Review: Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple (Blu-Ray)

A mysterious fog descends upon Yokohama, disappearing a majority of the city’s population and having strange effects on those with supernatural abilities who have remained behind. The Armed Detective Agency springs into action to locate the cause of the fog – a man named Shibusawa who is using it to collect the supernatural abilities of Yokohama’s gifted. In their pursuit of Shibusawa, Agency members Atsushi and Kyouka find themselves teaming up with Akutagawa of the Yokohama Port Mafia as they race against time to find Dazai, a member of the Armed Detective Agency who appears to have allied with Shibusawa, and disperse the fog before it leads to the destruction of Yokohama.

Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is the movie debut of the Bungo Stray Dogs series, an anime based on the manga by Kafka Asagiri and Sango Harukawa which features characters with supernatural abilities based on famous writers (see my reviews of season one and season two of Bungo Stray Dogs for further reading). The film acts as a bridge between season two and three of the series, setting up season three antagonist Fyodor Dostoevsky who has allied himself with Shibusawa and Dazai in order to further his own agenda. In my experience, Bungo Stray Dogs is a series that traps itself in unnecessary purple prose and complex motivations that struggle to come to coherent conclusions within its overarching narrative. Despite this, the series is surprisingly good at creating really memorable and exciting character moments that more than make up for the aforementioned complexity, and often uses its characters’ supernatural abilities to execute exciting battles and interesting challenges for its protagonists. Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is no exception to this observation. While the motivations of Fyodor, Shibusawa and Dazai seem opaque and the unnecessary complexity of the film’s set-up does not necessarily have a satisfying pay-off, Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is still able to deliver relatively satisfying character narratives for Atsushi, Kyouka and Akutagawa as they work together to fight their way through Yokohama to find Shibusawa.

The characters that get the lion share of the spotlight in Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple are Atsushi, Kyouka, Akutagawa and Dazai. For fans of the series who love the ensemble cast of the Armed Detective Agency or Port Mafia, you will get some good moments with Kunikida and Chuuya, but the rest are mainly delegated to quick blink and you’ll miss it cutaways that could leave series regulars disappointed. I was personally satisfied with the focus of the film because Atsushi and Kyouka have great friendship and an interesting history together built over the first two seasons of Bungo Stray Dogs, so it’s always fun to see the two working together. Throwing their Port Mafia rival Akutagawa into the mix also makes for a tentative but fun alliance, as the trio try to navigate their complicated and often violent histories with each other for the sake of saving their friends and the city.

The mysterious fog that enshrouds Yokohama and its true purpose also has some really interesting narrative implications that force characters to confront themselves in ways they haven’t before – literally. I won’t go into too much detail, but it is a perfect set-up for the film’s protagonists to face their own internal conflict – and in my opinion, was unfortunately an opportunity the film did not take advantage of. What we end up getting instead of some really cool introspection are condensed character arcs that fans of Bungo Stray Dogs have seen before. Atsushi continues to feel unsure about his abilities and trepidation over the connection between himself and the white tiger he can transform into, and Kyouka continues to desire to distance herself from her murderous Demon Snow ability. It’s a shame that the fog was not used in a more interesting way, as it feels like a missed opportunity and while the condensed character arcs were interesting enough, I wish Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple had done more to deliver something new to fans.

Acting as a bridge between season one and two of the series makes Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple a film that is almost squarely targeted at fans of the franchise. While the film offers a condensed Bungo Stray Dogs experience that new fans could use to test whether they are interested in getting into the series, I can imagine  newcomers to the franchise struggling to enjoy it as a standalone film without the context of the first and second seasons. That being said, existing fans will be able to find something to enjoy in Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple as most of the main players in the series get their moment in the spotlight and some interesting aspects of Atsushi’s past come to light throughout the course of the film. It’s also praiseworthy that Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple has managed to ignite my anticipation for new Bungo Stray Dogs episodes, and while new antagonist Fyodor’s motivation came across as a bity messy in the film, I’m keen to see what he brings to season three going forward.

Radness scale:

A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.