank you for joining me for this review of Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season. As usual, I’ll take a quick look at each of five categories: visuals, audio, story, characters, and personal enjoyment. Every category will get a number score between 1 (abhorrent) and 10 (perfect). At the end, those numbers will be averaged to arrive at my overall score for the series. Let’s Rant!
The animation and art in the opening and ending songs seems improved compared to season one, but generally, the visuals in the bulk of the series are pretty much just the same. Since it’s decent enough quality and has unique stylization that I like, it all still looks pretty frickin’ good. The character designs. The backgrounds and settings. The way abilities/gifts look when they are activated. The good action sequences. The face expressions. The humorous moments where the art is simplified. The particular stylization of the artwork. The memorable character designs. I think all of that is well-done and is blended together masterfully.
Like with the first season, there are obvious money and time saving shortcuts, such as not filling in characters’ faces in any background shots. This could be a serious annoyance to some. For me, it’s never really bothered me much. At least there’s no shortcuts with cheap CG.
Much of the moods and suspense of the show is brought together so well due to the combination of art and dramatic music. The music is just as great as last season, and has a few of the same scores, but overall, it’s more subdued and emotional compared to OST 1. My favorites from OST 2 are “Kyouchikutou,” “Shoubi,” “Shinen,” “Musashino Maachi,” “Batalha,” “Kante,” “Ojoku,” “Gakushou Kujira,” “Gaskushou Yokohama,” “Tomo Toifu Mono,” and from the OST 1, “Fujou,” “Rashoumon,” and a few others. The OP is “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, and the ED is “Kaze ga Fuku Machi” by Luck Life. Both are great, but I like the Ed just slightly better.
Now let’s talk about the voice-acting. The cast is made of the same excellent, well-known seiyuu as in season one — such as Mamoru Miyano playing Dazai — and lesser known seiyuu who did a good job making names for themselves (like Sumire Morohoshiplaying Kyouka). A few other seiyuu about as well-respected and talented as Miyano appeared in this season, including Junichi Suwabe playing Odasaku. Others include Jun Fukuyama as Ando, Takahiro Sakurai as Francis, Ishida Akira as Fyodor, and Ami Koshimizu as Ozaki. They all did fantastic jobs. I was also impressed with Kenshou Ono (Akutagawa), Yuuta Uemura (Atsushi), Kana Hanazawa (Lucy), and Mitsuru Miyamoto (Mori).
As with season one, the concept of having characters based on famous authors in reality is original and entertaining. The story of Dazai’s past and Odasaku is also not something you see so often. The idea of a war between those with special abilities is not exactly original, but it’s handled in an interesting and unique way. Now we’ll examine some notes about the structure of the series, the presentation of content, and the themes.
The story starts off with 4 episodes that take place 4 years in the past. That arc is mostly about Oda, but also for developing Dazai’s character and understanding his motivations — especially at the end. The other 9 episodes are back in the present, focusing on the three way war between the Port Mafia, the Detective Agency, and the Guild. The war with the Guild can itself be divided into two arcs, the first being 4 episodes long, 17-20, and the second 5 episodes long, 21-25. This structure is unique, well-done, and I like it. I was especially pleased with episode 17 (start of second arc) and EPISODE BLANK (BLANK). They did well for setting the stage for what’s to come and cleaning things up with a good resolution, respectively.
The way the content was presented well as it should be. Comedic moments were funny, and so was the occasional dark humor. For the most part, the fights and other action sequences were compelling and exciting. Mystery elements were not as prominent as last season, but some were there. There was the mystery of what happened to Ango in the early episodes and the mystery that Rampo had to solve in episode 22. It was mysterious the way the Guild tried to buy out the agency last season and started attacking them this season. (Turns out, that’s because Francis is looking for a magical book sealed away somewhere in Yokohama. More on that later.)
Moving on, what about the emotional and psychological themes, motifs, and questions of this anime? Akutagawa and Atsushi need approval or permission to live or believe they are strong. Kyouka doesn’t believe she should be allowed to live anymore either, since she’s killed so many people. The theme here that many people have issues with self-worth and use different methods to try to find confidence.
