As strong as this episode of Bungou Stray Dogs was, it still leaves me wholly conflicted.
If you want to talk about a tale of two halves, this episode was it. And it was an odd one – a revelation, while at the same a reinforcement of what I was already feeling about Bungou Stray Dogs. One of those feelings was pretty much confirmed for me by the A-part of the episode – the humor in this show just doesn’t work for me. In truth, the humor in Igarashi Takuya’s series has never really worked for me – I disliked Captain Earth the least, but it wasn’t often the humor that kept me involved in that show.
Also confirmed for me was my initial impression that Naomi is an incredibly annoying character. I mean, we’re talking fingernails on a blackboard, balloon rubbing, Nisio Isin dialogue annoying here. I find it legitimately mystifying how anyone can find that sort of stuff funny or entertaining – I literally cannot wrap my mind around it. But the humor in the first half this week was generally pretty flat, as it has been for the entire run so far. And I have to be realistic and accept the fact that element of the series is probably never going to work, because comic style just doesn’t change very often.
Now, the flip-side of that is if what we saw in the B-part this week is the real Bungou Stray Dogs, this series has a chance to be pretty darn good. With the introduction of the Port Mafia and Akatsugawa (Ono Kenshou in what seems quite a stretch role) things got a whole lot darker and more interesting, and the humor was mercifully shifted into the background. Not only was the action superbly done, but the story of the Armed Detective Agency became a lot more involving. Now we sense there’s a war raging in this port town of Yokohama, and the buffoonish Dazai has a personal history that’s led him to where he is today.
I can’t commit to Bungou Stray Dogs, for the simple reason that I don’t know what show I’d be committing to. If it’s a show that’s tonally like the B-part this week, maybe – that would relegate the comedy to a small supporting role where it might be tolerable. Even there I’m not sure you could get a full cour (let alone two) out of flash and legs being ripped off, but it was sure the most interesting 10 minutes for Bungou Stray Dogs so far. If the default state for the series is what we got for the first 2 1/2 episodes, it’s a stretch to think it’s going to hold my interest for long. We’ll see – I’m more hopeful now than I was an hour ago, but nowhere near what I would call confident.