Title: Bungo Stray Dogs Vol. 23
Author: Kafka Asagiri (Story), Sango Harukawa (Art)
Publisher: Yen Press
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Publication Date: November 21, 2023
Dazai is trapped in the prison, Atsushi is captured by Teruko, Bram is on the run, and Fukuchi comes face to face with Fukuzawa! So much has happened over the course of this volume but let’s break it down bit by bit.
First off, it looked as if Atushi had gotten through to Teruko, getting her on his side; however, Teruko had plans of her own and… shockingly… they had nothing to do with Fukuchi’s orders! After she captures Atushi, she offers to tell him Fukuchi’s true goals and why she disagrees with them. Atsushi agrees to hear her out; however, we don’t end up knowing any of it because we get to discover all of that through Fukuchi’s encounter with Fukuzawa.
When these two meet, we end up getting some more backstory on Fukuchi and how he and Fukuzawa had their falling out. This is all laid out through Fukuzawa’s memories because Fukuchi told him that if he could guess his true motive, he would let everyone live but he only gave him a five-minute time limit. His answer ends up being the cliffhanger ending to this volume.
Even though I jumped ahead here, we also get to see Bram being smuggled out by Aya via a laundry truck. She figures that the airport won’t have enough security staffing to search the entire truck so their chances of escape are higher. We see how that plan plays out later in the chapter.
Another big focus was Dazai and his escape from the prison; however, he reveals that he’s not trying to escape at all! In fact, this was all part of his grand plan to kill Dostoyevsky! I won’t spoil how Dazai pulled it all together but it definitely was on an entirely new level. Forget 5D chess, Dazai played 10D chess on this one.
Right off the bat, we realize just how clever and cunning Dazai truly is. In the very beginning, he was depicted as just some hopeless suicidal idiot, and now, he could put Ranpo’s level of thinking to shame. Sure, a lot of his plans sound more like convenient plot devices (and they very well could be); however, they seem like plot devices that were actually thought out rather than just being there for the sake of being there. The fact that he had all of this planned was incredible and it really paints his character in a new light.
Of course, the big focus here was on Fukuchi and his past with Fukuzawa. Fukuchi started off by going around and dominating dojos. Word got to Fukuzawa’s dojo that he was coming so he had all of the other students evacuate. In their sparring sessions, they tied at 18 wins and 18 losses. That builds respect between them; however, when it was time to go to war, Fukuzawa turned down Fukuchi’s offer to join him on the battlefield. Fukuzawa went about the war in his own way which left Fukuchi to experience the horrors of war by himself. Even present-day Fukuchi admitted that the war changed him and the person that he once was is now lost to time.
I believe this gives a much deeper meaning to his sword and his skill. Being able to go through the future and relay messages to himself in the past (or present, technically) is kind of a metaphor for his character. He’s lived through hell. He changed based on that hell. So, sending his sword into the future to gain information that would help him in the present is a way for him to control things on his terms and prevent a worse future for himself. That’s one way of looking at it… another way is to think that his sword and skill were a preventative measure so that he would never have to experience that hell of war ever again. To stop conflicts before they can start… to end future suffering and torture. When you think about it like that… his plan makes complete sense… if that’s his plan at all, though. We still don’t know the true nature of it as it serves as this volume’s cliffhanger so there’s no telling what he’s thinking.
Kenji had some time to shine. We also received some backstory on him and why you should never make him angry. We knew the Kenji was strong but when the cuffs come off and he’s truly pissed off, he was described by Kunikida as a volcano erupting atop a typhoon. In his home village, a natural disaster struck which caused him to witness the death of a close friend. The results of that gave rise to what Kenji is today. His soft and warm personality is more or less a limiter put on himself to prevent his anger from taking over. We see a glimpse of why that is important here, adding a new dimension to him as a character. Reminds me a lot of Angry from Tokyo Revengers.
Next, we got a bit of information on Bram, the sword that’s impaled inside him, and what it truly means. Bram, himself, isn’t truly evil. He’s just in a position where he can easily be used by others. In a way, you feel sorry for him because all he wants to do is sleep and rest in peace. He is tired of the manipulation but he also knows that there is very little that he can do about it due to the nature of the sword and what it would mean if he were to be freed from its sealing powers. I’m starting to like him more and more as a character!
Finally, Teruko is still pretty hard to read. At first, she feigns allegiance, then she looks as if she’s back to her duties as a Hunting Dog, then we find out she’s going against Fukuchi’s orders which makes you think she’ll join Atsushi after all, and then she’s still mean and vicious as she’s furthering her own goal without doing much in the way of furthering her own goal. Her character is a bit scattered in this volume but I’m sure it’ll pull together sooner or later. I still think she will see things in Atsushi’s way and end up either turning on the Hunting Dogs or being the one to make them realize that the ADA is truly innocent.
Wow… a lot of character development in this volume and despite the overabundance of it, the plot still found a way to move forward, albeit, slightly. Even though we got all of these great backstories, the plot literally went from, “Why are you doing this?” to “No, really, why are you doing this?” Nothing was really furthered too much, and yet, it still felt like progression. Fukuchi’s reasons still remain a mystery; however, I’m more intrigued with Dazai vs Dostoyevsky. Their little mental game of chess has been great and even though he was able to pin him and Chuuya down in the prison, I hardly believe that Dazai won. Dostoyevsky is as every bit of a genius as Dazai and I cannot believe he would lose so easily to him. He has to have known this was coming and has a plan for it so the question is, will we see that plan in the next volume and, if so, did Dazai account for it?
My only gripe is that the Hunting Dogs still cannot believe that the ADA is innocent. Yes, I know… the magical little brain-altering page and all of that, but you’d think that after so many attempts at proving their innocence, they would at least be the smallest bit of objective and try and hear them out. Teruko seems to realize it but is too motivated by whatever goals she has to truly care. Even when Atsushi tried to speak to her of justice, it only enraged her further. Maybe Kenji will have better luck.
The number of moving parts in this volume was great. The whole cast got their chance to shine and it sets up for some interesting scenarios in the next volume! Twenty-three volumes in and this still produces banger after banger each time a new volume releases!
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This item was provided for review by Yen Press