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.
Durararararara! One can't help but affectionately extend the name of this show every time it comes up. I have planned to watch this one for quite a while, and was pleasantly surprised as I began to immerse myself in it's beautifully constructed world. While I would love to describe the environment and plot, that is what a description is for, so head on over to the main page for that.
Now for the breakdown:
Story: 7/10 - Original, Complex, Well Thought-Out, Slumps in the Middle.
While expecting to be thrown in to some sort of stereotypical high school drama scene, with slapstick comedy being force-fed down your throat, the entire first episode of Durarara!! takes place on the streets of Tokyo. Right from the start we are given multiple stories that will eventually intertwine. This style of storytelling fits the show excellently, and provides well-paced opportunity for characters to be introduces and developed. Unfortunately the story begins to slump somewhat in the middle. What was fresh and new turns to episodes that feel like they are just meant to connect the beginning and the end. Fortunately these episodes are not long or lacking enough to severely take away from the viewing experience. One of the strongest points in the story is the realistic environment and interaction between characters. Although every person met along the journey may not be your normal, every day 'person', the dialogue between teenagers and adults, couples and enemies are realistic, mature and interesting.
Animation: 10/10 - Of the Highest Quality, Realistic, Smooth, Not Polluted with Fan Service.
A treat to look at. The entirety of Durarara!! has obviously been animated with a good budget and a great imagination. The colors and characters are reminiscent of 5 Centimeters Per Second and the creative treatment of color and typography feels very Bakemonogatari. The strongest point of this show by far, there is never a moment where the scene feels polluted. The characters themselves are very life-like, with a large variety of character models, and even multiple looks for the same character. Every character has their own, realistic hairstyle and actually changes clothes as the show progresses. Each environment and background feels alive and has clearly been based off of real locations.
Sound: 7/10 - Non-Intrusive, Interesting at the Time, Mood Appropriate, Forgettable.
Certain shows can immediately be identified by their soundtrack. Shows like Trigun, Summer Wars or those of the Macross franchise have music that is instantly recognizable, while the soundtrack here is more likely just 'acceptable.' The sound fits the scene well, and even enhances it, but is quickly forgettable. While this is sad, it is not the focus of the show, and does not really bring the show down in any way.
Characters: 9/10 - Well-Developed, Unique, Varied, Identifiable, Realistic.
While Durarara!! has its own set of wacky characters, one of their defining characteristics is how they are realistic or believable. The fear of one's secret getting out, or the pain of someone close to you getting hurt. Emotions are played out in a way that makes you feel for the characters instead of alienating them from you. Each character is widely different– from distinctive appearances to well-developed personalities. The comic relief is fun and unobtrusive, while the fights are intense and emotions feel real. Be they good, evil or somewhere in between, each character in Durarara!! is fun and enjoyable to observe.
Overall: Four Stars (****) - 8/10 - Unique, Refreshing, Intense, Enjoyable.
If you got the time, make sure you watch this one. While it is not the "best" show I have ever seen, it certainly is a 'gem' that I have found, as sothis says. It has great animation, a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and characters that will make you feel like you really know them by the end. If you are bored of the High School romantic comedies or the seemingly-endless seasons of Bleach give this show a shot. You will not be disappointed.
WELCOME TO THE CITY
Daaaaaaaamn... Don't even know where to start when I think about trying to talk about Durarara!! First of all, I'm a fan of sitting back and watching things unfold and Durarara!! pleased me so much in this factor that I was hooked episode after episode. I do my best not to ramble on and on about how something is great, how something is good, but I really can't help it when I end up liking something this much.
Ryugamine Mikado seeks a life different from which he has, one filled with excitement inplace of the dreaded ennui he feels living in the country. What's the best way to solve this boredom of life? Move to the city, of course! Of course, Mikado had to choose the most messed up city in the entire world, Ikebukuro. Ikebukuro is filled with Gangs, a headless Motorbiker, a Russian born African who works at a place selling 'Russian Sushi' (it happens.), and plenty more oddities to keep your interest. What happens from there to make this interesting?
......Nothing, for a while. Durarara!! Lacks a overall plot in the beginning intentionally to focus on developing it's interesting and delightful characters. Keep that in mind, if you can't stand waiting for a plot this isn't you're anime like it was my anime.
If you CAN wait, you'll be pleasantly pleased with all of these intriguing characters and all the various subplots that surround and encompass them. From the puppetmaster Orihara Izaya (this guy's so much of a psychopath he makes Charles Manson look like the epitome of mental health), to the violent 'Bartender' Heiwajima Shizuo, not one major character goes underdeveloped. Every episode is narrated by one of the characters and you see events happen from multiple people's eyes, and through this you learn something crucial about Durarara!!, and real life; Everything is connected. Something so small and so insignificant can wind up affecting multiple and eventually an entire city. And that's what Durarara!! is really about, Characters, their relationships with other characters, and their relationship with the city of Ikebukuro.
It's definatly not about plot, because even when Izaya starts to pull the strings and things start happening, individuals still take the stage and you learn a little more about them each episode. By the end of the series, I felt that I personally knew these people... I felt that Celty was my friend, I felt that Izaya is an asshole, and I probably shouldn't mess with him. I felt that Simon would help me if I ever ran into trouble. Now I'm not some guy who has a distorted view of reality and takes this sort of stuff and let it effect my life, I'm not crazy. It's just that the characterization was so good, that I can't help but get attached to these people and their daily lives.
