April 7th, 2016.
Insert Reaction Face:
Wow. This show is gorgeous. Did they steal a page from Makoto Shinkai? I think more series should, considering how good Shinkai’s films look! Aside from backgrounds, the characters are also extremely “crisp”, and the whole thing puts me in mind of Noragami’s visual style.
Maybe it’s the similarity to Noragami, or the attention given to the Miyano Mamoru Pretty Boy™, but there’s something about the show that feels as if it’s aimed at a female audience, in spite of the manga being published in a seinen publication. As I watched, I also kept thinking of Mekakucity Actors, and Mekakucity + Noragami just have that vibe.
Anyway, the show also has plenty of good reaction faces. Their “quality” is actually detrimental, because sometimes they feel too clean, they feel closer to Nisekoi than they do to something like Ushio to Tora, say.
Voice acting is solidly done by a cadre of experienced voice actors. Music is solid. Everything is good. My one complaint is that the action actually felt “sparse”, especially with the same CG “string” effect being used for both powers (and from the PV, for the next power used as well). The actual powers lack an impact, which means the show really does hinge on its non-action segments. Ah, I also wasn’t crazy about the text by the side of the screen, which didn’t feel like it added much. Tiny thing though.
OP – Didn’t rock my word. Music was somewhere between “eh” and “alright”. Visuals were gorgeous, not just the crispness, but also the cuts and the camera movements. So the sound is just there as background noise as you look at the pretty pictures.
ED – Gorgeous, but not “interesting” to watch, much more static. Music is nice. I like it better than the OP in that sense. Also puts me in mind of Monogatari.
I did find it interesting how they gave us the OP, had the next episode preview, and then the ED. Why not start with the OP? Dunno. Maybe because they wanted to start the episode slow? Not give away the obvious outcome of Atsushi joining the rest? Whatever, it’s not really important.
Themes / Story / Other things:
You know what this show feels like to me? As if someone took Akame ga Kill!, Mekakucity Actors, and Nisekoi, and mixed them all. And some Noragami. “Akame ga Kill!?! Wait, how?” I hear you ask. I’m specifically referring to the humor, because aside from everything else, Akame ga Kill had quite a bit of the physical gag-humor style that I usually think of as “Manga humor”, which Bungo Stray Dogs had a lot of as well. Reaction faces galore, physical humor, etc.
Thing is, I didn’t actually find Bungo Stray Dogs all that funny. It’d have been fine if the show had less humor, for me, and I’m sure that people who loved the humor also loved the episode, but so it goes. There were a couple of moments I chuckled, especially when Doppo and Dazai interacted in the restaurant, but it often felt as if the reaction faces rather than enhance good jokes, actually replaced the jokes, or stood in to tell us, “That lukewarm interaction? That was supposed to be funny.”
Yes, I did expect more action, and it feels like we might be going the Noragami route of mostly character interaction (or humor here), with a single short scene that is very stylized but low on actual action. But Atsushi and his acting didn’t feel convincing, and the whole “We’re going to bring you in!” felt rote. I’m not sold on the characters as people yet, but there’s time for that. But it’s a shame that the “Sob Story Main Character Introduction” episode which was where an emotional connection with Atsushi could’ve taken root failed in that regard, as far as I’m concerned.
Also, speaking of what this show “feels like”, and combining presentation and atmosphere of narrative, there’s also a Kekkai Sensen and Durarara!! feel, in how the story is told, in how the powers are presented, in how the characters interact. That’s not bad, but it’s still something the show has to earn.
And this is really the issue. This episode hasn’t done much. It mostly gave us humor which I did not find funny, and while the characters, Atsushi aside, were well-acted, they still don’t feel like people for me to care about. It was a bit of an underwhelming experience. I do hope that the show picks up in action, improves its jokes, and/or works harder on presenting its characters not only as characters with backgrounds, but does it in a more emotionally resonant way.