Bungou Stray Dogs Review

This is review number three hundred and seventy three. This anime is part of the Spring 2016 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Bungou Stray Dogs. It’s a twelve episode anime about hot dudes doing hot dudes thing. Let’s just get this over with.

Story

The anime follows a guy named Atsushi Nakajima. He was recruited to join a detective agency where members actually have super powers. They solve cases, but they also get tangled in a lot of sticky situations. This doubled ever since Atsushi joined them, since a notorious mafia organization is after him. The detective agency isn’t going to give him up though, but there is promise of blood being spilled if you cross this mafia.

Taking the Pants Off

Bungou Stray Dogs is a weird anime. It has a good story, interesting characters and amazing fight scenes but the entire anime experience is really…weird. I initially hated this anime, because it was boring and a bit annoying. The story is so good and I wanted more of it, but the show is concerned with other things. I’ve conditioned myself to follow a certain structure in dissecting stories in anime. Every genre is different, and every content is unique. I’ve seen so many anime though that I’ve come to expect a certain flow to stories. When you introduce the big twist in episode three, then I expect to see the anime build up on it. The exposition is already laid out, and the anime will now develop it in proceeding episodes. In Bungou Stray Dogs, when the story ripened at episode three, the focus is still constantly shifting from stupid fluff and pathetic mystery. I honestly don’t get it, and this anime tested my patience. It’s such a cool anime, but there are just a lot of weird things done to it. The execution is a bit questionable, and the audience is really required to put effort in what they’re watching. The anime relied on so many comedy gags that it became insulting after seeing the story’s potential. If I can sum up this anime though, I’d say that it’s bipolar. The normal moments are meant to be a bit tiresome, and it’s on purpose, while the show will suddenly shock you on the other end of the spectrum. I like the bipolar approach of this anime, but the balance and execution is really a bit off centered. To be fair, I know a lot of people don’t mind the dragged out and messy structure of the story, because there is one thing that makes this anime interesting. Two words: beautiful people.

bun3

The anime has a cast of bishies and pretty ladies. This is the bait that’ll get you to watch this anime, even if the story can put you off. After reviewing so many shows relying on handsome characters to carry its pathetic storytelling, then it’s really not a surprise. I know half my readership loves Brothers Conflict for this reason alone, and I hate you all for that. The bipolar nature of the anime makes the hot dudes even more enjoyable though, but I’ll explain that later on.

Seriously though, I’ll spam their faces below now.

Anyways, this anime is about a group of hot guys just doing hot guy things and being cute at random times. This should’ve been the thing they started out with, but the actual plot involves a guy with the power to become a tiger joining a detective agency full of hot guys and pretty ladies. The first episode actually had the good and bad sides of the anime featured in it. It focuses on two hot guys bickering with each other, the main character acting very much cartoonish and a lame ass mystery. It was a confusing experience, to say the least, but the idea of a group of hot guys with super powers doing detective jobs sounds like a fun premise. It also has a guy that turn into a tiger, so I was really excited to see the story unfold. Unfortunately, the anime doesn’t really build on anything and it keeps pushing out random sh*t. The things featured in the first episode are also constantly done over and over to the point that it became frustrating to watch. When the premise of a tiger is introduced, I was really expecting the show to develop it some more. In the second episode, they focused on the tiger joining the detective agency featuring a dragged out hostage situation. One of the guys was asked to go on all fours on top of a desk with his hands in the air. What the hell was that? It ended with the entire situation actually amounting to nothing, and then more characters acting cute towards each other is introduced. Huh? What? What did I just watch? They were strongly focusing on two siblings being cute with each other, and I was seriously caught off guard by it.

