Bungo Stray Dogs ft. Masahiko Minami & Chiaki Kurakane – Crunchyroll Expo 2022

It’s been four years since the last entry in the Bungo Stray Dogs anime series (sans Wan!) but fans were ready to hear more about the upcoming season and a chance to rejoin the adventures of the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia. Crunchyroll senior brand manager Chris Han welcomed Studio Bones president Masahiko Minami and Kadokawa producer Chiaki Kurakane to the stage to discuss the series and share brand-new announcements. The guests appeared on stage in coordinated t-shirts featuring manga panels (Minami, who was set-up with three back-to-back panels, would later go through some outfit changes).

Following the events of season three, Kurakane explained the new season is about Atsushi trying to figure out how to continue on with the agency without the usual help from his friends. The series will introduce a new enemy group, a police squad known as the Hunting Dogs. The trailer featured both these new foes and new characters Nikolai and Mushitaro.

“I really like this new character named Mushitaro,” Kurakane said. “He’s so cute and he’s my favorite so I hope you guys can all appreciate his cuteness.”

Han sat down with the guests after the trailer reveal to discuss the series’ production over the last three seasons.

Bones is known for its flashy action and wide range of animation styles and specialties. What specialties did you want to focus on during the production process?

Minami: With Studio Bones we do focus on a lot of action and explosions and missiles – this is the direction we go in with our work. Bungo Stray Dogs is very much about superpowers, so how do we express this? Through the art. We asked director [Takuya] Igarashi and the staff to work on a new style of expression in order to capture the amazingness of Bungo Stray Dogs. I will be talking a little bit about this in my next panel about Studio Bones, but for whatever reason we have My Hero Academia, Bungo Stray Dogs, Mob Psycho 100 – we had this super-powered trio to work on. With Bungo we wanted to add an element that differentiated it from the other two series.

What kind of discussions did you have with the original author and how much involvement did the author have in the creation of the series composition and scenario?

Kurakane: Kafka Asagiri is one of the original creators and is always very helpful. He always shows up to all our meetings and planning sessions and is very much a core part of our planning and is always willing to help and share his opinions. This is kind of a friendly story to share, but as we were working on the script and scenario for season 1, a lot of different people within the staff – such as the producers and Asagiri – we all went on a trip to Yokohama and worked on the script together as a way to get away from the office but still have a fun and collaborative environment.

Is it normal to have authors/creators that are this involved in a production?

Minami: In the case of adaptations, most animation studios would involve original creators and want them to participate out of respect and due diligence. However, Asagiri is kind of a special case in the sense that he comes to every single meeting every week, which is a little bit rare because usually a publishing company will send a representative from their editorial department to be a middleman between the author and us. But Asagiri is so helpful and incredibly active in participating in the production.

We didn’t really know Asagiri at first so we didn’t know what kind of person he was initially or what to expect. But by being able to build a relationship with him we’ve built a sense of trust, and with this 4th season we’ve done a lot of discussions and collaborations so a lot of new ideas have came out from that.

By this point in the Q&A session the host took some time to recap the past few seasons of Bungo Stray Dogs alongside Kurakane and Minami.

What is most important to remember in Season 1?

Kurakane: With Season 1-2 and the movie, it’s all really focused on Atsushi and even goes into a little of his past and how he finds his place and himself and what his role is in the world.

Minami: With season 1 we gathered 4-5 animators, but since it was a new series for Bones everything from the character design to the storyboard was based on Sango Harukawa‘s art. How do we make them move, act, etc? Based on that is how we went about choosing a character designer. [Nobuhiro] Arai has a unique art style that tends to be a little on the sexy side; we knew the original work was really popular with female fans so we wanted to appeal to that sexiness. That’s how we chose Arai.

What are the important parts or highlights for Season 2?

Kurakane: With some characters like Mori Ōgai, it was really important to point out their relationship with the Port Mafia and with the agency. In the guild arc there were battles and strife between them, and some discoveries need to be made about who are above the humans and who are at the bottom. Both Akutagawa and Atsushi are at the bottom tier, so how do they struggle and reconcile with that position?

