the bungo stray dogs series is not in any way the most genius writing nor the most original plot, but there’s a charm about it that kept me following the series from episode one until its latest movie. i will admit that even though most of the character designs are simple, have the most common archetypes, and some of the most annoying quirks, i have claimed one character in particular as my husbando, so please forgive me in my overwhelming bias towards him.
the movie continued the story in atsushi’s growth and developed a few of the other characters a bit more. there was some background given for particular characters, but i felt that most of the movie was thrown together, and some things were a little too convenient. i think that in a lot of ways it suffered from a grand idea without enough foundation or context. with all this in mind, the movie was still very fun and enjoyable. if you take the story at face value and try not to read too much into some of the plot flaws, there was the right amount of action, gags, and heart-string tugs. i enjoyed the series for it’s simple and clever quips and the character interaction, and if you did, too, than the movie should be quite enjoyable.
if you have not watched the series, i do not recommend watching this movie as it definitely relies heavily on previous plot points. in fact, without proper context, a lot of the characters and their relationships will be very annoying.
of course how could i pass up an opportunity to watch one of my favorite male characters be ridiculously perfect and always get everything right again? the story begins with a flashback of an incident 6 years ago between the port mafia and a certain overpowered ability user and his organization. we see more of a development of dazai’s relationship with chuuya, and although its a very short glimpse, we even get to see odasaku one more time. we finally get some insight into the team double black, why they are considered the most notorious pair in the port mafia, and witness first hand how they wiped out an entire organization in a single night. i would be lying if i said i didn’t giggle a bit to see dazai in his former and slightly evil self.
now this movie adds even more to our inner conflict because although the port mafia is constantly painted through the series as the “bad guys,” they seem as though they consistently work with the government to stop tragedies in the city. here we see that chuuya and dazai are actually the heroes because they are saving gifted people from a serious threat.
as we flash forward, we get another glimpse at odasaku’s plea for dazai to be on the side that saves (which makes me tear up almost every time) and then we find dazai visiting the grave of the same dear friend he lost all those years ago. at this point, we enter the story at hand and why the flashback was relevant. when atsushi requests dazai to come to the meeting explaining the newest case, dazai passes and walks away, claiming a new attempt for suicide.
they introduce the big problem, which is that internationally, a sudden fog appears and after it dissipates, an ability user will be found dead from their own ability. it is considered a mass string of suicides, and of course everyone is concerned as the user is apparently now in japan. finally we return to dazai who has been confronted by ango, accusing him of bringing the fog user into yokohama. we have a moment wondering if dazai turned rogue, which personally i think is a dumb attempt on the writer’s part, as dazai turned to the side of “good” for the sake of his dear friend odasaku. i knew right away that of course dazai had a grand scheme, so it took away from this attempted plot twist.
as the story progresses, the fog happens that night and it is revealed that what really happens is that is separates the ability from the user and the ability has turned against them. it is made very clear that in almost all cases, an ordinary person would lose to their ability. kyouka should definitely have lost to demon snow – the ability is purely a killing device, so the idea that a mere person would be able to defeat it was a crummy convenience. this series suffers greatly from not killing off any characters, and i think that the integrity of the story suffers greatly from this. the agency members all survive and win against their respective abilities, but without a single tragedy, it takes away from truly clever writing. it’s makes all the situations lack any sense of suspense and thrill – we all know they will always win.
atsushi and kyouka eventually meet up with akutagawa, and the three of them (after dramatics from atsushi) end up teaming up to go fight the “big boss.” of course, akutagawa and kyouka are able to defeat their own abilities and accept them back as a part of themselves, but atsushi, being the self-pitying and cowardly character he was written as, spends so much time having flashbacks and doubting himself. i think the fact that they added the importance of accepting your ability was a good device for the plot, but i was frustrated with atsushi’s never ending ability to wallow in his own misfortunes.
we get to return to dazai again (looking oh-so marvelous in the white suit, i might add) and see he has teamed up with the fog user and the villain revealed briefly at the end of the second season – shibusawa and fyodor, respectively. they discuss how the three have basically caused all this chaos for pure amusement and all are expecting a betrayal from each other at any moment. we are led into a beautifully decorated room, displaying countless crystals, identified as the abilities of users who lost in the fog. dazai and fyodor then combine all the crystals together using dazai’s ability, and all the crystals in the room fuse together into a giant orb.
