Some Thoughts On: Bungo Stray Dogs (2016) Series Season 1

On March 14, 2018 I finished the first season of an anime series called Bungo Stray Dogs by studio Bones, and oh boy did it feel like a waste of time. Trying to explain what Bungo Stray Dogs season one is about is futile. At first, I thought it would about its main character, Atsushi, learning to control his abilities as a were-tiger, getting accustomed to his new job in the Armed Detective Company, getting to get well acquainted with new people within his new job, and grow along the way. It tried to be about those things, but fail because it was so scattershot (much like these type of blogs I write) it prolonged whatever point it was trying to get too.

Unlike the animes I’ve yet to post about, Bungo Stray Dogs clearly wants to tell some kind of overarching story from the getgo, and doesn’t know how to. For starter, it would helped the anime if it actually bothered to focus on a theme, or something that had long lasting continuity. It constantly throwing in jokes, which alongside creating an inconsistent tone consistently. Lends itself to destroying any sense of rising action. One example of this is the very last episode doesn’t feel like a climatic end to the season. Ending up being just another episode Bungo Stray Dogs starting off with whimper, and ending with one as well.

Aside the from the glaring writing issues it had, another problem for me was how it simply meanders a lot. Dialogue in Bungo Stray Dogs has a knack for saying a lot, yet nothing substantial comes out most of the time. Things that should have taken less than half of a episode are stretched out. Padding the episodes with jokes, more jokes, and even more jokes that are of the hit, or miss variety. A hit if you like slapstick, and jokes about suicides, and a miss since it doesn’t vary the type of jokes it tell. Can’t forget about the tangent the dialogue can go into random stuff. What kind of stuff I can’t tell you since I already forgot about it.

My biggest issue with the writing of Bungo Stray Dog is that the structure of the series is messy. It’s disorganized in what to do. Like mention earlier with the absent of rising action, episodes feel out of order in terms of importance. There are episodes where Atsushi go on one off adventures with some of his other teammates with little done to flesh them out after sharing the spotlight for a single episode. In a 12 episodes series it’s difficult to flesh multiple characters, but at the same time if the person/people telling the story choose to take on this task they better do a good job. Obviously, studio Bones did not.

Characters in Bungo Stray Dogs are onenote, and typically just silly. Eventually, the once quirky personalities become mundane to see interact. How many times can I witness a character name Osamu Dazai (yes, named after the author of No Longer Human) attempting to kill himself as a joke, or how many times can I find Doppo Kunikida (yes, also named after another famous Japanese author) stickler for the rules personality amusing before it gets bored. Answer is very quickly. When there’s no effort to expand on characters, or their dynamic with each other it makes whatever journey they take feel pointless.

Naming the characters after famous authors is pointless since the most it does with it is reference their work once. The characters also aren’t the authors themselves so you can call them whatever name you want, and it’ll fit just the same. Either the storyteller(s) intended to do something by naming the characters after famous authors, but didn’t how to, or it’s just pure laziness, and someone just typed in “Famous Japanese Authors” since the task of coming up with names for characters was too hard to do. I think the latter is more likely what happened. I did kinda like Yosano Akiko character who is a crazy doctor, but only superficially. Her design I did like a bit. As a character, there isn’t much to her besides she’s crazy with super healing abilities.

So, with little complement in terms of story, and characters the production side is more of the same. The animation is cheap at times having moments where character won’t have mouths while talking, or stay on a single frame for longer than needed. What action sequences the anime does have as lame. They end as quickly as they start, but like with Vampire Princess Miyu anime series, there’s no choreography in any of it. It just goes through the motion of things, and constantly having contrivances in them to put battles in favor of the heroes diminishes all excitement. The whole “Ha, I’ve pulled one over you” routine gets tiring.

Ever seen Durarara, and wanted a lamer version of that? If so, Bungo Stray Dogs does exactly that going for a similar style in terms of direction, and music choices. However, whereas in Durarara, where despite nothing cool ever happening, was still entertaining to watch. Here, the style of Bungo Stray Dogs is out of place. It wants to be a cool battle shounen like series, but just comes off lame. Same with the soundtrack can be best describe as a bad DJ at a club of sorts simply farting out bad remixes of songs.

Voice acting is good. I saw the first half of Bungo Stray Dogs sub, and then eventually changed to the English dub the second half because of how wasteful I felt it was being with my time. Both cast I feel do a good job bringing the wild personalities to life. The Japanese cast is more eccentric in their deliveries of the characters, but the English cast transition between tones is smoother. Despite the poor material, the voice cast is the one positive I can give it.

Bungo Stray Dogs as a series is watchable, but there’s nothing worthwhile in it. Heck, I thought was going to hate these sibling characters with a comedic incestual relationship (yes, that’s a thing), but they don’t appear often enough for me to hate them. So in even that department it doesn’t do enough to elicit any kind of emotion. Season 1 of Bungo Stray Dogs is simply something I watched, and disliked mostly because I felt like it meander too much on nothing. I’ll likely check out the second season of the anime, but given the first half is this bad, and scattershot in its writing I’m already in doubt it’ll improve.

If I were to rate Bungo Stray Dogs, I would a 3 out of 10. Seems fair to me.

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