Right from the opening credits, you can guess that Durarara!! is an anime full of action. The catchy J-rock music, the fresh and unique visuals that make the animation style stand out from more generic-looking series and a character wrenching a large postbox out of the ground and tossing it at another with ease…
Durarara!! is the story of a group of characters leading their lives in the vibrant area of Ikebukuro in Tokyo. We are first introduced to Mikado Ryuugamine, who has left a small town to attend high school in Tokyo at the suggestion of his friend, cheerful and womanising Masaomi Kida. Masaomi, who is more worldly-wise and experienced than Mikado, introduces him to the locals, including Kyohei Kadota and his group, who always seem to be reading manga or novels and Simon Brezhnev, a Russian of African-American descent whose job it is to advertise a Russian sushi restaurant. Mikado is warned to stay away from Shizuo Heiwajima, whose monstrous strength is matched only by his equally monstrous temper and Izaya Orihara, a mysterious and manipulative sort. Along the way we meet the rest of the ensemble, including the mysterious “Black Rider”, urban legend among the ‘Ikebukuronese’ (as Mikado calls them).
As events progress, Mikado finds the excitement and extraordinary daily life that he has longed for and gets embroiled in the business of others.
For the purposes of the review, I’ll describe Durarara!! as having two parts, the second of which is signalled by a new opening. The first part is where we meet most of the characters, and although there are so many of them that it seems confusing, each character has their own quirks and personality which makes them all memorable. All of these characters are involved in the action, and their stories are interlaced with Mikado’s. Even minor characters recur, which makes the viewer feel as if they, like Mikado, are part of the community in Ikebukuro.
Durarara!! is chock full of plots and events. We get to see an event from Mikado’s point of view, then another character’s story takes up where his leaves off and we slowly get to see the full picture. However, there is a substantial amount of flashbacking and jumping back and forth in the overall timeline because of this, which at first is simply baffling. Once you get used to the way things don’t necessarily happen in sequential order, it’s an interesting way to advance the plot. The way in which several plots are introduced and resolved in twelve episodes is impressive, and Durarara!! takes the interesting step of recapping events in previous episodes that are relevant to the current episode’s plot. Even what seems like a side-plot that is left for viewers to forget about is brought back for the second half (solving the problem of “What’s going to happen now everything in the first half has been resolved?”) and in this way almost everything is resolved tidily…
The premise is interesting, the characters eccentric yet likable and the numerous plots and subplots keep the viewer addicted. Plot twists pop up every few episodes, some of which I personally foresaw, some which threw me completely. The first half of Durarara!! is a spectacle that engages the viewer at every turn. The second half, while more sedate, is less fast-paced and allows viewers to concentrate on one main plot that hangs unresolved from the first half. However, the grand finale that I expected, with a three-way war and something momentous occurring around the mysterious motorcyclist, was missing. The ending was somewhat of an anti-climax and I personally was left unsatisfied by the lack of resolution for the “Black Rider”. While I personally wished that the ending had made full use of the events leading up to it, which gave the impression that it would be action-packed, it was otherwise satisfying.
I enjoyed Durarara!! and I would recommend it to people because it manages to span various genres effectively- there are elements of romance in it, a large dose of action and a sprinkling of suspense. It’s definitely a modern work as there is a sizable amount of internet-chat and mobile phone usage involved, a lot of which is central to the plot (as an internet surfer myself, this aspect was appealing!). Also, I personally believe that it’s impossible not to like the characters. Just one warning- there are violent parts in it, particularly in the second half.
+ Nice animation style
+ Quirky characters
+ Plenty of plot
+ Lots of riveting action scenes
+ A wonderful soundtrack that succeeds at creating various atmospheres
– The eagerly-awaited grand climax that doesn’t quite happen
– The unexpected slowing down of pace after the first half
Here is my rating for Durarara!!
Plot – 9/10
Characters – 9/10
Storyline – 8/10
Animation – 9/10
Sound/Music – 10/10
Enjoyment – 8/10
About the title: Durarara!! What does it mean? Does it even have a meaning? Well, according to the author of the light novel series (Ryohga Narita, who also wrote the Baccano! series of light novels) that the anime is based on, it’s a string of nonsense syllables because he hadn’t come up with a title for it and was asked for one. He came out with a string of nonsensical sounds and his editor simply accepted it as the title! However, it’s given fans food for thought, and if you look it up you can find various renditions: Dyurarara, DRRR, even Dullalala (the more you watch, the more this version in particular will make sense).
Licensing: Durarara!! was announced as a new license for BeeZ Entertainment at Amecon and is notable because it was acquired before the series aired in Japan. So, lucky UK fans will be getting a subbed version and won’t have to wait for a US release!