Bungou stray dogs is a story of a genre that is right up my alley. I love fantasy elements set within modern day worlds. I used to not be into this genre at all when I was younger. I was one of those elitists that thought high fantasy like Lord of the Rings was gospel and anything that tried to put a spin or modernization on the genre wasn’t worth mentioning. Obviously we all learn that we were dumb as bricks when we were kids, and nobody likes a gatekeeper. The more genres you give a shot, the more fun things you can discover. To give a great example of this, I never thought I’d be into romance stories until I started reading Shoujo romance manga and my oh my, they’re like soul food. But that is a topic for another day, and to avoid getting sidetracked for entire paragraphs I’ll quickly move on to the topic at hand.
Now I will have to admit that before reading Volume 1 of Bungou Stray Dogs, I did already watch the anime seasons that have aired so far. I also read two volumes of the Bungou Stray Dogs light novels, one on the train and one on a flight. That last bit of information isn’t exactly relevant, but I just like talking about the times when we could still go on public transportation without worrying about our health. I quite enjoyed all of this, so I expected to enjoy the manga as well.
Even though I already knew the story of Bungou Stray Dogs, it was still a fun volume to read. I forgot how fun the characters are, and how well they bounce off of each other. The main character, Atsushi, is down on his luck after getting kicked out of the orphanage he was staying at. Not only that, but the scary tiger that attacked and ransacked the orphanage ended up following him all the way to the Yokohama river. In a desperate final plan to not starve to death he decides to rob the next person who comes by. That next person ends up being Osamu Dazai, upside down, in the river.
Alright, maybe the person after that then. But Atsushi is a good guy and decides to fish Dazai out of the water, who is less than thankful for this. Apparently he was trying to kill himself, and Atsushi ruined his plans. The least Dazai and his coworker, Kunikida can do is offer him some food right?
The story continues to develop from here, where the two tell Atsushi they work for an armed detective agency, and the tiger that has been chasing Atsushi is actually their current quarry. They devise a plan using Atsushi as bait to lure in the tiger, and at this point it’s revealed that Dazai knew that Atsushi was the weretiger all along, and he was shapeshifting without knowing it when the moon was out. Dazai then reveals his own power, which is negating the power of other ability users. They then hire Atsushi to work for their company.
The art of this manga is decent. I didn’t think it was amazing, but it was alright. There were a few panels where the tiger looked a bit questionable, but maybe I’m being too nitpicky here. The dialogue was often well written, but I can’t get over the fact that Dazai uses the word ‘lad’ when talking to Atsushi, it feels so out of character and almost like the translators took creative liberty. All those things combined did make for a fun manga though, and I definitely plan to read the rest at some point in the future. For anyone looking for an action manga with super powers and mafia, please consider this one.