In two episodes, the anime really showed how bad it can be. The cute dynamic by the two detectives in the first episode became a huge part of the show. They were constantly bickering in a fluff manner, and it can be grating when the anime already presented how juicy the story can be. There is a character named Osamu Dazai that has this quirky gimmick where he likes to commit suicide. He does this in a comedic manner, and it was annoying as f*ck. They keep pushing this playful nature of the anime, and it’s really stupid. Dazai himself is just a bad character, and his gimmick got old fast. Remember, I’m only talking about the first two gawd damn episodes. In two episodes, the anime became a chore to watch. The anime never explained the importance of the Armed Detective Agency. It also doesn’t talk about the fact that the characters have super powers, and there is seemingly no societal consequence regarding hot dudes with super powers. They just exist, and it’s never explained. There are glaring questions that the anime never really bother to explain. While you’re busy feeling out the show, it’s constantly feeding you cute fluff and a character that is just annoying as f*ck. It’s not cute, and it’s not entertaining. It’s just really distracting.

Another big problem is the main character himself, Atsushi Nakajima. He reacts cartoonish to certain situations, and it kills my motivation to watch the show. He always looks like this:

It’s supposed to be cute, but he doesn’t need to do it all the time. He’s a f*cking man-tiger that can rip a guy to shreds, and he acts like a stupid feminine character. I don’t mind the reserved typed where he’s weirded out by the people in Armed Detective Agency, but exposition should be delivered. Explanation about him and the agency should be dumped out so future episodes can flow more smoothly. Instead, we just get the same flashback of Atsushi being kicked out of his orphanage and stupid scenes where he acts cartoonish when slapstick comedy is present. Is the show trying to be funny? Well, it’s not funny. I don’t care how hot there characters are, you can’t justify twelve episodes of fluff comedy overtaking a really good and serious plot. I’ve learned a long time ago that fluff and serious doesn’t really go together, because they cancel each other out. Nothing is really achieved, because the two things are just inherently different. How am I supposed to take a character seriously when he’s constantly featured in a slapstick comedy? It just doesn’t feel right.

Worry not though, because this anime also has mystery. Unfortunately, it’s pretty f*cking bad. Last season’s ERASED featured a mystery where only one character is the possible culprit. Shockingly, the supposed red herring is actually the culprit mainly because the show doesn’t bother to cast doubt on anyone else. The mystery in this anime suffers from the same weakness. It’s a really one dimensional mystery, because of the small cast it has during these episodes. The anime also doesn’t let the audience play along. The characters just walk into a mystery, and the audience is just asked to watch them solve it. That’s a stupid way to feature a mystery, because the genre thrives on engaging and teasing its audience. When you take that away, it’s not really a mystery anymore. It’s just random sh*t, and I’m not really happy with that. It also suffers from concealing the obvious. In the first episode, the Armed Detective Agency is looking for a tiger. From the way our main character cartoonish reacts to the lack of a more suspicious culprit, the fact that the main character is the tiger is insultingly obvious at that point. The anime might as well just drop the mystery all together and just focus on other things. The anime tries to make the mystery look good by adding intrigue to the truth behind it, but it doesn’t really work out that good as well. In episode four, the characters are solving a murder and its obvious early on that only two characters are the culprit. Its 50-50 for the audience, so there’s not much effort here. The reason for the murder is pretty random though. I do agree the detective work is there and a better puzzle can be made out of it, but I honestly don’t care at that point. While watching the fourth episode, I was so bored I was randomly texting a friend knowing full well that she is in church. I’m a jerk like that because I know she has this OCD where she must answer every text she receives. I wanted her to suffer as much as I am suffering. Ok, I made her suffer more but it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in the misery.

With an annoying lead, annoying handsome characters trying to be cute and a pathetic mystery element, what exactly is this show’s appeal? I’ll confidently say, once more, that the show is bipolar. How? In the third episode, after being drowned in the three annoying elements of the show, well, this happened:

Out of f*cking nowhere, with no heads up, someone got his leg violently ripped off his body and it was stunningly beautiful. The anime is overly graphic, and its super weird considering how much cute fluff was shoved down our throat. This moment immediately made sense to me, and I realize this was the best payoff in the anime. After sitting through so much bullsh*t, the anime is eager to reward you with graphic scenes painted in red and celebrating the violence people do to each other. It was not funny in any measure, and the grimness of the situation suddenly took over the anime. This show is gawd damn bipolar, because a character that acts cute like this:

