Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Revival of lit legends

Dive into the world of Bungo Stray Dogs

After a few weeks of hiatus from any anime entries, I bring you Bungo Stray Dogs, also known as Bungo Sutorei Doggusu or Literary Stray Dogs. So, I jumped into this anime a couple of months back, and although I haven’t caught up to the latest season yet, I totally get why the fanbase is hooked on this Japanese manga masterpiece by Kafka Asagiri. The dude’s got some serious skills, and with Harukawa Sango’s mesmerising illustrations, it’s a visual feast, no doubt.

Since kicking off its manga series in 2012, it’s been making waves in Kadokawa Shoten’s seinen manga mag, Young Ace, and it stole even more hearts of with its thrilling story and artwork when studio Bones Inc aired its first episode in Japan in 2016.

 

Some background

So the story basically zeros in on this Armed Detective Agency – a squad of thugs, I might add – that teams up to keep Yokohama safe from the clutches of the menacing Port Mafia.

It’s a wild ride, and the show’s main protagonist is Atsushi Nakajima who’s a weretiger with some serious skills that keep evolving.

But it’s not just about saving the day – these guys are living a crazy life. From protecting the city to dealing with the ins and outs of running a business, solving mind-bending mysteries, and taking on thrilling missions from their agency.

Alright, so Bungo Stray Dogs splits its story into these seven cool story arcs.

You got the Port Mafia one kicking things off with our main dude, then there’s the Guild arc, the aftermath of the Guild, the Cannibalism craziness, and the Untold Origins arc spilling the tea on how Fukuzawa Yukichi and Edogawa Ranpo teamed up to birth the Armed Detective Agency.

And that’s just the tip of the arc iceberg, my friend.

But what really makes it stand out? The way it nails character development.

Atsushi Nakajima (left) and Osamu Dazai in ‘Bungo Stray Dogs’. PHOTO: STUDIO BONES

As you roll with Atsushi Nakajima and his quirky crew, you start to dig into their struggles, backgrounds, and how they grow. And let me tell you, the humour they sprinkle in during character moments is like the perfect seasoning to balance out the darker vibes.

 

Origin story

When Asagiri was cooking up Bungo Stray Dogs, he got the inspiration bug from Shūsaku Endō’s tale Ryūgaku and Osamu Dazai’s final masterpiece No Longer Human.

Asagiri wanted to put his own spin on Dazai’s vibe to really grab the readers’ attention. Then, Kadokawa Shoten was like, “Hey, Asagiri, wanna whip up some more cool stories for these characters?”

And bam, that’s how we got those light novels delving into Dazai’s backstory.

The anime dives deep into a world where folks rock these cool superpowers called “gifts”. And here’s the kicker – each of these powers is like a unique flavour, inspired by the works of literary legends. It’s a wild mix, and the genius move here is how they blend these supernatural vibes with nods to literary greats, giving the whole story some serious depth.

Icons like Osamu Dazai, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Edgar Allan Poe, F Scott Fitzgerald, and F M Dostoevsky find new life in this series. Each character not only represents a specific writer but also ties their supernatural powers to the essence of that writer’s creations.

Take, for example, the central figure Osamu Dazai, mirroring the early 20th-Century Japanese writer Osamu Dazai. Known for works like The Setting Sun (1947) and No Longer Human (1948), the ‘real-life’ Dazai led a turbulent life, marked by world wars, illnesses, fame and multiple suicide attempts, ultimately succeeding in 1948 alongside his wife Tomie Yamazaki.

In Bungo Stray Dogs, Dazai’s character is a constant seeker of a partner for a double suicide, and his unique ability, named “No Longer Human,” allows him to nullify the powers of other ability-users – a nod to the ‘real-life’ Dazai’s famous novel. Same goes with Port Mafia member Ryunosuke Akutagawa, a key antagonist, mirrors the Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, known as the “Father of the Japanese Short Story”.

Akutagawa’s famous works like Rashomon (1915), Hell Screen (1918), and In A Grove (1922) inspired his macabre storytelling.

Bungo Stray Dogs’ Akutagawa embodies this aesthetic, characterised by his sickly appearance, pale skin, dark aristocratic attire, and the ability Rashomon, allowing him to summon a phantom-like creature from his coat.

Members of the Armed Detective Agency. PHOTO: STUDIO BONES

Character development

Alright, so what makes this series next-level interesting to me?

It’s all about that laser focus on character development for each anime character.

Seriously, they don’t mess around. Every character gets their own time in the spotlight, and you see them grow, change, and unfold in unexpected ways. You even have their backstories added in so fans don’t keep guessing about their past.

It’s like a character development party, and that’s what amps up the show.

 

Mood maestros               

Now, let’s talk animation by studio Bones – it’s like top-tier stuff. They bring those supernatural showdowns to life with visuals that’ll make your eyes pop.

The fight scenes are a feast, and the character designs? Stylish and totally unforgettable transitions.

What’s cool is how the show smoothly shifts between serious moments, funny bits, and those heartfelt feels.

The direction is on point, keeping you hooked with mystery, action, and those deep moments of thinking about life and what it all means.

Oh, and they throw in literary references and quotes, adding this brainy layer that’s like catnip for lit enthusiasts. It’s a real treasure trove of awesome.

PHOTO: STUDIO BONES

Flaws and fixes

Okay, so while the series is pretty awesome, let’s keep it real – it’s not flawless.

Some folks might say the pacing is a tad all over the place, with occasional slow moments in the plot.

But here’s the deal, those slowdowns? Kind of forgivable because the character development and world-building are pretty good, which make up for any pacing hiccups like champs.

I mean, its rated 7.8 over 10 on IMDb and MyAnimeList right now.

To wrap it up, Bungo Stray Dogs is like the cool kid in the anime block.  – Izah Azahari

 

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