When a show that, admittedly, had a lot of flaws and was pushed to the sidelines gets a second season, there is always a feeling of caution towards it. What some would consider a waste of time for the last season, dedicating your time to another thirteen episodes can be quite the commitment. Well let me tell you, it is one of the best decisions you can make. Throwing aside the flat comedy and going ham with the action, drama and animation has re-sparked the light in Bungo Stray Dogs.
Bungo Stray Dogs 2nd Season
A FRESH DARK TONE WITH STRONGER EXECUTION THAN THE FIRST SEASON
12 Episodes | Supernatural, Action | Animated by Bones | Dir: Igarashi, Takuya
First of all, given that in Spring 2016 my time management was poor (nothing has changed…) and was unable to publish a review on the first season, it would be useful to talk about that before delving into the second one. For the sake of this article, there will be spoilers of the first season in the next two paragraphs.
[There will be no major spoilers for Season 2]
Speed Review of Bungo Stray Dogs Season One
One of the biggest criticisms that the first season received was its tendency to retract from its initial genre and themes. With a firm hold on the show’s drive to tell this dark story with interestingly gifted characters, this is what most of the audience wanted – but did not always receive. Similar to Drifters of Fall 2016, the whole show enveloped itself in a crazy, sadistic and brutal world where it felt like everyone but the writers wanted to revel in it. This clear divide in mentality often resulted in poor attempts at comedy, lacklustre character building and underwhelming action sequences.
I personally enjoyed the first season but knew for a fact that it was not a very strong show from a critical standpoint. The characters and glimses of exciting action sequences are what salvaged the show for me. I don’t think I ever laughed once during the fist season but that should have never been the aim in the first place. If the first season had stuck to its guns and presented a gritty turf war story that was set up in the first few episodes then it would have been great. (Being sure to keep in enough yaoi bait for all of the shippers out there. There’s a lot of them for this show)
So that was kind of my no-stops review on the first season; I enjoyed the show but there was a lot of untapped potential. With that verdict, when I heard that the show would be getting a sequel, I was ecstatic.
As many shows of the genre do, the beginning of this new season actually travelled back in time to a period that hadn’t been explored previously. The first few episodes of this season took the audience back to when Dazai was a member of the Port Mafia – before defecting to the position we see in Season One. Inherently, with this drastic shift in setting (and by proxy, the tone of the show) gave a concrete solution to the previous season’s complaints. Immediately, the viewer is treated to a more serious, dark and meaningful structure to this show that was so desperately needed. Presenting one of the most mysterious and two-faced characters as the protagonist means that it is impossible for the story to retract from its core narrative tone which does wonders for the first few episodes of this show.
In addition to this shift, the writing has picked up and improved dramatically since the previous season. The pacing of the show had noticeably picked up and accomplished an incredible amount of character development and exposition without becoming too dialogue heavy. The writing is concise and to the point, no longer is the viewer bored to tears with never ending conversations that seem to provide nothing to the overall plot.
“My throat hurts and I am unable to breathe. I hear someone’s cries in the distance. I realised, because my throat hurt so much, that I am the one who was screaming.”
Introduction of the Third Clan
I cannot give enough praise to this development in the story. The first season developed a narrative around two clans in a turf war to such a great extent that the majority of the viewers couldn’t even tell who were the good/bad guys. By setting up this multitude of characters in such a way that viewers can relate to both sides, introducing a third clan that they both hate is such a genius move. Now, not only is the amount of characters increased significantly without affecting the quality of development, we as an audience are now treated to an excellent dynamic between the characters we already know.
This narrative arc could have become very predictable with the classic “arch enemies team up” concept and made the majority of the season feel cookie-cutter and disappointing, thankfully that wasn’t the case. With such eccentric and powerful characters on every side of this war, not everything goes to plan and can be predicted ahead of time. Some characters will go off on their own for a while, some join sides that you would never expect and the whole season had me on edge as to what was going to happen next.
Some of the most emotional and hard-hitting sequences
If you thought that the first season was somewhat emotional, you haven’t seen anything yet. This show may be the first action/shounen to make me cry, and not just a single tear as something upsetting occurs, I mean really cry. The writers of Bungo Stray Dogs do such a fantastic job of developing these characters and putting them into life-threatening situations that, as a spectator, the fight sequences are incredibly intense. Before this show I had (what I consider now) a very ignorant viewpoint on this genre and fight scenes in general. Now that I have experienced what it’s like to watch a character you truly love be in a life-or-death battle with another character you love, I can actually understand the hype around this genre. Sadly, the only reason this works is because not everyone will survive in the end. There is this constant threat of danger at every turn, hell, the opening alone messes with the viewer displaying images of characters bleeding out.
Fight sequences aren’t everything though, Bungo Stray Dogs’ attention to detail, allowance of slower pacing and expository sections is what I truly think makes this show so effective. I know I’m repeating myself here but the characters really are the reason to watch this show. Sure, the animation is excellent, the visual direction is on point and overall, the production quality is quite incredible. But without such fully fleshed out characters exploring every possible dynamic and even playing around with time just to achieve some of these awe inspiring pairings, this show would fall flat like so many of its genre. That is why this show has received such positive reviews across the board, people stayed in the first season for the colourful cast and the second season provides that and more. Delving into dark backstories into incredible detail, not shying away from stationary camera positions and really taking the time to ensure that the viewer really understands the motivations and actions of each and every main character. All of these aspects of an effective narrative are what I believe to truly push this show over the mark.
I’m just lowkey gay for Dazai and that’s all that really matters. This series is great and you should all watch it. If there isn’t a third season already on the way after the incredible ending to this season, I’m going to be very upset.