Studio: Brain’s Base
Original Run: Jan 8, 2010 to Jun 25, 2010
Genres: Action, Drama, Supernatural
High school student Ryugamine Mikado has moved to Tokyo at the request of his childhood friend. Mikado has always longed for a life of excitement rather than the quiet existence he led at his small town. And his new home of Ikebukuro, which is abound with rumors of dangerous gangs, inhuman bartenders, devious informants, and the most infamous of them all, the Headless Rider, seems to be just the right place for him.
But the colorful inhabitants of Ikebukuro have many secrets of their own and Mikado just may have bitten off more than he can chew.
I’ve been meaning to watch Durarara ever since I watched Baccano, and I finally got around to it. And let’s just say that I was not disappointed in the least. I already knew to expect the ridiculously huge cast and disjointed storytelling, and I’m fond of that style when done well, so in a way, I was biased in favor of this anime before I even started it.
The convoluted narrative, with its multiple points of view, lack of chronology and general confusion, is highly entertaining. It did take me a few episodes to get sucked into the story and learn to distinguish the myriad of characters but once I was properly invested, there were few dull moments. Durarara is divided into two halves, each with a central focus while a million little things and subplots happen around it. The first half deals with the Headless Rider Celty’s search for her head and the memories that it carries while the latter half focuses on the gang war between two groups while a third one interferes with both. I’m not even going to try and explain Durarara’s plot any further because that’s an exercise in futility. It’s too much of a mess to summarize. The good kind of mess though.
Aside of the fun but insane story, what really sold this anime to me was its characters. You would think that, with a cast this large, there would some trouble keeping up with them all or in getting invested in the lot. But each of them is unique and memorable, by sight if not by name, and when they all come together in the main and sub plots, it’s endlessly entertaining. Even the characters that are not particularly likeable tend to be interesting and/or disturbing enough to keep the story’s momentum going. The interactions between these quirky personalities are a rich source of amusement.
That said, Durarara is not without its faults. There are points, usually during the build-up episodes, where things lag somewhat. But they are usually compensated for quickly so the boredom is only momentary. The first and the second halves are quite different from each other from a narrative standpoint. The cast is more or less the same, but the idiosyncratic narration that characterized the first half is abandoned for a more typical, linear mode of storytelling. The difference can be a bit jarring.
Altogether, Durarara is a worthwhile show to spend time on. It’s hilarious, dramatic and absolutely crazy.
The size of Durarara’s cast and its style of narration mean that there is no actual main character. The focus jumps between different people, all of them the stars of their own stories. I’ll just briefly cover some of the more notable ones in this session.
First we have the student trio; Mikado, his childhood friend Masaomi, and the girl they befriend in high school, Anri. The three couldn’t be more different so naturally, they end up as bosom friends… who’re all hiding bigass secrets from each other for pretty much the same reasons. Naturally, these secrets cause them a lot of trouble later in the story. Mikado is an unassuming guy from a small town who dreams of living a life of excitement and adventure. That’s pretty much his defining passion. Kida is a self-professed ladies man who maintains a façade of obnoxious cheerfulness and is trying to run away from the mistakes of his past. Anri thinks of herself as a parasite who uses others people’s emotions to live vicariously through them since she herself is hollow. All three have their positives and negatives, and are actually more engaging as a unit than as individuals.
Celty is the Headless Rider, who remains a mystery for all of four episodes, and the designated mascot of the show. She’s usually involved a least marginally in all of the various incidents of import that are occurring in Ikebukuro. You would think that a headless fairy from Irish (and maybe Norse as well) mythology who’s associated with death and the dying would be a sinister, or at least somber, character. Nothing could be less true because Celty is best described as adorable. This old-as-dirt mythical creature looking for her head is the most endearing – and arguably the most sane – person in all of Durarara. She’s compassionate, thoughtful, sweet and always a delight to watch even when she’s not doing anything particularly important. It’s impossible to mention Celty without Shinra, a shady, eccentric human doctor who’s been maniacally in love with Celty since he was a kid. It’s not as creepy as it sounds and they actually make a lovely couple.
Two other figures who stand out are Shizuo and Izaya, a pair of very interesting (to put it politely) personalities who also happen to be mortal enemies. Shizuo is a debt-collector with super strength and severe anger issues, which do not make a good combination as evidenced by his tendency to send anything from vending machines to street signs flying whenever he’s pissed, which is often. Izaya is a resourceful informant and the show’s resident chess-master who claims to love all of humanity (well, except Shizuo). Unfortunately, his love is more toxic than a yandere’s since his way of expressing it is to push people towards their darkest emotions. Out of the two, Shizuo is certainly the more likeable one but Izaya is pure entertainment in a fur coat.
There are others, and there will be more added in the second season, but these guys are the most noteworthy of the lot.
Art and Music:
There’s nothing particularly special about Durarara’s animation but it is of great quality and also has its own distinct style. The landscapes and cityscapes are beautifully drawn. Animation is pretty fluid in general.
I paid almost no attention to the OST in this. None of it was irritating or bad but the tracks didn’t stand out either. The opening and ending themes, on the other hand, are excellent earworms. The second OP Complication by ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D (I can never remember that name) is most likely to haunt your waking hours. Not that I’m complaining since I enjoyed it quite a lot.
A crazy show with a crazy cast. It has its duller moments and the two halves are pretty different but all things considered, Durarara is one of the best shows I’ve seen, even if it’s a pain to spell.