Anime Review – Durarara!!
Do you ever feel invisible? Your side of the story obscured, your perspective completely overshadowed by others? Durarara!! makes the invisible visible. It peers into how the lives of all people are interconnected, part of a whole that cannot ever be viewed altogether within our limited human capacity. Revolving around an esoteric gang war in the stylish Ikebukuro subsection of Tokyo, the story follows three unassuming high school students that become caught up in the underground happenings of the city. Nothing is ever as it seems in this area however, and gradually the blindered worlds of all its inhabitants open up in a cascade of revelations no single one of them would have conceived in their previously self-absorbed lives.
Studio: Brain’s Base Episodes: 26
Year: 2010 Genres: Action, Supernatural
The color gangs of Ikebukuro are infamous for their ever-present citywide conflicts. That’s all cooled down recently however, when the Blue Squares utterly lost the largest of these known in recent history. There are whispered rumors of a new gang forming however, the colorless ‘Dollars’, whom have no known leader, structure, or members as of yet. This is the world the timid Mikado is coaxed into by his childhood best friend Kida, in order to try for a fresh start. The boredom of his previous life had really dragged on him, but he may be in for more than he expected as he stumbles into his new life…
Enter Celty, the headless motorbike rider of legend causing terror across the city, a troublesome encounter with the Yellow Scarves, and a wild battle between the inhumanly strong Shizuo and devilishly shrewd Izaya.
As tempers (and vending machines!) fly, Mikado gets his first good glimpse at his dangerous new surroundings. He quickly learns everyone has their own agenda, perhaps obscured by the relative peacetime, but nonetheless hinted at in passing glances and flashes of brightly colored cloth. It would be impossible to explain without giving away too much the paths each of these characters are about to take. Suffice it to say that their previously disparate lives are about to become deeply entangled in a genuinely chaotic plot, with only Izaya, “the one who looks over the crowd”, truly viewing even close to all its complex intricacies.
Durarara!!’s title is from one angle derived from the sound motorcycles make, but it is also a near homophone of Dulahan (the name of the headless horsemen of Irish folklore) and of the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Dollars’. It’s one word, but it contains three distinct perspectives, no single one of them telling the whole story. That, my friends, is the underlying message in Durarara. Every character in the show is full of intricate angles not quite noticed by others, a story behind them of worthy of intrigue should anyone actually bother to look. Nothing exemplifies this better than the second episode of series, in which we are treated to a simple retelling of the first. Beginning decidedly unremarkably, that quickly changes when it becomes readily apparent that it’s being done from a wholly different point of view. In just that one episode, I was instantly enraptured by the show’s deranged attitude. Shown in a completely new light, that second episode completely changes ‘what actually happened’ in the first, and while watching every episode thereafter, the afterimage burned in here may just resurface with it’s poignant message.
Here we have a simple but powerful structure. We are first introduced to the major players of Ikebukuro, and handed the road map to the basic dynamics of its constituents. Slowly, bits and pieces of intel about the city’s underworld movements come together: The good-natured Celty searching for her lost head with the help of a coy underground Doctor, Shrina, their relationship a bit more than friends. Her working for Izaya, fancying himself the puppet-master behind the scenes, as he toys with other Ikebukero residents, and works with a secret organization, who hires such and such… I think you get the picture. Each of these characters’ perspectives adds just one more point of view, one more part of a vast cause and effect chain. Their own glimpse through the looking glass consistently proving inadequate to encompass the enormity of the unbelievably complex, rapidly unfolding events taking place in the disquiet district.
Revelation after revelation, plot twist after plot twist deftly surge their way onto the scene, each spate of unexpected discoveries wetting an already rapacious anticipation for the next as every secret is revealed, every machination divulged. The plot of this show couldn’t be more gripping, it is almost as though not just one, but a hundred butterfly wings had flapped their wings. How any one character will be connected in this preposterous web is nothing more than a wild guess, and that is exactly what makes it so utterly captivating.
deep within the anonymity of the world wide web, and cloaked behind thinly veiled online handles, many of the characters listen in on the innermost pulse of the underground, unbeknownst to them whether they are speaking to their closest friends or bitterest of enemies, in yet another infinitely multifaceted sphere. All interconnected, all anonymous, the ‘Dollars’ as well as the cast at large wear many masks and play countless roles in this estranged arrangement of white lies and false hopes. We can only observe as hostages in our seats as the enchanting cacophony begins.
While getting comfortable within the show’s cozy embrace however, one might almost be tempted to overlook its last minute falterings. I have to admit, the ending of the series left me with a bad taste. With loose ends tantalizingly left dangling for nearly every plot line of the series, the final moments were bitterly unsatisfying. Actually, pretty much the entirety of the last few episodes aren’t up to par, and while create added drama, irrationalize the carefully built up characters. Even so, there is still much good to be said about the series.
The soundtrack consists of a techno inspired, haunting soundscape, abuzz with sparks of ecstatic beats and a low to high, relaxed then bursting in intensity opening song that perfectly echoes the crescendo course of the series.The vibrant, modern and altogether jazzy setting mixes well with a sharp but adolescent animation style, the character designs as memorable as they are playful, each imbued with their own edgy flair. Even our relatively plaintive trifecta of protagonists posses an air about them that is only more and more gratifyingly developed as the series progresses. Each of our burgeoning little proteges learns that they must inevitably deal with the consequences of their pasts, their guarded feelings still brewing within their hearts. Behind their everyday appearance, they cannot keep their secrets buried forever, as the tumultuous forces of Ikebukuro force their true identifies to surface. Without giving away too much, each character gets caught up in plot for deeply human reasons; protecting past lovers, fostering a sense of belonging, dealing with untamed angst, undoing past wrongs, or even dealing with mistrewn affection.. Every one of them forced to learn restraint in the face of the injustice, and we the audience can easily relate to all their actions.
4.5/5 Stars – Sometimes, one should accept a bit of bad with the good, the burnt finish atop a delicious Creme Brulee. I truly loved Durarara!! and the lackluster finale didn’t stop me from indulging in it a second time just to revel in its ecstasy once more. Watching the characters, plot and entire city all reach total convergence in such a grand spectacle is, in a word, unmissable.
Baccano! – Created by the same team, a wild cocktail of thieves, mafias and weirdos cause a huge ruckus in this ragtag series set in an idyllic 40s America. As the true motive behind the mafia war is revealed, and even serial killers enter the mix, you’ll be glued to the screen trying to piece it all together.
Click the thumbnail for a Geek-Spire Review of it by Dean Pearce
Death Note – When a highly intelligent high school student bored with life realizes a notebook labelled “DeathNote” he discovered actually has the power to kill other human beings, he uses it to starting cleaning up the criminal population. When the equally genius detective L learns of the killings, a battle of wits for the ages ensues, their cat and mouse chase for each other only having two possible outcomes.