REVIEW: ‘Bungo Stray Dogs,’ Volume 17

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Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17

Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 brings together a lot of familiar faces and introduces a brand new player to the very large cast of characters. The manga has story by Kafka Asagiri, and artwork by Sango Harukawa. It takes place in Yokohama, Japan, focusing on the Armed Detective Agency, an organization of individuals with “special abilities.” All the major characters in the manga (and their supernatural abilities) are inspired by real-life literary figures and their works. The manga is published in English by Yen Press, translated by Kevin Gifford, and lettered by Bianca Pistillo.

The last few pages of Volume 16 ended with one of the biggest reveals in the series to date. Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 first few panels pick up immediately after but don’t expect any sort of answer to Yosano’s fate (which may frustrate some readers). While Bungo Stray Dogs can sometimes have a habit of pulling “twists” out of a hat while juggling so many eccentricities, the reveal of the elusive fifth Hunting Dog works. Asagiri smartly makes Tachihara, a character that has been with the story since the very first volume, a double agent. It isn’t unheard of for there to be infiltrators in the mafia either, since Ango was one of them in the past. Readers already have an investment in Tachihara as a major player in the mafia’s Black Lizard. Additionally, like Higuchi, everyone was comfortable in assuming Tachihara was one of the rare main characters not possessing a special ability. Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 adds more layers to a long-established character as we see him interact in the group he is actually a part of as his true self.

Because of this, Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 gives a peek behind the curtain to The Hunting Dogs, with Tachihara acting as the window for the viewers. Anyone who has kept up with the series knows that essentially every new story arc introduces another special abilities group. It is the comedic moments that allow the audience to get attached to each player, instead of feeling overwhelmed (although this volume may be overwhelming anyway). This volume brings together a lot of players from previous encounters. Atsushi is seeking help from the Guild, and he and Kyoka are determined to track down Mushitarou, who previously was a member of The Rats in the House of Dead.

This story arc is all about making the Armed Detective Agency question their morals. While they are on the side of good, many are not afraid to get their hands dirty. Those who haven’t yet are about to in order to save everyone. Even Ranpo, who had developed a closeness with Mushitarou after they clashed, incites the latter’s anger by using something personal against him. Other highlights include Dazai and Dostoevsky playing chess entirely for memory while in prison, and the normally collected Ango snapping and finally revealing his special ability.

Anyone who is a fan of Bungo Stray Dogs (myself included) will tell you that the series is far from perfect, and Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 is no exception. There is always another secret agency or double-crosser behind the first, and it can get a tad repetitive. Additionally, while the series having absolutely out there explanations for things is normal given the many different supernatural abilities, there is one “solution” to how Dazai communicates with the outside while in prison that is a bit eye-rolling. The explanation feels too far-fetched, even for genius Dazai, which is saying something for this manga. Additionally, it just felt like there were other methods Dazai could have schemed that would feel a little more true to the detective core of the manga. Adding to the extremes, there is now a literal flying casino in the picture.

Overall, if you are already a fan of the manga Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 will be an exciting installment. The volume includes a few elements that are a bit too far-fetched even for this series. However, it also manages to make another double agent reveal work in the constraints of the cast, and puts supporting character Tachihara center stage.

Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 is available now wherever books are sold.

 

Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 
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TL;DR

Overall, if you are already a fan of the manga Bungo Stray Dogs Volume 17 will be an exciting installment. The volume includes a few elements that are a bit too far-fetched even for this series. However, it also manages to make another double agent reveal work in the constraints of the cast, and puts supporting character Tachihara center stage.