You know for a series based entirely on books and famous bits of literature, there is surprisingly little coherence this time around. A bit weird but not a deal breaker fortunately.
Much of Season 3's story can be summed up as: an extension of the story about the gifted in the city of Yokohama. I say this not just to avoid any amount of spoilers for the season, but because the structure of the series is a lot less coherent and fluid as I initially expected the show to be. In a way, Season 3 starts both after the fight on the Moby Dick against the Guild and...not. The season this time around can be split into two distinct and clean chunks where the first half ties up character backstories and setup, and the second half focuses solely on the 'Cannibalism' arc where we're introduced to yet another faction hellbent on breaking up the city's peace.
Because of this, a lot of Season 3's beginning feels both disjointed and thrown together as backstories and separate points in time are put side by side in episode number. As a result, the timeline of events feels disjointed and at times sloppily put together as the viewer is thrown around to watch not only different points in time, but different perspectives in order to build up the necessary setup for the 'Cannibalism' arc. Maybe a half episode for Atsushi, a gag half for a new character, three episodes for Chuuya, etc, etc. Because of this, I feel like the series for once rushes itself to get these mini character arcs out there as soon as possible, failing to really polish up these stories since they fall between a range of half an episode to three episodes and achieve varying quality.
This is also the area of the series that has the most comedy, as it serves more as down time and lets the more comedic portions of the show shine in the way I both wanted and expected them too. I honestly wish they did more of these because it's the few points in the series where things aren't taken so seriously, and really help give an air of brevity. Mostly because much of the first half has members of opposing factions dick around together instead of attempting to kill one another while causing massive amounts of property damage. It's always a grand time seeing that.
Thankfully the payoff for the series comes at a head during the reveal of the 'Cannibalism' arc, which reveals a new faction known as the 'Rats in the House of the Dead' (bit of a mouthful there), a mysterious faction that compared to the Guild...is not really one I'm a fan of. Much of this arc is centered around the actions of the faction more so than the faction's goal, as much of the intrigue comes from the conflict's problem and how both the members of the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia attempt to resolve this concurrent problem that they both share. It's what grabs the audience this time around, which is aided by more of Dazai's mysterious nature and a whole lot of lore regarding Yokohama and the history of much of its older cast. While I don't really find the Rats all that interesting by comparison, they do help flesh out the 'main' factions of the series, which I think is a better direction overall, though unfortunate for them.
The writing for Stray Dogs's story really makes it difficult to assess characters by themselves aside from a faction by faction basis, which is usually why I abstain from commenting on individual characters for this series. This issue is clear in regards to the Armed Detective Agency where really only a few of its members (mainly Atsushi and Kyouka) get any time dedicated to themselves. Dazai of course still manages to wrench some time for himself due to his largely mysterious nature, but on the whole, Season 3 doesn't really focus on them, which is both a shame but not an unwelcome direction.
I see this as more of a nonissue mostly because the Port Mafia gets largely similar treatment. Individual arcs given to a small number of its key members in addition to participating in the 'Cannibalism' Arc's main conflict is all we really see aside from maybe an extra episode or two in order to give perspective to the Rats. Instead, the series puts more emphasis on the relationship these two groups have with each other instead of their identities as individual entities, which I think is a much more interesting direction to be taking because the dynamics and dichotomy I think is way more interesting than backstory because it builds on the here and now. That being said, part of me still thinks the Port Mafia got the lion's share of the screentime this time around, which I actually think is an interesting direction despite the most cryptic member of the series currently belonging to the Armed Detective Agency.
As for the Rats, personally I see them less of a faction and more of just 'the conflict'. Fyodor and his cryptic plan of what I assume is essentially just breaking and segmenting the strength and power of each of the two factions of Gifted is...not really clear. The series definitely tries to be coy with his mysterious nature and constantly asks what his goal even is. But because the series doesn't really give us any answers, I see the Rats as more of an intriguing conflict compared to the air power and overwhelming wealth of the Guild since the carefully laid out plans to thwart every loophole and idea the Armed Detective Agency and Port Mafia can come up with give this amazing sense of helplessness as we watch the factions dance in the palm of Fyodor's hand.
