A Cool Concept & Great Execution – Bungou Stray Dogs S1 Anime Review

“For weeks, Atsushi Nakajima’s orphanage has been plagued by a mystical tiger that only he seems to be aware of. Suspected to be behind the strange incidents, the 18-year-old is abruptly kicked out of the orphanage and left hungry, homeless, and wandering through the city.

While starving on a riverbank, Atsushi saves a rather eccentric man named Osamu Dazai from drowning. Whimsical suicide enthusiast and supernatural detective, Dazai has been investigating the same tiger that has been terrorizing the boy. Together with Dazai’s partner Doppo Kunikida, they solve the mystery, but its resolution leaves Atsushi in a tight spot. As various odd events take place, Atsushi is coerced into joining their firm of supernatural investigators, taking on unusual cases the police cannot handle, alongside his numerous enigmatic co-workers.” – MAl Synopsis

Bungo Stray Dogs is a fun one. I vividly remember watching and enjoying this when it first aired back in 2016. I wanted to catch up on the whole series so far. So I decided to do a quick rewatch. This show is still as enjoyable now as it was 5 years ago (2016 being 5 years ago seems insane). And the same annoyances that I remember and that the show got memed for are still meme-worthy now.

For the most part, this season is about Atsushi finding his place/meaning in life and doing the rounds with the other members of the agency. A good amount of the episodes are nice self-contained stories that do a few things. Number 1, introduces us to the other members of the agency, their abilities, and personality. Number 2, introduces us to their enemies the Port Mafia (might be the coldest villain organization name lol). Finally number 3, gradually builds and expands the world. All of this is pulled off well within the first 12 episodes and the plot threads that are slowly introduced here make for great payoff in the second season. I love when shows give insight into the enemy or enemy factions. There are a bunch of scenes directly from members of the Port Mafia’s perspective. It was cool to see how they operate and the relationships between all of the members.

Atsushi

The hook of this show that really reeled me in from the jump is the whole concept of these characters with powers named and based off of various authors and their work. It’s such a cool concept thats executed well. If any form of media can intrigue me enough to do outside research about an aspect of it. That’s automatic points in my book. It was neat being introduced to a new character, then learning their name. Then it’s like okay they share the same name of an author and their personalities are based around that author’s works or themes that the author frequently delved into. Then their powers are based on the same thing or even sometimes based on a specific novel or part of a novel from said author. It’s fun. Since this show takes place in Japan the characters that are introduced initially are based on Japanese authors, but the last episode expands the world and we get to see some American characters which are really cool. It was also nice how the abilities weren’t just blatantly OP. A fair bit of them if not all, have interesting caveats to them. The doctor of the Agency can heal any injuries but only if the injured person is on the brink of death. Restrictions like that make for very interesting fights, as the characters have to use their noggin to maneuver around their abilities.

Dazai, the Tanizaki siblings, Atsushi

The running meme with this show is the orphanage flashbacks that Atushi constantly has. I wish I would have kept count but there were more than enough for it to become funnily annoying. Some weird decisions were made with two characters that belong to the agency. I’ll preface this by saying I still really like every character in this show. But the Tanizaki siblings just give off weird vibes. The first two comparisons to their dynamic are Tatsuya and Miyuki from Irregular at Magic High School and Kirito and Suguha from SAO. Those sets of siblings have this weird incestual tension between them but they don’t hold a candle to the Tanizaki siblings here. Man, this show did everything but explicitly state these two are very much romantically involved and it’s not one-sided! I mean at least the brother isn’t dense I guess? The brother, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki, is based on the real-life author of the same namesake who wrote a lot about various sexual fantasies and female characters with a lot of charisma. The sister, Naomi, is based on one of his characters. That would all be fine, hell that would all be great. But why did she have to be his sister? I’m laughing while I’m writing this but seriously it weirded me out while I was watching it. Their dynamic could have been pretty much the exact same if they weren’t related. It felt unnecessary.

The main character Atsushi is cool. The other members of the agency very much outshine him. He won’t be topping any of my favorite character lists but he’s solid for this show. The stand-out character is Dazai. A suicidal man with an interesting past. This can be said for both him in this show and his real-life counterpart. Dazai is hilarious though, he immediately steals any scene he’s in. He has a charismatic persona and during this season there’s a lot of drip-feeding information about his past before the agency which builds up a really nice mystery to be revealed in season 2 and on. His relationship with Kunikida and really everyone in the show is great. Dazai elevates this show a lot.

Dazai using No Longer Human

This show looks nice but it’s nothing crazy. The fight scenes this season are meh and there’s a noticeable overuse of blank faces when characters are talking to each other. The soundtrack is solid but it’s nothing really of note. I vaguely remember some of the Japanese voice actors. From those faint memories, I recall the sub being really good. For this rewatch though I watched the dub and it’s probably one of the better dubs I’ve ever watched. No voice feels out of place, all the performances were really good.

Bungo Stray Dogs season 1 was just as good and fun as I remembered. As an introduction to this series, the first season is solid and builds up the world and all the character dynamics really well. A cool concept can only take a show so far. So I’m glad the execution here was done fantastically. As a whole, I think this season suffers the most from being that building block season. I can appreciate it for being the foundation for what’s to come and it’s a good foundation. On its own, though it’s just good, nothing amazing yet, just good.

Bungo Stray Dogs Season 1 – 7/10


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