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Bungo Stray Dogs Season 1 Blu-ray Limited Edition Anime Review

9 min read

© 2016 Kafka Asagiri, Sango Harukawa / Kadokawa / Bungo Stray Dogs Partners
Armed with powers and more, this detective agency grapples with some really big threats.

What They Say:
Stalked by a beastly white tiger, Atsushi Nakajima has no idea that the menace lives inside him—a power that catches the attention of the Armed Detective Agency. Using inhuman abilities to combat crime, this team takes Atsushi under the wing of their most eccentric member, Dazai. Together, they tear through mafia-muddled mysteries while enemies keep an eye on the tiger’s lofty bounty.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is fairly straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language track gets the 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a good mix of action and dialogue throughout it so that it’s pretty well balanced. The action sequences get to take advantage of the creative powers and some decently large scaled set pieces where there’s a lot going on. This works the forward soundstage very well with both tracks while the 5.1 mix gets a bit more oomph and impact during these scenes. They both bring to life the action dynamic well and keep you fairly well immersed in it. The dialogue handles the cast when they’re all together in a good way as well with some placement and depth as needed as the camera moves about and the characters as well. Some of the more creative areas with the action also utilize the dialogue well, making for a fun experience. Both tracks come across clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Bones, it has a really rich and detailed look that sticks to a real world approach for most of it. This lets it feel very lived in and real that helps to ground the cast and what they do. But the more creative aspects of the show with the powers and the action go bigger and often with more color and vibrancy that gives it some great life. Both aspects of the show are handled very well with the encoding here as the colors are solid and rich throughout, detail holds up without problems, and we get a clean look throughout it during the higher motion sequences. The show has a lot going for its design and the encoding brings it all to life really well.

The packaging for this limited edition is definitely nicely done as it has a tight and appealing look and feel about it with some heft. The heavy chipboard box that holds everything isn’t oversize so there isn’t gap space for the second season. The main cover uses the familiar key visual for the season with the cast together and some pieces of architectural background mixed in with a kind of sepia tone that works very well. The back cover uses another key visual of the more villainous side with a red supernatural theme behind it that definitely creates a great atmosphere with what to expect from them. Within the box we get the oversized Blu-ray case that holds the discs for the two formats on hinges and a front cover that has a more playful cast visual with everyone together being silly set against a white background. The reverse side uses the same kind of background and has the breakdown of the episodes by number and title as well as the extras. Add in some nice character artwork of our lead and a few shots from the show and it has a simple but clean look. The reverse side works much the same way with some differences in layout as well as some of the Japanese release artwork.

The limited edition aspect of this release also comes with a really nice art booklet that has lots of characters designs and breakdowns along with a couple of full page pieces of artwork from the show. It also has a really nicely done envelope that holds several high-quality bookmarks you can use of your favorite characters.

The menu design for this release gets a nice boost as it works the clip format to good effect with the bulk of the screen given over to some fun pieces playing here, particularly of the tiger. The layout itself is fairly standard fare for Funimation with the logo along the top center while the bottom has the in-theme style stripe that holds the selections themselves. Moving about is problem free both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback, making it a breeze to get things setup and underway. The size and font for the selections is much larger than usual and that works well to connect it with the logo itself as it uses the same style.

The extras for this release have some familiar pieces among the basics as we get the clean opening and closing sequences, a few commercials, the original Japanese promotional videos.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga that began in 2012 and spawned light novels in 2014, Bungo Stray Dogs is a two-season anime series that ran throughout 2016. This set brings the first half of it and it had plenty of material to work with as the manga itself is up to fourteen volumes now and has five volumes of novels. It ended up with studio Bones, who gave it a great look, and was directed by Takuya Igarashi based on the scripts by Yoji Enokido. The end result is one of those series that has a lot of polish to it and just enough meat to really carry it forward by making it interesting and fun but also suffers from what’s largely a setup season that’s preparing us for what’s to come. It’s not a bad formula as it’s one that works well to connect us to these characters and who they are but it follows such a specific formula and structure that it can blur a bit at times.

The premise is straightforward enough as it focuses on a group that’s known as the Armed Detective Agency. Those involved, generally non-school age characters, have various supernatural powers that give them an edge in what they’re assigned to go after, which is seemingly mafia related things. The group is fairly amusingly named for those that are more tied into Japanese literary authors or famous characters of theirs, though only a few of them were ones that I knew enough to recognize. The main focus is on Atsushi Nakajima, the youngest of the bunch at eighteen that at the start is poor, hungry, and unsure of where his life is going while along the riverbank. When he discovers a man named Dazai floating upside down in the water as part of an attempted suicide, something he tries to do regularly, Atsushi saves him and is slowly drawn into the Agency after a brief test of sorts. Which is good because Atsushi was something of a target of there’s because he has a power himself, one that let shim turn into a larger white tiger with some real strength and power behind him.

The range of those involved in the agency is fun and there is the somewhat standard approach of Atsushi having “bottle” episodes or so that involves him working with them or in their orbit so we know who they are. That means Atsushi is our eyes into the world, a given, and that we’ll have light touches on most characters for a while and a stronger focus on one at a time. That’s got its pros and cons, especially with characters you don’t like. The cast is fairly straightforward in the types that we get but I’ll admit that I liked Edogawa the most – a shock as I dislike Edogawa stories – because of how he presents himself as the only real detective of the group and his power is Super Deduction that’s like on a whole other level. It allows for an easy out here and there with his ability but the personality is what sells it. Other characters include Doppo, who can bring things into reality through his notebook but no bigger than his notebook, or Junichiro, who works the illusion business. The group has its female character as well because it has to play up certain areas even just a little with Akiko Yosano who has the comically named “Thou Shall Not Die” ability that basically puts her through a lot of rough interactions and gunshot wounds that does a number on her. She’s also able to heal others, essentially making her the medic of the group.

The show spends a lot of time with these and other characters to establish the agency and the things they do, how they operate, and their powers. The main thing they deal with is the Port Mafia group which is largely seen at this stage as being run by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, though it looks like there are those above him as well. He’s got a great ability called RAshoumon that’s like a black slick slippery beast that has some brutal attacks to it. We also get introduced briefly to The Guid out of North America where again we get the familiar names being dropped, such as Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck, which is looking to make its own inroads into what’s going on here. Both organizations are interesting and have their own distinct goals (with a few twists in there for those that have “read ahead” with the original work). We get several back and forth encounters, including a big face-off between Akutagawa and Atsushi toward the end of this season that really shows an interesting balance in their powers and how they work, but in terms of story it’s skirting around the edges a bit at this point, content more with simply introducing the tension, the sides, and how this world operates.

In Summary:
I had a lot of fun with Bungo Stray Dogs overall with this first half of the overall work but I’m also pretty aware of just how standard a lot of it is. There are some fun things to be had with the powers and creativity and while the naming conventions have been done before it feels like it works better here in a way I can’t quite pin down. There aren’t any real shocks or surprises here as it’s all about introductions and setting up the foundational aspects of the series but it handles it well with a real polish thanks to studio Bones work. It’s a beautiful looking show with great character designs being housed in a really solid package that delivers. I’m definitely looking forward to the next half to see where it goes and if it takes some risks so that it’ll be more than just a fun show that’s easy to share with newer fans looking for something that doesn’t involve high school kids.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promo Videos, Commercials, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, and Trailers

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
MSRP: $84.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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