(Warning, the following article contains spoilers for Bungo Stray Dogs 2. Read at your own responsibility)
Why did this have to end? No seriously, why did this have to end? The four episode prequel arc that Bungo Stray Dogs starts with fixed literally every issue I had with the first season. Let’s begin with the biggest issue I had with Bungo Stray Dogs that this arc fixed. This time around there is actually a coherent story. The first season of Bungo was basically just a jumbled mess of episodes that you could probably piece a story together from if you cherry pick the plot relevant scenes and episodes. Here we get a tale that has a beginning, middle, and end, and follows a narrative path.
This arc takes place during Dazai’s time as a high ranking member of the Port Mafia, however in an interesting turn, Dazai is not the main character of this tale. Hell, he isn’t even the protagonist of it. This is because this prequel arc is not Dazai’s story. Oh to be sure, Dazai is in this story as a major support character, but through and through this is the tale of a man named Oda Sakunosuke, or Odasaku for short. Oda is actually one of the lowest ranking members of the Port Mafia, but don’t let his position in the organization fool you.
When it comes to combat prowess, he is actually the group’s most lethal member. The entire reason he is in his current place in the Port Mafia is because he actually refuses to kill anyone anymore. He wants to one day leave behind his life of crime and become a writer, being inspired by a mysterious man he met in the past who told him that writers write about a person’s life, how they lived and how they died, and in Oda’s mind, he thinks those who kill are not fit to write about life.
There’s two other key details to Oda as a person. The first is that he is actually Dazai’s friend, and in turn Dazai is probably the only real friend Oda has in the world. The second is that Oda cares for a group of five orphans who help show the softer side of this former hardened killer. Oda and Dazai have another friend named Ango Sakaguchi who is a member of the Port Mafia as well that they often share drinks with at the small hidden bar Lupin, named after the famous literary thief.
One day Ango goes missing and the leader of the Port Mafia, Ougai Mori, tasks Oda to find him. Things are bigger and more complex than they seem though, as eventually Oda’s investigation gets him and the rest of the Port Mafia involved with another criminal organization called Mimic whose leader, Andre Gide, has the same ability as Oda. Speaking of Oda’s ability, it’s called Flawless and allows both Oda and Gide to predict between 5 to 6 seconds into the future, particularly when dangerous things are about to happen. On paper this seems rather basic and kind of lame, especially in a series where you have people whose powers are becoming a weretiger or an all-masticating shadow creature.
However, this power proves, as many sayings tend to begin, that it’s the simple things in life. It is an extremely straight forward power, but in the hands of Gide and Oda, it curbstomps all of the other powers in the series to date, simply because it allows them to counter all of them. This is proven when Gide absolutely murks Akutagawa, the owner of the previously mentioned om-nom power who could effortlessly kick the ass of nearly all of the good guys in the first season.
The story in this arc takes many twists and turns, some rather obvious and others that are genuine surprises, with it all leading up to a climatic episode that is easily amongst the year’s best singular episodes. All the while, the show manages to keep a consistent tone, which is the second big issue I had with the first season that this arc fixed. It is no secret that one of the biggest complaints many people had with the first season of Bungo Stray Dogs was its inconsistent tone, switching back and forth between comedic and serious moments so fast at times that you could get whiplash from it. This arc, though it has a few lighter moments early on, is basically serious throughout. Even its lighter moments tend to be still grounded in a serious tone.
Interestingly enough, it is possible that this arc reveals the cause of one of the more distasteful recurring “jokes” of the first season, and that is Dazai trying to commit suicide over and over. At first I simply thought of it as a poorly handled reference to the fact that the real life Osamu Dazai had multiple suicide attempts before eventually succeeding, and in fact Dazai even makes some of those so called jokes in this prequel arc, but they are fewer in number and not as frequent as in the first season. There is something that happened to the real life Dazai that initiated his suicide attempts that this arc recreates, though in a more symbolic and artistic way and with a few of the players involved changed up.
The last major issue I had with the first season that this arc fixed was the main character. There’s just something about Atsushi that I just don’t really like. Suffice to say a big part of how I managed to enjoy the first season was because the show surrounded him with several compelling side characters. This is not a problem this time around, because Oda is a character I bought into completely from the first episode and didn’t want to see his tale end by the time the fourth episode rolled around. I would much rather have a show about Oda over Atsushi any day of the week.
Now should you watch the entirety of Bungo Stray Dogs 2? Well that’s something that remains to be seen. Hopefully the rest of this season can maintain the quality of this prequel arc, but at the same time it is also extremely likely that the rest of this season returns to the status quo of the first season, being a flawed yet still enjoyable experience. Only this time with an edge of disappointment to it after seeing the potential that this series could have. What I can say without a shadow of a doubt, though, is that the first four episodes of Bungo Stray Dogs 2 (episodes 13 through 16 on Crunchyroll), is by far more than worth watching. At only four episodes in length, it’s basically only as long as a movie, so if you have about two hours to kill, you should give this a watch. You won’t regret it.
Bungo Stray Dogs 2 can be watched on the Crunchyroll streaming service. The Bungo Stray Dogs 2 prequel arc is based on the tie-in light novel Osamu Dazai and the Dark Era written by the writer of the manga series Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by the artist of the manga series Sango Harukawa.