REVIEW: ‘Bungo Stray Dogs,’ Light Novel 5 – “Dead Apple”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple

It has been a couple of years since the Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple anime-original film premiered, but the novelization of the story has just received an English release from Yen Press. Bungo Stray Dogs centers around the Armed Detective Agency, a fictional group of “skill users” in Yokohama who take on cases. The majority of the characters in the series are inspired (and named after) real life literary figures, and references abound. The series started as a manga by Kafka Asagiri with art by Sango Harukawa, but soon expanded into a full multimedia franchise, widening the canon. The light novel series features standalone stories by Asagiri. Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is the first light novel to not be written directly by Asagiri, who instead supervised. This novel is written by Hiro Iwahata, with illustrations by Ganjii, based on the original story from Bungo Stray Dogs DA Partners. Matt Rutsohn translates it into English.

A series of unexplained suicides by skill users prompt the Armed Detective Agency to track down a mysterious man by the name of Tatsuhiko Shibusawa. Separated from their teammates in a thick fog that covers the city, Atsushi and Kyoka must team up with former enemy Akutagawa of the Port Mafia. Behind the scenes, Dazai is once again pulling the strings, this time alongside Fyodor Dostoevsky, and he may have finally betrayed the detective agency.

The novel follows the film pretty closely, with only a few minor deviations and expansions to improve clarity. It crams a lot into just under 200 pages. There are multiple character cameos, and some work better than others. It is nice to see Oda again, with a brief flashback to the Dragon’s Head Conflict during Dazai’s mafia days. Even Dame Agatha Christie, elusive in the manga, makes a brief appearance. These are fun, and ultimately Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is more enjoyable looking at its individual parts, rather than their sum. Wires get crossed in the details, causing the big picture to collapse under its own weight. The novelization certainly improves on the film’s convoluted plot. It spends a little more time with the antagonists, giving a bit more context to their motivations and goals.

The Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple light novel also expands more on Atsushi’s past trauma with Shibusawa. This helps ease some of the frustration with his character. Ultimately, the plot’s overall messages of trauma and self-acceptance aren’t given enough time to grow with the characters and feel rather forced. More so, since the timeline placement of the novel is after the conflict with The Guild, where Atsushi and Kyoka already had major character arcs about self-acceptance.

Presentation-wise, the Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple novel includes a double-sided pullout featuring the key artwork used for the film. It is a nice touch. Ganjii’s illustrations are good, although not as detailed as Harukawa’s. The lines are bold, dark, and scratchy, in contrast to Harukawa’s usually thin, slick linework. The other frustration with this novel is consistency. Bungo Stray Dogs is a multimedia franchise. A different company, of course, localizes the anime, but both the manga and novels are published by Yen Press. Translation is hard, especially with a series that references literary works that have been localized in numerous ways previously. However, in-house, it is odd that elements, such as Chuuya’s trigger phrase for his ability, differ from the novel and manga. Additionally, there were a few noticeable typos. It isn’t a deal-breaker, as this happens, but Atsushi Nakajima’s last name was written as “Nakashima” multiple times and was distracting.

For fans of the franchise, this standalone light novel may be worth it, as it does improve upon the film. Unfortunately, the plot is still very convoluted and tries to do too much. Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is the weakest installment in the light novel series.

Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is available now wherever books are sold.

Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple
2.5

TL;DR

For fans of the franchise, this standalone light novel may be worth it, as it does improve upon the film. Unfortunately, the plot is still very convoluted and tries to do too much. Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple is the weakest installment in the light novel series.