Bungo Stray Dogs Beast is another manga I wasn’t planning to review on this site. Not that I have anything against BSD but I figured it’s such a popular franchise that most of you have heard plenty about it already. There’s no need for me to add anything.
There are a whole bunch of light novels that I haven’t read but often become my favourite part of the anime seasons so I already knew the spinoffs were worth a look. When I came across Beast, I figured it was my chance to see what the extended universe had to offer, firsthand.
Why I Picked up Bungo Stray Dogs – Beast
This time, it really was the Bungo Stray Dogs name that got me. I’m pretty sure that the rest didn’t matter. I was just happy to see another manga in the same universe. Although. I should say I really liked the cover.
In a parallel universe of Bungo Stray Dogs, Ryuunosuke Akutagawa’s desperate mission to save his younger sister leads to him being recruited by the armed detective agency!
My First Impression
Wait this is an alternative history !?! (At this point I would like to remind you that I rarely read summaries before starting a new manga… I really should…)
What I liked
There’s a reason I went from, I’m reading this one just for me, no need to review it to Actually maybe my readers should hear about it two volumes later. And that reason is, Beast is sooo cool. At least parts of it are, to me.
The first thing I’ll mention since I already hinted at it in the why I picked up this manga section, is that the art is amazing. Sango Harukawa is the main artist for BSD and they still draw the main series. They are fantastic and responsible for all those great character designs. I think it’s fairly safe to assume that the character designs have had a significant impact on the popularity of the series. Not to mention that they look great in animation as well.
Bungo Stray Dogs Beat keeps all the same designs but the illustrator has changed to Shiwasu Hoshikawa. And I adore her style. I don’t have the vocabulary to properly explain art styles. It’s a bit more raw? More aggressive? This is getting us nowhere, ok look at this:
See, see that great line work. Instead of one clean bold outline, you have a series of rapid lines., like a sketch. But they’re also very bold and definitive. There’s a lot of impact in those images. On top of that, the proportions are slightly skewed and exaggerated.
This shouldn’t have any impact on how much you enjoy the manga, but I liked the art so much that I looked Shiwasu Hoshikawa up. I quickly found their Twitter and fell a tiny bit in love. They are obviously very psyched about drawing Beast and bring it up a lot. But this isn’t a simple professional Twitter profile. She retweets BSD cosplayers and like their pictures. They take candid photos of displays in bookstores not only of their work but of the series in general. Like a true fan. But they also had this thread on Goodbye Eri and how much they liked it. They regularly retweet stuff about The Tatami Galaxy, and she likes and comments on other artists’ work. Basically, in this one dimly understood Twitter profile (it’s all in Japanese) I saw not just a great artist, but a fan. Someone who loves manga and anime and who is really excited about being part of it. And that was just adorable.
I usually don’t go on so much about the art. What can I say, it’s my style. If this artist is actually a huge jerk or something, please don’t burst my bubble…
The other thing that’s cool, is the premise. The official summary gives us a very brief taste of it but let me elaborate some. This is all in the first volume and the basic groundwork. The Beast asks a simple question, what would have happened if Dazai never left the Port Mafia and at the time had recruited Atsushi to the Mafia instead of the Armed Detective Agency. Meanwhile what if Oda had survived and joined the detective agency, in time recruiting Akutagawa for their side. The story is told from Akutagawa’s point of view and shows just how much overlap there is between him and Atsushi. Through this tale of revenge and high action, the basic question remains, would anything have changed?
It’s fantastic. Seeing how characters can mould themselves to their circumstances. A stone-cold killer Atsushi may sound completely different but is he? Was that always in him? Without the influence of the Detective Agency would Dazai have become a monster or is he already one? I had so much fun with this and honestly, I think any fan of the franchise would love it. I can’t wait for the next volume to be out.
I have not read the novel so I can’t speak to what format is best. I know a live-action movie came out at the beginning of the year in Japan as well. I’ve already made my feelings known about the art in the manga, so my bias is obvious.
This said I think that Bungo Stray Bogs The Beast is enjoyed best (if at all) by those who are familiar with Bungo Stray Dogs already. It’s a pretty good action series on its own but what makes it special is how it twists and subverts the original. That isn’t an issue for fans of BSD but I do think it’s a tiny bit presumptuous of a series to ask that you already be familiar with another series to get the most out of it. Mind you, spinoffs or sequel series are very common, I don’t want to make it sound like Beast is doing something out of the ordinary. But it could be a drawback for some readers.
Despite the amazing art and great premise, it actually took me a while to get into it. I would say half or three-quarters of the first volume before I was truly sold. And that’s because the dialogue really threw me off for a while. Kafka Asagiri wrote Beast so I’m going to assume this is more of a matter of translation. As in, I was not quite connecting with the specific translation of Beast. I should admit that in general, I far prefer the BSD anime to the manga. I do like the manga a lot, and I keep up with it, but there is something ineffable that I find more enjoyable in the anime. That may be the dialogue and it was worse in The Beast. At least at first.
It should also be noted that most of the first volume is essentially narrated by Akutagawa. It’s from his POV and other characters only come in later. Akutagawa has always had a rather distinct voice and I may have had some trouble adjusting to it. Once more characters were introduced and he started interacting with others, I found that I started to enjoy the manga a lot more. It quickly went from ok manga with great art and premise, to great manga, I want more.
The manga is called Bungo Stray Dogs: The Beast. It’s pretty clear that it was made with a specific audience in mind. People who enjoy Bungo Stray Dogs. And I think it really succeeds in that regard. I don’t know if the live-action movie means this particular side story (or reimagining rather) means that it will never get an anime adaptation, but if it does, I have a feeling it will be one of the most popular parts of the show.