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Monday, July 25, 2011

Initial Thoughts: Durarara!!

Initial Thoughts: Durarara!!

Spoiler warning: Discusses the events of the first five episodes. Do not post comments about anything past episode five, please!

In Tokyo's downtown district of Ikebukuro, amidst many strange rumors and warnings of anonymous gangs and dangerous occupants, one urban legend stands out above the rest – the existence of a headless “Black Rider” who is said to be seen driving a jet-black motorcycle through the city streets. Ryuugamine Mikado has always longed for the excitement of the city life, and an invitation from a childhood friend convinces him to move to Tokyo. Witnessing the Black Rider on his first day in the city, his wishes already seem to have been granted. But as supernatural events begin to occur, ordinary citizens like himself, along with Ikebukuro's most colorful inhabitants, are mixed up in the commotion breaking out in their city. (Hat tip to the good folks at MAL Rewrite for the series synopsis.)

The dazzling lights and sounds of Ikebukuro district – the strange people who inhabit it and come out at night – the Dollars gang that has no color of its own which dominates the streets – the Black Rider that patrols the city on its motorcycle faster than the wind – so what is the secret of this bustling commercial district that holds so many different nooks and crannies hiding the oddities of society? That, my friends, is the story behind Durarara!! – a colorful medley of other people’s stories meant to be seen as a massive narrative for the district of Ikebukuro itself. The identity of Ikebukuro comes through the identity of its citizens, and it is discovering who inhabits this space that we discover the true face of Ikebukuro in both the day and the night.

Read the rest of the post after the jump!

From the beginning, it becomes obvious that Durarara!! is no typical series. Episodes are told from varying points of view or narrated from various characters – the second episode is narrated by Celty, the fourth through the eyes of Shinra, and so forth. This series isn’t limited to one character’s POV, which makes it easier for the show to fluxuate story-wise between its various cast members and their respective plots, especially since the main core of the cast – the teenage duo of Kida and Mikado – spends most of their day at school and therefore out of the heart of Ikebukuro until nightfall. The cast itself is rather diverse and represents the strange, strange world of the district: convenience machine-wielding bartenders; Russian immigrant restaurant owners; information barterers; gang members; motorcycle-riding headless mysteries; cocky school kids and so forth. It’s the collision of these various lives in the district that makes the plot of the series move.

As for the characters themselves, my favorite so far are Celty and Shizuo. On one hand, we have Celty, the infamous Black Rider of Ikebukuro who ends up being a legend within a legend – Celty might be a dullahan of Gaelic faerie mythology but her memories are gone and she must find her head first before she can know the truth. Then there is Shizuo, a bartender with superstrength and a hell of a short fuse who throws large items at people like Izaya Orihara on a regular basis – I know less about his story than the smoky-headed Celty but I’m looking forward to it. Of course, the rest of the cast is absolutely wonderful; there isn’t a dull soul among the lot of them.

There’s not much more I can say about the first five episodes of Durarara!! except that so far, it is a most excellent series. The English dub broadcasting on [as] is very good, but since I haven’t heard the original Japanese voice actors, I have nothing to compare them to. However, the fact that they gave Celty a ‘voice’ was very wise on their part; it would be too much of a hassle to subtitle her Japanese texts since they flash too quickly too read, ergo giving Celty a fake voice for her written messages gets around the ‘not having an actual voice’ problem quite neatly. If you’re not watching this series yet, give it a try some Saturday night – you will not be disappointed by the stories and strange adventures you find inside.