Bungou Stray Dogs – 03

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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.

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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.

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13 comments

  1. H

    You do realize that humor is subjective right?
    While I myself don’t find the humor particularly, well, humorous, I can easily see how other people can. No need for the condescension.

  2. Huh?

  3. R

    I really don’t see how he was condescending? It boiled down to “hey this director’s humor doesn’t work for me, never has. Probably not going to stick around for 2 more months if that’s the case.”

  4. B

    Apparently, Naomi is based off the titular character of one of the real Junichiro Tanizaki’s novels, who was portrayed as being domineering and sexually uninhibited. It would explain certain aspects of her personality. I can’t say the show’s humour is my cup of tea, but I kind of appreciate the literary reference, and find myself admiring the show utter shamelessness against my better judgement.

    (Did they have to make her his sister, though? Couldn’t she be a girlfriend or something?)

  5. It’s because the book character Naomi was inspired by Tanizaki’s sister-in-law (with whom he was apparently obsessed). I think the same is implied here, though it does not make it any less uncomfortable (it’s more of a make of it what you will attitude from the creators’ part).

  6. T

    I don’t know how long I’ll be able to tolerate its “literary conceit.” Again, cute to see Akutagawa have characteristics related to the literary figure he’s named after, but so what? So far the plot itself has nothing related to literature in the least. Not that it should (because it’s not my story, period), but it just doesn’t sit well with the bookworm in me.

    Humor-wise, I find it more toned down in the manga. I wonder what the director is trying to compensate for. Is he trying to slow the story down so it reaches a certain amount of episodes and ends at a reasonable place? In any case, it’s not my cup of tea (and I can’t stand Naomi either as a character and as a trope).

    I’ll give it one more episode before I decide to drop it. I am enjoying Miyano’s performance here though, but I can just invest my time in another series of his (i.e. which right now is Hunter x Hunter).

  7. It has little to do with actual literature and a lot more with the people behind it. The author Kunikida Doppo actually started off as a teacher (math and English) and everybody hated him because he was very strict and criticizing (also because of his Christian beliefs, but that’s another story) and in his 30’s he founded an editorial company which gathered a bunch of shady eccentric members (I’m guessing the whole Detective Agency idea is based on this) and he’s described as “short-tempered and irrepressible”. Do I need to mention about Dazai’s countless attempts at suicide? There’s an aesthetic component to believing that’s the only way to end (because that’s how his favorite writer – Akutagawa, btw – died) and surely the show is very much aware that comedy and tragedy are not so far off. There are a lot of things to say about Dazai’s self-destructive mentality, but I guess I could mention that during his time helping the communists he was apparently indirectly involved in a bank robbery (therefore the Mafia involvement in the show?). Basically, it’s more of an alternate universe where the creators are really honest about where their inspiration comes from. Shameless? Maybe, but I think it works pretty well as both entertainment and food for thought (I surely wouldn’t be acquainted with half of the authors mentioned here if it weren’t for BSD).

    That being said I think the show should be judged as is because while the authors’ backgrounds do provide some context, that doesn’t really change the value of the work itself (this is arguably true both here and when reading literature). It’s mostly an action-thriller (with a bit of over exaggerated comedy, I agree on that – but then again I’d want to punch Dazai too if he tried to corrupt other people into killing themselves) so don’t look for deep literary comments. If you like it or not is up to you and honestly there are so many decent shows to watch this season that if you think you’re better off skipping this one, then by all means do.

  8. T

    You’re absolutely right though, haha! I reread what I wrote and asked myself, “Well, if you’re not so hot about it, why are you still watching it?” I guess it’s one of those, “But I already started it…” kind of pointless persistence.

  9. C

    At this point, yeah, I’m beginning to question why I’m still watching when the show really isn’t hitting the sweet spot everyone expected. Maybe the persistence comes from the fact that a) Miyano’s in it, b) it’s BONES, and c) we’re desperately clinging to the chance that the show will turn out to be what it projected in the previews (although personally I never saw those, so…).

    I liked the B part of episode, and I agree the show stepped up its game, but so far there don’t seem to be any real stakes. Tanizaki and his sister are here to stay, I think, and we don’t have any particular reason to dislike the port Mafia besides the obvious terrorist attacks (which seem… senseless so far? Do they have a cause?). Even Dazai’s past just has me wondering… ok, so…?

  10. I’m actually predicting that Akatsugawa is a sympathetic character based on the ED and his behaviour so far, he’s a villain but I’ll be glad if there’s more to him. The most interesting thing about this show is the fact that it hasn’t played all its cards yet; you get the sense that things such as Atsushi’s past is deliberately being hidden so its a wait and see for me…

  11. M

    Miyano is hardly worth sticking around for.

  12. P

    We share the same exact sentiments on this one, Enzo. I feel like I may drop it because I’m not sure if I can deal with all that flat humour to get to the more serious scenes.
    All in all, tonally feels like two shows fighting one another…

  13. Here I go does humor always work well wirh serious themes . Sometimes I thnik the humor has to be not overbearing like in this.I can tolerate Nakajima and Dazai even Ryunosuke

    If it is trying to be Blood Battle Blockade forget it. Now I did like the Port Mafia segment and if they stick more to that I am in . Otherwise can I endure it the way it is.?

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