Looking for a change, Mikado moves from the countryside to bustling Ikebukuro to attend the same high school as his best friend, Masaomi. Though navigating a new school and friendships can prove tough by itself, Mikado also finds an overwhelming number of new delights and dangers in the district he now calls home. From a friendly Russian sushi bar to the violent color gangs, to even an urban legend in the form of a black motorcycle rider, each resident of Ikebukuro is unique and frightening. But the town is smaller than it seems at first, and these strange events appear to be connected. Will the growing storm sweep up the transplanted country boy and his friends or will Mikado find himself at the center of a dramatic change for Tokyo?
Exit 1 / First Words
Love and Cherish
Never Before Seen
Storm and Stress
Yin and Yang
StoryAs 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.AnimationVisually, 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.SoundMakoto 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.CharactersIf 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.OverallDurarara!! 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.
From the very get-go, even from the opening title sequence, you can easily notice one thing about Durarara, and that is that it was made by Ryohgo Narita, creator of Baccano. Everything about this show besides the setting is very reminiscent of Baccano, so inevitably, it will be compared to it. So, how does DRRR hold up compared to Narita's previous work? Well, let's just get this out of the way now: No, it isn't as good as Baccano. But is it still good in it's own right? Yes. If you're a Baccano fan, Durarara is definitely worth watching. Even if you aren't a Baccano fan,Durarara is probably worth watching, though some of the references may be lost on you, seeing as how Baccano and Durarara take place in the same fictional universe. The main difference between the two is, perhaps bizarrely given their setting, Durarara is clearly the more mature of the two series. It opts for a darker, big city underworld chic as opposed to the vibrant 30's style of Baccano. A lot of it revolves around mystery, an element not present in its predecessor. While the plot of Durarara is hard to sum up briefly, the premise revolves largely around Celty Sturluson, a Dullahan (read: Headless Horseman) who has lost her head, and come to Japan in search, posing as a biker. At the same time, Mikado Ryugamine is moving to Ikebokuro, after growing tired of his life in the countryside, and meets up with his internet buddy Masaomi Kida. Kida is quick to warn Mikado of the colour gangs that roam Ikebokuro, such as the Yellow Scarves and Blue Square, as well as the mysterious "DOLLARS", a gang claiming to be colourless. The two of them soon befriend a shy, withdrawn girl named Anri Sonohara. But as the plor develops, it becomes clear that none of these people are as simple as they seem. One of the strengths of this show is the characters. Near enough every major character, and even some of the minor ones, are quite lovable, vibrant characters. Celty is considered fearsome by many, though is one of the most likeable characters you'll ever come across. Shizuo Heiwajima is an insanely strong man who hates violence, but is filled to the brim with unstoppable rage. Izaya Orihara is a crafty information broker who has a fondness for deranged chess motifs and knives. Shinra Kishitani is a quirky underground surgeon who has a loveably promiscuous fascination with Celty, and even minor characters like a gang of otaku who practise torture based on anime and manga add a comedic referential streak to the series, so if you're a fan of Spice and Wolf, Railgun, Dokuro-chan or Kino's Journey, expect a few giggles. Whilst the show is initially good, it doesn't really pick up until around a third of the way in, when it begins to move into the fast-paced action that Baccano performed to wonderfully. For most of the middle third of the series, the show is absolutely on its peak, keeping you absolutely glued to your seat wondering what will happen next. It skillfully runs through plots of Celty's missing head, a mysterious slasher attacking people, the background of the wars between the colour gangs, a medical organisation performing human experimentation, and people controlling everything from behind the scenes... But as great as all of this sounds, in the third act, everything begins to fall apart. Whilst initially hard to notice, once the slasher arc is over, most of the other plot threads are abandoned, and everything winds up revolving around the gang war plot, which is considerably weaker than the others, and at it's worst devolves into soap opera drama. This would've at least stood up strongly if it had kept skillfully using the other storylines, but the plot of Celty's head is completely and utterly ignored as a result of this massive plot tumour. All of this builds up to an anticlimactic and lacklustre ending that gives very little closure whatsoever. The upcoming specials are set to wrap this up, but I really don't consider that a valid excuse. The only way this would be forgiveable is if there was a second season, and by the way that the specials were announced, this seems unlikely. Final Words: At it's best, absolutely fantastic. Shame it went to waste. Animation/Graphics: 8/10 Story/Plot: 8/10 Music/Background: 9/10 Overall: 8/10 For Fans Of: Baccano, Boogiepop Phantom.
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