They can go apesh*t by doing something like this:

Seemingly out of nowhere, the story about these handsome characters trying to be cute can turn dark at the drop of a hat. This is what makes Bungou Stray Dogs an amazing anime to sit through. One moment, you’d be suffocated by a lot of this:

And then the anime pays it back by giving you a scene like this:

Just look at those two screenshots side by side. It’s like they’re from two different shows, and its f*cking incredible. The fun part is that the main character takes a lot of damage in this twelve episode anime. So he can be forcing you to annoy a girl attending church by doing this:

And then you’ll see him later like this:

He’s skewered like meat ready to be served on an open fire pit. This anime is bipolar like that. It captures the annoying aspect of cute fluff, and it counterbalances it with a lot of graphic stuff. The cute and serious still doesn’t go well together though, but I consider the graphic stuff as a form of reward for sticking through the very low points of the show. Trust me when I say that there are a lot of them, especially if you aren’t really hooked by the “hot dudes” persuasion.

There’s also one important thing to note when you’re watching this anime. Everything serves to make the characters look good. This anime is very character centered, and the story serves to elevate the cast. If you’re expecting an exciting story about super powered bishies, then you’ll be disappointed. There is no story, but there are a lot of scenes where you can enjoy the bishies with super powers. If you’re expecting a nail biting mystery, then you’ll be disappointed as well. The mystery serves to make the characters look good, and the fact that the anime only relays information by making the characters talk makes that sentiment fairly obvious. In episode four, the mystery is used to make the Mary Sue detective Ranpo Edogawa look good and not to actually give the audience a compelling mystery to enjoy. If you’re also expecting consistent character development then you’re out of luck. Characters can only develop when there is a chance for them to act suave and heroic. The anime is superbly insulting like this, but the approach is incredibly unique. I mean, how many anime revolve the show around the characters? No, not character driven where the actions of the characters affect the story. This is character centered, wherein the only goal is to make sure the characters are given the utmost importance.

This makes the episodes a lot clearer. In the first episode, Dazai and Atsushi are made to look good by having them solve the mystery and attack each other. In the second episode, Kunikida is made to look cool while some new characters are introduced. In episode three, the villain and Atsushi were made to look awesome by kicking the sh*t out of one another. In episode four, Ranpo was setup to succeed and look cool, and so on and so on. The exposition for the super powers and the agency didn’t matter in the first place, because the show is only concerned about the characters. It’s a really weird show but, even if you don’t like it, the bipolar nature of the anime will draw you in.

Despite being character centered though, the show still has one solid plot point to present. The Armed Detective Agency is always tangled with a mafia controlling the ports, creatively named Port Mafia, and the show featured this rivalry throughout the twelve episode run. It appears that the Port Mafia actually wants Atsushi because he has a hefty bounty on his head. This forces them to make constant attacks on the Armed Detective Agency, but there is one problem. It seems that the agency actually has a collection of really skilled hot dudes, and the Port Mafia has to be creative in their attacks. Here’s the annoying thing about this anime though: episode 1-3 features this plot point, 4-6 does not feature this plot point, then 7-12 develops this plot point. What the hell is that? This is the annoying execution that I hate about the show. They stuck three out of place stories in between the plot points for no big reason. It killed the momentum of the plot point, and it actually ruined the appeal of the anime for me. Episode 4-6 actually doesn’t matter in the big spectrum of things, but I feel like it’s intentionally stuck in there for random reasons. Here’s the even more annoying part: Episode seven is an episode where a lot of people die in the subway upping the ante for the rivalry between the two groups. This heads into an explosive face off in Episode Nine that I consider one of the best moments of the year for me. I kid you not, the fight is so wonderfully paced and it almost feels like a Shounen anime now. All this excitement is somehow shoved to one corner to feature an episode about a Mary Sue detective and two episodes about a bomber with forced values in it. This anime is insane, and I both love it and hate it. I was on the verge of quitting this anime thanks to episode 4-6, hence the long time making this review, but it somehow rewards you with the best episodes down the line. When this anime ended, I honestly wanted more of it and I don’t know what to feel right now.