at this point fyodor and shibusawa betray dazai stabbing him with a poisonous knife and then turning the orb into a dragon. they blurt out some symbolic speech that is meant to explain why it is a dragon, but at this point all of the details with crystallized abilities, the combining of them, and the transformation of them into a giant sentient being is just too convoluted and pedantic to be considered clever or genius in any way. it’s really just writing something that looks cool, but has no real substance. i’m not going to lie though, this part was very cool and if you look past the lack of real explanation and understanding – the dragon is so bad-ass. shibusawa is revealed to be dead, but it’s not really explained whether he is a ghost or some un-dead being, and fyodor somehow uses his skull to turn him into some sort of demon. again, convoluted and pedantic.
ango has called chuuya, the only person known to have defeated the shibusawa, and requests that he save the city. chuuya yells at ango about how it is the government’s fault that this has all come to pass for turning a blind eye this whole time to shibusawa. this whole dialogue is honestly so overdone and doesn’t make any sense as ango was a part of the port mafia when the original incident took place. it is even revealed later that ango was against the fog user’s abilities to begin with, but again – he was with the port mafia originally so this whole narrative doesn’t make sense.
taking a break from this, we are taken to atsushi who is still busy wallowing in his inner conflict. we learn that he has a history with shibusawa, and that it was shibusawa who drew out atsushi’s ability causing atsushi to kill him. it’s a long drawn out dialogue between the two, and finally atsushi gets his composure together, accepts the tiger as part of himself, and joins akutagawa and kyouka.
chuuya goes to destroy the dragon using corruption, which, with dazai dead, we know chuuya will certainly die from it. he succeeds in destroying the dragon, and angrily calls to dazai, looking for his dead body inside the slowly disintegrating being. how dazai’s body has remained in tact this whole time is beyond me. chuuya punches dazai in the face, and then we see that the pill dazai took with him earlier in the movie opens from the punch and he wakes up. the pill is an antidote from the poison, and while i take so many issues with this, i was too distracted by this emotional reunion to mull it over for long. it was a very emotional scene, and my inner fujoshi did squeal a little bit at the interaction between them.
now dazai states that everything he predicted would happen, and now it’s just up to “them.” finally we get to the fight scene featuring atsushi, akutagawa, and kyouka against shibusawa. the fight is a lot more simplistic than i had hoped for. i really thought there would be more combo moves with atsushi and akutagawa like in the fight against fitzgerald but in the end we just got atsushi fighting shibusawa inside a giant cloth ball created by akutagawa. this was lame, but whatever. after a long drawn out battle, shibusawa draws out atsushi’s crystal, and atsushi exclaims that the crystal isn’t his ability, it’s him – finally cementing the idea that a user and their ability are one entity as opposed to a separate part of their being.
atsushi wins, (surprise!) and peace is achieved. dazai tells him that he saved the city (though i don’t know how the city was saved exactly when it was completely destroyed by the battles between users and their abilities, the giant dragon, chuuya fighting the dragon, and the random damage from non-gifted people disappearing out of thin air.) the rest of the agency appears and (surprise!) none of them died. still a crappy plot point, but it’s fine. we get to see how mori and the port mafia contributed, and how mori regrets losing dazai, as he was clearly the mastermind behind the entire operation.
thus the movie ends with another impossible enemy defeated with no real losses suffered from anyone. a true mary sue of a story. as much as my bias pains me to say this, the movie would have been much better if dazai and chuuya had not survived or we had lost some of the members of the agency. i appreciate that since this movie was an insert as opposed to actually canon, they couldn’t get rid of anyone, but it’s still irritating. there were no real consequences and it didn’t really add anything to the plot line so season three could start without any reference to it happening at all.
as much critique as i gave, i will say once more that i really enjoyed the movie, and i would definitely watch it again! dazai was as charming as usual, and the story and action scenes were fun. i’m very excited to continue watching this story. i’m sure this was way more detailed than it needed to be, but i didn’t feel i could explain all of my thoughts without fleshing them out entirely.
tl;dr: something doesn’t have to be good for you to like it – and even though this series suffers greatly from amateur writing, i love it all the same. i can’t wait for season three – though i think i would be happy to just watch an entire history on dazai because he’s obviously the best character.