Bungou Stray Dogs has just thickened its plot. Dazai and Oda come far in their chase of Mimic and Ango, but only encounter mysteries eerier than before.
First of all, Oda finally communicates some information about his personal life. As it turns out, the bloody Ryuuzu Dispute from some years ago saw some children left without parents. He’s entrusted them to a friend, pays for their living expenses, and comes to see them often. This lines up with his pacific personality; but the link to a violent past matter is definitely intriguing. However, this matter isn’t explored further… though the OP’s focus on this chapter set four years before our main story means this subplot will probably be afforded some more episodes to develop itself.
Back to the major matter at hand: Dazai has information on Mimic. They’re a group of former soldiers from Europe who were chased by an English agency, the “Order of the Clock Tower”, and came to Japan as a result. Their leader is a man with a powerful ability to control them. Finally, they likely have a very precise goal in mind for coming here. That’s the extent of Dazai’s discoveries; all of them have been reported, and one of the traps he’s set up has already gone off.
But his perfect plan is ruined by Akutagawa’s uncontrollable violence. As soon as one of their catches rebels, he kills them. Dazai, always one to make a joke, reveals a dark side to his personality in reaction to his subordinate’s mistake. He calls himself a “man forsaken by virtue” and shows he’s truly ready to murder Akutagawa if he ever makes such a grave mistake again. And supposedly, this is part of this whole flashback’s value: for us to learn how Dazai used to be, and how he came to be the kind of person who accompanies Atsushi.
In the interval, Oda has dragged his feet to Ango’s old office. He there finds records of an old trip to Europe. His first conclusion is that it is there and then that Ango agreed to become a double agent under Mimic. He sentimentally recalls the trio’s first meeting in this very office. An ideal past comes to mind; but it’s abruptly cut off by a return to reality. There is a mission waiting to be accomplished, as the deaf sound of the clock reminds Oda.
In fact, it’s time for him to act. Dazai’s investigation of the corpses has led him to Mimic’s hideout. A whole group of armed men are supposed to come along with him, but Oda decides to check the place out beforehand. As he expected, Ango is there. There he reveals his deduction: Ango is not a double spy working for Mimic, but in fact a double spy working for Port Mafia. Having found this out, the people of Mimic decided to put him to death, and have in fact posed bombs across the building. Their only salvation is Oda’s special ability, thanks to which they manage to escape.
Barely safe outside, Ango reveals the name of the fearsome man lurking behind Mimic, controlling it behind the scenes: André Gide. He even advises Oda not to fight him. It seems all of Mimic’s members are people haunted by the war, Gide being one of them. But the discussion is interrupted by a mysterious ball… which Oda picks up, only for his ability to reveal him that it’s poisoned. This was clearly intended for him, as his ability can’t help him avoid death if he’s already been touched by his murderer. The ending is mysterious: Ango leaves safely, telling Oda he’s only told him the truth regarding Mimic, and expressing some regrets. He’s accompanied by some soldiers whom one would assume are from Mimic if not for their uniform. Just who are they? At any rate, this leaves us with one assumption: Ango just murdered Oda, and the scenario they just went through was all a trap to that very purpose. Just how much truth is there to Oda’s conclusion about Ango’s double spy activities?
And it is alone that Oda reveals himself to be the victim of this story, or at least the first of them.
Though this latest episode, much like the rest of Bungou, is engrossing enough, the length of this flashback raises questions. It has evidently extended beyond Dazai’s evolution; but how will Ango and Oda’s stories affect our perception of the whole story? How much of what we’re seeing will prove to be relevant? The show has just revealed a bunch of new things and will need to pursue all of them until they connect to the main story. If not, the time, not matter how enjoyable, will have been wasted.
Furthermore, the appearance of Gide brings us back to one of this series’ central problems: the literary element. Once again, Bungou Stray Dogs appears to take a few elements from the authors it tries to represent, but imports them into a completely unrelated context. What is Gide doing here? What does he have to do with the likes of Dazai and Akutagawa? They did coincide, but were certainly not directly related, or even opposed in terms of the literature they produced.
These elements are easy to forget about if one simply wants to immerse themselves in a fun story. The sentimental recollections as bright splashes of color on a dark painting, the mystery surrounding just about everyone and their background… Bungou can certainly set up an entertaining experience. But the constant addition of new authors who only feel more and more out of context unfortunately brings us back to one truth: as a “literary” anime, Bungou Stray Dogs is a failure. This doesn’t necessarily make it a worthless series, but we can’t help but feel it’d have been better off without this purposeless aspect.
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