Bungou Stray Dogs has many twists and revelations in its latest entry. That also means a lack of one great overwhelming clash as we may have anticipated, but there’s plenty of excitement nonetheless.
Steinbeck and Lovecraft are here to capture Haruno and Naomi. Though they’ve ran away, the little blond man’s Grapes of Wrath allow him to use the flora as an extension of his body: he thus locates and captures the girls. Though he doesn’t mean to kill them, he nearly crushes their car, only kicked from his pedestal by Tanizaki and Kunikida. However, Lovecraft easily dominates them – he’s immune to bullets, and unleashes monstrous tentacles.
This allows Steinbeck to capture the girls again, and talks down on the Agency as a moralistic bunch incapable of doing the horrid for their cause. But he’s underestimated what brotherly love can do – Tanizaki hides everyone from the view of a truck which beautifully crashes into Steinbeck and Lovecraft, allowing everyone to run away. After a moment of false tension, Naomi and Haruno both jump on a train.
Though the fight was entertaining and allowed us to see two new abilities in action, there was little novelty. Everyone comes out fine, with the two Guild members merely captured by the police. Steinbeck’s sob story is meaningless given how little development he’s had, and the Tanizaki siblings’ powerful link has been known since forever, making the debate on the Agency’s morality a rather meaningless one. There is definitely a subject to explore here, but this scene barely scratched the surface. In the end, this scene was mostly introductory, handing us needed information so we can smoothly jump into far more important battles later on.
The second part, however, proves more interesting due to the scale of its revelations… and the air time it gives to the ever-amazing Dazai. As they wait for Naomi and Haruno’s train to come, he leaves Atsushi alone, already aware they’ve been tailed – Higuchi and Gin are here to receive him. They have a proposal to come back from Mori himself, but that’s a mere trick: they know he’ll turn them down. The whole purpose of this is to buy time for Q to work his magic on Atsushi.
Dazai shivers upon hearing the dreaded name. And here we have an important revelation. Q is the being with the most dreadful abilities of all: mind control. Dazai calls him a “curse” that can bring even friends down… which is why he had sealed him away when a Mafia executive.
He speeds back to Atsushi as soon as he understands the plan. He snaps out of it upon hearing Dazai’s voice, raising the question: can mind control be so easily broke? but
He remains haunted, but by something much different in nature: his insecurities. Once again he was tricked, made to see a world where Haruno and Naomi were in fact those who were possessed – given a little more time, he’d have strangled Naomi. But Dazai won’t hear any self-pity, teaching him that such behavior is the beginning of a lifelong nightmare.
A lot of the excitement of revelations such as Q comes from the question: as all these links between Dazai and the Mafia are unveiled, how long will he be able to hide? When will something appear that he won’t able to hide from the Agency? When will he be found out? There’s a constant tension, backed up by Dazai’s sheer charisma, that keeps one on the edge of their seat.
He even makes Kouyou remain quiet at the Agency in exchange of saving Kyouka. She suffers a strange change of mind: telling Atsushi that Kyouka has been cursed by her ability and that she won’t be able to see the light of day until she can say her power farewell, she puts her in his care, despite previously being intent on going back to a world of darkness with her.
Meanwhile, Dazai is busying himself negotiating with… Ango Sakaguchi. Once again, he plays a dangerous game: yes, his connections could prove game-changing, but their scale necessarily puts some elements outside of his control.
Ango is a mere government agent this time, and unfortunately some diplomats’ favors to the Guild have put them above the law, making him of little use. Dazai seems strikingly indifferent: surely he has another plan. Yet we don’t get to hear about it – while the car is stopped, and Ango appears completely oblivious, another vehicle speeds right into them.
This brutal accident offers a transition onto Fitzgerald’s visit to Atsushi. The boy tries to fight, but the very man who put a seven billion price on his head is far too strong. He’s on the cusp of being taken away… when Kyouka appears, determined to put an end to this.
And so another Bungou episode ends on the promise of a thrilling battle.
After this episode one may doubt this will be the case. The big head-to-head with the Guild was fairly underwhelming in its inconsequence. The second part made up for that: Q is so scary he could even overturn the Guild’s power. The return of Ango was also a much-anticipated element, and though the accident puts his importance in the air, we can expect him to bring about a few important developments. Kyouka returns, determined to work for a good cause, but tragically tied to her terrible power. We see many close-ups, but what about the greater picture? Why is Atsushi worth so much? Just what role will Dazai’s past play? The way Bungou implicitly asks these questions as it reveals many details gives the story much of its thrill: it progresses, but still keeps its element of mystery all the while. And surely this is enough to maintain our excitement for the episodes to come, in spite of some weaker aspects and moments.
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