Sousei no Onmyouji – 05

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Like Bungou Stray DogsSnO aims to provide a combination of seriousness and levity, though Oji-san doesn’t think BSD is successful. I haven’t been keeping up with it, so I don’t know, but as relatively brainless, usually amusing, occasionally touching hump day entertainment, SnO fits the bill quite nicely, even if it isn’t blazing any trails.

A part of my enjoyment is that I’m rooting for both of the twin star Exorcists, and totally get where they’re both coming from and why they both clash and harmonize so often. I won’t say their similarities as strong,  fundamentally good-hearted people outweighs their differences, but they complement each other extremely well, and aren’t fooling anyone when they insist they hate each other (which they don’t even come out and say, it’s more of an exchange of barbs).

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Benio is stuck-up, but, well, why wouldn’t she be? She’s been the best at everything she’s ever done, and has to maintain a certain air of confidence bordering on arrogance considering the burden her slight shoulders bear.

To be paired up with someone who, while undeniably strong when he needs to be, has some serious motivational problems stemming from past trauma, and can’t just say he wants to join an exorcism mission, but comes up with a bunch of half-assed excuses to mask his enthusiasm—it’s gotta be frustrating to Benio, who knows exactly what she wants to do and is firmly on the path to making it happen.

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But like I said, Benio doesn’t hate Rokuro. He’s got his flaws, but when it counts, he’s no slouch. He puts the big Kegare boss away, motivated by a desire to stop others from getting hurt anymore for the day. He’s fed up.

So when Twelve Guardians member Ikuruga Shimon shows up to clean up, Rokuro moves and takes care of it before him, and Benio has Rokuro’s back. She wants Shimon to see what she’s seen: great potential, hampered by persistent wishy-washiness.

Shimon and Benio share a kind of monk-like calm that Rokuro sorely lacks. And while Rokuro seems to become more powerful the more up against the wall and desperate to end things he is, he could stand to learn a few things about keeping one’s cool and minding one’s surroundings, things both Benio and Shimon possess in spades, owing to their experience.

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I especially liked Benio’s little smile when Rokuro meekly accepts the heartfelt thanks of the boy’s soccer team he helped save (with Benio and Shimon’s help). Benio sees that the key to keeping Rokuro focused is a healthy awareness that his actions keep people safe; that his strength is necessary to protect the weak, and he can’t be content with the way he is now.

As such, Shimon, who was Rokuro’s age when he became one of the Twleve Guardians, should prove to be a valuable goal for Rokuro going forward; one not hampered by the whole betrothed thing, as he is with Benio. The fact they’re arranged to marry some day is kinda kept in the background, as it’s still clearly a way off, but everyone is right that the two are already bickering like an old couple.

As for Arima, he’s a guy who’s clearly powerful enough to goof off with swimsuit mags as much as he wants. You get the feeling something seriously messed-up has to go down in the world for the guy to break a sweat…especially when he has Shimon, eleven others like (or better) than him…and the Twin Stars, slowly building their sheen.

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Bungou Stray Dogs – 05

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Last week, Bungou Stray Dogs disappointed because it lacked tension and it’s tone fluctuated wildly from cheeky to violent. It had no stakes and the characters faced no consequences. This week was no better. It was possibly worse.

What happened? RampoADA’s master detective is sent to a murder scene and Atsushi is sent along because Rampo is useless at everything except crime detection. A new gruff detective is at the scene and he doesn’t know Rampo and doesn’t approve of using private investigators. After some dialog, he relents and Rampo reveals a random police officer at the scene actually committed the crime and a greater conspiracy ensues…

The payoff is, after all the reveals, Dazai tells Atsushi that Rampo doesn’t actually have an ability, and that he even touched Rampo to make sure. Dazai then explains how Rampo would be able to deduce many of the clues and Atsushi learns why ADA respects Rampo so much.

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While the final reveal is clever, all the parts felt contrived or drawn out. The detective’s objections to Rampo feel like a contrivance to pad the opening act. Dazai being trolled out of the river felt like a contrivance to include him in the act and to explain things to Atsushi in the end.

Atsushi gets nothing to do except his shock-face routine and the actual case, the murder of a female detective, is so secondary that when the episode shifted to it in the second act (via a narrated interview of the police officer who killed her) I lost interest. This show is terribly ill conceived.

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Lets get academic on the tonal issue: adding humor to a grim scene keeps the over all tone light but, when used masterfully, can paint a deeper understanding of the characters. Maybe they are cracking jokes as a defense mechanism, maybe they are deeply warped individuals how can’t feel anymore, or maybe the writers are lowering our guard so they can hit us with a really shocking point later on.

Unfortunately, Stray Dogs only purpose is to keep things light. The characters are too cartooney for a psychological message to be believable and, thus far, each episode has ended on a dismissively happy-go-lucky note. Even if a grim reveal will eventually come, the script has bled out all of its tension.

It doesn’t help that there is no comedy here either. Dazai’s one-note suicide humor was used up in the first episode and this week’s ADA member is just a narcissist who brags over a corpse about how good he is. All the snap-zoom shock-faces in the world can’t contort his lines into jokes. The punchline is there is no punchline.

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The verdict: Stray Dogs is a comedy without jokes. It’s an noir drama without any weight or humanity. It’s a super natural action piece soft on action and with a hard on for dull ‘resolve the plot’ super powers… which means the episode-to-episode plot isn’t compelling and the long term threat of the port mafia was so neutered last week as to make that unsuitable as an alternative.

I mean, what possible impact does knowing the murderer was dating the victim have after all that slap stick?

Beyond production values, there is absolutely nothing good about this show. It is not terrible but it is also genuinely bland or self defeating in every way.

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