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.
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.
For Fans Of: Baccano, Boogiepop Phantom.
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.
The online chat thing confused me at the beginning. The fact that every episode was narrated by a different person kind of bothered me too. I did take a liking to that Izaya guy. It repeats scenes a lot because it skips around from character to character and doesn’t follow and decent flow.
Its way of introducing characters is creative, but it’s not something appealing to me. It goes into a lot of characters, attempting to thoroughly develop them. It gives their history and looks at their current conflicts. It repeats events just so it can tell the events from a different point of view and add a bit more to it that only certain characters would know about. Apparently, a lot of people think this is great. We tend to think cliché and stereotypical are bad and anything else is good, when neither of those is necessarily true. That being said, I can respect it’s unique approach to storytelling which is more complex and difficult to accomplish than the average approaches, but I don’t enjoy it. It bores me.
I’m the type of person who won’t read the next book in series or watch the next season or movie simply because the main character was changed. I highly value the opportunity and ability to connect to the characters. This approach doesn’t work for that. For one thing, each episode in a single season doesn’t always have the same main character, forget seasons. That makes it hard to form emotional connections and if I do decide I like a character or particular story and develop some kind of attachment, then the rest of it is boring and I don’t want to watch the episodes focusing on a different character or story. In this case, I like Izaya and I like the story of the three friends who are leaders of the three main groups in the city except none of them are aware the other two are leaders of their rivals and each of them wants to protect the other two. When the episodes shift to something not involving that story or Izaya then I lose interest. In other words, only a few episodes are actually interesting to me. The rest is no better than filler episodes…actually it’s worse. There are too many characters being developed too much and too many stories trying to coexist. What’s worse is they are coexisting but separately instead of meshing.
I really wanted to like this anime. I’m always seeing comments and reviews about how awesome this anime is. The first time I watched in, I got bored during the first episode and quit. But I kept hearing such good things about it that I decided it had to get better after the first episode or it wouldn’t be so well liked. So I tried again and even when I was so bored I didn’t want to click the next episode button, I clicked it and tried my hardest to pay attention and find things I could like about it. I was desperate for it to be interesting. I was convinced it had to be good and that something would eventually happen to make the first half acceptable….but it failed. I couldn’t. It was too all over the place and was like watching several different animes that just happened to exist in the same world and be slightly connected. I tried not getting attached to one character or story too and trying to not get attached to the first main character but it didn’t matter what I tried, I couldn’t see it as enjoyable. I have watched several bad low rated boring anime recently and wanted this one to be different so much that I tried anything I could think of to enjoy it and failed. I don’t understand how so many people can like it. It doesn’t seem like SAO, Naruto, Twilight, etc. where there are obviously a lot of people who like it but it’s not hard to find someone who doesn’t. It even has comments on one of the sites I watch anime on where almost no one comments unless reporting a broken link. I don’t get 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.