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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Manga Review: Durarara!! GN 1 & 2


Durarara!!: Volumes 1 & 2
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Yen Press
176 pages (for both volumes)
Welcome to Ikebukuro, where Tokyo's wildest characters gather!! Meet an ordinary boy who daydreams about the extraordinary. A naive stalker girl. The strongest man in Ikebukuro. A shut-in doctor with questionable credentials. A hedonistic informant...and the "headless rider" astride a pitch-black motorcycle!? As their paths cross, this eccentric cast weaves a twisted, cracked love story... (Source: Goodreads)
Spoiler alert: Contains some spoilers for the manga and the anime. Read on with caution!
Gosh, this story is sure familiar. Are you sure I haven't read this before? Oh, yes. I watched Durarara!! back when it was on [as] and I remember clearly waiting each week to find out what the hell is going on. So it's rather fascinating to read the story again in another medium and know more than the cast about what's really happening, about who is who and what's really been going on behind the scenes in Ikebukuro.
It's a familiar read but that's not a negative; it's more like getting back together with a group of friends, some you really like and others you'd rather keep a distance from, but old friends all the same. Oh yes, and most of them end up being certifiably psychotic but that's okay, right?

Reading the manga after watching the anime series is less like reading an adaptation and more like seeing the story from a different set of perspectives. Yes, there is the ever constant point of view that is new kid in town Mikado Ryuugamine, but there is also the POVs of characters such as Seiji Yagiri and Celty Sturluson, whose POVs weren't as fleshed out in the anime as Mikado's or Izaya Orihara's.
And as Ryohgo Narita puts it in his linear notes, the anime, manga, and original light novels as three primary colors that make up a light; they are all necessary to experience the whole of Durarara!! properly. It's like picking up a TYPE-MOON title and only playing the visual novel; you're not getting a full experience like you would if you also got into the manga and anime (insert kvetching from readers that I'm doing the same thing only with the F/SN manga – okay I'M WORKING ON IT, I PROMISE).
The one thing the manga does a bit better than the anime is the focusing on Celty's narrative, as Celty is the true main character of this series. Her very existence sets so many events into motion, the only character that rivals her importance in Ikebukuro is - wait for it - Mikado Ryuuhagamine, the kid with the doujinshi artist name.
Plus, she is not just a character, she is a piece of mythology, both as a dullahan and as the infamous Black Rider. To concentrate on her POV is to strip off the layers of narrative-induced awe and mythos to see the true Celty that is beneath it all, the young woman who is looking for herself and gets frustrated and is possible in love with a certain dude named Shinra.
Another thing that the manga actually does better than the anime is the scene with the otaku Dollars interrogating the Yagiri lackey in their van, using their manga as a weapon of torture. I don't think the anime ever explained why they bought so many copies of their manga; I'm pretty sure that this is the proper explanation. Plus, it shows them being bad-ass much earlier than the anime did. Dota-chin at the very end was pretty awesome in a subdued way. And the fact that they used Kuroshitsuji in the end is so very appropriate, considering the author of Durarara!! used to have Kuro's manga-ka as their mentor.
Note to self: don't get Erika and her friends on my bad side. Also, definitely do not get Shizuo Heiwajima pissed. I could go on and on about how much I adore Shizuo, especially after seeing his back story and the episodes in the anime where he and Celty team up to kick some serious ass, but I'll refrain for the time being. Instead, I'll point out to my fellow Shizuo otaku that the manga version does a great job of translating his rage and energy onto the page. Also, when he's screaming Izaya's name as he gets ready to lob another trash can in the air, I could actually hear his voice in my head: a sure sign that the manga has gotten it right (as a dub fan, naturally it was Crispin Freeman's voice, whose Shizuo gives me life in ways you can hardly comprehend).
The one thing I'd complain about is the fast pacing, but that's compared to the anime, which practically ruminated over plot points and character building. Considering its short length, the pacing makes sense, but I kinda wish more pages had been spent on things like the Simon/Shizuo/Izaya battle and Shinra's scenes with Celty cause they are sickeningly cute and domestic in the early stages of the series and I kind of love it.
In the end, however, the Durarara!! manga is not looking to overhaul or overshadow the position of either the anime or the light novels in the greater DRRR!! canon. It is more of a companion that an alternative, and a great intro to the anime for manga fans reluctant to pick up a 26-episode series. It looks like the manga is only four volumes, which means it'll probably only cover the first half of the anime (if that). Still, it is so enjoyable and good looking that I can forgive it.
Yen Press, you're doing a splendid job with this property so far. If I buy volumes three and four, could we possibly some day get the light novels too? DRRR!! fans, do the right thing and give them monetary incentive to grab Ryohgo Narita's light novel series!
You can read more about the Durarara!! manga series over at the Yen Press website; volume three seems to be out already (but I don't have it yet, sadface!).