I’m a big fan of work from Studio BONES and this season we’ve been given a real treat in the form of Bungo Stray Dogs and My Hero Academia from the studio. Arguably My Hero Academia is the bigger title on offer, but I’m here to talk about Bungo Stray Dogs as I’ve fallen head over heels in love with it.
Our story is centered around Nakajima Atsushi, who has no place to stay or money for food after being kicked out of his orphanage. After running into Dazai Osamu (or should I say, after rescuing Dazai from floating down a river) and being introduced to his co-worker Kunikida Doppo, Atsushi discovers that the two are on the case of a mysterious tiger causing problems in the area. Atsushi soon realisers that this tiger is actually something he has been unknowingly transforming into during a full moon and as such, Dazai decides to take Atsushi in hand and have him join the Armed Detective Agency that he and Kunikida belong to. Atsushi may now have a home and job thanks to Dazai, but his life will be anything but peaceful from now on!
The Armed Detective Agency is made up of various people with special abilities. For example, Dazai has the ability to nullify another person’s ability, while Kunikida can draw an object in his notebook and have it become real. Atsushi has the ability to transform into a tiger, as I mentioned earlier, while one of the other detectives, Ranpo Edogawa, has the ability to instantly figure out the truth behind a crime scene just by looking at it. They’re certainly an interesting bunch and together they tackle numerous cases that the military and police simply can’t or don’t want to solve.
Due to Bungo Stray Dogs featuring such a large cast, the earlier episodes act as almost standalone stories where Atsushi shadows a member of the agency for a day and we learn more about them. During this time we also learn about the Port Mafia who wish to kidnap Atsushi and sell him off as the tiger has a hefty bounty on his head. I won’t say too much more on this matter because I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, but some of the fights the Mafia and the Agency get into are great fun to watch.
My best comparison for how the story is handled is probably Blood Blockade Battlefront (also an anime adapted by BONES). It took quite awhile for the series to build up and it certainly had a lot of more episodic stories, but when the series finally hit its stride, it became amazing. The same can be said for Bungo Stray Dogs in that each episode is a good deal of fun, but once we finally start advancing the plot quickly it becomes something truly special.
I’ve long been of the opinion that BONES have a knack for animating very action-heavy series and that remains true here. The animation is always very colourful and full of life but it can go darker when needed for the dramatic scenes. Action is handled really well and there are a lot of gun and fist fights that really draw you into everything that’s happening on-screen. As usual, BONES also have a wonderful sense of humour and the comedy is well drawn – especially the facial expressions of our lively cast of characters. That isn’t to say the animation has been perfect, as in the eleventh episode especially there were some issues with characters having no facial features drawn when they were at a distance. This is no doubt a problem that’ll be solved for a DVD/Bluray release in the future and even if you’re just watching the show streamed on Crunchyroll I don’t think the issues are bad or often enough for me to recommend you give it a miss.
On a musical level I have to say that Bungo Stray Dogs has a truly excellent soundtrack. Composer Taku Iwasaki has worked on a lot of action driven shows such as Akame ga Kill!, both seasons of Noragami!, and Soul Eater. If you listen to the score of Bungo Stray Dogs closely, you’ll definitely be able to notice how similar the music is to those of the titles I just mentioned, it’s not a bad thing though as all those soundtracks are pretty wonderful in their own right. On a voice acting level we have some true stars as well given that Ranpo Edogawa is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya (Izaya Orihara in Durarara!!, Levi in Attack on Titan, Yato in Noragami), and we have Dazai who is handled by Mamoru Miyano (Masaomi Kida in Durarara!!, Cilan in Pokémon: Best Wishes, Ling Yao in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood). Ranpo and Dazai give the best performances but Yuto Uemura (Sanada in Gatchaman Crowds, Johan [young] in Monster) who plays Atsushi is by no means a bad VA either and definitely plays Atsushi really well.
Overall I’m a big fan of Bungo Stray Dogs because it showcases the best of BONES and why I love the studio. The animation is captivating, the story is solid and the comedy just works. With a second cour coming in the Autumn I’m excited to see where the story is going next and I’m definitely not ready to be finished with these characters yet. Perhaps not the best BONES work yet, but it’s certainly one of my favourites. Hopefully the original manga is licensed someday too.
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll as part of the Spring 2016 season. The series has been licensed in the United Kingdom by Anime Limited.