Here’s an important lesson for you: if any weapon has “space-time” in its name, start to worry. That goes double if the guy wielding it seems a little too good at surviving unsurvivable situations and has already demonstrated a fondness for tinkering with reality. But as Akutagawa and Atsushi prove this week, it’s one thing to know that sort of information and another entirely when it comes to applying it in real time. If you want to talk about moments that feel like they never end, our boys are living (and dying) through one as we speak.
One odder defining trait of Bungo Stray Dogs is the sheer number of characters who know far more than they care to let on and think they’re manipulating events for the greater good. Fukuchi’s thoughts were forged in the fires of war, but what he’s doing is only another side of what Dazai’s doing in manipulating Akutagawa (and both the Agency and the Mafia), while Dostoyevsky is yet another side of the same game. They’re like the worst gaming dice ever, with each face representing another motive leading to a variation of the same outcome: one person calling the shots that shape the world. In this scenario, Akutagawa and Atsushi are just pawns for the others, acting out according to their orders, which rely on understanding their motivations. At least Dazai was as honest as he ever is with Akutagawa about why he was making his request; that’s more than you can say for either of the other two.
It all seems very unfair if we look at it from this angle – Akutagawa and Atsushi are just being taken advantage of. In the case of Dazai, he’s deliberately using people whose fears and weaknesses he knows. But doing this negates the fact that both boys have their motivations and thoughts. Akutagawa is too smart not to realize that he’s being manipulated, and his willingness to work with Atsushi is less a product of Dazai’s words and more an understanding that Fukuchi is a serious threat to everything he cares about. Atsushi is, by his nature, more naïve than Akutagawa, but he’s also not stupid. He’s just heard Fukuchi explain his power and seen what it can do twice. The smart thing to do would be to keep coming up with creative ways to kill Fukuchi (or at least to destabilize him) to force him to reset time until he’s exhausted all possibilities for escape. It may be a million-to-one chance, but with Akutagawa’s head having parted company with his body, it’s better than nothing.
At this point, Akutagawa’s and Atsushi’s survival hinges on their ability to tag team Fukuchi until he can’t do anything else to stop them. That may be the real reason why Dazai sent Akutagawa to help – this is a two-person job. His desire to create a new Double Black could also be read as a wish to create a cross-agency team, which might prevent cases like Odasaku’s, since we know that his friend’s untimely death drives a lot of Dazai’s motivations. (Does anyone think he wouldn’t have Yosano save a dying Akutagawa from his lung disease?) He may not be able to create that same level of care between his proteges, but he could work towards a world where that wouldn’t be necessary. Whatever the case, he’s playing a long game, one that will outlast Fukuchi’s and Dostoyevsky’s. And he’s almost certainly chosen the right two people to carry it out – would you want to bet against someone who can catch multiple bullets in their bare hands? It may seem less impressive than a sword that cuts through space and time, but sometimes it’s the little things that do the most damage.
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