We already know that this adaptation has been divided into two, and that the rest of the story will air in the upcoming fall. If you’ve been following my coverage of Bungou Stray Dogs, you can just sense the palpable excitement running down my spine. I just can’t wait to see what silly adventures Atsushi will get himself into! Still, I would’ve liked for part one to end with a little more fanfare, or rather, any fanfare at all. Instead, part one just… kinda ends. In fact, don’t you feel as though the spring season of Bungou Stray Dogs should’ve ended with the battle between Atsushi and Akutagawa? Wouldn’t that have been a fitting place to leave the viewers with a strong, satisfying impression? Yeah, I had my complaints about that episode, but nevertheless, it was the turning point for both Atsushi and Kyouka’s characters. And of course, you have the exciting fight against the big, bad baddie. Out of the twelve episodes I’ve now had the pleasure of watching, episode ten had the most memorable events, the most memorable character development, so on and so forth. Why wouldn’t you end there? Instead, we get this strange cut-off point.
Francis F., better known as F. Scott Fitzgerald, pays the Agency a visit. He wants to buy their Gifted Business Permit. Yawn. The President naturally turns him down, so Francis tells our heroes to pay attention to tomorrow’s news. Well, tomorrow arrives, and an entire building — one of Port Mafia’s own, in fact — has completely disappeared. Not only that, Kenji has gone missing. Basically, if you oppose Francis and his Guild, you will be annihilated. Perhaps literally, I don’t know. In any case, Atsushi and Tanizaki are on a mission to locate Kenji. Naomi’s tagging along, because someone important to Tanizaki has to fall into trouble, and that’s exactly what happens. They bump into Lucy, one of Francis’s hench(wo)men. She has a rather convoluted Gift. The girl can transport you to an inner dimension, where you have to play a game of tag. If some giant, scary-looking doll by the name of Anne catches you, you’ll be trapped forever behind some black door. You can always escape through the white door, but if you leave, you’ll forget everything that just happened. If any of your loved ones are trapped behind the black door, you can forget (literally) about coming back to save them.
So y’know, our heroes try to win the game. Oh yeah, you win the game by opening the black door before Anne can catch you. The problem, of course, is that Anne is super fast. In fact, Tanizaki doesn’t even stand a chance. As a weretiger, Atsushi at least has the speed to avoid the doll, but he’ll eventually tire. Not only that, the key that you’re supposed to use can also attack you. Dude, the house always has the edge. Luckily, there’s a third participant in Lucy’s little game: a nervous man in a lab coat looking for a girl by the name of Elise. First, he convinces Atsushi not to run away. Secondly, according to the anime, he gives our hero some advice on game theory. I mean, it sounded like common sense to me. Sometimes, it’s best to launch a counterattack against your enemy in order to win. But fine, sure, it’s game theory, and this guy is very smart. Needless to say, Atsushi heeds his advice and pulls off the victory (with Tanizaki’s help). I won’t detail how said victory comes about. I mean, I guess it’s sorta clever, but how Atsushi wins is honestly not all that important in the grand scheme of things. And that’s basically the entire problem with this episode.
After rescuing everybody from Lucy’s prison, the episode is pretty much over. The encounter with Lucy doesn’t feel like a climax. Rather, it’s a mere prop to introduce us to a couple new faces. First, this won’t be the last time we see Lucy, I’m sure. After all, she shares a lot of traits with our hero. She was once an orphan, and she was recruited by the Guild much the same way the Agency recruited Atsushi. Great. We’re also introduced to Ougai Mori. Yeah, that’s the nervous doctor’s name. He’s not actually nervous. It was all an act. He’s actually the leader of Port Mafia, and his Gift is called Vita Sexualis. Time to pull out my favorite GIF again:
No, really, I don’t know what Vita Sexualis actually does, because I’m not sure if he used it or not in this episode. At one point, Lucy turns her attention to Ougai, but she finds herself unable to move. Apparently, his look is filled with malice, and it’ll freeze you in your tracks. Hell, even her scary doll couldn’t move! But was that his Gift? Or is that just another special trait he has? Whatever. Anyways, Ougai is supposedly a ruthless character on top of being interested in game theory, and he’s looking forward to crushing both the Agency and the Guild. Great.
I just don’t get why we’re introducing characters at the very end of part one. I barely know these guys. Am I going to remember them in three months? Probably not. That’s why I think this season should’ve ended with the fight against Akutagawa. There’s actual character development there. I would definitely remember Atsushi’s progress once the fall season comes around. But instead, the show is like, “Here’s two new characters, keep them in your mind, and see ya in the fall!” Uh, okay. Even our heroes seem kinda lame. Atsushi was going to give up and run away again. C’mon! Yeah, we wouldn’t need Ougai’s presence in this episode if our hero wasn’t such a scaredy-cat, but I feel as though Atsushi has gone backwards since episode ten. As for Kyoukai, she’s barely in the story anymore. Uh, she and Atsushi are now roommates, and she was worried about him when he got pulled into Lucy’s dimension. That’s pretty much all the screentime she got in this week’s episode. Maybe she’ll get some more development in part two, but for now, she seems like a throwaway character rather than someone important in Atsushi’s life.
And Atsushi needs someone important. Dazai, Kunikida, the Agency, etc… they’re coworkers, mentors, whatever. But they’re not really family. There’s potential between Atsushi and Kyoukai to form a stronger bond, but since they rescued each other two weeks ago, the story hasn’t given this plot any attention. Instead, we saw half an episode about Higuchi, half an episode about Kenji, then two brand new faces. Bungou Stray Dogs has a lot of issues, but it’s primary one is that its characters aren’t very engaging, and that’s due to the fact that the story never dwells on any of them long enough for us to care. It’s like the story is afraid that we’ll get bored, so it has to shower us with characters and wacky moments to keep us on our toes. But after twelve episodes, I think I want something a little more substantive than a three-way fight between a bunch of mutants. Give me something to care about. Or don’t. I feel like I’ve written too much about this episode already. If part two airs at a convenient time, I’ll cover it in the fall. But honestly, Bungou Stray Dogs doesn’t really deserve this much effort and attention, so I’m going to end this post in the same haphazard way that part one ended.