I hate the fact that the first two episodes killed my enthusiasm, but I love the bipolar nature of the anime. I hate the filler episodes of 4-6, but I felt it was necessary to truly enjoy the second half. I hate the main character for being a caricature most of the time, but I also love him because he bleeds the most in this anime. I hate the lack of story, but I love the intensity of the rivalry between the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia. I hated my anime experience as a whole, but I am actually excited for another season. I honestly don’t know what to feel now. Why you do dis to me, anime?

There’s no reason to talk about the characters. The anime spends twelve episodes to introduce them, and it’d be overkill if I do it as well. You just need to know that there is only one main character, but everyone in the show can be featured in an episode or two. Even the bad guys can be featured showing them in a different light, and it truly proves just how character centered this anime is. Also don’t forget that the entire anime is actually an introductory phase of the story in the manga. In anime’s twelve episode run, characters are introduced and just a glimpse of the story is featured. At the end, the story actually got a steady grip and it had signs of actually being featured now. This is an introductory phase, because the characters, the potential of the bipolar nature, the character driven story and the awesome fights are only introduced now. The main reason behind this is because it urges you to read the manga afterwards. There’s also the fact that the guys are incredibly handsome, and I guess people are also drawn to that to get them to read the manga. Good for them.

Along with Boku no Hero Academia, Studio Bones released this anime in Spring 2016. It’s nice to know the Studio Bones had two solid hitters released in this lineup. They are undoubtedly good, and I actually can’t wait to see more of their work. I’d also praise them for taking in this anime, because it can be risk if not done properly. The appeal of the show requires going low to get high results, and I’m not sure if the audience can be fully behind that. I enjoyed it, but I hope others do as well. Boku no Hero Academia is a big success though, so I guess it’s OK to gamble big on Bungou Stray Dogs. I say the gamble paid off, and good job for the win, Studio Bones. Takuya Igarashi directed this anime. He directed Soul Eater and Ouran High School Host Club, which explains the playful fluff moments in the show being incredibly annoying. The guy certainly has talents if he can bring out his own style while also being faithful to the manga. He did also direct Star Driver and Captain Earth though, and I’m incredibly wary of him now. His style certainly shined in Bungou Stray Dogs, but I do hope he doesn’t rely on it too much. You could say Star Driver is salvaged by the quirkiness of the entire thing, but I say f*ck you to that, good sir. If you can waste time featuring fluff, then you have time to actually sit down and develop a story. The script is handled by Yoji Enkido, and he actually wrote the script for Star Driver and Captain Earth. Oh my gawd, what do you say to that? Those shows did not have a slither of good story in it, and it’s funny that the same guy handled Bungou Stray Dogs. He has a knack for making characters interesting though, since he also handled FLCL’s script but I hope he can make good stories later on. I’m not saying these two make more Star Driver shows, but I think they have the talent to do more original screenplays. Anyways, I just hope the second season is better than the first.

Sight and Sound

Kafka Asagiri’s design is really rough looking. Some of the panels aren’t consistent, and the “hot dude” potential of the characters isn’t that prominently displayed. Kafka is a “story heavy” kind of mangaka, so he focuses more on effective lines and a decent enough visual to carry it. Comparing the manga to the anime, you can tell that Kafka’s vision is actually more effectively told in the anime. The character designed is definitely enhanced based on Kafka’s colored illustrations. Anyways, the anime’s design is pretty great. From the face alone, I know some people are instantly drawn to the characters. They have a really beautiful facial design, and I love how the anime utilized the clean spaces Kafka utilizes in his design. He emphasizes the jaw line and the eyes, and the anime is also highlighting those features. Coupled by their unique hairstyle and slim waist, I’m pretty sure the bishie potential of the characters is achieved to the max. I love the equally nice design on the female characters as well. They also feature the jaw line and eyes, but their feminine beauty is actually quite different than the male characters. Sure, the guys may look feminine but they still look like someone you’d want to hug you while you fan girl in shame. The female characters have a bit of elegance in their design, even if they go a bit demented. I love how Kafka’s design screams BL, but it is just subtlety told in the story. I’m sure fanfics of this anime can ruined that pretty easily though.

