What They Say:
A darker chapter of Dazai’s past reveals his ties to the Port Mafia. Now, four years later, a gifted group of Americans known as the Guild have challenged the mafia’s power. Atsushi has his work cut out for him while Akutagawa grows more resentful by the day. But when the Guild becomes a threat to all of Yokohama, a united front between bitter enemies may be the only way to save the city.
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 release brings us a regular edition that fits into the limited edition that came with the first half as it’s thicker than standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card slipcover. The front cover is the same for both as it showcases the Ferris wheel material in the background that makes for some great architecture in contrast with the character material in the foreground. I also like the green and black color design for the background that lets it stand out even more. The back cover sticks to a standard approach with a tagline along the top, some shots from the series pushed together, and the bulk of the rest the summary of the premise in a good typewriter style font against a white background. The extras are listed clearly, which labels the OVA as an extra, and the technical grid breaks it all down in a clear and easy to read way. While there are no show related inserts included with this release we do get the digital copy sheet and an ad for the manga itself. The cover is reversible where the front has a nice image of the three of the male leads while the back cover breaks out the episodes by number and title in place of the summary.
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)
The first season of Bungo Stray Dogs hit in the spring 2016 season and rolled well into the fall with its back half. This set brings us that second half plus the OVA that serves as a standalone piece that’s a nice little bit of fun after all the heavy seriousness of the main run. I had enjoyed the first season a good deal with what it presented, especially with such a rich visual design to it and some great material in how the gifts/abilities work. Going into this season I’ll admit that I had forgotten a lot of what happened in the first half even though it was released just a few months prior. This season is the one that expands on everything with a bigger storyline while also keeping it quite personal in a way that works very well.
The size of the cast is somewhat problematic at times because we get the big picture arc but smaller storylines mixed into it, which means characters can disappear for a while. The opening arc hit a certain sweet spot for me as it was focused on the Port Mafia side a good deal as it moved back and forth in time, albeit briefly, while exploring the double agent that was working within it for the Agency. This helps to really show off the bond that the three men share and how close they’ve become, giving it a really good mafia kind of feeling that explores that genre well. It’s moody and creative as it works the way there’s uncertainties about allegiances and the like, but at its core we get to see some strong action to it with confrontations and the reveal about the bigger twist with the Agency member redirecting his attention toward the Guild.
Where this season really works for me is the use of the Guild here. While we’ve had so much focus on the balance within the city between the Port Mafia and the Agency, allowing viewers to really connect with characters on both sides, the addition of the Guild to the bigger picture helps to put the two on an even footing – somewhat. The general idea is that they should work together but they’re unable to trust each other enough even in the face of what the Guild represents. But they do get a good bit of time with an uneasy alliance that makes for strange bedfellows at times and that helps to work the action side well. When it gets into the big even toward the end there’s a real delight in watching the Atsushi and Akutagawa working together, somewhat, against the common enemy. The way their powers work in unison at times definitely delivers a good visual experience.
The Guild brings a number of players to the table across the season with some amusing names being brought in, including Lovecraft, and their gifts are just as varied and all over the place as the other two groups. But what really drives it for me is the lead in Fitzgerald. Keying off The Great Gatsby, this reminded me of the C-Control series in some ways with his gift focused on money, using various levels to increase his power to deal with opponents. He views Atsushi as a $10k opponent for much of the time here but has to keep ramping it up. The only way to defeat him is to break the bank but there’s the visual that basically says he’s got millions in it. The confidence and scale of his ability is great and the way he uses Melville and his power with a giant whale through Moby Dick is great. The intent of his plan is fairly standard fare in a lot of ways but it provides something big and impressive looking as a finale arc that has both the Port Mafia and the Agency have a real stake in stopping him.
The second half of Bungo Stray Dogs is something that I think will click better if you watch it right after the first season since it has an expansive cast and a lot of connections going on here. I love the variety that we get in them, the settings, and the powers/gifts that most of them utilize. This season initially works really well for me when it focused on the Port Mafia storyline in the first few episodes but as it expanded to dealing with the Guild and what they represent I was into it a whole lot more. But it is a simple and straightforward storyline overall and that has it relying on its visual design and the foundations from the first season to make it click. It’s a strong show overall and I’m excited for the movie that’s out there as well. Funimation’s release is a solid follow-up to the first season set and will definitely please fans in a big way.
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: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.