Bungo Stray Dogs: Official Comic Anthology Volume 1 – Rei Review

Bungo Stray Dogs has been treated to a variety of spin-off manga since it began in 2012, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the series has also been treated to a collection of anthologies. The first of these has just made its way to the West thanks to Yen Press, but does it prove a must-have for fans? Let’s find out!

This first anthology collection titled Rei brings together fourteen different mangaka to contribute to thirteen chapters and three colour illustrations. These range in length from 10-15 pages and are largely comedic storylines following the cast of the Armed Detective Agency or the Port Mafia (or both!). And we start well, with a tale about Kunikida having grown fed up with Dazai and joining a cult. The fate of the detective agency now rests on the shoulders of Atsushi who must rekindle the friendship between Kunikida and Dazai…

Dazai causing problems is a running theme for these chapters as we also witness him dropping in on the Port Mafia to annoy Chuuya. And then there’s poor Akutagawa who just wishes for Dazai to acknowledge his efforts and yet happens to overhear Dazai calling Atsushi his partner (in a game they’re going to play, but Akutagawa naturally doesn’t hear that bit).

Of course, it’s not all Dazai-centric as we spend plenty of time with Atsushi, Kyouka, Ranpo and other fan-favourite characters. There’s not enough time to see everyone in this large cast of characters, but the stories here have done a good job of covering the more popular ones. There’s no sign of the characters from The Guild (who readers may remember from Season 2 of the anime), but there are several more of these collections waiting in the wings so I’m sure we’ll see more familiar faces as they go on.

While I enjoyed my time reading this, I do wish there was a bit more variety in the stories presented. They’re almost all comedic and focused on showing sides of the characters we don’t normally see, which isn’t a bad thing but can get repetitive. Perhaps that’s not helped by the original creator duo Kafka Asagiri and Sango Harukawa being absent from this collection (although Harukawa did draw the cover).

Most anthologies like this do include at least one chapter from the original creator(s) and that’s a missing piece here that could have kept it on the right track. After all, while it’s fun to see others present their take on the character there’s nothing else seeing some new from the team who created it all.

Among the mangaka contributing readers may recognise Ui Kashima (I Belong to the Baddest Girl at School), Mito Aoi (Having an Idol-Loving Boyfriend is the Best!), Tsubata Nozaki (Your Forma illustrator), and Neco Kanani who is the mangaka behind the Bungo Stray Dogs: Wan! spin-off series. Being familiar with these creators certainly adds quite a bit of enjoyment to seeing how they’ve chosen to adapt the Bungo characters in their own style, which are all quite unique. I think everyone did a good job of ensuring the characters acted like their usual personalities and they all looked more or less on model, even in styles that were very different to Harukawa’s.

As mentioned, Bungo Stray Dogs: Official Comic Anthology Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Kevin Gifford with lettering by Bianca Pistillo. Both Gifford and Pistillo work on the main series for Bungo, as well as several of the spin-offs so we’re in safe hands here when it comes to consistency with the rest of the franchise. This release comes with extensive translation notes at the end as well as colour pages to open.

There are six more of these anthologies available in Japan. Here in English, Volume 2 is set for a release in November, with nothing further in the calendar thereafter (presumably because that’s so far off!). Given Yen is busy releasing the main series, Wan, and various other spin-offs so I can see why this isn’t on the fastest schedule.

Overall, this anthology collection for Bungo Stray Dogs is enjoyable despite being a little repetitive in the stories it’s compiled. How much you enjoy this will come down to your tolerance for the more comedic side of things. If you enjoy Wan, you’re more likely to enjoy this as opposed to readers who are looking for action like in the main series.

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK. 

7 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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