Sunday 26 June 2011

Anime REVIEW: Durarara!!

Durarara!! takes place in the city of Ikebukuro, where Mikado Ryƫgamine has just transferred to at the request of his childhood friend Masaomi Kida. Mikado soon learns about the city's colourful inhabitants - including a Russian Sushi seller named Simon, a short fused man named Shizuo with incredible strength, and an information deal named Izaya. He also learns about Ikebukuro's gang society, particularly a large, anonymous group known as the Dollars.

But Ikebukuro's population isn't that straightforward, as Mikado also meets "The Black Rider", a headless motorcycle rider who has become the city's urban legend. This rider is in fact Celty Sturluson, a female Dullahan from Ireland who has come to city in search of her missing head (which is the source of her memories). As the series begins each of these people have different stories to tell, but soon their paths become closer and closer, with the stories interlocking into one bigger story which has the whole of Ikebukuro involved.

One of Durarara!!'s most interesting features is its pacing. While initially fairly episodic, each story is intertwined - meaning scenes are often repeated numerous times with different characters as the focus in order to paint a bigger picture. Each character reacts very differently with others, so this setting shows a lot of range between the main cast while keeping things interesting. This does of course mean that this is a show you can't just watch lightly - the character transitions can be relatively quick at times and so a decent amount of attention must be paid to know what's going on.

Speaking of characters, one of the series' main strengths it's seeming lack of secondary characters. There are a few here and there, but mostly each character is integral to the plot somehow and the story somehow manages to stay confined to this core cast. After the first few episodes there aren't too many more characters introduced, and all the series' main plot twists revolve around characters that have been around since the beginning (plot twists being one of Durarara!!'s specialities, there were a lot of things I didn't see coming). There are no straightforward antagonists (although Izaya would certainly come close) and the supernatural elements are dealt with an element of realism. Celty may be a headless horseman, but she proves to be just as human as any of the 'normal' characters present in the series. Since the characters also spend a great deal of time on a chatroom (each with their own online handle that the others aren't fully aware of straight away), seeing how they all interact with each other in that environment also proves to be another of the series' highlights.

The art is excellent, the characters distinguishable and the vivid differences between the neon lights and dark alleys of a big city well displayed. Little touches, such as background characters being coloured in grey-scale while the main ones remain fully coloured help the audience know where the main focus of a scene is.

Durarara!! starts off a little slow, but after about 8-10 episodes in it just keeps going on going, becoming better every time. The characters are hugely diverse and interesting, the plot both engaging and twisting, and the ending is satisfying yet leaves you wanting more. From seemingly invincible fighters to teenagers involved in gang warfare, my initial reservations about this series were completely gone by the time I was half way in. Definitely one to watch.

No comments: