The city. That was the initial premise for Durarara!! And to be honest, it’s that premise that initially drew me into the show. The mysteriousness of the city, the variety in cities, their absolute incredible nature to bring so many people and things together in ways that would amaze anyone. I love settings like this, especially when done well, because the power of the city naturally lends itself to incredible stories. And after watching all 24 episodes, I have no doubt that Durarara played that setting in a masterful way.
To me, and I’m sure many others, we can separate Durarara into two separate halves – the first 12 episodes focused on a much broader perspective of various characters, with Celty’s head being the object that ties the various characters together. The latter 12 episodes took a much more in depth look at the characters, with the overall narrative of the show shifting to the escalating gang wars happening in the city.
I’m sure that many people were disappointed at the lack of energy in the second half of the series. But that’s to be expected. In many ways, the course of the show followed the story of the typical “new guy” to the city – Mikado. When he first entered the city, there was this unspeakable thrill. The thrill of a new beginning. Entering the city is akin to being reborn. You’re leaving your old self behind, your tradition, your familial roots, and coming to the city to seek opportunity and new thrills. And that’s precisely what Mikado came to the city to do. There’s only so much to be done in the world outside of big cities. The city is where freedom reigns, where you can do anything you want, find something interesting.
Yet as you stay longer in the city, a different feeling comes over you. The thrill of discovering new people and new things soon settles down, and soon you discover the dark side of the city. The Color wars, the violence, the Slashers, the supernatural – they’re all part of a new side to the city. And soon, you get to know the inhabitants more. Their quirks, their bad side, and their good side.
And that, I feel, is what Durarara did correctly. The entire series itself builds such an incredible atmosphere, that I feel like I’m truly along for the ride. I feel the rush of excitement when I enter the city, and I feel wonder when the new city smell fades and I take a much closer look at everyone who makes up the city.
At the same time, I can’t honestly say that Durarara!! is one of my top animes of the season. There is a lot that it does wrong, or at least could have been done better. For one, the pacing just felt… off. I can’t necessarily indicate a specific reason why, but the problem with the pacing runs deeper than merely the disconnect between episodes 12 and 13. There are times when that feeling of exhilaration built up gets cut short because of rather strange dialogue scenes that get inserted. This stood out far more often in the second half of the show, though there were points in the first half where I had the same feeling.
There’s also the strange feeling of inconclusiveness that marks the end of the show. The ending of the show leads me to believe that there will be a season two, mostly because of the lack of any sort of plot movement concerning the “awakening of the head” that was dropped as a cliffhanger in episode 12. That really irritated me because it feels as if that entire train of thought got thrown aside.
The final point of complaint that I’ll bring is against the characters. At points I feel as if the main characters were too unbelievable. One major issue was the Celty x Shinra thing, which I feel sprouted out of nowhere, with not enough emphasis on Celty’s train of thought leading up to her acceptance of Shinra’s love. Aside from that, I felt rather frustrated with Kida’s and Mikado’s actions in the 2nd half of the show, as they seemed a bit too childish. I’m not sure shutting down the Dollars site would do really anything, nor would ignoring the Yellow Scarves. But whatever. Another problem was just how multiple characters were introduced, played a large part in the plot action of a few episodes, and then left to rot. Key examples would be Shingen and the traffic cop (I totally forgot his name. He was in, what, two episodes).
That is not to say though, that I disliked the characters. They were probably some of the highlights of the series. Adding in a bit of fanboyism, I have to say that my favorite group has to be Dotachin and co. Appropriate comedic relief, yet extremely serious when they needed to be. Aside from that, I felt that a lot of characters were fleshed out really well, and I didn’t really feel that there were too many characters where I just didn’t understand them, aside from a few like the two mentioned above.
However, I will have to say that my overall feeling of Durarara is positive. The story is involving, and one of the best parts about the show is the soundtrack. You can find zzeroparticle’s review here, but I’ll just say that the music worked so well with the setting of the city, and was a vital component in bringing it all alive. If anything won me over, it has to be the setting. It was for me a kickback to Gothom City from Batman in that all different sorts of characters appear in the city, from the country boy to an Irish Dullahan to an insane information broker to a pacifist Russian advertiser. I love the way that the show depicted the city, but you’ve probably heard enough from me about that.
The show also tackles numerous other themes in the second half of the show, where the show shifted to a much more character driven approach. Each of the main characters came to symbolize a certain conflict. For Kida it was the guilt he felt over his past, for Anri it was her fundamental personality and emotional issues brought about by childhood trauma, and for Masaomi it was his own childishness and inexperience. Each character has his or her own personal issues, and the events occurring in the city caused them to reexamine themselves. Kida and Anri just want to have a normal high school life, but their idealistic view of being able to dodge the past is challenged and finally brought down. Ultimately, they became stronger by confronting the ghosts of their past, as running away and ignoring their past only brought them troubles. For Celty, the entire series was a quest for her own identity. After her head was stolen, her sole mission was to reclaim it, but she soon realizes that perhaps she doesn’t need her head. She can recreate her own identity, and she doesn’t need to be confined to her past memories.
In any case, that’s enough about Durarara!! The show is a great work, but can throw some people off. Should you watch it? Give it a try at least. Depending on your tastes, you may or may not like the show. At the very least you should watch it to understand the Shizuo x Izaya Doujins that are going to be popping up soon
PS – I find it funny that I have a screenshot from every single sub group whose releases I downloaded to watch this show. And I swear that it was just by chance.