So, is Durarara!! Perfect? No. The second opening was a bit misleading, introducing new characters who I thought (and was hoping) would be more involved, but really never were... but that's something all adaptations suffer from, and Durarara!! is adapted from a series of light novels by the author of Baccano! (which I'm about to watch very soon). From what I've been told, the anime covers up to the first three books... and with that piece of information, my closing statement is every day I'm going to pray that they make a second season. (And that the light novels get released in America... I'll buy them the second they come out.)
(image made by me)
STORY: When I first started watching Durarara the story is what drew me in quickly. Much like Baccano, the story is told through multiple point of views and the story slowly is pieced together as you watched. In the beginning it seems confusing and a bit overwelming but you will be able to make sense of it fairly quickly. The first half of the story is excellent. There is plenty of excitement and suspense that keeps you clicking the next episode button.
The second half of the show's plot is by no means bad, but it doesn't live up to the first half's excitement. Durarara is based on a light novel, and my thought is they had already decided to end the show at the end of the third novel. However, torwards the end of the show they started running out of material and the pacing of the show became sluggish. None of the episodes were bad but I found myself sitting through Mikado's same mental dilemma multiple times with only slighty different circumstances. I didn't really notice the sluggishness of the second half while I was watching it. But when I look back on it simply wasn't as suspenseful as the first half.
I wouldn't call the ending a letdown, but is certainly wasn't epic or something to write home about. There still seem to be a few loose threads laying about also. However, overall I enjoyed the storyline. 8/10
ANIMATION: I know a lot of people don't particually care for Durarara's style but I find the somewhat 2D style rather unique. I don't know, i just thought it had quite a bit of charm myself. It's won't ever be mind boggling or anything but it gets the job done well. I didn't really notice any rough edges but i'm not an expert at that sort of thing. Generally the landscapes and buildings are done well, i think. 7.5/10
SOUND: I will admit that I really enjoy the both opening and ending themes in the anime. I generally enjoy all anime music but this was above usual par in my opinion. Expecially the first ending theme. I thought the voice acting was done well. I enjoyed Miyano Mamoru as Kida, Miyuki Sawashiro as Celty, and Fukuyama Jun. The only voice that ever annoyed me was Mikado's occasionaly but it fits well enough. The only issue I have with the music is that in my opinion the background music is very unmemoriable. 8.5/10
CHARACTERS: I felt like the characters were varied and interesting enough. None of them had the development that you hear about in some shows but this isn't really that kind of anime. It is more definition over development. I think most people find the headless Dullahah, Celty, an enjoyable character. I know I did. Our antagonist, Izaya, is interesting enough to watch. And there are the comical characters Kida and Shinra. My main fuss is that some of the characters important in the first half seem to dissapear in the second. A few of the characters are not very relatable either. Still, a likeable cast. 7.5/10
OVERALL: I would recommend Durarara to about anyone. It has its shortcomings in the second half, but the story overall stays strong. I personally enjoyed the anime more than I may imply in this review, but I am trying to be realistic torwards it's faults. Plus, I have a feeling there may be a second season coming in a year or two. I could be wrong, but if we do the mediocre ending could be fixed. But as it stands, 8/10.
This anime definitely has an extremely unique story. It takes the normal highschool life that almost every anime has, and instead of doing what everyone else in the world who ever wrote a story for an anime does (love triangle! Love triangle! LOVOOVOEOVE TRIAIANFANGLE!!!!), the author decides to make a WAR triangle. Yes! A WAR triangle! In highschool! Add some extremely well developed characters into the mix (Izaya, Celty and Shizuo), along with some entertaining side characters (Simon and Dotachin) and you have a great anime. I really enjoyed watching the seemingly normal anime (from the first few episodes) transform into revealing every character's secret lives and how the commotion of the city was caused by three seemingly non-issue highschoolers; except all being indirectly controlled by Izaya. It's hard to fit it all into a paragraph, but it's something you have to watch for yourself to get.
This is definitely the anime's weak spot. While the animation isnt really "bad", it's not great. The character designs are nice and clean, and everything is done fluidly and neatly; but... It just isn't amazing. The animation does it's job well enough to tell the story, but doesn't really do anything extra. It's decent; just not great.
There is not much in terms of sound in the anime besides from the very well done voice-acting, the fitting sound effects, and the dysjunct creepy jazz music that comes on whenever there is something suspicious going on; but there is one thing that makes sound an easy 10. The opening and ending themes are absolutely one of the best music pieces I've ever heard for an anime. Ever.
Durarara!! Has a lot of significant characters. Like really; a LOT. Three main characters, four external important characters, 3 slightly less important but still important characters, and then tertiary characters toppled on top of tertiary characters and even MORE tertiary characters! Though this isnt a bad thing; it's almost as if every single character has their persona, their creepy little secret, and they feel entirely natural and plausible. What makes this a 7 is that even though there is plenty of character development, it just seems like all the characters can be archetyped and all follow a certain mood (Shizuo is ALWAYS pissed, Izaya is ALWAYS cynical, Kida is ALWAYS jokey except for a few parts, Simon is ALWAYS jolly... Its really tiring)
Overall, DRRR!! is a great watch and I'd easily reccomend it to everyone. It has it's faults, but it's a great show.