Durarara!!

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Hesse's avatar By on Jun 29, 2011

Story

As the spiritual successor to Brain-Base’s summer sensation Baccano!, Durarara!! makes use of that madcap, schizophrenic style that made Baccano! memorable. Based on the light novel series by Ryohgo Narita, Durarara!! is an urban fairytale of unnatural proportions; it takes seemingly random plotlines, jumbles them up, and then pieces them back together. This puzzle of a story takes place in Ikebukuro, Tokyo’s own concrete jungle. Country boy, Mikado Ryugamine, hopes to start his life anew in this sprawling city, crossing paths with a Headless Rider and the shadiest gangsters in town.

The first half of Durarara!! builds momentum through its fast-paced action and bizarre characters. The plot progresses in a stylized, chronologically warped sequence of events—told and retold through different points of view. This favors Durarara’s large ensemble cast by introducing each character in an engagingly complex, yet coherent style. Although convoluted at the get-go, Durarara!! manages to maintain direction by the end of its first act, gradually weaving together stray plot threads and chance encounters between characters. With quick action and snappy pacing, Durarara!! seems to be constantly churning forward. Despite a few lulls of narration, the show takes a bold stab at unconventional storytelling.

Too bad the second half is lackluster in comparison. The switch to a more linear narrative effectively drags the speed and energy of the first arc, instead choosing to focus on the three least interesting characters of the show. What results is a frustrating love triangle of teen angst and lame misunderstandings, altogether making the dramatic climax feel contrived. Tedious voiceover narration and extraneous characters bog down the pacing and blur the show’s focus. Moreover, the finale feels rushed and unfulfilled, with too much emphasis on the build-up before the plunge. While the first half packs more punch through its vast array of characters and haphazard storytelling, much of the interesting personalities fall to the wayside in the latter half—namely appearing whenever some ass-kicking is needed.

As a whole, Durarara!! is just short of a three-course meal. It’s appetizingly fresh and thoroughly fascinating, but the coup de grâce is missing—a woman’s head.  Indeed, Celty the Headless Rider is at the core of the first arc, and yet we never find closure to this gaping plot hole. This single thread which ties the two halves together never comes to fruition. After building up and hinting at a fantastic conclusion, the story simply…ends. And I like dessert.


Animation

Visually, Durarara’s attention to detail is enormous to the point of replicating city buildings and landmarks from the real Ikebukuro. From the towering sky-scrapers to the ratty alleyways, Brain-Base realistically captures the spirit of modern Tokyo. At the same time, the art incorporates a whimsical backdrop for the supernatural events. Character designs are clean and sharp, never detracting from the breakneck fight scenes or high-speed car chases. There is a slight drop in animation quality in later episodes, and character designs become a little sloppy, but overall Durarara!! has some stylish packaging.


Sound

Makoto Yoshimori’s soundtrack mixes aggressive, industrial jazz with delicate piano pieces, perfectly capturing the fickle nature of the big city—a place where day and night are two entirely different beasts. The hustle-bustle of daytime Ikebukuro is accompanied by light violins and soft piano melodies. Yet when night falls, a cacophony of saxophones and guitars both clash and mystify, sculpting the supernatural atmosphere of the show. What results is a wonderfully diverse soundtrack that never misses a beat. And I must admit, the ending theme is damn catchy.


Characters

If you enjoyed Baccano!’s trainload of quirky characters, you’ll probably find sympathy (maybe endearment) with Durarara’s cast of crazies. Although it’s a shame they’re largely underdeveloped, most of them are just plain entertaining to watch. Between Izaya, the slyly sadistic informant, Simon, a mysteriously Russian sushi chef, and Shizuo, a bad-tempered bartender, there’s more than enough Insano-gas to go around. Kadota and his manga-obsessed gang members, Erika, Walker, and Saburo provide some much needed comic relief.

