- Genre : Supernatural, action, crime, ensemble, yummy,
- Episodes: 1 movie
- Studio: Bones
For most of us being gifted sounds like a good thing, a dream come true even. I mean it’s called a gift after all. But for those special few, it’s often more of a curse. Destroying childhoods, alienating them from society and dooming them to a life of strife. The lucky ones find some solace in violent civil service, the unlucky ones end up trapped in a life of crime. The exceptional ones may find their way to the armed detective agency and a semblance of family. But now, something new is threatening Yokohama and gifted are showing up killed by their own powers. Will the armed detective agency be able to resolve this crisis? How will the Port Mafia respond to the situation. How many mildly suggestive scenes will there be?
As few weeks ago, I went to see Bungou Stray Dogs, Dead Apples, in theaters with the very lovely Mel. I had a great time. I hadn’t seen anime in theaters in quite a while and it’s always better when you share it with friends. So let me share it with you!
Before the movie, we got a little Crunchyroll vignette of people enthusiastically talking about, mostly season 2 of BSD, together with some generalities. I have a feeling these had to be filmed before anyone had the chance to see the movie because none of them seemed to have seen it! We also had a little presentation from 3 of the voice actors. Suffice it to say, Chuuya is now my favorite character. Kishou Taniyama rocks so much!
And on to the movie we went. We didn’t actually go anywhere, the movie just started, and we got thrown straight into the action with a sumptuously animated chase and battle sequence. Heart pounding soundtrack and frantic but well executed camera work got the audience pumped up and immediately plunged us into that cool sense of fun the series is so great at creating. Glimpses of my beloved Oda tugged at our heartstrings. It was clear that this movie was aimed at fans of the show.
Being a studio bones production, it was of course beautiful and striking. Handling movement fantastically well. In fact, I’m going to only concentrate on the few tiny technical lows I could see. Assume everything else to be superb.
To be fair, even these lows are highly subjective and could be chalked up to a difference of artistic vision.
First, the characters’ faces disappeared with distance. And not that much distance at all. It was a bit eerie. Second, the designs have been very slightly tweaked, especially in profile. Don’t misunderstand, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these updated designs, they are all objectively beautiful, it’s just that when you’ve spent as much time as I have staring at these characters, these slight but noticeable changes have an uncanny effect that’s distracting and though to shake. It’s like really high quality but not officially licensed merch. You know what I mean?
The last issue is something that I didn’t notice for myself, but Mel brought it up afterwards. The transitions often relied on a simple black screen between scenes. This meant that you got a split second of absolute darkness (in a movie theater) followed by a flash of light. It can be quite unpleasant if you happen to be more light sensitive. I figure the effect would be lessened if you were to watch this in a room with some type of other light source.
And that’s it. I told you they were small gripes. I guess bones finally figured out how to make a decent looking anime…That’s sarcasm folks. You knew that… Why am I still in italics?
The story however, was much less consistent. It started off great, had me on the edge of my seat. A new villain with a very interesting gift (the ability to make one’s own gift turn on them) and the potential to have all our favorite mafia and detective agency members interact in new ways. There was really a ton of potential there.
Where it floundered in my opinion was a certain lack of depth and overview, as well as some laughable characterization. Let me try to explain.
We were told right off the bat that this was an original story. The movie is clearly meant to drum up some interest in the franchise prior to the release of another season. It’s pretty much a long filler episode. To me, it felt like a very well written fanfiction. Not the sexy type
unfortunately. There was a certain shallowness to the characters, and a huge amount of pandering. It felt like a fan of the series was talking about what they liked rather than an integrated story line.
For instance, most popular characters were there, and we were shown their signature *moves* or classic personality traits but no actual further development or moral complexity. It was just, look Dazai is being a super smart troll and talking about suicide, That’s sooo Dazai, look Doppo is being OCD, look Akutagawa is being jerky cool, Atsushi is being whiny… you get the gist. And even characters that didn’t have an actual role to play were shown for a few seconds to appease the fans, which only left me wondering why they didn’t have a bigger role.
For instance, Mori is barely shown at all, even though the main premise is that the bad guy wants to collect powerful gifts and we know him to be one of the most powerful in town… They skip over how most people handle the situation and that just made me feel like I missed out on the coolest parts.
Another problem is that the only original character, the main villain Tatsuhiko Shibusawa is fairly boring and ineffectual. Possibly the most forgettable BSD character I have ever seen. Considering how pivotal his role is, that’s a major weakness in the narrative.
Then there’s the cleverness trap. In essence, a lot of the story hinges on Dazai being such an amazing strategist that he seems almost prescient. I’ve no particular issue with this. Uselessly complicated mind games are my thing! But you get the feeling that the plot was trying so hard to be clever that it ended up pretty stupid. As soon as you take a second to truly think about the plan, you fall down almost bottomless plot holes, banging your head against contrived situations and extremely convenient coincidences, all the way down.
This would have been much more forgivable, if it wasn’t for the fact that the story was possibly half an hour too long, making it almost impossible to completely ignore those deficiencies as you have ample time to consider them.
Then there’s a myriad of little bothersome details. Atsushi is once again having an existential crisis over his gift. How many times is he going to have to “accept the tiger”? I thought we were past that by now. Kyoka is back to being almost ruthlessly practical and spends the entire movie doing what needs doing with cold efficiency, then at a crucial moment when she’s told to use her power, she suddenly chokes in the middle of a battle. She was fine a second prior to that. There was not reason whatsoever for the change other than plot(?). A lot of characters are suspiciously absent from the action, particularly n the mafia side and we get no explanation at all.
This one is again something Mel noticed, I’m sure she’ll talk about it in her own review but when exactly did 14-year-old Kyoka not only learn how to drive like a master but also memorize all the streets in the city? She was held captive, pretty much under lock and key up until recently….
Like I said, this seemed to have been written by people who liked the series and thought it was cool but didn’t necessarily remember all the details.
This said, some things were done very right.
The conversation between long gone Oda and present day Dazai was heart wrenchingly beautiful, harkening back to one of the strongest arc in BSD. The fan batty suggestive relationship between Chuuya and Dazai may have been low hanging fruit but the dynamic was genuinely fun and their one scene together sent a palpable wave of good cheer through the theater. Rampo’s very minimal presence was spot on for the character and a perfect example of how to do a cameo right.
Finally, although also generally not utilized, the little we did see of Dostoyevsky set him up as a truly intriguing character…with an ok design…you know… if you’re into that sort of thing.
All in all, the movie did its job. It got me really psyched for another season of the show. I doubt it would win over anyone that wasn’t already a fan but if you are, it’s a decent addition to the franchise.
OK, now, who should we ship next?
Favorite character Chuuya!!!! Curious about Dostoyevsky though but not irl – they made me read soooo much of his stuff. The man could write, but boy what a party pooper…
What this movie taught me: Voice actors sort of resemble their characters – personality wise at least.
I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds, and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.
Suggested drink: Bad Apple Martini (sems yummy)
- Every time anyone says Dazai san – take a sip
- Every time we see an apple – take a sip
- Every time a gift gem is shown – take a sip
- Every time we see an ability manifest – hold your breath
- Every time Akutagawa is so damn cool – fan yourself
- Every time we see Ango – take a sip
- Every time there’s a flashback – take a sip
- Every time Dostoyevski is on screen – take a sip
- Every time Atsushi is overcome by the situation – stretch
- Every time Kyouya blushes – awwwww