the rockin’ ride known as durarara

Most of my favorite anime are based on light novels: To Aru Majutsu no Index, Shakugan no Shana, Full Metal Panic!… others, I’m sure :x (although some are pretty horrible… Kämpfer comes to mind, but at least the animation there was good… Mayoi Neko Overrun! was really mediocre, below-par animation, no plot, basically had nothing going for it except fan service, which wasn’t even that appealing either) so it should come as no surprise that Durarara!! is hereby added to that list.

Durarara!! takes place in modern Ikebukuro, Japan. There aren’t really any protagonists and, while one guy can be classified as an antagonist, it’s hard to place him as *the* antagonist. Durarara!! is a story of perspectives; there is no real “main” character, but there are 8+ primary characters. Each one is somehow involved in the various peculiarities happening in Ikebukuro. However, no single person knows the whole story, so each episode is shown from a different character’s perspective. No, they’re not showing the same 20 minutes over and over again from a different person’s point of view, but there is a lot of overlap, a lot of rewinding, and, for the viewer, a lot of “holy cow, I see the connection!”

It’s hard to get into the story without giving key plot points away, so I’ll just try to do a summary of the first episode and hope you’ll watch it and get hooked.

Ryuugamine Mikado just moved to Ikebukuro to go to high school with his childhood friend Kida Masaomi. As Kida shows him around town, he’s given many warnings: don’t get involved with Orihara Izaya; Heiwajima Shizuo; the color gangs; or the gang without a color, the Dollars.

At the end of the day, Ryuugamine and Kida hear a loud noise, a distorted horse’s whinny. That noise came from the Black Rider, a mysterious person in a black jumpsuit with a distinctive helmet, riding on a jet black motorcycle. Rumor has it that the Black Rider has no head…

The picture I’ve put on the left here is from the ED of the first arc of Durarara!! These are pretty much all the primary characters. If you’re familiar with the anime/manga scene, it should be obvious that the art direction is by Yasuda Suzuhito, who writes the manga Yozakura Quartet, which was also turned into a (not as good) anime series. I really like Yasuda’s style, so that was definitely a big reason I dove into this anime.

The music is pretty upbeat and contemporary, very fitting for the show, but nothing grand like Code Geass’s score or super-synergetic like Index’s/Railgun’s music. It’s very good background music, basically, something that fits the tone but doesn’t distract from the scenery or frequent exposition. The most noticeable track is “Green Memories,” which is played often in the slower, “happier” scenes. EDIT: Whoops, I lied, the track I was thinking of is actually “The Sought-after Extraordinary,” but “Green Memories” is nice and stands out too.

Definitely my favorite part of this series is how novel-like it is. Each episode really feels like a chapter in a book, you start with a certain piece of information, you expand on that piece of information, maybe some fights or surprises are thrown in, and then the chapter ends, leading into the next chapter/episode. Why is this style so appealing to me? Because it emphasizes how important “unimportant” events are. The viewer is rewarded for asking questions about the littlest details. I’m not necessarily the most attentive viewer, but I get very excited when plotlines converge. Needless to say, I was super excited a lot while watching this series.

The voice acting was well-chosen and quite excellent. Kamiya Hiroshi has been getting a lot of big roles lately, Araragi Koyomi in Bakemonogatari, Otonashi Yuzuru in Angel Beats!, Souma Hiroomi in Working!!, and here Orihara Izaya. He’s got a pretty distinct voice, but the end result carries a different atmosphere based on the character’s personality and motives. More Bakemonogatari alum include Hanazawa Kana as Sonohara Anri (Sengoku Nadeko, also in Angel Beats) and Sawashiro Miyuki as Celty Sturlson (Kanbaru Suruga, *also* also in Angel Beats lol). Other notable seiyuus include Miyano Mamoru (Kida Masaomi, Death the Kid in Soul Eater, Yagami Light in Death Note, Riku in Kingdom Hearts), Ono Daisuke (Heiwajima Shizuo, Satou Jun in Working!!, Koizumi Itsuki in Haruhi) and Fukuyama Jun (Kishitani Shinra, Lelouch in Code Geass, also in Working!!, various other big roles).

No single fansubbing group has kept up with the releases, so I had a variety of subs to get through the season. I started with [gg], but they disbanded and they localize too much. I switched to [Frostii], which I like quite well. They did a great job on RideBack, but they’re pretty slow and only had up to episode 7 done when I was watching. They’re up to 14 now. So, for 8-15, I watched [Ecliptic-BSS], which was pretty much the [gg] team but without the extreme localization, so that was great. Not sure what the “Ecliptic” was for. Anyway, they lost their translator and editor after episode 15, so I had to turn to CrunchyRoll rips for the remainder of the season. Hopefully Frostii finishes it off so I can archive something good.

That pretty much wraps it up for Durarara!! Great show, great characters, interesting story that demands a second season, wonderful animation and design, awesome voice acting, good music… not much more you can ask for. This is definitely something I will rewatch, to catch all the little connections here and there, and see if I can get any more hints on the story. Give it a watch!

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