Tuesday, September 15, 2020

REVIEW: Bungo Stray Dogs, Season One (anime TV series)

Bungo Stray Dogs
is a supernatural action series. It's licensed by Funimation.


Atsushi is an orphan who has lived his entire life as an outcast for reasons he has only recently come to understand. As the newest member of the Armed Detective Agency, he's awed by the supernatural abilities many of his coworkers are able to use, and worried that he won't be able to measure up. Not to mention, one of the area's most dangerous groups, the Port Mafia, will stop at nothing in order to capture him. What he and his new coworkers don't realize is that there's someone else beyond the Port Mafia who's interested in capturing him as well.

I realize that this is an unpopular opinion, but this series turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

The artwork and animation were good-looking, very slick, and I liked the idea behind the series - each of the characters were named after and in some way inspired by various famous authors (or, in a few cases, their characters) - although I unfortunately didn't have the right literary background for that aspect to be as appealing as it could have been. The only author out of this bunch that I've read is Osamu Dazai. Still, taken on their own, I enjoyed watching several of the characters in action. 

My issue with this series was that it seemed to be very badly planned out. All but maybe three episodes were devoted to character introductions that generally functioned as standalone episodes but were occasionally mixed with encounters with members of the Port Mafia. The overarching plot was very vague and seemed to boil down to "people want to capture Atsushi," except when it suddenly morphed into "people want to take the Armed Detective Agency's operating license away." When I reached the end of my boxed set, I checked multiple times that there weren't supposed to be more episodes. I even checked to make sure that this wasn't a particularly devious instance of Funimation releasing a season in multiple parts - maybe I'd missed some mention that this was actually Season 1 Part 1. But no, Season 1 really was only 12 episodes, and it really did end that suddenly.

Atsushi was clearly the kind of character viewers were supposed to root for: nice to the point of being self-destructive (except that he was really hard to kill), generally in need of a hug, and a good fighter if he didn't have time to think about it too much. However, I felt like the series skipped several steps in his development as a new Armed Detective Agency member. He went from having no idea how to control his powers at the beginning of the series, to accidentally using his powers in a fight later on, to having full control of his abilities against one of the most dangerous members of the Port Mafia. I could believe the part where his terror triggered an accidental usage of his powers, but absolutely zero effort was made to show any kind of progression or training past that point. He didn't even have some kind of on-screen epiphany about using his abilities. He was just suddenly able to do so, any time he needed and to whatever degree he needed. (And I just want to add: tiger tails are not prehensile. That bit made zero sense.)

If I had to judge this series on the strength of this first season alone, the verdict wouldn't be a good one. However, when I originally caved and bought this, I went all out and got the first two seasons at once. Hopefully Season 2 will provide some closure to the giant gaping holes in Season 1's story.

I purchased the Limited Edition boxed set of this, primarily because it came with an artbook that included additional details about several of the characters, so this had a better than usual selection of extras.


Extras available on the discs (Blu-ray only): promo videos (with English subtitles), commercials (with English subtitles), textless opening and closing credits, and trailers for other shows.

Extras specifically available with this Limited Edition set: an artbook containing character profiles for all the Armed Detective Agency members with powers and some of the Port Mafia members, and an envelope containing seven character bookmarks (Kyouka Izumi, Ryuunosuke Akutagawa, Chuuya Nakahara, Osamu Dazai, Atsushi Nakajima, Doppo Kunikida, and Rampo Edogawa). 

The artbook is small enough to fit inside the chipboard box, so it's not really big enough to show off the artwork well, but the character profiles are definitely worthwhile. Several of them contain information not mentioned in this season, such as the specifics of Fukuzawa's power, as well as brief bios of the authors upon which the characters are based. As for the bookmarks, I like them and have even used them for their intended purpose, but they're unfortunately slightly too large to slip into the chipboard box for safekeeping.

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