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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Final Thoughts: Durarara!!

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.

Spoiler warning: Spoilers for the entirety of Durarara!! are beyond this line. Read with caution!

So, I know, I'm two years behind everyone else in finishing this amazingly popular series. Hell, I'm even more behind everyone else since I was watching the dub on [as] and let the episodes pile up so that I ended up finishing the series a month or so after it finished its initial run on television. I did an Initial Thoughtspost on it in July, and talked about further episodes in two of my anime round-up posts (geez, remember those?), but it isn't until now that I've been able to bring together all my thoughts and feelings on the Durarara!! anime series at large.

Here's my kneejerk reaction to Durarara!! in four words: When is season two? No, really. When? I need it! And it isn't because the anime was unsatisfactory - although there are a ton of plot points that never get actual resolutions - but because I didn't want it to end when it did. I really want more Durarara!! which is why I'm hoping the light novels get licensed this year or the next, which might actually happen if the manga sells well over here in the North American market. I might even start up interest for a Kickstarter-esque project to get it licensed and published in English, that's how much I love this series. Ssh, don't be scared by how much anime fandom loves it; it deserves all of the hype.

There are two things that Durarara!! does really, really well that little series like it can pull off: a large cast of characters that are also fleshed out and interesting and subplots on top of subplots that manage to weave together into an overall coherent plot without getting confusing or boring. Durarara!! probably has one of my favorite casts of all the anime I’ve seen in the last five years. It would be a hard decision to pick favorites among them all, but right now they would definitely include Shizuo, Celty, Anri, Simon, and Kadota’s crew (especially resident fujoshi Erika, who has been featured on Ogiue Maniax’s Fujoshi Files and rightly so).

Somehow, Durarara!! is able to tell the stories for a ridiculously long character list that all play major roles in the overall series, while revealing key moments of their back stories that can turn a viewer’s perception of certain characters. I think the best example of this is the big reveal of Mikado and Masaomi’s respective histories with the Dollars and the Yellow Scarves – and as much as Mikado’s turn in back story land shocked me, Masaomi’s own story pretty much knocked me back with how surprising (and plausible) it was. 

Lesser series who shoe-horn major character stories into a show to give their characters’ actions context do it messily and without any hint of class; Durarara!! gets it right every time, without fail, even when it doesn’t seem like it. For example, Anri's story arc in relation to the Slasher than the further you got into it, the more you kept wondering why Anri was such an important part of it - until you get to the conversation in her apartment and everything just falls together perfectly with one of those narrative payoff moments this series is so good at.

Naturally, since Durarara!! is based on the currently on-going light novel series, not every major plot line can be concluded within twenty-four episodes (twenty-six if you count the specials). So instead of putting an artificial cap on the story or making up an anime-only canon ending, the Durarara!! anime leaves the ending open for a second season. Questions related to things like Celty’s head, the future of the Dollars, and the Yellow Scarves, Simon’s back story, Yagiri Pharmaceutical’s hand in all of this and so on don’t get answers, leaving the door open for resolving some of these outstanding issues in a theoretical second season. This should definitely happen, like, sooner than later. I hunger for more stories set in the magical world of Ikebukuro – and, to be perfectly honest, for more of the violent antics of Shizuo Heiwajima and his flying vending machines (and the unfortunate fools who are on the receiving end of them).

So, really, if you have been on the fence about watching Durarara!! – well, don’t be. Go out and pick up the DVDs and watch it with wild abandon. And for goodness sake, pay attention or you will miss so much stuff. But you will not regret watching this series – well, at least until you start buying the manga and the soundtracks and the merchandise and end up spending long nights on AO3 reading Shizuo/Celty/Anri Marvelverse AU fanfiction (not that any of that fic exists, damn it).

You can watch the Durarara!!series streaming via YouTube on Aniplex’s channel. You can also read about theEnglish language release of the Durarara!! manga at Yen Press’s site. And we can all cross our fingers and hope someone will license the light novels!