Bungo Stray Dogs is a Japanese seinen (young men) manga series written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa. The story focuses on a young adult named Atsushi Nakajima. The young adult was kicked out of his orphanage due to his supernatural actions — he would transform into a white tiger under the moonlight due to an inherent ability, resulting in havoc within the institution. With Atsushi being kicked out of the orphanage, still unaware of his state, a wild tiger began to roam Yokohama of Japan resulting in the destruction of anything that crosses it's path. Having no place to go, whilst desperately searching for something to satisfy his hunger, Atsushi accidentally stops the suicide of a detective named Osamu Dazai, as he believed the man was drowning in a river. After consulting with the detective about his distressing condition, Dazai enables Atsushi to finally identify the fact that he has a supernatural ability and Atsushi soon joins a truly eccentric detective agency. The Armed Detective Agency is a group that focus on crimes which are considered too violent or difficult for the Military Police to handle. The series follows the members of the Agency throughout their everyday lives, allowing us an insight into their daily challenges and the cases these supernatural beings face.
With the Agency inevitably gaining enemies, we are introduced to a lot more powerful and captivating ability users who belong to organisations such as the Port Mafia and The Guild who help construct the conflicts in this manga by counteracting those within the ADA. The first arc of the series concerns the Port Mafia vs The Armed Detective Agency. Serving as the introductory arc, we are presented with our first group of supernatural users, creating the mystery and other-worldly conflict the series is known for. As there is a lot of conflict between numerous individuals, there are plenty of detailed and incredibly well-drawn fight scenes within the manga which ultimately left me dying of anticipation whilst awaiting the newest volume since Asagiri often ends chapters with a cliffhanger. This makes the plot way more intense! The author provides bewildering yet enthralling stories thanks to Asagiri maintaining a consistent, action-filled plot which captivates until the very end. Alongside the supernatural thrills, Bungo Stray Dogs also provides an element of comedy. Could this be an attempt to relieve tension from the stimulating plot? Who knows, but it works! Though BSD holds many strong and interesting arcs, some critics may claim the plot to be “a little slow paced,” however, I believe the amazing array of characters and personalities within this series encourage and entice the reader to read on.
Kafka Asagiri got much inspiration from famous Japanese authors when it came to naming characters and deciding on their abilities - many were derived from themes in the author's work. The personalities of some characters may also be comparable to the personalities of the authors themselves. What a brilliant idea! This definitely made manga and anime enthusiasts such as myself more interested in the characters within this series. The character of Osamu Dazai is described as a mysterious person who obtains the ability “No Longer Human.” His true intentions are never revealed (unless he reveals them himself. He is described as a suicidal maniac, often trying to commit suicide in comical manners and failing. There are several moments in the manga where he claims to be on the search for a beautiful woman whom he can commit “double suicide” with — this characterisation is a nod to his real-life counterpart, the author of the same name, who tried to commit double-suicide with various women multiple times. A number of the real Osamu Dazai's most popular works, such as No Longer Human, are considered modern-day classics in Japan. The lives of more writers inspired Asagii too, most notably the friendship of Osamu Dazai, Ango Sakaguchi and Sakunosuke Oda. This nod to the real world helps to give depth to the characters, adding additional interest to already rounded characters as Japanese literature meets Bungo Stray Dogs.
This spectacular manga is currently ongoing, with a new chapter released each month. There are already three seasons of anime produced with rumours speculating that a fourth is to be released in 2022. As a reader of the manga, I believe I can judge the latest arc to be the best yet as we are introduced to many new characters who possess riveting and peculiar characteristics, very different to any characters Asagiri has used before. Many of the newer characters could be described as sadistic or even comparable to demons! The author continues to provide readers with refreshing and suspenseful storylines - the latest arc could definitely be described as overwhelming for both the readers and characters as the extremity of events definitely keeps increasing. Later volumes of the manga show a ton of new abilities, characters and astonishing conflicts, enabling a dark and fascinating narrative to come together.
In all, this is contemporary fiction mixed with some of the greatest Japanese writers of all time, in new bodies, solving mysteries as “armed detectives.” It has everything: comedy, mystery, action, wit and even some sobering and bloody moments. Bungo Stray Dogs is a definite must-have for anyone who is a fan of the writers brought to life in this manga, as well as anyone who has studied Japanese literature. Even without this extra insight, anyone in general who wants to have their world rocked will find much to love with these stray dogs.