Anime Review – Durarara!!
Take a dash of dash of high school drama, add a couple teaspoons of urban action comedy, then season freely with supernatural mystery. Stir vigorously, then bake for 26 episodes…and voila! Your Durarara!! is ready! Based on the light novel series written by Ryohgo Narita and illustrated by Suzuhita Yasuda, Durarara!! begins when young Mikado Ryugamine, longing for an exciting life in the big city, moves to Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Mikado’s best friend and smooth talking charmer, Masaomi Kida, tries to warn the naive high school student away from some of the city’s more dangerous elements. But, despite his efforts, Mikado still winds up caught in a series of events involving supernatural intrigue and a mysterious gang known as “the Dollars.”
Much like Narita’s other major work, Baccano, Durarara!! is a series that is hard to easily classify or summarize. The plot, seamlessly blending elements of several disparate genres, is a huge web of intersecting lives and events supported by a massive cast of characters. Episodes leap freely admidst multiple points of view, weaving a complexly engaging tapestry of story. Impressively, this multifaceted approach never becomes overly difficult to follow or understand. Each individual mystery, twist, and revelation merely serve to help build the larger narrative as they are all connected in some fashion or another. Even when watching the series for a second time, you still pick up on small details and moments that add to such a well constructed storyline.
Durarara!! couldn’t pull off this delicate juggling of plot elements without a ridiculously engaging cast, which Narita delivers in spades. Mikado Ryugamine is just one of several main players in Durarara!!, who’s big city naivitte often serves as an introduction and vantage point on certain events. Equally as important to the narrative is Celty, Ikebukuro’s legendary “Black Rider” who never speaks, communicating soley with a PDA, and is widely rumored to be not quite human. You see, Celty just so happens to be a dulluhan, a mythological irish spirit, searching tokyo for her lost head. The diverse variety of dramatis personae include a super strong street brawler named Shizuo; hardcore otaku couple Walker and Erika; and Simon, the big black Russian sushi chef. Everyone with a role to play has a uniquely interesting personality and watching them interact with other, equally quirky, characters is a real treat.
As their first self published North American release, Aniplex assembled an all star cast for Durarara!!. Several famous voice actors lend their incredible talent to the show in more than a few unexpected ways. Typically heroic Johnny Yong Bosch plays against type as Iziya, the information broker, performing with a sinisterly Machiavellian attitude that I’m not used to hearing from him. Kari Whalgren once again proves why she is one of my all time favorite voice actresses with a fantastic turn as Celty, bringing believable emotional depth and character to someone who lacks a face. And Yuri Lowenthal’s vocal range allowed him to go completely unrecognized for half the show while playing Celty’s roommate, the goofy lovestruck doctor, Shinra. Those three aren’t the only amazing performances in Durarara!!, just a few of my favorites. The credits read like a who’s who of the anime industry, with names like Crispin Freeman, Steve Blum, Carrie Savage, Michelle Ruff, Spike Spencer, Liam O’Brian, Kirk Thornton, Kyle Hebert, Stephanie Sheh and Laura Bailey all showing up in various roles.
The animation quality of Durarara!! is truly top notch, with Brain’s Base bringing their A game to the project. Action sequences pop and sizzle with a true sense of dynamic speed and excitingly stylish camera angles, especially anything involving Celty or Shizuo. But while it’s always fun to watch the knockdown, drag out fights when they happen, the devil in Durarara!! is truly in the details. Character designs stay faithful to Yasuda’s art, giving everyone a unique look and feel that provides ample expression and personality. Even the backgrounds in Durarara!! often serve as testament to the skill of it’s animators, making the stylized streets of Ikebukuro a character in and of itself.
Just in case the double exclamation points built into the title don’t give it away, Durarara!! is a wildly fun roller-coaster ride of a series. From start to finish, the show kept me engaged in trying to puzzle out it’s mysteries, cheering for it’s heroes, and booing it’s villains. Amidst everything I watch on a regular basis, this title stands out as one of my favorite new anime releases of 2011. So if you’re looking for a great show to get hooked on, make sure you join the Dollars and give Durarara!! a shot.Anime Review - Durarara!!,