Bungo Stray Dogs

Bungo Stray Dogs

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Atsushi Nakajima was kicked out of his orphanage when he was young for reasons he was never sure of, and now he has no place to go and no food. While he is standing by a river, on the brink of starvation and considering turning to crime, he rescues a man whimsically attempting suicide. That man is Dazai Osamu, and he and his partner Kunikida are members of a very special detective agency. They have supernatural powers and deal with cases that are too dangerous for the police or the military. They’re currently tracking down a tiger that has appeared in the area recently and is harming civilians – coincidentally, around the time Atsushi also came to the area. The tiger seems to have a connection to Atsushi, and by the time the case is solved, it is clear that Atsushi’s future will involve much more of Dazai and the rest of the detectives.

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In an increasing cast full of eccentrics, Atsushi instantly becomes a sympathetic character very early on as he faces a series of life-or-death situations whilst just trying to survive. As someone afraid of his abilities, yet wanting to atone for the things he did whilst transformed as a weretiger, he finds that his best chance of redemption is to get involved with these curious characters and their unique powers to protect the city from those with supernatural abilities that wish to harm it and its inhabitants.

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A lot of thought that has gone into the names of the characters in this anime, named after real-life Japanese authors and, as an extra tie-in, the names of their various ‘gifts’ are related to the names of their works (hence the slightly different, rather poetic names of powers). Having the cast based loosely around canonical Japanese literary heroes lends Bungo Stray Dogs an extra layer of depth at an early stage, giving it the impact it needs in a very busy season of anime. Every scene seems drenched in style and mood, and the direction is tight and disciplined, making even necessary info dumps feel compelling and natural.

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Edogawa Ranpo has quickly become one of my favourite members of the Detective Agency. His powerful abilities of deduction enable him to look into any crime an establish the murderer, motive and how to ultimately get the accused to confess – a sort of Sherlock Holmes character similar to his namesake. He caught my attention in an earlier episode where the Detective Agency’s office was ambushed by the criminal group Black Lizard, where everyone defended their territory apart from him, because he was too busy drinking his ramune. The episode focused on his powers has quickly become my favourite so far.

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The voice acting is noticeably good, with a wide variation in styles and accents that offer another way for the audience to easily differentiate between the members of this rather large cast. The character designs are also very different and have real range to them and its nice to see the artwork giving them the more realistic body proportions: leg-length, long fingers and angular faces. Couples with the costume style of braces, suits and trenchcoats it gives the show a suitably noir feel that adds a little bit of natural drama. I also enjoy Atsushi’s wildly expressive golden eyes which appear to deliberately be his only defining characteristic (well, that and his terrible haircut, I guess). There’s also the unusual way that the camera pans across to him with a severe close-up, making his face distinctly distorted.

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With its dark humour and sharp direction, Bungo Stray Dogs pulls the viewer through a world populated by strange and mysterious creatures and supernatural characters. The first few episodes reach out and grab you and don’t let go, mixing lighthearted and off-beat humour with intense and violent fighting scenes that can switch at the blink of an eye. With its fluid animation, distinctive character designs and realistic overtones set in a world that arguably is focused on being magical and mysterious makes an interesting contrast and a great premise.