A country bumpkin decides to leave his hometown and move into the city; but not just any city. This boy, upon a close friend’s invitation, decides to move to Ikebukuro, one of Japan’s most busy cities. How will he handle the stress? Will he be all right? Will he get a girlfriend? Is this going to become another crappy generic romance? Far from it, my dear friends. If you stopped watching Durarara!! on the first episode, you’ve missed out on quite a lot. The first episode is amazingly misleading, so keep watching the show before you read this. Once you’ve done that, I welcome you to read my second review, of Durarara!!!
Right off the bat when you start the show, Durarara!! throws seemingly way too much information onto you. If you, like me, watched it after it finished airing, you’d think this would be terrible. My thoughts on this, however, are as follows: if you’d watched it while it was airing, which was likely intended by the producers, you’d have been given a week to ponder all the information shoved down your throats, which is a reasonable amount of time.
During episodes 1 and 2, we are told that there are two dangerous people the loser MC should avoid: Orihara Izaya and Heiwajima Shizuo. We are also shown a teenage girl getting kidnapped, Kida Masaomi and his gang of friends, the people in the chat room, the headless rider, those infamous “colour gangs” and “the Dollars”, the “special” colour gang. Normally this information would seem like a desparate attempt to keep you as interested as possible. And it is. However Durarara!! does it in such a way that you don’t actually notice it’s being done, and you are kept interested so you can find out whether the headless rider actually has a head or not, to look for some colour gang/Izaya+Shizuo fight scenes and those interesting conversations in the chat room.
Before this, however, the main character gets off a train, and a narration begins to explain the setting. Just when you begin to lose hope, and are about to close the video, a blonde-haired dude shows up and initiates a conversation with the MC. So this keeps you interested enough to watch for a bit longer. Then when that blonde kid explains about the town, you begin to think “hey, this might not be generic harem #9999 after all”.
The quirky characters and fast-paced action keep you interested enough to want to watch the show in one sitting (which would be quite possible, considering that it’s not an endless shounenshit). The complex stories of each character interwine and weave through eachother’s plot holes to fill them up, and you find it hard to get up to empty your bladder and large intestine. A rather unconventional method of telling the story, and with a few bouts of dull narration, but it works excellently nonetheless.
By the second half, around episodes 15-18 and onwards, we were previously told things like Shizuo and Izaya’s backgrounds, Celty’s story and the colour gangs. Then we are told about the Slasher incidents, and after that, the story begins to drop. A large cast usually results in characters remaining forgotten and undeveloped. I regret to admit that Durarara!! did the same. Instead of providing a proper ending for Celty’s story, it decides to end with “I am me, I don’t need my head after I’ve been looking for 20 years, screw it, I give up!” and then Durarara!! shifts to focus on the three LEAST interesting characters, being Anri, Kida and Mikado. I was told that the show is called "Durarara" after "Dullahan", which in Romaji is "Durahan", so why not tell us more about the Dullahan?
Alright, given that the protagonist and his best friend are the leaders of two rival gangs in the city, and the last in their love triangle being an urban legend is pretty interesting, but the way it was told was completely different to how it had previously been. Instead of the fast and quick barrage of information, Durarara!! decides to drop its unique story telling method to spoon-feed the viewers using a person to narrate the character’s thoughts. Instead of showing the events played around from different characters’ points of view, it’s all focused on Kida and Mikado. Instead of this crap, Celty could’ve gotten a proper ending, or Ikebukuro could’ve erupted into a warfield as planned by Izaya and have Celty’s head awaken.
On the more technical side of things, Durarara!!’s animation was not spectacular, but it was certainly great. The character designs for most people were pretty average, but for characters like Mika with the scar on her neck, Celty, lacking a head, and Shinra’s father sporting the gas mask, Durarara!!’s ensemble of unique characters is certainly very appealing. Additionally, Celty’s shadow powers and how they writhed about, and the scenes with the slasher’s hair blowing ominously in the wind, however generic they may be, were certainly drawn and animated quite well.
The realism in the animation is all too clear, and it doesn’t falter unless intentional, such as when showing off Shizuo throwing around street signs and vending machines. When the gangs get into a brawl, they get hit, fall and bleed realistically. None of that blood squirting out of your eyeballs 200 meters after getting punched in the gut. Also, the “crowds” of insignificant people being toned out in grey was an unheard of practice, and it turned out great. Not only does it save time by not having to colour in each individual person, it also allows for drawing attention to the more important things. Brains-Base has taken this up a notch by making Penguindrum’s characters white, floating cardboard cut-outs.
As for the music, the first ED, OP and this soundtrack were really catchy. The OSTs in the show were played around with, and there a fair few of them. One of them sounded like a three-year-old non-child prodigy playing a violin like Kotomi Ichinose, and yet that soundtrack was excellent due to the usage, not the actual sound of it. Also, the way that the old episode’s recap that’s usually shown before the OP is actually shown halfway through the OP. Quite unorthodox, but it works well
and it also lets me skip to the same spot each time.
Durarara!! is a unique, and exciting show for the most part, and if you’re looking for something fun, quick and just plain different to everything else, Durarara!! is the way to go. Don’t expect too much of the ending, but most other aspects of the show were definitely approaching perfection.