Of course, given the massive list of players, they can’t all be fleshed out. Durarara!! knows this, and doesn’t attempt to develop most of them beyond their quirks. Thus, many cast members become one-trick ponies, acting as handy interventionists whenever called for (Shizuo, anyone?). Rather than digging into its characters, Durarara!! uses the connections between them to tell a story about Ikebukuro itself. And it works, for the most part.

Unfortunately, the shift of focus on high schoolers Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri is the least compelling part of the show. Their conflicts feel forced, not by any real depth, but simply by their main character status. Mikado and Anri’s blandness make their outrageous back stories seem shoehorned and frankly, the interesting side cast deserved more attention and development.


Overall

Durarara!! feels like a tame Baccano!. But being less brutal doesn’t make it less fun, since this urban fantasy delivers mystery and action with sleek presentation. So long as you’re open to mish-mashed storylines, a large cast of characters, and heavy narration, Durarara!! is solid entertainment. Just don’t hold your breath for a satisfying conclusion.

7/10 story
8/10 animation
9/10 sound
7/10 characters
7/10 overall
ApocaIypse's avatar By on Jul 19, 2015

The first season was great but as for the second season, sadly I dropped it half way. Maybe one day I will get back into Durarara but I think the first season was enough for me.

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
ratchet573's avatar By on Jan 17, 2015

Durarara!! is the kind of anime that only comes once in a blue moon. It's an anime that is praised exceptionally by nearly everyone and deserves much of that praise. In fact, it's an anime that you've most likely already seen and have an opinion about. Four years ago it played on Adult Swim where it garnered a lot of attention from a group of anime fans who'd never seen something so uniquely written and laid out. It's a show that makes you want to live in its' world and also get to know all of its' characters. The rare kind of show that pulls you in and keeps you watching out of obsession and total entertainment.

            The people responsible for Durarara made a very similar product a few years prior called Baccano, an anime I'd definitely suggest. They also made the recent Samurai Flamenco, which started off amazing but turned into a piece of total garbage once the supernatural stuff started happening. And since Samurai Flamenco failed so miserably to bring in fans, the studio apparently decided to do the tried and true method of making a second season of something that did very well.

            I'd seen Durarara!! back when it aired on Adult Swim but remembered very little about it, and so in the interest of watching the next season I decided to give it a rewatch and actually write a review.

            Mikado Ryuugamine is moving to Ikebukuro to start high school with his best friend Masaomi. Over the course of the next year of school he's embroiled in a conflict that seems to involve every person living in the city. He meets a black Russian sushi chef, a guy who dresses like a bartender and has superhuman strength and a need for anger management classes, a headless woman who is searching for her lost body part, and an information broker who wants nothing more than to watch the world burn around him.

            The story is told in the fast paced, almost schizophrenic style of Baccano where it jumps around to all the various characters, giving us inner monologues, random conversation, and back story on who they are. It makes the show exceptionally interesting and three dimensional by doing so because it not only builds the strong, unique cast but also the city of Ikebukuro itself.

            The first part of the story focuses on Celty, a dullahan of Celtic lore. These creatures are headless and carry their heads in their arms as they ride across Ireland on their steeds. She has tracked her head to Ikebukuro and lives with a scientist who loves her even without a head (which starts creepy but is actually a little heartwarming in a strange way). She is considered the Black Rider by the residents of the city as she wears all black and rides a black motorcycle (her horse transformed into it).

            It's a very unique story and focuses on a creature that I've never seen used in any sort of medium before. I loved the first few episodes and felt compelled by her search.

            Then things get not so much stupid or convoluted as less entertaining, at least to me. There are three main gang-like entities in Ikebukuro, the Dollars, the Yellow Scarves, and the Slasher. I thought the Dollars idea was actually very cool, a group of people with no gang sign or symbol who, for the most part, are all average citizens. They are manipulated and told what's going on through a message board and website, as well as texts from the leader.

            The Yellow Scarves are boring and don't merit much discussion. They fought another group, the Blue Squares before the Dollars showed up and there's some mildly interesting drama there.

