Bungo Stray Dogs: The Story Up to Now (2023)

Bungo Stray Dogs has been a critical darling of Studio Bones for years and the new season has been highly anticipated even as Bones' biggest show, My Hero Academia, is in the thick of things. However, before checking out Season 4, fans might want a bit of a refresher on things, and despite its rather simple-seeming premise, there is a lot to unpack.

Bungo began airing in 2016, directed by Takuya Igarashi, and follows Atsushi Nakajima as he joins the Armed Detective Agency in battling the Port Mafia and other superhuman threats to public safety. Every character is named after and based on a literary author or poet and the cast spans an international assortment of literary icons, all of whom are given a glamorous glow-up complete with superpowers.

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Season 1

Bungo Stray Dogs: The Story Up to Now (1)

Atsushi Nakajima was kicked out of his orphanage upon turning 18, tormented by memories of being called a cursed child and a menace. At the side of a river, he is on the brink of starvation and is about to resort to thievery when he spots a man drowning in said river. When Atsushi saves the man, he doesn't seem all that thankful.

In fact, the man is named Osamu Dazai, and he was planning to take his own life before Atsushi intervened. Dazai offers to buy Atsushi dinner at the expense of his coworker, the straight-laced Kunikida Doppo. Over dinner, the two reveal themselves to be detectives in search of a tiger that's been the talk of the town.

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At the mention of the tiger, Atsushi becomes terrified, convinced that the tiger in question is following him. In reality, Atsushi is the tiger, and said transformation is his special ability: "Beast Beneath the Moonlight." Dazai deactivates Atsushi's ability with his own power, "No Longer Human" and recruits him to join the Armed Detective Agency.

In his time with the Agency, Atsushi meets other Gifted like him and finds belonging. Tanizaki is a man who creates illusions. Yosano is a doctor who can heal anyone by first bringing them to the brink of death. Kenji is a farm boy with super strength. Kunikida can summon anything the size of his pocketbook by writing inside it. Ranpo is a detective who is convinced that he is Gifted when in fact his deductive skill is simply natural.

Atsushi quickly meets the evil lurking in the city as well: The Port Mafia, the organization in which Dazai used to be an executive. He encounters Ryuunosuke Akutagawa, a former pupil of Dazai's who wishes to prove himself to a man who is no longer his mentor. The two quickly become rivals.

Later, Kunikida saves a woman who was kidnapped, and she leads them on a path to thwarting a plot connected to "The Azure King," a dead criminal from Yokohama's past. However, after preventing a bombing, the woman reveals herself as the mastermind. The case ends with her being killed by a victim of her lover and Kunikida begins to question his ideals.

Sometime after, Atsushi makes it his mission to save a young girl named Kyouka, who has been manipulated into being a killer for the Port Mafia. She doesn't even have control of her own ability and has it controlled for her through her cell phone. Atsushi, still tormented by his memories, finds resolve, believing that if he can save her, he can earn his right to live.

His quest to save her brings him to blows with Akutagawa who stands between him and Kyouka, but he pulls through and even helps Kunikida regain his faith in justice in the process. Atsushi gains full control of his power and Kyouka is saved. All seems well until another Gifted organization from the west appears: The Guild.

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Season 2

Bungo Stray Dogs: The Story Up to Now (2)

The second season begins with a flashback, telling the tale of Osamu Dazai's last days in the Port Mafia. However, it's primarily about Oda Sakunosuke, an aspiring author who swore never to kill again, choosing instead to take care of the children orphaned by the gang conflicts in the city. Oda, Dazai, and Ango Sakaguchi, a bookkeeper for the mafia, all meet regularly at a bar to unwind.

One day, however, Ango disappears. Oda searches for him but discovers that Ango is a mole for the government and unravels a larger conspiracy. Gide, the leader of a group terrorizing Yokohama, recognizes Oda's strength and wishes for him to fight them. Oda declines. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Gide kills the orphans under Oda's care.

Oda abandons his dream and decides to kill them all. Meanwhile, Dazai discovers that Oda is being manipulated to eliminate the group so that the Port Mafia can acquire a Gifted Business Permit, granting them more freedom. He rushes to Oda's aid, but it is too late. Before he dies, Oda tells Dazai that it isn't too late to be better and to "protect the orphans."

Back in the present, the Guild wants to buy the Agency from the boss, Fukuzawa, in exchange for their own Gifted Business Permit, which Fukuzawa promptly turned down at the end of Season 1. Soon after, a three-way war begins between the Guild, the Port Mafia, and the Agency, and the Guild even kidnaps Atsushi.

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Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, the leader of the Guild, reveals that they are after a powerful item hiding within the city, but doesn't say much. Only that he's planning to destroy the city to get it, and after a terrible incident nearly destroys the city, Atsushi decides that the Agency and the Mafia should work together.

Ougai Mori, the leader of the Port Mafia, and Fukuzawa of the Agency work together to mount a counteroffensive, and Atsushi finds himself working alongside Akutagawa. Together, they defeat Francis atop the flying fortress, Moby Dick. They manage to defeat him, but the ship is still poised to crash into Yokohama. Just then, Kyouka sacrifices herself to stop it from crashing.

Atsushi thinks she's been lost until it's revealed that she survived. It's revealed that Fukuzawa's power as the leader allows those who he considers a part of his agency to fully control their powers. By being brave enough to sacrifice herself, she proved to be a true member of the team, and the day was saved.

Season 3

Bungo Stray Dogs: The Story Up to Now (3)

The third season begins with a flashback to the past of Chuuya Nakahara, Dazai's partner with whom they were an infamous duo in the underworld. We learn of his initial disdain for the mafia before he ended up joining them after a betrayal. The story resumes in the present and things are at peace, with the cease-fire between the Agency and the Mafia holding.

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Lucy Montgomery, a former member of the Guild, starts working at the café under the Agency. Kyouka learns that her parents were both government agents who were killed by an assassin and that Kyouka's mother transferred her power to her to save Kyouka's life.

Atsushi finds similar closure, as the former headmaster of his orphanage was coming to the city to see him before he was killed in an accident. While the abuse he suffered was unforgivable, and while Atsushi can't quite forgive him, he finds himself crying at the loss of the closest thing to a father he had.

Elsewhere, Francis, the former leader of the guild, is penniless in the slums but is inspired by an old subordinate to rise again and attain the funds to find what he seeks and save his family. Simultaneously, Fyodor Dostoevsky initiates a plan to bring down the Agency and the Port Mafia in one fell swoop.

He uses a Gifted individual with a "cannibalizing" ability to poison both leaders of the two groups, promising that only by killing one of them can the other be saved. His plan nearly works as the two groups battle it out. When Fukuzawa and Mori duel alone, an unexpected guest appears.

Natsume Souseki, the teacher of both Fukuzawa and Mori, stops their fight and shows them the path to ending Fyodor's plot. Atsushi and Akutagawa once again work together and storm the fortress, combining their powers to vanquish a powerful threat and track the owner of the cannibalizing ability. In one final twist, Dazai works with Francis to find Fyodor and arrest him.

The incident ends with a celebration and sighs of relief, but Atsushi and Akutagawa can't put their differences aside. They agree to fight to the death in one year, but Atsushi makes Akutagawa vow not to take a single life until then. On that promise, the season ends.

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