This is my best attempt at a Ranpo cosplay of my avatar. I wish they had the hat…
You guys… YOU GUYS! Where do I start and then where do I go? I’m so giddy I don’t know what to do with myself. This post is just going to be all over the place. I can already tell.
By the way, I write my episode reviews right after watching the episode as complete stream-of-consciousness works. I’m not sure if this is the best way to proceed but to be honest, I don’t have time to plan them out. So you’re getting pure unfiltered first impressions. And in this case that can be summed up as “SqueeGwah“. In a good way.
Oh man, so many thoughts… where do I start. OK, let’s start with the OP. The band Luck Life has done most of the OP/ED music for Bungo Stray Dogs. I discovered them through this and have become a pretty big fan. As far as the music goes, they are all among my favourite OPs and EDs. I have a playlist with all of them and I listen to it regularly. I won’t lie, I was pretty disappointed when the OP song started out and I could immediately tell it wasn’t the same band. Music is highly subjective, I just happen to really like Luck Life. However, the did sing the ED. YAY!!!
As for the episode.
Even if this is the first post of mine that you are reading, you probably figured out that I am a pretty big fan of Bungo Stray Dogs. I loved the anime so much that I bought and read every single volume of the manga. I will be getting vol 22 on January 17 when it comes out.
Generally speaking, I really prefer the anime to the manga. There’s like no comparison. However, the last arc, the one that I figure we would be starting this season, is by far my favorite of the manga. It actually rivaled the anime in parts. As you can imagine, I started off the episode bustling with excitement. That turned into confusion pretty quickly.
This is hardly unusual for me but still, why didn’t I remember anything? That’s when I remembered that Bungo Stray Dogs have a tendency to adapt the novels in the first part of the season. I love this since I haven’t read the novels. And that’s exactly what is happening here. We are seeing the anime version of The Untold Origins of the Detective Agency. I didn’t read the synopsis to avoid spoilers but just the title was enough to send me right back from confused to excited and soon enough, giddy!
Should I talk about the events of the episode? I feel like if I don’t at least mention what happens it will be weird if I do in future reviews. OK, we meet a younger Fukuzawa (I’m always happy to see a younger Fukuzawa) soon after a difficult moment in his life when he’s decided to work as a lone wolf bodyguard/fixer. However, he runs into a teenage Ranpo and everything starts getting turned upside down. If you know adult Ranpo you can just imagine how much trouble teenage Ranpo is. He might be my favourite character.
Bungo Stray Dogs has always been a stylish show. After all, it’s not like bones doesn’t know how to make a good-looking show. But it’s not just the designs, it’s the animation as well. Both Fukuzawa leaping through the office to avoid the spread-out documents, and later on his fight scene with Oda, are absolutely awesome to watch.
Bungo Stray Dogs has never been a franchise that relies all that much on animation but it should. It has some truly impressive fight and movement scenes every season. And we get to see two in this first episode. Aren’t we lucky?
I also love Oda. He was one of my first character studies. And you don’t really see him in the manga at all. I should probably read those novels someday!
Since the episode stars Ranpo, of course, there has to be a mystery to solve. Or maybe even two. And because Ranpo is there, it takes about 5 seconds for it to be solved. You know the problem with writing genius characters right? It’s really difficult to do if you’re not also a genius. And the specific type of genius the character is on top of that. This is why fictional genius detectives are absolutely amazing (and generally beloved) when they are really well-written, and absolutely dreadful in any other case. How many times have you read a mesmerizing setup for a mystery, only to be completely let down by the solution and/or reasoning for it? It happens to me all the time.
One of the reasons I enjoy Ranpo is that he usually manages to have explanations and solutions I really like. I think the secret is that his solutions to puzzles as well as the reasons that lead guide his deductions are usually really simple. He almost never goes into long convoluted explanations. SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE, also go watch it if you haven’t, what are you doing here!!! For example, he sees a man indoors with his coat on elaborately arranging a large number of documents. Immediately he thinks that’s kind of weird, the coat isn’t necessary indoors and would really get in the way of this sorting. This is the scene of a murder and this guy is acting super suspiciously, he probably has something to do with it. Simple, logical, makes perfect sense and I would never have noticed. After that, it’s just a matter of seeing whether the rest of the pieces fall into place which they did.
When I say Ranpo is a genius, he is specifically a genius at observation and deduction. Judging situations to for example not encourage a trained assassin to commit further murders, that’s not in his wheelhouse.
This scene! The scene at the restaurant. I really enjoyed this scene. For one, it was just a really fun and funny odd couple moment between Fukuzawa and Ranpo. These two are almost always great together and we sadly rarely get to see them play off each other. However, the scene also wonderfully mirrors the restaurant scene in the very first episode of Bungo Stray Dogs ever.
Right after Atsushi meets Dazai and Doppo, they buy him lunch because the poor boy is starving. Just like Ranpo he eats a huge amount and is very passionate about his food. And just like Ranpo he picks a soup-like meal that’s served in bowls and ends up with a large collection of them on the table.
It’s not a perfect shot-by-shot recreation of the scene but it’s a clear callback, It creates symmetry in both the narrative and the visuals. We saw this scene when the show started and we are seeing another version of it at the start of the Armed Detective Agency. Nice!
From there we move on to the second mystery. Or at least the beginning of it. Someone has threatened to murder a performer. Actually, it’s not a threat, it’s a warning…
Can I talk about the colours now? I’ve been wanting to talk about the colours since the very beginning. Weren’t the colours great???
So everything started in greyscale. Actually, not exactly grayscale, let’s call it greyscale+. For anyone who has been following the show, it was pretty obvious from the first scene that this episode was set in the past compared to the current plot of the show. Mainly because present-day Fukuzawa has a glorious mullet immediately distinguishing him from past Fukuzawa. Using greyscale for flashbacks is pretty standard cinematic language but this has flare!
First I called it greyscale+. That’s because the episode wasn’t exactly in greyscale. The greyscale itself, including outlines, was tinted more purple or more blue depending on the light in certain scenes. The first act was mostly purple scale really. Everything outside and in the office with those big sunny windows. The dark rooms with single light sources where Oda was and the big star in the theater had a distinctly blue cast. The scenes in what we would consider normal indoor lighting were all grey. That’s already pretty cool, but there were also exceptions.
The flashbacks within the episode itself were in full colour. In a way, you could consider them flashbacks within flashbacks. For some reason, I particularly enjoyed this touch. I can’t explain why but it feels like a subversion.
Secondly, there were touches of colour throughout. Blood was always red. A desaturated red but still clearly red. Again that’s a bit of a classic. Oda was also very coloured compared to everyone else. I’m not sure why. I could explain his eyes since his scenes were mostly tinted blue but his hair is also just a bit colourful. The last one is my favourite because it’s so subtle. Fukuzawa’s eyes were normal. Fukuzawa has these steel blue eyes that already look rather grey. It might not be obvious in the screencaps, however, in every single scene, you could see a hint of that cool blue. It was consistently there throughout the entire episode. Ranpo’s signature brilliant green eyes were perfectly grey but not Fukuzawa. I’m not sure if it means anything but man is it stylish.
Have I rambled enough? Probably too much if we’re honest. I promise to keep future reviews more reasonable. Promise is a strong word. I’ll try though.