About Dazai

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So
this scene has been floating through my head since I saw it.

Dazai’s character has always bothered me
because he’s so hard to read, and in the end that ’s
kinda the point.
This started out as a way to explain the bandages, but I guess it’s now a ridiculously long profile and I’m so sorry.
Warning for Massive Spoilers ahead for the second season of the
anime.
Also heartbreak warning because I am, in fact, using screens from the Oda episodes, including *that* scene. There are excerpts of the manga, also, but I’ll try to keep
spoilers vague in that department.

A
note on the real writers

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If
you’re going to give me a bunch of historic figures, Bungou, I will
absolutely use them in my analyses.

All the Bungou characters
are mildly based on historical writers and Oda was the real life best
friend of Dazai. Together with Ango (yeah, him) they were considered
‘The Decadent School’, three writers that came to prominence in the
years following World War 2.
Now Writer Oda is best known for
his realism. He sees and describes
things the way they are, and he doesn’t sugar coat it.
Writer
Dazai
, meanwhile, produced ’No longer human’, which is about a guy
who struggles with revealing his true nature to others. A lot of
Fictional Dazai’s quirks are lifted from this book. The main
character has a lot of failed romances (check) and tries to kill
himself (double check). And his personal relationships tend to be
based on him putting on masks.
Wiki calls this ‘buffoonery’ and I
have a gif.

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In
No longer human’, there’s one guy who can see right through the main
character and he befriends him, initially as a sort of preventative measure.
That bit is also important.

What this means in Bungou is,
most of the time, you’re not actually getting
Dazai.

You’re getting his clown face, or his serious face, or his
seductive face. He flicks them on and off at the drop of a hat, and the anime
actually does show this nicely.

So
let’s look at his actions instead.

And the way Dazai acts is, well he’s a dick.
The way he treats Akutagawa, how he behaves
towards his partners – be they Kunikida or Chuuya – that’s some level
of asshole right there. On top of that, he’s a very…
macchiavelan character. For him, the end justifies the means.
How
he handles the Kyouka situation at the end of the guild arc is not particularly nice, even though it gets the job done. Same
thing with how he creates a new ‘double black’. In general, we consider the coercion of others through lying to
be morally abhorrent. And that’s exactly what Dazai does. But again:
it gets the job done. Dazai looks at the bigger picture.
He is a
morally grey character. In a lot of ways, he’s trying to be the good
guy but he’s struggling to really be that. He wants to save lives, but
he’s not a virtuous person. Not yet, anyway. He has come a long way,
though.

Bad
Dazai

Maffia
Dazai, let’s be honest here, was not a nice guy.
Much as I adore
the likes of Chuuya, none of the members of the Port Maffia are good
people. They are mass murderers, torturers, extortionists, and at
least one of them is a legit paedophile.
And Dazai was with them.
He was one of the worst of them.

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It’s
mentioned several times that even other Maffia members fear him: he
was the youngest executive ever, he’s a master torturer, him and
Chuuya once annihilated an entire enemy organization in one night.
Even Higuchi, who idolizes mister killing machine Akutagawa, calls
his blood ‘maffia black’.

In
the Oda episodes, we see why. Dazai doesn’t care about what he does.

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Younger Dazai is an incredibly cynical person,
obsessed with his own death. And being close to raw emotion and other
people’s pain seemed, to him, like a way to deal with this.
In
his own way, he’s trying to give his life meaning.

To him, morals
mean nothing, so he has no qualms about killing. And Oda, bless his
heart, recognizes this. “If good and bad are the same to you,
then choose to be good.”

Oda
plants that seed in him.

And he’s the only one who can.
He’s one
of Dazai’s only friends, for one.
We don’t know Dazai’s home life,
but since he was already a maffia exec at 18 he can’t have lived
home for long.
We know he works with Chuuya, but they never
struck me as good friends. They’re colleagues, put together because
their powers mix well (like the other ‘double black’, see how good those
two get along).

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Furthermore,
Oda is *that friend*, like in the book, that sees right through Dazai.
You don’t see Chuuya planting the seeds of morality in Dazai’s
brain, because, for one, Chuuya is not looking for redemption like Oda is. But
mostly, Chuuya has never understood Dazai on that level.
Oda does,
and in his own way, he’s trying to influence him.
He gives Dazai’s
life meaning,
by planting in him some sense of morality.

Because morality is big in Bungou

So many characters in this series are morally grey. They do evil things,
but not for evil’s sake. Evil is a means to an end: Steinbeck
works to feed his sister, Fitzgerald has his reasons, even Mori,
arguably, does what he does to keep his organisation going.

