Bungou Stray Dogs – 04

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BSD4 is all about blind alleys and throw away asides that hide a very simple message: Despite their great power, the Port Mafia is no match for the Armed Detective Agency AND Atsushi finally has a place he belongs.

Dazai and Dracula are barely in the episode, Atsushi spends most of it trying to run away and protect his new friends (who don’t even know he’s doing that nor need him to do so) and the rest is given over to red-herrings about Kuni-chan being worried and introducing how bad-ass the Black Lizard squads of the Port Mafia are… only to have them immediately wiped out by the ADA.

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My concerns from last week are still in play: the show’s tone ricochets between slapstick and torture-grim, but there’s no tension because everyone important to the story survives.

Likewise, 15% of the episode is spent on mini flashbacks or repeats of information we’ve seen multiple times over. It doesn’t respect the viewer and for all the information stuffed into the play time, it doesn’t feel like much of it is valuable.

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It’s not all bad of course. The show looks decent enough, if not slightly over designed. The animations are decent enough, if only one scene per episode really pops out. It’s just trying very hard and I don’t really get a sense any of this has a point.

Certainly, establishing the big bad Mafia is no match for the ADA already makes it even lower stakes and less significant as a long term conflict. So what’s really left for the show to be about?

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 04

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“I get it, okay?” says Rokuro, after running off in a snit after the guy who is basically his older brother annoys him: “I know I can’t run away forever.” He’s implying he needs more time to put the past behind him and move on. But…we’re a quarter into the show now, and he’s still angsty and hesitant while we haven’t heard the full story about why, so…hurry it up, willya? Thankfully, Rokuro takes a couple of steps forward.

It starts with the old woman who runs a candy store he used to frequent as a youngin’ with Ryougo. In a five-minute exchange, she’s able to cheer him up and make him feel silly for being so harsh to his big bro when all he’s doing is looking out for him. By running off, he was also refusing to tag along on an exorcism mission with Ryougo and two others.

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When those two others show up at home without Ryougo, Rokuro doesn’t hesitate to do what he needs to do in order to spring into action, which at this point is to bow his head and beg Benio to accompany him to Magano. He’s afraid to go himself, plain and simple. And that’s perfectly okay. Benio, for her part, insists he rise his head – no one should have to beg an exorcist to fight for or with him.

Ryougo is up against a huge, two-headed, constantly-chortling Kegare with no way out and no talismans—except the one Rokuro made for him, appointing him his servant when he’s the baddest exorcisin’ mofo in the world. He’s kept it ever since as a charm, and it comes in handy as Ryougo shows up just in time to save him from going out in a blaze of glory.

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Benio is there to assist, and while Rokuro later scoffs that he could have handled the peripheral Kegare she takes out during the fight, the fact of the matter is, he wouldn’t have even been able to go there without Benio by his side, and he freely admits this when he waits outside for her to finish purifying the house, to thank her from the bottom of his heart.

Rokuro’s earnestness and heart-sleeving catches Benio off guard, insisting he doesn’t have to thank her any more than he had to beg her. So here, both in moments of emotional vulnerability, the two exorcists begin to see something besides contempt in one another. Rokuro sees her nice side, while Benio sees the greatness in him, when he fights in spite of his trauma.

Sure they start slinging insults in an attempt to backpedal, but they’re not fooling anyone: they’ve made real progress this week, and they’re sure to make more, which is very encouraging.

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