Bungou Stray Dogs – 02

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Nakajima Atsushi’s pleasant time with a roof over his head doesn’t last long: Dazai calls him on his new cell phone and informs him there is an emergency!

After a quick fakeout involving an oil drum and a failed suicide attempt, the duo joins Kunikida at the Armed Detective Agency’s head quarters and faces off against a mad bomber to save a hostage hostage.

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Slapstick ensues, the bomber gets madder, and in a final desperate act to save the day, Atsushi tries to smother the explosion with his own body…only to discover the bomb was fake and the situation was a test all along.

With the president’s approval, he is now part of the ADA, whether he wants to be or not. Roll credits…

…Until Dracula shows up in the sewer, probably up to no good. Those Draculas never are!

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Bungou Stray Dogs succeeds for a second week, although at a lower action level and less witty humor. Dazai and Kuni-chan’s rock-paper-scissors showdown was charming, and some of Dazai’s expressions (like his spaghetti arms dance) earned a chuckle, but it lacked last week’s punch over all.

BSD’s color palette remains quite nice to look at, though it too was more exiting last week. The character designs are solid and Atsushi’s poses are especially bizarre in an angular sort of way. The goofy rock guitar in the background was either hilariously appropriate or terrible depending on your tastes.

But if I had to choose a single thing that bothered me, it’s Kuni-chan’s special power “Dopa Poet,” which appears to materialize a gas-cartridge-cable-firing-GUN from a piece of paper. Judging from the opening credits, this may well be all his power is good for and yeesh…that’s hugely unsatisfying as powers go.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 02

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Oji-san has passed SnO to me (he was not a fan), but I’m a little more amenable its jaunty juxtaposition (or sometimes, smashing-together) of super-serious and super-goofy tones. But hey, it’s hump day; I don’t need to be transfixed by high art or anything (that’s Sunday!)

I find SnO competent enough in what it’s trying to do, which is capitalize on the success of similar ‘dark-and-funny’ shows like BleachBlue Exorcist, and Akane ga Kill! to entertain without too much thinking. It is not as good as any of those, but I found myself charmed enough to sit through the entire episode.

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There’s a kind of cheekiness to watching Benio— her pride hurt by someone who has all the ability but none of the interest in being an exorcist that she has—shuffle off after exchanging names…then ending up at Rokuro’s house, where she’s to begin living. It reminds me of Rukia helping herself to Ichigo’s closet…she even has a fiery familiar who could well be a friend of Kon’s.

Rokuro didn’t steal all of Benio’s power the way Ichigo accidentally did to Rukia, but like Rukia she’s a rich, privileged, mildly arrogant kid whose kegare-killing parade was rudely rained on. Seeking redemption (and some restored confidence) she goes with Rokuro’s roommates to Magano, but is disappointed to find a far weaker foe than Rokuro took out.

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Naturally, since they’re now living together, Rokuro walks in on Benio, but she’s all covered up with a towel, not nude, and she responds not by screaming, but by arming herself and going after Rokuro, whom she’s already established is tough enough to endure such behavior.

Rokuro ends up plowing into a dude in his underwear who turns out to be Head Exorcist Tsuchimikado Arima. Believe it or not, I’m not done referring to Rukia yet, because just like her Arima uses crude but expressive crayon drawings to explain things, like why he’s inj his underwear (prior to arriving he was caught in flagrante delicto with a yakuza’s girl, and had to split sans threads)

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But while his manner of arrival is silly, the message he bears via oracle is not, and he summons both Benio and Rokuro (along with their grizzled guardians) to the subterranean Five Mirror Chamber. There, he presents the two as dual candidates for the Miko, the savior of exorcists over the Kegare. Then he makes them duel.

Rokuro wants no part of this, but Arima eggs him on by spuring his dead friends (the once who caused him to cast off exorcising in the first place) and he joins a fierce battle with Benio. Seriously, the best part of this show is its stylish, quick, and punchy combat, as demonstrated here. A steady helping in each episode will go a long way to mitigating the well-worn character traits and plot elements.

What’s also interesting: Arima never intended for one “candidate” to kill the other, making the survivor Miko. No, he intends to marry Benio and Rokuro together, and the child they produce will be the Miko. I didn’t expect they’d be anything other than grudging allies who gradually form a bond. This raises the stakes and makes things a little more interesting, if a bit neat and tidy.

In spite of an already heavy workload which includes another superior show I’m far more invested in, Ushio to Tora, I shall tune in at least one more week, then attempt to peel myself away.

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