One of the most beautiful elements of Bungou Stray Dogs is how great the detective anime is for bookworms. Almost every Bungou Stray Dogs character and ability is a literary reference. In line with that, here are the most prominent ones:
The Armed Detective Agency: A Lesson in Japanese Literature
Almost every member of the Armed Detective Agency shares their name with a famous Japanese author. Moreover, their powers are inspired by their respective author's bodies of work.
Osamu Dazai, by far the most beloved character, is based on well-known Japanese author Osamu Dazai (1909-1938) who committed suicide at the age of 39.
Dazai's ability to nullify the powers of others is based on one of the author's most bleak novels, No Longer Human.
The novel narrates the life of Ōba Yōzō, a man who struggles to express his true self to others. It follows his story from early childhood until his late twenties.
Atsushi Nakajima, the main character of the series, is based on the writer of the same name (1909-1942) who was Dazai's contemporary.
Some of his most well-known works include The Moon Over the Mountain (1942) and Light, Wind, and Dreams (1943).
However, Nakajima's ability to turn into a tiger, known as "Beast Beneath the Moonlight" is taken from the work Tiger Poet, whereby a man turns into a tiger but maintains his intellect.
Ryonosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) is another Japanese author that inspired a Bungou Stray Dogs character.
One of Akutagawa's most famous works is Rashomon, which was also adapted into a film by well-known director Akira Kurosawa.
Rashomon is the story of several people who all give a completely different account of an incident they witnessed.
The versatile nature of Akutagawa's power, "Rashomon," is likely a reference to that.
Doppo Kunikida, with his ability called "Lone Poet," is also based on a Japanese author and poet (1871-1908) who is counted among the founders of Japanese naturalism.
Kunikida's ability isn't directly named after one of the author's works but it seems to be more of a general inspiration.
Ranpo Edogawa is based on a Japanese author whose real name was Tarō Hirai who used "Edogawa" as a pen name. He played a prominent role in establishing the mystery genre in Japan.
Ranpo doesn't have an ability other than extraordinary intelligence that allows him to solve cases with remarkable ease.
This talent makes him a fitting inspiration and homage to the famous mystery author.
Moving on to a few female writers, Akiko Yosano is the pen name of an author who lived from 1878 –1942. Born as Shō Hō, she wasn't only a writer and a poet, but also an activist and proto-feminist.
Akiko's ability, "Thou Shalt Not Die," allows her to heal others but only if they are mortally wounded.
If they aren't, she might have to make them so herself. A look into author Yosano's life reveals the tragic true story behind this ability.
Yosano wrote the poem Thou Shalt Not Die -- which was addressed to her younger brother -- during the height of the Russo-Japanese War.
The poem has been used as an anti-war protest which was highly controversial back in the day.
At a time in which dying for one's emperor was considered the highest honor in Japan, Yosano wrote this poem to urge her impulsive brother not to volunteer for a mission that would entail certain death.
Izumi Kyoka, one of the youngest recruits, might be a female character, but the Japanese novelist and kabuki playwright she and her power are based on is actually male!
Izumi Kyōka (1873-1939) preferred a certain flair of Romanticism in which supernatural elements were of key importance. In that, he differed from many of his naturalist contemporaries.
Izumi's ability, "Demon Snow," is based on Kyoka's play, Demon Lake (or Demon Pond according to other translations).
Author Jun'ichirō Tanizaki (1886-1965) inspired the Bungou Stray Dogs character who bears the same name.
Tanizaki's ability, "Light Snow", is a reference to the author's play, The Makioka Sisters, which depicts the decline of a family's upper-middle-class lifestyle just before WWII.
The inspiration for Kenji Miyazawa is the children's author and poet of the same name.
It makes sense that the agency's youngest member would be inspired by someone who wrote for children.
His power, "Do Not Be Defeated By the Rain," is based on Miyazawa's poem of the same title.