The animation is pretty great. The facial expressions are actually amazing in this anime. The show can turn serious and cute at the drop of a hat. The characters can be alluringly handsome one moment, but they’d turn slapstick comedic in the next. The animation handles the transition well, and it still consistently gives fan service via the handsome faces in between those transitions. That’s pretty incredible considering how inconsistent the manga visuals are. The director really had a good vision for the anime, and I’m glad it turned out amazingly here. The fight scenes are pretty awesome, and I love how graphic they can be. The movements are fast, but you’re still able to follow them properly. The pacing of the fights themselves is actually pretty decent, and there’s enough dialogue and ass-kicking in the scenes. As much as I hate it, I also love the animation in the way the characters tease and present fluff. It can be annoying, but the animation is certainly top notch in every semi-chibi scene you’re watching. The camera angle is also great, because it’s a lot more ambitious than the manga. It gives us handsome characters in a more flashy way than the manga intended, and I love how far the concept got with the anime. You can tell the manga is in good hands just by the animation alone.

The anime’s OP is “Trash Candy” by GRANRODEO. This band always makes the appropriate OP songs for anime, and this one is no different. I love the energy of the song, and it’ll really pump you up. The lyrics is a bit hard to understand though, but that’s OK convenient for us non speakers who only listen to the sweet voice of the singer. The song is about being free or something, but it’s a bit of a mess for me. To be fair, I suck at understanding songs but I always had this problem with GRANRODEO songs. It’s still a cool and flashy song though, and I love listening to it. The OP sequence features all the characters introduced in the anime, and you’ll notice the story is never present. The rivalry between the two groups is hinted at, but the OP solely focused on the characters and how beautiful they are. Notice that the sequence has a lot of characters and the anime does introduce them all regarding their role in the eventual story once the second season hits.

The anime’s ED is “Namae wo Yobu yo” by Luck Life. This is a pretty good as well, and I love the singer’s voice. It has a solemn pace mainly because the lyrics are very good. It’s about being a new person when you’re with someone you love, and that’s a pretty cool song to fit in this anime. The ED sequence features Dazai and Atsushi, and I think it’s hinting at some BL or something. The anime is really devoid of it, but the ED is just getting our minds racing with how the characters act and touch each other. I think the initial idea is “romantic”, but I don’t understand one of the villains showing up in the sequence as well. It must be hinting that these three guys have a bigger story to tell down the line.

Overall Score

7/10 “It has a lot of bad moments, but the good moments were enjoyable enough to sit through the bad.”

The approach of this anime is certainly unique, and I’m not sure a lot of people can actually appreciate it. There are some great aspects in this show, but I also know there are some bad ones that can drag the experience down. I think the whole thing is intentional though, because the roller coaster experience is the intended goal of the anime. Even if it isn’t, it’s still the thing you’ll get in this show. If you like handsome characters acting cute, then you’ll like this anime. If you like handsome characters being gutted and bleeding all over the place, then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you like shows about people with super powers, then you’ll like the approach done in this anime. It’s not for everyone, but the experience is definitely a unique one you’d be glad you had partaken in.

6 thoughts on “Bungou Stray Dogs Review

  1. Wow this is a very very very long review!!! this is my first time reading so much about 1 specific anime! COOL! I have the first few minutes of the Episode 1 but I lost interest so stopped watching, but now im excited to watch this anime from the start! thank you for this very cool review sir!

  2. Pingback: Bungou Stray Dogs | Anime Gauge

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