Minami: The manga focused on the guild arc and there was also a novel being made at the time that caught up and went ahead, so there were several challenges in adapting that within 12 episodes. Thanks to Kurakane and all the staff for their hard work on expanding the world of Bungo Stray Dogs.

What are the important parts or highlights for Season 3?

Kurakane: Continuing on from season 2, a new character was introduced – Fyodor Dostoevsky – who was kind of a boss character in the story, so we wanted to express the struggles with his underlings and the political dynamics involved. We also wanted to focus on Akutagawa and Atsushi, both characters with traumatic pasts and coming together with a sort of sibling rivalry that really shows the burning passion of a shonen manga.

Minami: There was a lot going on with a lot of characters introduced along with new guilds from overseas. It might have been a bit too much with all the world-building that was going on, so we tried to clean that up a little bit while working on the theatrical release. The art for some reason became really detailed to the point where you can see the wrinkles and the folds in the skin on the characters’ lips. I think the art was brought to the next level in season 3.

(For Kurakane) What do you think of the relationship between Atsushi and Dazai?

Kurakane: Because the story focuses on Atsushi and his growth, it really starts from the moment when Atsushi and Dazai meet. It’s therefore really important that the detective agency is introduced to Atsushi by Dazai; Atsushi had no self-confidence, so Dazai kind of takes on the role of a mentor to hint at but not give him the full answer on how to find his own place in the world.

There’s some uneasiness between them, but once we get to where they separate and can no longer be in touch with each other, it really comes up to Atsushi to take the initiative and protect Yokohama.

What other roles did Arai undertake in the production aside from designing the characters?

Minami: Because there are so many different characters – almost every week there’s a new one introduced – we asked Arai to manage the animation direction. He is involved in every part of the process where a character appears. The animation direction is really handled by Arai to make sure everything comes together and is consistent in look and feel.

Can you briefly explain the process you go through when selecting works at Bones and the production process?

Minami: Within Studio Bones we actually have five sub-studios (A to E) that all work on different projects, and though they are separated we do try to match staff to the right project based on their skills. It’s not like we only work on the same projects, and although we do have Bungo Stray Dogs being worked on the same sub-studio, sometimes there’s a little bit of an opening, some availability. We have the D studio that our producer Suzuki manages – they worked on Sk8 – and although it’s kind of a hard schedule and really tough, sometimes these kinds of opportunities do come up. It’s a lot of work. We’re really well known for our action and mecha anime – that’s our reputation from the outside – but we do try to make these decisions internally so that we can find out what the best projects are for us. Within our staff we have a presentation on a regular basis on what they want to work on; as an example, Fullmetal Alchemist was proposed by character designer [Yoshiyuki] Ito and my reaction was like “yeah, this is really good, sure.”

Please tell us about your process when planning and producing Bungo Stray Dogs?

Kurakane: When vol 1 [of the manga] was finished, Kato from Kadokawa brought it to us and said “this was a really fun project, and I think this would be a great thing to turn into animation,” and it really started from there. As Minami said earlier, the animation process is very difficult, but there are some times where we aren’t working on anything directly and during this time period we work hard with announcements on socials and new projects like the theatrical release to keep it active. It’s really thanks to you guys that we were able to continue with our work and produce more and more content for Bungo Stray Dogs; I have a lot of appreciation for everyone here.

Is there any original anime scene in the anime series that did not have an original source?

We generally try to stay true to the original source, but around ep 7-8 in season 1 – it’s a scene involving Kunikida and Dazai – the original source had Atsushi joining the agency afterward whereas in the anime we had it so he joined before. This is one of the largest areas where the anime differs from the original material.

Minami closed the panel with a final message: We really worked hard to make this new season so awesome and to bring it to you guys in a state that would be exciting. Please look forward to it and enjoy it.