Bungou Stray Dogs’ latest two episodes close the flashback in dramatic manner: new players are introduced, helping not only conclude this arc but also set up future stories.
We start with the revelation that Oda didn’t die from the poisoning; he’s seen waking up after a few days in the hospital.
Unfortunately, he failed to gain much information, except that their leader Gide is dangerous, and that a third party is involved. According to Dazai they shouldn’t be prioritized, especially as Akutagawa and other underlings were just hit by a surprise attack from Mimic. Surprisingly, Oda rushes to the warzone; not to kill obviously, but rather to help a friend’s subordinate.
And he was right to do so, as he finds Akutagawa severely hurt by none other than Gide. The latter is ecstatic to meet Oda in whom he sees the one person who can grant him his greatest wish: death.
In fact, he and his comrades were reduced to mere ghosts after they became the fall guys in a sordid affair which saw them be deemed war criminals and denied everything they held dear in the process. They were chased away, and this is what led them to Japan. The reason why Gide fights is that he hopes to meet the gentle soul who will release him from this hell. But Oda, though powerful enough, isn’t that person right now: he firmly intends to live on, for Natsume Souseki told him to write the end of his incomplete novel. His dream is to quit the mafia and become a novelist. He used to be a professional murderer, but this old man (who probably knew about his situation) made him change his ways. This is the fundamental difference between the two; and yet even then, an eerie similarity appears, foreshadowing the story’s macabre conclusion. In fact, they both possess the same ability. This is why Oda can survive, and possibly overcome Gide.
Yet now is not the time for this, and so Oda goes back to Dazai. The two of them go in search of Ango; or rather, they know just where to find him.
It’s in the usual bar that Dazai reveals the truth: Ango is actually a triple spy working for none other than the government. The exchange is generally underwhelming, however: Ango’s mentioning of the “individuality of the ability” is vague, and while we see it in effect when Oda and Gide’s abilities interact, it’s hard to define just how their abilities change. We can tell they do, but that’s about it. There’s also Dazai’s sentimental speech about losing all that’s dear to him, which sounds nice but holds little substance.
Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view), the fourth episode ends on a high (or low) when Oda pays the orphans a visit… only to find they’ve been brutally kidnapped. Though the car is still parked, this is but a trap: it explodes as soon as Oda tries to approach it. The loss of dear, young people makes him realize he can never write a novel. The ease with which he throws all his ideals away is frankly unsettling; it’s as if Gide, through this brutal act, had made him realize how right he was. The tragedy is obviously traumatic, but seeing him embrace death so automatically is strange knowing he’d kept these convictions for years before that.
Dazai, meanwhile, through all his suicide attempts, has always been looking for a reason to live. He’s always hoping something will appear to save him. But here is Oda, going back to murders, with the final intent of dying himself.
Dazai, knowing this, tries to gather forces and save Oda: but Ogai won’t quite allow it, for it would ruin his plan. In fact, he set up this whole situation for the purpose of acquiring a black envelope which indicates the government’s graceful overlooking of his Mafia’s illegal dealings. He made Mimic come here, told them about the orphans, all to use Oda to rid him of Mimic, in exchange of which the government would reward him with the envelope. It’s sordid, but it works: while Dazai forces his way to Oda, holding his friend too dear to just sit back, he arrives all too late.
Still, Oda has reserved his final words for him. He informs Dazai of the emptiness of life but ultimate superiority of being someone who helps people out over a mere murderer. And from here comes Dazai’s current endeavor: an old friend’s advice. It’s a tragic ending, but one that tells us all wee needed about Dazai.
And thus ends Bungou’s great flashback. It was definitely worth the while: however short the time may have been, Oda was an attaching character, and his lessons are clearly a huge influence on the Dazai we now know. Furthermore, Ango may still come back. Having said that, while the story was engaging enough, the general sentimentality backed up only by clichés such as “be a good person” can be largely off-putting; not enough to make the show downright terrible, but the profundity of the authors it tries to represent against what we actually see here isn’t necessarily pleasing. It’s a fun story to watch with a lot going for it if one isn’t looking for substance, but once again Bungou fails in that area.
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