War can change a person and how they carry it with them for the rest of their lives; in his old age, my grandfather told horrifying stories of his time on the battlefields of WWII, including the machine gun strike that left him with ten bullets in his body and killed his best friend. PTSD is no joke, and to find out that Fukuchi is very likely suffering from it sheds some real light on what he’s doing now. We see in a flashback that Fukuchi told his then-best friend Fukuzawa that he was afraid that going to the battlefield would change him irrevocably, and that’s what we’re dealing with now: a Fukuchi who is still trapped on that field, surrounded by men who died in his arms, one by one. He thinks he’s not acting for himself but for them.
That in itself should make us rethink the name of the organization he heads: the Decay of Angels. The use of “decay” rather than the more typical “fallen” is significant. A fallen angel is a formerly perfect being who has lost their shine and has become something lesser. A decayed angel is a perfect being who has rotted, someone who has gone through a process (possibly natural) that has corrupted them from the inside out. Everything decays, and although we’d like to think angels are exempt, Fukuchi suggests they’re not. He sees himself as not fallen but become rancid, a once-shining being irreparably tarnished by life. He became naturally corrupted in his efforts to do what he was told (and possibly believed) was right. And now he sees it as his mission to ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Is that a good reason? I don’t necessarily think so, but it isn’t my fight; my PTSD is from being bullied not going to war. But what matters is that Fukuchi thinks he’s right, to the point where he’s still at least partially trying to convince Fukuzawa to stand with him rather than against him. He doesn’t even see that by aligning himself with bad actors like Dostoyevsky and misusing Bra-chan’s Ability, he’s only digging himself a deeper grave. Interestingly, he doesn’t kill Tanizaki, Kunikida, and Ranpo outright because that means that he thinks that with enough leverage, he could convince Fukuzawa of the rightness of his quest. He may have decayed, but there’s still something in there that might not be.
In any event, it looks like it’s up to Atsushi and Dazai now, although Dazai is caught in a game of tit-for-tat with Dostoyevsky and vampire Chuuya. (I’m a little sad that we didn’t get to see if Dazai’s Ability can cancel out Chuuya’s transformation. Maybe later.) The fact that he took Sigma along both for his usefulness and because he wanted to make sure Dostoyevsky didn’t kill him is a good reminder that Dazai’s heart’s in the right place, but that might just make it easier for Dostoyevsky to find – he was undoubtedly trying with those barbed comments about Dazai not “deserving” Chuuya. Meanwhile, Atsushi’s on his own for the moment, although it’s significant who appeared in his waking dream telling him what to do. It may foreshadow that he’ll meet up with Aya and Bra-chan – and vampire Akutagawa. Could Bra-chan undo the curse if Atsushi holds Akutagawa still? Will Teruko change her mind and help out? She seems pretty torn now that she knows what’s happening. But really, the biggest question is – can anyone really make it out of this undecayed?
Bungo Stray Dogs is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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