(Disclaimer: There may be spoilers in this review)
Bungo Stray Dogs is an exhilarating and action packed science fiction anime series that is based on the original manga series written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa. The first complete volume of the manga was published early April 2013 in Japan, the manga series consists of twelve volumes in Japanese language and only four of those volumes have been officially translated into English language. The anime adaptation consists of a total of twenty four episodes split up into two parts of twelve episodes each, the first part aired from early April 2016 to late June 2016 and the second part aired from early October 2016 to late December 2016. The anime series was produced by Studio Bones and was licensed to North America by Crunchy Roll. The entire series is available for viewing on Crunchy Roll's official website or from their app with a free trial or a paid subscription.
The anime takes place in fictional Yokohama, Japan where a small detective agency made up of supernaturally gifted misfits and a large scale supernaturally gifted mafia are at war with one another. A kind hearted yet determined orphan named Atsushi finds himself wandering the streets of Yokohama days after being kicked out of an orphanage for his ability to turn into a white tiger. Unaware of his ability to turn into a tiger he runs from place to place believing that a fierce white tiger is hunting him. His entire world changes after he crosses paths with a suicidal member of the Armed Detective Agency named Osamu Dazai who happens to be in search of the white tiger. Dazai tricks Atsushi into joining him on the agency’s search for the tiger only to reveal that Atsushi is actually supernaturally gifted with the ability to turn into a tiger in the moonlight. Not wanting to abandon Atsushi the agency decides to take him in and help him learn how to harness his ability but with a huge bounty for his capture this deepens the battle for power between the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia who is highly interested in collecting the bounty on the tiger. Soon after Atsushi joins the Armed Detective Agency he is sent out on his first case with agency members Junichiro Tanizaki and Naomi only to find that it was a trap set up by the Port Mafia in an attempt to capture him. With Junichiro and Naomi severely injured he engages in battle and soon is confronted by the Port Mafia’s most deadly member Ryunosuke Akutagawa.
As the series continues a personal rivalry grows between Atsushi and Akutagawa and a young and deadly assassin girl who Atsushi saved becomes his reason for fighting back against the Port Mafia. As the Port Mafia attempts to take back the young assassin Kyoka and capture Atsushi the battle between the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia continues to heat up but soon an even greater threat to both organizations will rise up to destroy the only home they have known. A powerful and well renowned organization of foreign supernaturally gifted elites has threatened to destroy Yokohama in search of something and they believe that Atsushi is the key to finding it. Now with the growing rivalry between himself and Akutagawa and an organization of powerful gift users known as the Guild after him, Atsushi must do all that he can to defend himself and his friends. The very fate of Yokohama will depend on the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia but if their rivalry continues and they are unable to work together it could be the end of their home. In the second half of the series you will see how the battle between the Armed Detective Agency, the Port Mafia, and the Guild will unfold and you will see glimpses into a dark past leading up to the greatest battle for the fate of Yokohama.
The series is full of many memorable character who each play their own unique role in the plot but some with much greater roles than others. The first character the anime introduces is Atsushi, a kind and determined young man who’s gift is turning into a powerful white tiger. While atsushi’s gift doesn’t seem like much the tiger actually gives his body the ability to easily heal from even the most severe wounds and it also gives him great speed, agility, and strength. The next Character introduced is Osamu Dazai, an odd and suicidal man with a mysterious past who is part of the Armed Detective Agency. Dazai’s gift is called “No Longer Human” and it gives him the ability to temporarily nullify any other gifts with no limitation. Other members of the Armed Detective Agency are Doppo Kunikida who can replicate objects, Junichiro Tanizaki who can project things within the field of electric snow he creates, Ranpo Edogawa who is a skilled detective and non-gift user, Kenji Miyazawa who can use super strength, Akiko Yosano who can heal people who are half dead including herself, the president Yukichi Fukuzawa who has the ability to suppress other gifts, and Naomi who is a non-gifted member. The most dangerous of the Armed Detective Agency’s immediate enemies is Ryunosuke Akutagawa of the Port Mafia. Akutagawa’s ability is Rashomon, a powerful demon that can devour even space. Other members of the Port Mafia include Chuya Nakahara who can manipulate gravity, Ichiyo Higuchi who is a non-gift user and powerful gunner, Motojiro Kaji who is invincible against lemon shaped bombs, Ryuurou Hirotsu who can send objects flying, Ogai Mori who is leader of the Port Mafia and commands a young girl named Elise, and Kouyou Yumeno who commands a demon that slashes enemies. There is also Kyoka Izumi a young girl who can summon a snowy demon that slashes enemies, she was originally part of the Port Mafia but after meeting Atsushi she joins the Armed Detective Agency. In the later half of the series many more characters make their appearances such as those from the Guild. There is no shortage of unique and memorable characters in the series, there is bound to be at least a few characters that the viewer enjoys.
The graphics in the anime are absolutely beautiful featuring a great balance between detail and simplicity which many other anime series’ lack. The graphics are vibrantly colored and eye catching down to some of the smallest details such as those in the backgrounds. The backgrounds are some of the most beautiful that I have seen in any anime especially the background of the city lit up at night in the distance. The Character designs are a well balanced mix between cliches and unique outside of the box designs. The animations are smooth without any awkward pauses or slowing, the animations keep up with the fast paced speed of battles as necessary. The openings and endings to the series are also very well done, the graphics and animations were well selected and the opening and ending themes are all a great fit to the anime. The opening themes “Trash Candy” and “Reason Living” are both great songs that really bring out the emotions and themes of the anime, the ending themes "Namae o Yobu yo" and "Kaze ga Fuku Machi" are also great songs. The soundtrack was enjoyable overall and fit into the series very well, the songs feature a good range of emotion from happy and whimsical to sad and serious. The anime is strong when it comes to its graphics, animations, and soundtrack.
Bungo Stray Dogs is one of the most epic and action packed animes of 2016 with its huge cast of unique and supernaturally gifted characters. This anime takes you outside of the many existing plot cliches and immerses you in its beautiful and vibrant world full of tragedy, sorrow, hope, and determination. The anime goes beyond the bare basics and is full of deeper meaning, each character’s dark and tragic past is revealed to tie into the story and the current battle taking place within. If you enjoy anime series that are full of a range of emotions and packed with tragedy and action I highly recommend Bungo Stray Dogs, You will be laughing at the funny antics of the Armed Detective Agency one moment then immersed in serious and emotional action packed battles the next moment.
PROS (+): Vibrant Graphics, Powerful Plot, Memorable Cast of Characters, Great Opening and Ending Themes
CONS (-): Would Like Other Characters in the Armed Detective Agency to use their abilities more