REVIEW: ‘Bungo Stray Dogs: BEAST,’ Volume 2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bungo Stray Dogs Beast VOlume 2 - But Why Tho

Bungo Stray Dogs: BEAST Volume 2 continues to be a treat for fans of the mainline series. The manga adapts Kafka Asagiri’s light novel of the same name, with art by Shiwasu Hosikawa (character design by Sango Harukawa). The story is a “what if” for the Bungo Stray Dogs universe, taking popular central rivals Atsushi and Akutagawa and switching their positions in the story. What if Dazai became leader of the Port Mafia, and turned away Akutagawa that day? What if Oda worked for the Armed Detective Agency and took him under his wing instead? The English edition is published by Yen Press, with translation by Kevin Gifford and lettering by Bianca Pistillo.

Now that the world of this alternate universe has been established, BEAST Volume 2 dives further into the nuanced differences between this and the mainline series. What works is the fact that while the characters’ core personalities are the same, there are small details that surface because different relationships have formed. A notable highlight is the bond that forms between Kenji and Akutagawa while they do farm work together. There’s also a fun rapport between Akutagawa and Tanizaki, which makes total sense. While the characters barely interact in the main story, here they are both desperate to protect their younger sisters, and bond over this. It also reminds readers that in both universes’ Tanizaki has a much darker side to him. He often is played for comedy, but in fact can be very deadly when Naomi is threatened.

It’s fun to see Akutagawa’s humanity shine through here, he is still his standoffish, bloodthirsty self, but thanks to having Oda and the Armed Detective Agency as mentors, there is a softer side to him. BEAST Volume 2 places Akutagawa in a more protective, rather than offensive role that readers are used to. It makes the series compelling, because while it is a “what if,” it is fully believable that this is a side present in the character in the main story, only the right situation hasn’t brought it out. Additionally, the immediate friendship forged with Atsushi over their mutual childhood experiences is almost heartbreaking in its tenderness, purely because readers know what is to come.

Hoshikawa’s artwork works wonderfully in BEAST Volume 2. It honors Harukawa’s original concepts, while still being distinctive, establishing that this story is an alternate universe. There’s a sharpness in the action scenes, punctuated by swaths of darkness, which appropriately reflects the tone of the story, and the internal struggles of Akutagawa and Atsushi. Harukawa has frequently discussed how important eyes are in the artwork of Bungo Stray Dogs, and Hoshikawa’s depictions are no different. So much emphasis in panels are placed on expressions through the eyes, and sometimes the most painful moments are when a character whose eyes are normally flat black gain new life and dimension.

Bungo Stray Dogs: BEAST Volume 2 is a solid entry into the large franchise. This specific alternate universe storyline is well done and fun for fans of the mainline series. Additionally, Hoshikawa’s artwork adds an additional layer to the tender moments with Akutagawa, that we don’t get to see in the regular series, and had to imagine in the light novel.

Bungo Stray Dogs: BEAST Volume 2 is available now wherever books are sold.


Bungo Stray Dogs: BEAST Volume 2
4/10

TL;DR

Bungo Stray Dogs: BEAST Volume 2 is a solid entry into the large franchise. This specific alternate universe storyline is well done and fun for fans of the mainline series. Additionally, Hoshikawa’s artwork adds an additional layer to the tender moments with Akutagawa, that we don’t get to see in the regular series, and had to imagine in the light novel.