            It's the Slasher that really killed the last half of the show for me. Not only was this idea not explained at all, it just didn't feel right. Having one supernatural entity standing over the entire show worked for me as it added just the right amount of mystery and strange. The Slasher cuts people and makes them part of a hivemind with a mother they all answer to. I hate to say that it felt out of place in a show with a freaking headless woman, but it didn't feel right. Especially when two of the three gangs are human and have actual gang drama to work off of.

            By the end I was satisfied with the experience as a whole, but also felt that the story had switched gears too fast. It's understandable that a show with so many characters, all with different agendas, would most likely forget a few along the way. It feels awkward, though, to start a story with one thread and then forget it to move onto a different one.

            So the story has a slight pacing problem and shifts gears but I don't want you to think that I find that a huge problem. Other than the Saika/Slasher thing, I still feel that the story works and comes across as multi-layered and smart.

            And this plays into the characters, none of whom I felt were badly written or poorly developed. Every character in this show is unique and interesting (though some more than others) with the exception of our main guy Mikado. Otherwise even minor side characters like Erika, the otaku girl, are memorable. If not for plot, Durarara!! will definitely be remembered for its well-rounded and, quite honestly, exceptional cast. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it may have one of the single best group of characters of any anime I've ever watched.

            In the music department, you'll find a lot to love. The first half's opening and closing credits were fantastic, while the last half was far less exceptional. Music during the show is strange and unique. I felt that a lot of it sounded like a jam session rather than orchestrated music. If so, it works to the show's advantage.

            The animation is another issue altogether. Beautiful scenery draws you into Durarara's world but the character's can look pretty bad.

            Also, lots of Baccano references. Seriously, there's a huge one in the middle of the series and you can occasionally see poster for it and it plays on the big screens on the sides of buildings.

            I really wanted to love Durarara!! as much as I do Baccano but I felt it had a few slip-ups that kept it from being as truly great as it could have been. As it stands, it's still an exceptional product that any anime fan would be remiss not to watch. With the second season currently airing, now is as good a time as any to get yourself invested in the city of Ikebukuro. And if you have already, why not do it again? It's just as fun the second time around.

8.5/10

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
AngelBeatsYui's avatar By on Dec 19, 2014

Warning this review probably will contain spoilers-


SECRET SANTA 2014 REVIEW

Another review for another anime, but this time....it is hard to find any bad points. Today is Durarara, this review probably will be really short. Durarara is an anime which is hard to find, it is so unique and enjoyable. It is one of them anime that captures you, it iis like it sends you to another world. You just get lost in the storyline. It is so complex and it expands so nicely, I just loved it....but the ending, i'm glad it is getting another like 3 series. The animation was awesome, like the storyline it was awesome. Another thing on the story, at first there is so much going on with Celty's head and the Dollars and then it all becomes clear and amazing.

The opening and ending were awesome, they were so captivating ^_^ The in anime music is the same as the opening and ending.....just pure awesomeness.....kyaa *Fangirls*. Then the characters are so unique especially Shizuo, Shizuo  is just so badman, then his relationship with Izaya is just pure entertainment. Oh course there are the other characters like Celty, she is just so so......I have no more words other than awesome AHHHHHH. The characters just merge and blend in perfectly.

In conclusion, if you haven't watched it....watch it now. And if you were thinking about watching it....watch it now again. If you like the supernatural genre then watch it ^_^

JUST WATCH IT

THE END....

-AngelBeatsYui-

9/10 story
9/10 animation
9.5/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
9/10 overall
SparklyNarwhal's avatar By on Aug 28, 2015

   This anime is crazily amazing.  I'm the kind of person who can smell a plot twist from a mile away, but this anime was completely unpridictible.  Around every corner, a new plot twist would occur and I never got tired of it.  Durarara has the most unbelievable characters and the brilliance of how they were set up (I'm really trying not to give anything away here...) blew my mind!  This story is well thought-out and it'll keep you guessing til' the end.  Definately a must watch.

9/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall