Characters and superpowers inspired by famous authors and their literary masterpieces are unique concepts, at least to me. I know of abilities and characters named after states in the USA, food, mythology and even celebrities, but literature-inspired ones are few and far between.
Enter Bungou Stray Dogs, a bookworm and literature fanatic's wet dream. Be prepared to see names such as Edogawa Rampo, Mark Twain, Kunikida Doppo and Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few. Bonus points if you can guess the abilities of the characters inspired by said authors.
Bungou Stray Dogs revolves around 18 year-old Nakajima Atsushi joining the Armed Detective Agency and solving various crimes that occur in the city while fending off the Port Mafia and later on, The Guild. The latter two organisations are secret societies with unknown agendas, at least in the first season.
The first season follows an episodic format, mainly serving to introduce either a new member of the Armed Detective Agency or the key players in the Port Mafia in each episode, although there is an overarching plot revolving around Atsushi. It's great for people who don't have the time for a plot-driven anime or those who have the perennial problem of watching too much anime every season.
I appreciated the humour in Bungou Stray Dogs, although some viewers found it jarring. It kept the tone from becoming grim, considering the Armed Detective Agency deals with cases that are too extreme for the Military Police to solve. Some might argue that several comedic moments are abruptly inserted but I welcome the change of tone nonetheless, considering how the start of the currently airing second season plays out.
The anime's art and animation quality is top notch. Fights are fluid and I constantly looked forward to characters activating their abilities, especially Akutagawa Ryuunosuke's Rashomon, a black, serpent-like beast that is formed from the fabric of his clothes. The abilities that other characters displayed weren't half as flashy but they were creative and powerful nonetheless. Some of these include nullifying anyone's ability as long as there was physical contact, super-strength on an empty stomach and the creation of illusions.
I particularly enjoyed the exaggerated expressions of the characters through the course of the season. Even the diligent and stern Kunikida Doppo isn't immune to the series' 'funny face' syndrome. The art style shifts to a chibi and 4-koma-esque one when the characters are kidding around or just happen to be stuck in hilarious situations. The contrast is obvious in the image just above this paragraph.
Who could've guessed that an anime inspired by literature would turn out to be such an action-packed one? I certainly didn't and fortunately, I finished watching the first season a week before the second season aired.
My only gripe with Bungou Stray Dogs' first season would be the constant flashbacks of Atsushi being thrown out of the orphanage. The time wasted could have been used to develop the characters or to lengthen the fight scenes instead.
Written by ET