First Impression – Bungou Stray Dogs

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Proving once again, that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

What do you get when you take Japan’s most famous writers, make them all bishounens and bishoujos, and give them all superpowers to fight against the forces of evil?


You have to admit, that’s a pretty cool logo. 

spring15-irenesOkay, unlike Joker Game, this first impression being for the first two episodes, wasn’t done on purpose. This time there were actually a few unforeseen circumstances that led to it being delayed.

And speaking of unforeseen circumstances!

All I can say, is that this series just seems to be chocked full of it! This is probably the first time I’ve ever seen the Opening, the Preview, and the Ending for a show, all played together at one time. I guess they had to fill up that 24 minute running time somehow. 😛

This season has been strong with some pretty good premieres thus far. Boku no Hero Academia surprised me, Mayoiga presented an interesting premise, Re: Zero had an excellent start, and now Bungou Stray Dogs can be added to that list.


Our newest recruit…

One of the most anticipated shows of the season according to our spring poll, Bungou Stray Dogs being a Studio Bones production, of course comes with hype and expectations automatically.

If there was one word that I had to give to this series that I wouldn’t have thought on first preview, it would be: fun.

Stray Dogs is loads of fun. Instead of spending time with complex plots and drama, the series seems to be surprisingly light-hearted and coated from top to bottom in comedy. I’m telling the truth when I say that of all the shows I’m watching this season, I have never laughed as hard with any other series this Spring as I have this one.  And that’s including some actual comedies!


…meets veteran tormentor.

So what’s the plot? Honestly, the plot is probably the most simple of the season. Our main character is an orphan teen named  Atsushi Nakajima. Thrown out of his orphanage, he is homeless, dying of hunger, and on the run from a supposed beast in the moonlight. He runs into an unusual and quite eccentric, suicidal individual named Osamu Dazai. Dazai is one of those geniuses who happen to be hiding between a fool’s  facade. Dazai happens to be partners with a neurotic, glasses-wearing individual, named Doppo Kunikida.  And we later find out the two work for a legendary detective agency that employs people with special powers. (Yes, it is universally acknowledged that superpowers exist in this world, though they are still considered bizarre and unusual.) Along with Dazai and Kunikida, we meet the other major mysterious members of the agency, including the cold beauty, Akiko Yosano, the clever fox-faced Rampo Edogawa, energetic, child genius Kenji Miyazawa, awkward teen siblings Junichiro and Naomi Tanizaki, and their stalwart, enigmatic leader, Yukichi Fukuzawa.


Meet the team

The “mysteries” as they go are as easy as they get for both episodes. I knew from simply watching the show’s PV what Atsushi’s secret was and how it was going to play out. And it only took me a few minutes of dialogue from Dazai in the second episode to figure out what the whole “bomb threat” was going to be. (Well that, and the fact that the “bomber” and his “hostage” are both in the OP for goodness sake!) But thankfully, I’m not really in this show for the mystery aspect, but instead for the characters and the superpowers. And I have to say that both of those things are excellently done.

While Atsushi is our main character, it’s the ridiculous and quirky Dazai that steals the show. Voiced by anime heavy hitter, Mamoru Miyano, his interactions with the rest of the cast, especially his Kunikida and Atsushi, provide the majority of the comedy of the series and I haven’t had such a huge laugh at a character’s antics since Ouran HS Host Club. At the same time as seeing his comedic side, you can also at times see the quite shrewd and insightful individual that exists behind such an easygoing veneer.

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The foolish are very wise indeed.

If our OP and ED are any indication, then Dazai will play a very important connection between our heroes and our villains. Simply from watching those, we can actually gather quite a bit of backstory for the future of the series. Dazai is obviously taking Atsushi under his wing, seeing a rather damaged individual who sees himself as worthless, perhaps he seems some of himself in the young were-tiger? Or perhaps, he sees a chance of redemption? It’s largely hinted that our main villain–who seems to have borrowed Dracula’s tailor–was once in Atsushi’s position and was once an acolyte of Dazai’s, before some falling out caused them to part ways. We’ll have to see, but I’m quite eager to meet our villains and see if they are just as colorful as our heroes.