Another theme could be that everyone has their own (often selfish) reasons. Francis wants to burn down Yokohama to find the book that can bring his daughter back to life and cure his mentally ill wife. John has to earn money or his family, including his beloved little sister, will starve. Margaret wanted to pay off her family’s debt to bring honor back to her family. Leading others “into the light” is a key motif, too. (Dazai led Atsushi and Atsushi led Kyouka.) Two other themes are 1) being allies against a common enemy and 2) Being “chained” to the past.
Bottom line, the story has an unusual structure and really quite a simple plot, but one that makes for decent amount of excitement. Less of a traditional thriller, this anime is actually a series of small stories, interactions, and events that develop and let us understand the characters. We only get a short time to get to know each character, but the story is character-driven nonetheless. Because of the excellence of the characters, story category earns 8/10.
As with last season, the main cast and other members of the Detective Agency and Port Mafia were entertaining and interesting. I’ve fallen in love with some of these characters. We also got to see a host of new characters this season, mostly from the Guild. There’s Nathaniel Hawthorne, a minster, and since he wrote The Scarlet Letter, that’s the name of his ability. We have John Steinbeck and his ability Grapes of Wrath, and Francis Scott Fitzgerald, based a little on the Great Gatsby, with his ability the Great Fitzgerld. Lucy Maud Montgomery returns and helps out Atsushi when he’s trapped. There’s also Lovecraft and his horrifying monster form which isn’t even an ability/gift — he’s an actual, literal monster.
Ando and Odasaku were good new characters, too. There was a lot of backstory and character growth for Dazai in the story 4 years ago. We also got a little more backstory and information about Ougai Mori, my male anime crush and the boss of the Port Mafia. Akutagawa and Atsushi saw more development individually and as rivals who sometimes work in a begrudging team. There was expansion on Kyouka’s character, emotions, and situation, as well. I think all the characters in this series were handled as well as they could be for being stuffed into 13 episodes. I also find these characters relatable, interesting, memorable, cute, and/or cool.
Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
I truly did enjoy watching this season of Bungou Stray Dogs. This is only a brief little review, and there are so many topics and discussions and character moments I could write about if I had the time. I hope to feature some of them on this blog in the future. What I enjoyed most were the thought-provoking elements and the characters and their psychology. The action scenes are also pretty fun. I loved the artwork and the voice-acting, too. Seeing all these authors depicted as anime characters is entertaining to no end. On that note, I thought it was awesome how Atsushi said a quote from the real Atsushi Nakajima: “The head may err, but never the blood.”
Now I have some speculations. Francis is after a book that can change reality if written in. In season 3, we learn Fyodor is looking for the same book. Let’s assume this book is a real book in reality. Given how Bungou Stray Dogs references so many books and authors, it makes sense. So what book would it be? Atsushi’s quote was from the novel the real Atsushi wrote (Of Light, Wind, and Dreams) based on the life of Robert Louis Stevenson. That means the magic book in question could be one of Stevenson’s books, such as Treasure Island.
Atsushi says that he read somewhere, “I don’t regret anything I’ve done, but only the things I didn’t do.” It was quite difficult to find out if this is a real quote by an author. In the end, it’s not an exact quote, but it resembles a quote by Lewis Caroll. “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” It’s possible that the reality-altering book is is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Caroll, after all, was said to be the person whose imagination leaked into reality. It’s that or a Robert Louis Stevenson book, or else it’s not based on a real book at all.
Atsushi is the key to finding this world-changing book, according to the ability of Louisa. Francis calls him the guidepost and the Tiger Beetle, which is a reference to the Tiger Beetle/Maticora that led Cousin Bénédict to escape slavery in the book Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen by Jules Verne. The tiger beetle/maticora is also a harbringer of death and destruction according to African folkloe. I bet that when and if there is a season 4, it will include Atsushi finding the book and/or unwillingly leading Fyodor to it. And finally, that’s the end of my random speculations.
Scoring the Series
For the overall score as well as the specific category scores, a 7 is “Good/ Entertaining” an 8 is “Great/ Excellent,” and a 9 is “Magnificent.” I arrive at the overall series score by taking the average of the five numbers for story, art, sound, characters, and personal enjoyment. Thus,
Overall Score = 8.4/10.0 Excellent
Thank You oh-so-much for checking out this review of Bungou Stray Dogs season 2! Your readership is greatly appreciated. Have a safe and happy Tuesday. 😀
Image credit: Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season. Dir. T Igarashi. Bones. 2016.