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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Manga Review: Durarara!! GN 4

Durarara!!: Volume 4
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Yen Press
176 pages
Dollars, rise up!! When Yagiri Pharmaceuticals crosses the line, the true leader of the Dollars steps forward to take command of the vast network of members at his disposal…Though this unobtrusive boy holds a disturbing degree of power in the palm of his hand, Celty is preoccupied by the powers that still control her head…At the end of the day, will her twenty-year search all be for naught? Or has she found something even more precious along the way? (Source: Yen Press)
Spoiler alert: Contains spoilers for the manga and the anime. Read on with caution!
So this is the end of the Durarara!! manga . . . well, until the Saika Arc, at least. Which is good, because I'm starting to prefer the manga over the anime in terms of focus and linear storytelling. Plus, it has much more Celty – and more Celty is always a plus in my book! Speaking of which, Durarara!!'s most recent plot arcs come to manageable and meaningful conclusions in volume four, creating a satisfactory end as well as a hook into the next story arc (the first volume of which is already available in English!).

I remember being absolutely gobsmacked when the revelation of Mikado's true connection with the Dollars came out in the anime, and I think the manga does an equally good job of handling the aftermath of it (keeping it mind that at this point, only a handful of people know Mikado founded the Dollars – the mess will really hit the fan later in the story). 
Plus, this revelation makes Mikado more relatable. He isn't just the kid who moved to Ikebukuro and fell into a world of oddities; he has a back story now, a reason he's the way he is. He's gone from distant narrator to yet another essential piece in the madness of Ikebukuro's daily life.
Really, the star of this volume is Celty – it's her story and her character that is the focus. This is, from what I know of the light novels, how it should be; Celty is the actual main character of Durarara!!'s source material. There's a lot to love in this book if you are a Celty fan, as she takes hold of her own life and comes to grip with her state of being, a dullahan in modern day Japan. You also might deviate wildly between wanting to punch Shinra in the stomach and wanting him to smooch Celty all over.
That's pretty typical in this series; it seems like with every volume we get info drops that change our opinion of a character pretty wildly, although not without reason. Shinra exemplifies this principle. Not to say that it forgives Shinra's actions completely, but when we see why he does what he did and the motivations behind it all, it's hard not to see him as someone more human, albeit still in mad scientist mode – but a mad scientist in love. 
The antithesis to this rule, of course, is Izaya. The more you learn about him, the more despicable he seems. It's a constant stream of “what is wrong with you, you sociopath” with Izaya. Sorry, BBC Sherlock fans, not every sociopath can be adorable and fluffy haired.
I really love the art in this volume. Everything is so crisp and clean, and artist Akiyo Satorigi does a fantastic job of using whole pages to express emotion, even in characters without faces (Celty, natch). I also adore Satorigi's way with facial expressions; despite my absolute loathing of Izaya Orihara (insert Shizuo-style scream here) his douchebag trickster smirks and grins are wonderfully rendered on the page. All he's missing is Johnny Yong Bosch's arrogant turn as his English VA and the presentation would be complete.
Durarara!! is one of those series filled with twists on top of twists, layers of people's stories that are slowly peeled back to add further dimension to the plot, and somehow in only four volumes this manga adaptation has done all of these things with the same story it took the anime twelve episodes to do. It's not just a worthy primer for the anime, it's a perfectly good adaptation of a continuing light novel series. The art is great, the storytelling and character development is great as well, and all the Celty makes me love it that just more. 
Clearly, the logical next step is to have Yen Press publish the light novels – but in the mean time, let's enjoy the Durarara!! manga and look forward to the three-volume Saika Arc. Did somebody say slasher story?