When the licence for this manga was announced last year, I know of quite a few people (myself included) whose initial reaction was thus:
“You're releasing the manga, Yen Press? Why not the light novels!? And why aren't the Baccano! novels out in English when that show is an established hit?”
I eventually shrugged this off, seeing as the publishers aren't exactly enamoured with the idea of putting out translations of Japanese light novels and expecting to make profit. These books almost always get bunged into the manga section of book shops and libraries, and thus enjoy a very limited audience, with the exception of Spice & Wolf.
But enough about light novels! The Durarara!! manga is actually pretty good. The art is gorgeous, excepting a few off-model moments where Izaya's angry faces look a bit derpy, and it very slowly brings us into the hectic world of Ikebukuro, a district of Tokyo's Toshima ward well known for being the physical approximation of Eddy Grant's song Electric Avenue: neon lights, huge anime, manga and electronics shops, shopping malls, and advertising everywhere you look.
Mikado Ryugamine is brought into this city by his childhood friend Masaomi, who encouraged him to move away from his parents and attend private school there. Upon arrival, Mikado is taught about the 'colour gangs' and the people in Ikebukuro who are not to be crossed. There's the sly informant, Izaya Orihara, Shizuo Heiwajima, the bartender with an explosive temper, and Simon, the enormous Afro-Russian sushi seller whose strength is beyond compare. There's also a very shy girl, and some hardcore nerds who make Ikebukuro, as well as a Dullahan (riding a motorbike rather than the traditional horse and carriage) and the unlicensed doctor she lives with. And the strange guy and the girl who stalks him. And his sister, who seems completely okay with it when said strange boy snaps and murders his stalker.
With such a diverse range of characters, where can you go wrong? Nowhere, it seems. I loved this manga, quite simply for the way it sucked me in. I saw the anime back when it was airing in Japan (thank you, CrunchyRoll!) and so I know the story, but I could not put the manga down. There's a great moment where Mikado is told about the dollars, and he smirks, but very quickly composes himself again when he catches up to Masaomi. (Those of you who've seen the anime all the way through know what I'm talking about.)
One chapter of the manga is fairly intense, though. Izaya recruits two incredibly shallow girls from a suicide forum, and invites them out for drinks and karaoke, promising to join in their suicide pact. During the karaoke session, he learns that the girls don't really believe in the concept of an afterlife, and if they do, it's very half-arsed. Izaya bursts into a philosophical speech at this point, and it makes for a rather intriguing debate. Then he whips out two suitcases and reveals he's presumably drugged the girls' drinks. Hoshit.
And then he calls the Dullahan (Celty) to transport the girls somewhere safe, because he doesn't feel like giving them to a loan shark tonight. And then he waxes lyrical about how much he loves humanity on top of a ledge high above Ikebukuro. Did I mention how much I love this character?
All in all, this manga gets a 4.5/5 for me. =)