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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Durarara, aka “Let’s milk the Bacanno fans.”
When Baccano! (henceforth B!) aired in 2007, it was received as a refreshing take on action/adventure/fantasy. Its story was told in non-linear fashion that was spanning centuries, by the various individual characters, each adding something to the plot. The pacing was fast, the characters were lively, and there was satisfying closure in only 12 episodes.
So 3 years later, the same guys make Durarara!! (henceforth D!!) a story with a similar feeling. Most expected a series that would be equally good or better than B! Why? Well, it would be a newer series; that’s supposed to mean better visuals and more mature storytelling, as the scriptwriter is supposed to learn and improve as years go by. Plus, the series was now 24 episodes instead of 12; which most assumed that it would be double as complicating.
But in the end it was none of the above. Let’s start with the story for example.
-The main scenario is already less exiting than B! A creature looking for its head and street gangs feel far less interesting that mafia and alchemists trying to cheat death in a span of centuries.
-The pacing was far looser and was getting slower and slower as it went on with the second half being as fast as a snail. The double duration turned boomerang against the series, as there was nothing left to fill it with.
-The ending is not really an ending. It resolved only a small portion of the issues involved, failing to wrap things up even if it was given double the duration.
-Even the setting itself felt less interesting. B! was set in Europe and America of the 20th century, a time and place quite uncommon in anime. D!! on the other hand was… Modern Japan. How typical is that?
-I could even nag about all the fan catering. B! had a few hints with perky and good looking characters but D!! goes overboard. You are being bombarded with otaku culture, like images and quotes from other anime. One of the main characters is the “indecisive lead” archetype which I loath as it has been used to death over the past decades. No more! Some may find that easier to relate too than that of B! as there is a high chance they are actually living like that, but no thanks. We already have anime specifically for that. D!! was supposed to be about the characters and not about otaku culture.
Also, one of the things I hated the most in B! was that couple of young kids running around with their super positive mannerism, doing silly things and acting as if the world is a fairy tale. Stupid brats; they ruined all the serious moments! And just when I thought D!! would lack such characters… It brought them back! ARGH! I wanted to smash my screen when they suddenly appeared. What is this crap? Why did this series turn to Gintama? And by the way, I DON’T FIND GINTAMA TO BE FUNNY! I find it to be a stupid Shounen Jump advertisement, in a similar way this show is full of otaku pattering.
So, anyways, I leave those two aside and pretend they didn’t exist. The rest of the original characters in the series must be better than this… ARGH! Celty! An otaku’s wet dream! The dreadful Dulahan of Irish mythology turned to a chick that either runs around naked or rides a bike in tight leather while wearing a helmet with… CAT EARS?!?!? For the love of God, the characters of this series are so damn made to fan-please, it becomes retarded.
Relax, deep breath, it can’t be that bad. Looks aside, they must at least be well developed and relevant to the plot… ARGH! Not even half of them are! Since the story was left incomplete, most are there for no reason… other than stupid FAN PLEASING! So retarded!
And by the way, very few of them count as support characters to be excused not developing. Most clearly have their own side stories and not being given their own arc is nothing else but a sign of “We ran out of time and ideas” trope. In fact, you easily see how the scriptwriter is wasting time towards the end as means to end the series without doing anything with them because he knew there wouldn’t be enough time for more arcs yet refused to end the series in less than 24 episodes. Retarded cubed!
ART & SOUND SECTIONS
Oh well, at least the external looks of the series are nice; that is something I guess. The backgrounds are artistic, using real photos with filters to make them look distorted and dirty. And characters are drawn with almost no shading or many details, while having a big liveliness in motion and facial expressions. The dialogues are smart and the music is very pleasing, although I didn’t find anything remarkable in all that. As artistic as it looks, having photographs and shadeless characters does strike as cheap for some, while the songs are not memorable.
VALUE & ENJOYMENT SECTIONS
Bottom line, this is far inferior to B! and even if not compared to it, it has a laggy and incomplete story, plus characters that are mostly style than substance. They should have remained to the 12 episode format.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 10/10
General Artwork 2/2 (looks great)
Character Figures 2/2 (generic but lively)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed)
Animation 2/2 (smooth)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artistic)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 3/3 (artistic)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (slow)
Complexity 2/2 (rich context)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (open)
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Presence 2/2 (cool/sexy)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 1/3 (a bit famous but hardly as much as Baccano)
Rewatchability 2/3 (low because of the slow and open ended story)
Memorability 2/4 (nice ideas and visuals but hardly exploited as they could have)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 1/1 (looks great)
Sound 0/2 (sounds uninteresting)
Story 1/3 (good ideas but not exploited properly)
Characters 1/4 (perky but not special)
And in case you wonder about my B! scoring, it gets 8 in all sections.