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It seems our villain has arrived, and his wardrobe seems to be modern Transylvanian.

As for the superpowers, we haven’t really gotten a chance to see much of them (though they have all been named), but I must say that as far as superpowers go, these are quite flashy and well animated. Most of them are power that we’ve seen done in the medium before: animal shapeshifters, turning the written word into physical objects, even the negating of other’s powers has all been seen before. But, still, I’m interested in what kind of fights we’ll end up having, and I’m sure it won’t be long until we see the rest of the agents abilities displayed as well.

You might have noticed that I’ve put quite a few links up while introducing the main cast. Yes, those links will indeed send you to several biographies, and yet, those are not character bios. While a majority of us, coming from a western educational background and culture, are probably not familiar with any of these names, to a Japanese audience, hearing all these names together, would garner a completely different response. The western equivalent would be similar to having a fictional secret agency headed by William Shakespeare, and having several superpowered members, including Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, and Emily Dickinson. Sort of the literary author version of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Bungou Stray Dogs is basically the Japanese rendition.

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Cool light show for some cool characters

When first looking at the series and on my first watch, I had no idea that each of the characters were all named after famous Japanese writers, novelists, and poets. Rampo Edogawa was a bit familiar because of the rather lackluster Rampo Kitan series that came out a few seasons ago. Yet, I just thought perhaps I had gotten the name confused. It never occurred to me that they actually had pretty much made Rampo and his fellow authors comic book characters! However, once armed with that knowledge, it gives the series a certain wry, satirical element and an extra level of fun as you look for all the similar elements and connections the writer planted in each character that links back to their real-life namesake. Some of them are easy to spot, such as Dazai’s superpower being called “No Longer Human” or Miyazawa’s countenance being that of a child. But some are not so easily spotted, such as Junichiro’s connection to his sister, Naomi. As we get to see more and more of the cast, I’ll be interested in trying to spot more and more connections, and to see if the mangaka had some larger reason than irony in creating the characters this way.


All in all, while this is much simpler series than I had thought it would at first, I found myself enjoying it in that simplicity. I’m hoping that now that we’ve gotten all the major character introductions out of the way, we’ll begin to see the more of the plot developing. As dark humor goes, I can never stop laughing at Dazai’s continuous humorous attempts at suicide and at his constant baiting of the uptight Kunikida. The humor is definitely not for everyone, and for some this series might be a bit too slow in order to get engaged. But I think with some reestablished expectations and coming at this series is as an action comedy, will help some people to adjust. I must admit that I’ve been enjoying myself immensely, and I can’t wait to continue on with the rest of this split-cour series.


A Chicagoan biochemist, teacher, and an aspiring virologist, with a love for science only rivaled by my love for movies, animation, and anime. Both a lover of action/adventure and romance, I'm a girl who walks the entire spectrum. Mecha, Sci-Fi, Psychological Thriller, Romantic Period Piece, if it's has a good story, I'm there.
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13 Responses to “First Impression – Bungou Stray Dogs”

  1. skylion says:

    Yeah, I enjoyed this one far more than Joker Game. The characters are far more relatable and interesting (all about the execution).

    My biggest concern, that BONES would use the unusual conceit of super-powered authors as a license to make the show unhinged in terms of characterization and animation has been quickly quashed.

    They keep it eccentric and cool, but don’t rely those qualities to tell the story with exclusion to other good storytelling principles.

    Now, as for how these character relate to those authors? I’ll scratch my head to it. It does give me amusing daydreams imagining all sorts of English language writers doing the same.

  2. anaaga says:

    What a good strategy to perk Japanese students’ interest for Japanese literature. Next thing we know their literature books will be filled with anime characters.

    Predictable first episode but enjoyable nevertheless (haven’t watched episode 2). Especially the animation whoo all that budget went to lights. The interactions of the characters are enjoyable to watch too. Very natural,heartwarming, silly, but entertaining.

    My guess that this will be the typical fun-to-dark series, a typical shounen filled with bishies. But hey, I always welcome bishies for my main course *wink wink*

  3. zztop says:

    I’ll be interested in trying to spot more and more connections, and to see if the mangaka had some larger reason than irony in creating the characters this way.

    IMO, it could just be a gimmick by the writer to make readers interested. They could just have easily done a manga without the literary references, but it wouldn’t be the same.

    A lot of the humour is anime-original: Bungou’s director did the anime version of Ouran High School Host Club, and is reusing the visual quirks from that show.

    Also, anime Atsushi’s weretiger powers are a reference to he real Atsushi’s rewrite of a Chinese fable, “Sangetsuki”, where a scholar goes mad in his quest to become a great poet, and then literally transforms into a tiger. The rewrite emphasizes the poet’s self-examination and inner moral growth.

    • IreneSharda says:

      I got that feeling about the added humor as well. I did read the first couple of chapters of the manga and I noticed the changes that were made.
      Didn’t realize that it’s the same director as OHSHC, but that makes sense, since I had the same reaction to the comedy there.

      I knew the real Atsushi had a work that had a title dealing with moonlight, and so I thought that was the link, didn’t know about the story with the tiger. 🙂

    • skylion says:

      I guess the gimmick depends on how much you are steeped in the culture. I imagine someone that loves the modern debate of Tesla Vs. Edison would appreciate a deep-dive wild and woolly electric-punk story featuring those two than someone with just a bare name recognition. Or someone that knows very little about English language characters of the 19th century would fully get the depth of Alan Moor’s original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series of graphic novels.

  4. BlackBriar says:

    Definitely warrants being one of the season’s most anticipated. If a series can be fun/entertaining, it doesn’t matter whether simplicity or complexity is embraced.

    I doubt the character introductions are done. It just doesn’t have that feel. Neither do I believe it should be rushed for the sake of the plot because it can be continued while the plot is advancing. Given that Bungou Stray Dogs is a confirmed split cour, all the time needed to get things done has been allowed.

    Where the agency employees are concerned, calling the situation “odd” is an understatement in light of how they’re not deeply disturbed by Dazai’s suicide fetish. My guess is he believes himself a cat with 9 lives to spare.

    Kunikida doesn’t realize he’s just adding fuel to the fire with his short temper. Giving into Dazai’s taunts will only make him want to continue taunting him. A vicious cycle…

  5. BlackBriar says:


    Clearly it’s late to say this but… Congratulations on reaching your 2000 comment mark! Just know that you’ve also lost your “Meta Resident” status and are now a blank like me. 😛

    • IreneSharda says:

      Thanks, honestly I hadn’t even noticed. 😛

      • BlackBriar says:

        Now you’ll need less than a thousand more comments to reach “Meta Team” status. Are you up to the challenge? 😉

  6. AntiGuy says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the Kekkai Sensen vibe this show gives yet…

    • IreneSharda says:

      It does give me some Kekkai Sensen vibes, but for some reason, I think the two series are in completely different veins. Their comedy is done differently too.

      It does remind me a little of an anime called Hamatora, but this one is done better than that so far.

      Also, welcome to Metanorn! Stay awhile! 😀

      • BlackBriar says:

        The Kekkai Sensen vibes are minimal in the general scope but concentrated, it’s coming from Atsushi. Not only does he feel similar to Leonardo Watch, he’s also a newbie to a group he came across by chance.

        Where Hamatora is concerned, I can definitely see the parallel in the Bungou’s two leads. Dazai is this show’s version of Nice and Kunikida, the show’s version of Murasaki.

      • skylion says:

        I don’t think Stray Dogs is as needy as Kekkai in terms of it’s story telling or visuals. With the later it always felt like they were afraid I would shift my attention to something else, so felt like it desperately had to keep my eyeballs focused on them. That kinda tells me it didn’t have that good a story to tell, and it ended up not having one…

        …also, I will extend a greeting just like Irene. Welcome.

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