Bungo Stray Dogs is a Literature Class in Manga Form

Bungo Stray Dogs is a Literature Class in Manga Form

When I think of an action-packed magic-filled anime series, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t…classic Japanese authors. The word ‘Bungo’ means ‘literary master’ in Japanese, but what about that screams epic fight scenes, animal transformations, and a supernatural detective agency? 

Bungo Stray Dogs has a strange name and an even stranger premise. Teenage characters named after legendary authors and poets is a unique enough idea, but giving them bizarre abilities made it easier to draw in curious readers. The series is simply masterful at juggling a handful of different genres, something which can usually spell disaster. 

The manga series has sold more than 6 million copies by 2018, and the American author Dan Brown even gave the series a shining review after a character resembling him appeared in the story. Now that’s a crossover no one expected. 

If you’re preparing to jump into the manga or anime series, consider this an informal primer to the strangeness of the Bungo Stray Dogs universe. You’re in for a treat. 

Beloved Historical Authors…with Supernatural Powers?

After being kicked out of an orphanage, Atsushi Nakajima is incredibly down on his luck. To make matters worse, he stumbles across a man attempting to commit suicide on the same day. The man is Osamu Dazai, and as the two get to know each other, Atsushi learns an interesting fact about himself–that he can transform into a white tiger in the moonlight. 

Osamu recruits Atsushi into the Armed Detective Agency, which deals with solving crimes too difficult or violent for your run-of-the-mill police to tackle. The other members of the agency also have special powers, ranging from powers of illusion to summoning phantoms. 

Early on, Atsushi becomes a target of the notorious Port Mafia, who seeks to capture the white tiger to bring in a massive bounty. The short-tempered and bloodthirsty Ryuunosuke Akutagawa is especially keen to capture him, tearing apart anyone in his way. 

Atsushi’s fate is in the hands of his new friends, and throughout the story, more familiar characters are introduced, such as the Fellowship of the Guild leader Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and the mysterious Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Imagine telling people that your favorite anime character is Mark Twain. (Yes, he’s present here too.)

As it turns out, certain members of the Armed Detective Agency are hiding some dark secrets as well…

Meet Some of the Main Characters of Bungo Stray Dogs

  • Atsushi Nakajima – The main protagonist of the series, Atsushi possesses the ability to transform into a white tiger, either partially or completely. He can also heal himself rapidly in this form and move incredibly fast. Atsushi is energetic and caring, going so far to risk his life for those whom he has never met. With a seven billion yen bounty on his head, he often feels guilty for pulling his new friends into danger. He struggles with his self-esteem, though that changes over time.
  • Osamu Dazai – Originally an important member of the underworld, Osamu is now a member of the Armed Detective Agency. Mysterious and not forthcoming with his true emotions, he’s known for constantly romanticizing his own future suicide. He’s confident, even in certain-death situations, and has a darker side which occasionally emerges when dealing with members of his old gang. He has the ability to nullify other powers.

  • Doppo Kunikida – A serious workaholic, Doppo works to maintain the professionalism of the agency. No matter what time of day it is, you can find him organizing files and writing out schedules to keep everything running smoothly. He carries a notebook wherever he goes, constantly jotting down anything which could be important. Actually, the notebook allows him to use his power–called ‘Lone Poet,’ whatever object he writes down will appear, as long as they are smaller than the notebook itself.

  • Junichirou Tanizaki – Carefree to a fault, Junichirou is another member of the agency. He uses the power ‘Light Snow’ to project illusions around him, covering everything with snowfall. He’ll do anything to protect his sister Naomi, and also becomes very close to Atsushi over the course of the series. This is probably because the two seem the most ‘normal’ out of all the detectives.
  • Ranpo Edogawa – Despite not having a special power, Ranpo is called the best detective of the bunch. Calling his own spectacular ability ‘Super Deduction,’ he can figure out the truth behind any crime within a matter of seconds. Ranpo can often act childish, teasing other detectives and refusing to get his work done due to laziness. He also becomes rather useless when not using his ‘ability,’ sometimes forgetting his way home.

  • Kenji Miyazawa – Young and optimistic, Kenji is a country boy who may be the most naive of the detectives. Compared to the average city-dweller, Kenji is well-liked due to the constant smile on his face. His ability is called ‘Undefeated by the Rain,’ and grants him superhuman strength, but only if he activates it on an empty stomach.

  • Akiko Yosano – A graceful woman, Akiko possesses an extremely rare healing ability called ‘Thou Shalt Not Die.’ It would make sense that she is the doctor responsible for taking care of those working for the agency. If she is angered, she will use her medical knowledge to ‘treat’ her patients in a rather sadistic way. After all, her healing power only works if the subject is half-dead.

  • Ryunosuke Akutagawa – A member of the underground organization the Port Mafia, Ryunosuke uses his frightening power ‘Rashomon’ to summon a shadow-beast from his clothing, capable of tearing apart everything, including space. He believes that the weak should give way to the strong, and is ruthless in battle. He will commit violent crimes without batting an eye, though he prefers to kill his enemies in one blow. 

The Original Manga was a Smash Hit in Japan

The Bungo Stray Dogs manga series began in 2012 and is still ongoing. Since it started, it has been serialized in the manga magazine Young Ace, which has also been the home of many popular series such as Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, Erased, and Kill La Kill.

As of January 2020, the chapters have been compiled into 18 volumes, which are also licensed in the US by Yen Press. 

Written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa, the manga series is known to be a treasure trove of memorable quotes, likely due to Asagiri’s love of literature. Originally a manager at an automobile company, he eventually made the shift to writing, and we’re all incredibly lucky because of that decision. 

Asagiri has stated that he made the series to pay tribute to the many authors he has loved over the years, and to get manga fans more interested in literature. I’d say that was a success. 

A Popular Anime Adaptation and the Long-Awaited Season 3

In 2016, a 12 episode anime adaptation of Bungo Stray Dogs began airing in Japan, produced by the well-known Studio Bones. The company has been responsible for a huge chunk of beloved series over the last two decades, from Wolf’s Rain and Eureka Seven to Fullmetal Alchemist and Space Dandy

The second season also contained 12 episodes and aired later the same year. In July 2018, audiences were pleased to hear that season three was coming, with the same cast returning to reprise their roles. 

Bungo Stray Dogs season three aired in 2019 for 12 episodes and was simuldubbed by Funimation. 

Where to Watch the Bungo Stray Dogs Anime and Read the Manga

Currently, every season of Bungo Stray Dogs, including the newest season 3, is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

The manga series and light novel series are available on Amazon, in either paperback or digital editions.

Bungo Stray Dogs
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