Bungo Stray Dogs is back with the fourth season and the first episode comes in the form of another backstory which I think was fully unexpectedly expected. I say that because the second season retold the events of Dazai Osamu’s Dark Era while the third season introduced Nakahara Chuuya’s arrival to the Port Mafia. It’s only fitting for the show (right after the trailer full of hype) to do another one! In this case, it is the events from The Untold Origins of the Detective Agency light novel, which focuses on Fukuzawa and Ranpo’s fateful meeting. In case you need a refresher, the anime released a 5-minute recap trailer for its fourth season.
Fukuzawa’s Mysterious Past
The episode, titled “Lone Swordsman and Great Detective,” immediately transported me back to the story’s world. Believe me when I tell you that studio Bones understood the assignment because these visuals are incredibly well-done. And to think it’s even devoid of color except for the eyes and blood! The grayscale tone is the perfect expression of how Fukuzawa, after a life of violence, and Ranpo, a 14-year-old orphan, see the world. However, it is hinted subtly that this is actually Ranpo’s point of view after we see a quick splash of color in Fukuzawa’s memories.
To be honest, I’ve always been amazed at the show’s aesthetic because it fully translates how different the characters view the world. It is a thoughtful nod to the original light novel text and the real-life authors who have written many impactful poems and books around the world. I could fangirl and talk more in-depth about it, but at the same time, I just want to simply enjoy the anime as it is.
It was already hinted in the past seasons that Fukuzawa and Rampo, as well as the Detective Agency itself, had some sort of history together. Backstories are always a fun treat to have and so seeing younger Fukuzawa and Ranpo’s first meeting is all the more exciting. We got to see that Ranpo had always been silly (an arrogant child, actually) and a genius in the art of deduction, and on the other side, we also see how skillful Fukuzawa was with martial arts during his prime.
And yes, young Odasaku’s appearance was very cool (kind of a nostalgic moment because Ranpo also had a cameo during the Dark Era). Seeing Odasaku’s fighting prowess and philosophy before becoming the mature adult he was in Dark Era, as well as realizing that he truly was similar to young Dazai, is on another level of bitter profoundness (and feels) that I did not sign up for. But damn, that fight scene was just so well-animated.
The main takeaway of Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4 premiere is that Fukuzawa, due to his mysterious past, seems to be determined to work alone and not be involved with anyone. Ironically enough, he ends up taking in Ranpo, a genius orphan with nowhere else to go, and they end up working a case together. Another thing I particularly enjoyed in this episode is how Ranpo easily solved the murder case with only the clues in plain sight, something mystery fans would appreciate. (I do love a good reveal.)
By the end of the episode, Fukuzawa and Ranpo already make an interesting pair. We’ve always known that they’ve had a special bond, and when the start of the episode said, “This tale is a record of one man’s tribulations, growth, and parenthood,” I knew that we were all in for a great ride. The new visual just hits right.
A Young Boy’s Complex Mind
I’m also particularly curious about the way Ranpo’s mind thinks. He may be gifted with deduction, but at the same time, he doesn’t have a social understanding that others can’t or don’t think as he does. Ranpo said that he couldn’t say much about Fukuzawa, but he still ends up revealing his darkest secrets! If you think about it, Ranpo is just a child after all, and although he sees the truth clearer than adults, therein lies his flaw.
In fact, in Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4‘s second episode, we delve into a deeper discussion about Rampo’s talent– or in this case, his “special ability.” It becomes clear to Fukuzawa that Rampo sees through everything too differently. It even gets darker when Rampo confesses, “There must be something everyone but me understands. I don’t know… and it scares me…It’s like the whole world is filled with monsters …monsters incomprehensible to me. I’m all alone in a world of only monsters.”
When Fukuzawa hands over the glasses to Ranpo, the show finally gains color and it fully expresses how the boy’s point-of-view shifts. It’s at this moment that he embraces the fact that he is special/gifted, and that people are foolish and need to be protected. The great detective in him is born! He immediately runs off to solve the mystery at hand, teasing the fact that Fukuzawa can’t let the young detective on his own…that he must be an “armed detective.” That’s the origin story right there, folks.
If you missed it, the second episode is called, “Day Is a Dream, Night Is a Reality.” It’s a poetic way to foretell and describe the events of this episode, especially with the unraveling of the mystery of the murder. Although Ranpo gets a bit theatrical, the mind-boggling details he exposes about the play are quite a treat to watch. (Plus, Natsume’s appearance.).
On another note though, wasn’t it funny to discover that Fukuzawa’s solution to this dilemma was to give Rampo a pair of glasses? I feel like he panicked too much, but to his credit, it started out well. Especially when he was comparing his power to Ranpo’s ability, he said, “Should you choose to feign ignorance over this gift of yours, then you are no different from when I wielded the sword seeking bloodshed.” It’s a thoughtful gesture, but at the same time, it’s so silly how effective it becomes. We already know that Ranpo will grow up still believing this. (Though he admits he knew later on.) What’s more, it is in this second episode that we find where the idea of an armed detective is – to protect Ranpo.
Ranpo’s New Life and Ability
Honestly, this backstory puts them in a different light. I think back to that emotional moment when Ranpo had his outburst at Fukuzawa. The boy felt annoyance, confusion, sadness, and helplessness – they were all about to spill over. He just could not understand the foolishness of adults, the people he was meant to lean on after being orphaned (his parents were probably the only people who were as smart as him). It might have been wrong of Fukuzawa to deceive him, but this actually saved Ranpo from his grievance. “No one hated me…?” was a sigh of relief when finally, the world made sense. Ranpo becomes free and so happy about this. He ends up flaunting his “ability” and goes on to be the great detective he was always meant to be.
The beginning of the new season of Bungo Stray Dogs was truly amazing when it comes to Ranpo’s character development. However, we are now on a cliffhanger that puts our young detective in grave danger…and in a more complicated mystery at that.
An Amazing Premiere
All in all, the season is off to a great start. I honestly loved seeing Fukuzawa and Ranpo in focus. In addition, I also loved Odasaku’s short appearance, especially because it reminds us that though it is bittersweet, the present story ends up with Dazai following adult-Odasaku’s footsteps towards “being on the side that saves people.” The reason why these flashbacks episodes are so cool is the fact that the characters have so much depth and development to them. I remember how emotional I was watching season 2 wrap up the way it did, with references from the Dark Era. I can only imagine that Bungo Stray Dogs season 4 is doing the same now with these flashbacks. I truly look forward to all of it.
New episodes of Bungo Stray Dogs Season 4 come out every Wednesday, at 23:00 JST. If you enjoyed the episode, don’t forget to vote in our weekly polls!
Images via Bilibili
©Kafka Asagiri, Harukawa35/KADOKAWA/Bungo Stray Dogs Production Committee