Interestingly enough, the show even goes to the extent of giving a little afterstory to the Guild and its members, something that I actually didn't expect given how the Moby Dick got knocked out of the air last season. They're mostly just little character moments rather than an entire character arc and a single episode, but definitely something I appreciate nonetheless. Especially since I assume they'll come back some time later in the series full force without a brief ceasefire getting in the way.
Bones does not disappoint with Stray Dogs and I'm bloody elated that this series gets the amount of love it does. The art stays consistent with the sort of grim color palette where even the brightest of colors have a drab, muted look to them. Not only that, but the bolded and thick outlines of the characters during things like comedy moments and a fluid style that switches from comedy to serious in a flash is something I can get behind. Stylistically, I just love the art and I'm just glad it's back.
A few other things to note is the constant usage of the page graphic whenever one of the Gifted uses their powers (since everyone's based on a book and all) and just how nice it looks, something I don't think I ever took the time to really appreciate. I do think however the art style can look a bit derpy at times. There're a number of closeups that the series does to make the one character who takes up the frame look like they're facing two different directions instead of just looking horrified. They do this semi-regularly, and I both find it weird and oddly hilarious despite the psychological element being poured into the specific moment.
Not only that, but the series commonly cuts a few corners in the animation department, where background characters are given no movement whatsoever since the audience's focus is only supposed to be on the person in the center of the screen. There're also missing faces on not just the background characters, but also on a number of distance with important members of the cast. It's just kind of weird to me to see someone like Dazai or Atsushi just not have a face and they do this weirdly semi-regularly.
For soundtrack, we're treated to "Setsuna no Ai" by GRANRODEO and "Lily" by Luck Life. The OP in my opinion sounds scarily similar in style to how the OPs for previous seasons have sounded. It sports this serious rock aesthetic that fits extremely well with the setting of a supernatural mob anime which is great and all, but not really something that I find amazingly memorable. I still genuinely like the song, but for some reason I don't really find it all that memorable.
The ED by comparison has this more energetic rock tone that's a lot mellower and calmer to its OP counterpart which I find to be a nice contrast. Similarly, like its OP sister, I think the song is great on its own and definitely fits with the show, especially with how all of these factions function more like one big family instead of being just a massive crime organization that controls the city. But really, I don't find it all that memorable and I really don't know why. Just not something I would put on repeat.
I definitely think that Season 3 missed more than a couple story beats here. Coming from how concise and focused Season 2 was in its buildup to the big showdown with the Guild, Season 3 by comparison feels looser and a lot less tight than its predecessors.
The first half is really only held together by how innately interesting and interconnected a lot of its cast members are coupled with seeds of interest that're sown the moment the 'Cannibalism' arc begins. This really isn't much of a complaint than it is an observation, but its noticeable effect comes with how the series decided to put an end to some of the protagonists' arcs, something that I think really could've been handled better given how rushed and short they felt. They are literally the main characters of the series! Why is Atsushi given less than ten minutes to finish his deep seated issues in the orphanage?!
Well, beyond minor complaints, I still found Season 3 to be a great experience all around. Despite some pacing and structuring issues, it's still a solid show that doesn't stop grabbing my interest due to its interesting characters, constant action mixed with comedy, and conflicts striking the personal rather than something like 'the fate of the world'. A personal boon for me is just being able to see Koyo get way more screentime and development than she did in Season 2. I love Ami Koshimizu, and just seeing her character get more time devoted to her is just great overall, especially since Koyo really needed the time after her introduction in regards to Kyouka.
I highly recommend this show mostly on the grounds of just how solid it is all around. I don't really have many complaints cause so much about Bungou Stray Dogs manages to impress despite me not completely showering them with praise. Characters are interesting, plot is driven by personal conflict, art is consistent, soundtrack's kickass; there are hardly any aspects of this show that I can really say drag it down, and that to me is one of Bungou Stray Dogs's high points. I still think previous seasons are a bit better, but that point is kinda moot when it's overall just really good. My only real concern is when Season 4's happening, because this fucking train needs to keep going.