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Oda’s
character is the easiest, most recognizable example of morality at
play. He’s the killer that stopped killing. He’s trying to pay his
debts so he can settle down and live a different life. He’s John
Marston in Red Dead Redemption, he’s the lone hero looking to make
amends in a million westerns.
It makes sense that he takes this
little seed of hope and redemption, and passes it to Dazai, but it
doesn’t come easy.

Morality is something you learn

The
series makes it a point to show that morality is in a lot of cases
taught.
Chapter 39 of the manga is very blatant in telling us
that Atsushi is the way he is, that he’s a good if neurotic person
with a strong will because someone molded him to be that way.

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We
see something similar with Kyouka: her big sis doesn’t think she can
‘live in the light’ because she has killed so many people, but
Atsushi believes she can be saved. Kyouka believes it too. She’s
young and through careful influence of the agency, she can become a better person.

Dazai’s
case is similar, if slightly more difficult.
He’s on the way
there, but he’s late to the game, and unlike Kunikida or Atsushi or
Fukuzawa, virtue is not something that comes natural to him.

So
what he’s decided, is that he’s going to save lives. That’s what he
does now. He’s fulfilling Oda’s dying request. 
The way he goes about this, is very Dazai. The end still justifies the means. However, he’s realized the cost. He
never had a problem with any of this until the ‘means’ entailed his friend
dying. So now he tries to look at the bigger picture in terms of
people. He aims to be better.

The
protégés

I
think one of the best way to illustrate Dazai’s development, and how
much he’s trying, is in the way he handles his protégés.

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In a way, Akutagawa
just has terrible luck. Boy cannot catch a break. He got assigned to ‘bad Dazai’, who sees people as tools. He literally calls Akutagawa ‘an unsheathed blade’. Dazai
wants him to learn to control his anger, because he knows what
happens when abilities like that go free. He’s seen Q and even maffia Dazai was all
‘uhhh no’.
So he beats up Akutagawa until he learns.
The
interesting part is when he explains that, had Oda picked Akutagawa
up from the street, he’d have nurtured him more gently.

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Guess what
he does with Atsushi.

Yes, tiger boy’s mind is different than
Akutagawa’s. He is super into self sacrifice. He has, like, no confidence in himself and he’s way less bloodthirsty than mister Rashomon. In
a very real way, violence as a teaching method would not work on him
and I’m pretty sure Dazai knows that.

But
also: Dazai has changed. He’s part of the Agency now.
They try to do the right thing and Dazai, struggling as he is, aims
to go along with that.

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So he emulates Oda. Again. He picks Atsushi
off the ground, dusts him off and now he’s trying to gently guide
him.

I think Dazai knows he’s fucked up with Akutagawa. The Oda
method, he’s seen, has better results, and you can tell how Akutagawa
suffers throughout the series. Dazai knows it too, which is why it’s
so nice that he’s trying to make amends right here.

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Back
to bandages, and freedom

So
to the point I am, in my very meandering way, trying to make.
Dazai’s
bandages, I believe, mean a lot of things.

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If
you look at the ED, you can see them as stand-ins for his
relationships. Perhaps even his affection.

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How he tries to mentor
both Akutagawa and Atsushi, and how that only ‘sticks’ in one case.

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In
the actual series,
they sort of show how he interacts with the world.

While he’s in the maffia, they hide him. He’s pretty much covered head to
toe whenever we see him in the flashbacks. It’s not until he switches
morality, that the bandage on his eye comes off.

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If
you look at it from a symbolic standpoint, Oda is quite visibly opening Dazai’s eyes.

To another world, to a better life, to
redemption, whatever you want to call it.
But also:
In a very real, visual
way, he’s is freeing Dazai.

He’s healing him.

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Because Oda
was right.

Being on the side of the good guys is visibly
beneficial for Dazai.
We’ve already talked about his masks, so
his friendly demeanour could be a lie, but it’s hard to deny that he
is WAY less suicidal while in the agency. In general, he’s less
cynical and he just seems to be doing better, mentally.

Whenever
you see him in flashbacks, he’s sad and hurt. He says some very, very
bleak things to Oda, and it is possible he’s just opening up to his
only friend, but then there’s something like this.

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That
is neither ‘buffoonery’, nor is it bleak. He is giving advice. As someone who’s been through some pretty awful stuff.
He is legitimately trying to help Atsushi here.
And
he does this a lot, and it never strikes me as fake. I’m fairly
certain this is Real Dazai, for instance.

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That
is heartfelt and caring Dazai. And I probably don’t even need to tell you
he’s looking at Atsushi when he says that.

So yeah, Oda was
right.

If all else is the same, join the people that save lives.

Because they’re better people. And Dazai is finding new friends
there.
He, himself, is getting better.

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