Sunday, December 13, 2020

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

Bungo Stray Dogs is a fantasy action series licensed by Funimation. I bought my copy brand new.


Season 2 of Bungo Stray Dogs begins with a flashback to Dazai's final days in the Port Mafia, focusing on one of Dazai's few friends, Sakunosuke Oda. After that, the story turns back to the present, in which the Armed Detective Agency finds itself up against the Guild, an American organization whose leader, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, wants the agency's "Skilled Business Permit." The permit is what allows the Armed Detective Agency to operate, so Fukuzawa of course refuses to hand it over, and so the Guild essentially declares war on both the agency and Yokohama, the city that houses it.

My verdict, after watching Season 1, was that this series was slick and good-looking, but badly planned, uneven, and lacking in substance. I now see why Funimation has a release of this series that bundles Seasons 1 and 2 together (in fact, you can't buy my "Season 2 only" release anymore), because, honestly, that's how it's best viewed. Season 2 isn't so much a second season as it is a continuation and proper wrap-up of the first season, complete with explanations for some things in the first season that bothered me, like the way Atsushi suddenly gained mastery of his powers despite going through no apparent practice or training.

The strongest part of the season was the initial flashback to Dazai's Port Mafia days, which neatly laid out a tragic little story and gave it plenty of room to breathe. It also featured the first instance of something that became a regular occurrence in this season: battles in which characters with certain abilities were pitted against their clearest counterpart or best match in an opposing group. It made for some good matches, although, in the end, my favorite was the first of the bunch, Oda's fight against Gide.

Knowledge of the writers (and their works) the series' characters are based on isn't strictly necessary, but it's helpful, especially since it's the only way some of their quirks make sense. I suspect that's also part of the reason why Season 2 worked better for me than Season 1 - I've only read a grand total of one of the authors in the various Japanese groups and have zero cultural awareness of the rest of them, whereas I'm at least somewhat familiar with all of the authors in the Guild. Even this small amount of knowledge (of the 10 or so author-based Guild members, I've only read Twain, Lovecraft, Poe, and Steinbeck) was enough to add another level of enjoyment to their battles. Lovecraft was particularly entertaining.

So yes, Season 2 managed to redeem the series somewhat. I still wish Season 1 hadn't felt quite so scattered, but I'm invested enough now to want to watch Season 3. Based on how Season 2 ended, it looks like Season 3 will be working in some Russian authors, who I'm almost as unfamiliar with as Japanese authors, so I'm crossing my fingers that the story is interesting enough to make up for that. It looks like Dazai may have some connection to them, so that could be fun. Of all the characters in the series, Dazai is probably the most fleshed out and intriguing.


The extras are skimpy, just a textless opening, a textless closing (which I liked much more than the opening), an OVA episode focused on Kunikida, a promo video, commercials, and several English dubbed trailers for other series licensed by Funimation.

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