Former member Katai Tayama is based on the Japanese author of the same name, who was born Rokuya Tayama.
His ability, "Futon," and his love for his comfy quilt, (probably) come from Tayama's work, Futon.
Last, but definitely not least, founding member Yukichi Fukuzawa is based on an author of the same name.
In his long life (compared to other authors in this article), Fukuzawa was not only an author but also a philosopher, teacher, and samurai!
His power, "All Men Are Equal," comes from An Encouragement of Learning, in which author Fukuzawa argues for equal opportunities in learning.
YOU MIGHT LIKE: Anime Based on Classic Literature
Port Mafia Members and Their Book Powers
Port Mafia is more unstable and chaotic than the Armed Detective Agency. They have had more members, though not all of them are alive.
Here are some of the most prominent literary references amongst their ranks:
Chuuya Nakahara, one of the strongest Bungou Stray Dogs characters, is based on a poet of the same name.
Chuuya's ability, "Upon the Tainted Snow," is based on Nakahara's poem The Soiled Snow.
Author, poet, translator, and Japanese Army surgeon Mori Ogai (1862-1922) serves as the inspiration for the current Port Mafia leader.
"Vita Sexualis," Ogai's uncomfortably named power, takes its name from the author's erotic novel, Vita Sexualis.
Surprisingly, Koyo Ozaki, like Izumi, is based on a male short story writer and poet.
The character's power, "The Golden Monkey," is based on the author's work, The Usurer (which can also be translated more literally as Golden Monkey).
Ryūrō Hirotsu was inspired by a Meiji period writer of the same name (1861-1928) who played a key role in the development of the tragic novel.
His power, "Falling Camellia," pays homage to one of the author's works that has the same title.
One of the other female members of the Port Mafia, Ichiyō Higuchi, is based on the first professional female writer of modern literature who was born Natsuko Higuchi (1872 –1896).
Ichiyo's ability is unknown, but we bet that, if it's revealed, it will be based on her namesake author's work.
Yumeno's ability, "Togra Magra," is remarkably strong for someone so young.
The power pays homage to Yumeno Kyasaku's most well-known work, Dogura Magura, which set the foundation for the science fiction novel in Japan.
YOU MIGHT LIKE: The Best Mystery Anime You Should Watch
What Other Authors Do We Encounter in Bungou Stray Dogs?
A little later into Bungou Stray Dogs, we encounter the Guild, a group of gifted individuals from North America, who are all based on authors!
Their current leader, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, is inspired by the well-known author of The Great Gatsby.
His ability, "The Great Fitzerald," which makes him stronger the more money he spends, is a nod to the famous novel about the death of the American Dream.
Accompanying him are (or in some cases were):
- Louisa May Alcott with the power "Little Women"
- Edgar Allan Poe, wielding "Black Cat in the Rue Morgue," a combination of two gothic short stories in one
- Herman Melville with "Moby Dick"
- Howard Philips Lovecraft with "Great Old Ones," a homage to the eldrich horrors penned by H.P. Lovecraft
- John Steinbeck wielding "The Grapes of Wrath"
- Lucy Maude Montgomery with "Anne of Abyssal Red," a reference to the Canadian author's red-haired heroine, Anne of Green Gables
- Margaret Mitchel with "Gone With the Wind"
- Mark Twain with "Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer," an homage to his two most well-known and beloved heroes
- Nathaniel Hawthorne with "The Scarlet Letter"
After the Guild, the Armed Detective Agency is also called to face other groups, including the Rats in the House of the Dead, and Decay of the Angel.
Once again, most key members are based on authors:
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, wielder of "Crime and Punishment"
- Alexander Pushkin with "A Feast in Time of Plague"
- Bram Stoker with a yet-unnamed, infection-like ability as you would expect from the author of Dracula
- Nikolai Gogol with "The Overcoat"
Want the latest on all things anime? Make sure you follow us on Twitter!
READ NEXT: The Best Fantasy Anime You Should Watch