A Love Letter to 2016, part 5: the axis on which Bungo Stray Dogs turns

For most of its first cour—and even some of its second—Bungo Stray Dogs was a show that I found myself reconsidering every single week. Despite a strong visual style courtesy of esteemed director Igarashi Takuya, there were issues with the main character and plot that I found a little annoying. Despite the manga running in Young Ace, which is a seinen magazine, it often felt like a typical shōnen story to me, with episodic battles and whatnot.1 And to be honest, many of the characters felt like stock characters that we’ve seen in countless other stories already.

It’s in a certain side character that I found something more interesting to pay attention to. Although I found the drawn-out joke about his suicidal tendencies somewhat distasteful (even though it’s based on the real author that was his namesake), the darkness behind Dazai was something that I really hope the show would explore, and boy, did the show deliver!

dazai-1

Admittedly, this is also the choice I feel most guilty about. Why? Because Dazai is an absolute jerk. I’d have to agree with Chuuya there, he’s the last person I’d want to work with, because of the psychological games that he likes to play. Dazai isn’t one of the most feared individuals in the world of Bungo Stray Dogs because of his special ability of “No Longer Human,” nor because of his physical strength. What he holds over others is the way he is able to manipulate them to accomplish his goals, which he is frighteningly good at. But it’s precisely because of this that you want to see Dazai use this ability for good, right?

And thus, I write this fifth love letter in the hope of seeing more Dazai somewhere down the track!


  1. I suspect that others might disagree with me here, because a protagonist with self-loathing and self-belief issues like Atsushi is, I suspect, relatively unheard of in shōnen manga, which is typically about individuals with a lot of self-belief. That is to say, they’re individuals who work hard by themselves and with friends, and thus overcome massive odds in order to accomplish what they set out to do. Atsushi first has to find his reason for living, and that’s definitely a more complex idea to tackle. I’m not entirely sure they sold it all that successfully, however. 

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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