The Rise and Fall of Francis Fitzgerald: A Small Scene with Big Implications

One of Bungo's top episodes left out a crucial detail, but was it intentional for the better?

The Anime’s Cut Cliffhanger from Bungo Stray Dogs

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Except for some minor tweaks and omissions, Studio Bones’ adaptation of Bungo Stray Dogs has remained remarkably faithful to the manga, no doubt thanks to the author being heavily involved. But what anime-only fans might not realize is that one particular episode – and one of the most entertaining at that – cut out one small scene with some big implications.

Written by Kafka Asagiri and illustrated by Sango Harukawa, Bungo Stray Dogs is set in Yokohama, Japan, following the Armed Detective Agency in their fight to protect the city. The episode in question focuses on Francis Fitzgerald, named after The Great Gatsby’s author Scott F. Fitzgerald, and his rise to power following his defeat at the end of Season 2.

The Rise and Fall of Francis Fitzgerald

We’ve covered this episode before, praising how effectively and memorably it transforms one of the show’s best villains in just over 20 minutes, making it hard not to root for him. For context, Francis first appears at the end of Season 1 purely to foreshadow his and his organization’s antagonism toward not only the protagonists but also the previous villains, The Port Mafia.

The Guild is a who’s who of classic authors: Herman Melville (Moby Dick), Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven), John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath), and more. Season 2 presented a three-way war between the Agency, the Mafia, and the Guild. After agreeing to a cease-fire, the Agency and Mafia combined forces, and series lead Atsushi Nakajima teamed up with his rival, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, to defeat Francis.

Borrowing from The Great Gatsby’s themes and historical setting, Francis’ power in the series allows him to increase his strength relative to the amount of money he spends. Unfortunately for him, he ended up expending every cent he had to his name and still ended up defeated. The fans wouldn’t see him again until series Episode 32, “Fitzgerald Rising”.

The episode humbles this once entertaining but somewhat one-dimensional villain and then uses this vulnerable state to set him on a path to earning his spot back on the main stage of the story. It’s a true-to-word rags-to-riches tale that sees him team up with Louisa May Alcott to earn enough capital to restart the Guild. The trick is, they have to solve a murder.

The latter half of the episode deals with him solving a mystery and scheming his way into owning a security company, but the first half is key here. The moment when Francis and Louisa look out upon the city comes from the very end of Chapter 44. While the anime uses this as the midpoint between an adaptation of two chapters, the manga has one more little surprise.

The Anticipated Cameo That Had To Be Cut

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Just as Francis and Louisa had settled on a plan to buy the Ministry of the Interior, John Steinbeck is shown to be eavesdropping, livid that Francis intends to restart the Guild. As he walks off – with henchmen in tow – he declares his intent to crush Francis’ ambitions. While the former boss has set his sights on a new Guild, Steinbeck has united the fragments of the previous one.

For anime viewers, this all probably sounds pretty crazy. There’s a lot to chew on regarding Steinbeck and Francis’ relationship and what this means going forward. In case one has forgotten, at the end of Season 2, following Francis’ defeat, Louisa, John, and Mark watch the sinking Moby Dick from ashore, pondering their next steps. Mark decides to return home and put the Guild to rest, but not the other two.

As seen in Season 3, Louisa goes on to track down Francis, but John – knowing that there will be in-fighting among the Guild’s members – decides to quell any rebellion, which surprises Mark. After all, John hates Francis, because he’s a rich man who manipulates people with money. However, John acknowledges that he relied on that money to provide for his family and thus feels some responsibility for this empire and a desire to protect it.

Why Was This Cut?

From the perspective of an anime-only viewer, Steinbeck’s mission to quell the in-fighting hasn’t amounted to much in the three seasons since his last appearance. Meanwhile, his resurgence in the manga works in tandem with his previous scene to flesh out his complex moral standpoint on the Guild and his feelings towards Francis.

In Steinbeck’s eyes, Francis’ attempt to create a new Guild is a sGameTopic that he hasn’t learned anything and will continue to manipulate more people, just like he did with the previous members. It’s strange not to include this foreshadowing of a future struggle. However, in the anime’s defense, this omission might have been more of a blessing than a curse.

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The best thing about Steinbeck’s return is also its biggest potential flaw: the dramatic irony. Steinbeck’s entire motivation for wanting to crush Francis’ ambition is based on a premise that runs contrary to what the audience has witnessed. He did lose everything and ended up in the slums, begging for change, until he actively chose to make a comeback. While he’s still greedy and most morally gray, “Fitzgerald Rising” reveals that he has changed, if in minor, subtle ways.

That’s not to say that Steinbeck’s appearance doesn’t have value, because it presents a compelling rivalry. While it’s easy to root for Francis after this episode, it’s important to remember that he’s not a definitively good guy. Having someone like John challenge him might force him to prove that he’s not the same leader he used to be and hold him accountable for deeds that are easy to forget.

For an episode so tightly constructed, Steinbeck’s cameo might have felt like an unnecessary break in the momentum that conflicts with the core message – the titular “rise.” This cliffhanger could have been cool, and this rivalry has loads of potential, but seeing as how neither the anime nor manga have done much with it since, it might just be easier to wait until Asagiri finds the right time to explore it in-depth. After all, Bungo Stray Dogs has plenty left to tell.

Bungo Stray Dogs is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

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Q&A:

Q: Why is Studio Bones’ adaptation of Bungo Stray Dogs so faithful to the manga?

A: Studio Bones’ adaptation is remarkably faithful to the manga because the author, Kafka Asagiri, is heavily involved in the production. This ensures that the anime stays true to the source material, which fans appreciate.

Q: Who are the main villains in Bungo Stray Dogs?

A: The main villains in Bungo Stray Dogs are the members of the Guild, a group composed of classic authors such as Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allan Poe, and John Steinbeck. The conflict between the Armed Detective Agency, the Port Mafia, and the Guild drives much of the series’ plot.

Q: Why was the scene featuring John Steinbeck cut from the anime adaptation?

A: The scene featuring John Steinbeck was likely cut from the anime adaptation to maintain the episode’s tight construction and momentum. While the scene sets up a potential future struggle between Francis Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck, its omission may have been a blessing in terms of pacing and focus on the core message of the episode.

Q: Will the rivalry between Francis Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck be explored further in Bungo Stray Dogs?

A: While the rivalry between Francis Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck has great potential, neither the anime nor the manga have delved much into it since their initial encounter. It is possible that the author, Kafka Asagiri, will explore this rivalry at a later point in the series when the time is right.


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