Thursday 31 March 2016

Anime REVIEW: Durarara!!x2


The grand return of Durarara!! was something many anime fans were eager for, and after a whopping five year gap the light novel series turned anime finally made its comeback – with the staff of the original now working under the banner of Studio Shuka. However this was no ordinary sequel series, as DRRR!! took its expansive and often complex storytelling to new heights with a rather elaborate airing format. Durarara!!x2 aired over the course of 15 months, split into three separate 12-episode cours airing every other anime “season”. Durarara!!x2 Shou arrived in January 2015, followed by Durarara!!x2 Ten in July. Finally, Durarara!!x2 Ketsu finally landed in January 2016 – one year after the season had started and bringing the story to its big conclusion.

Mikado Ryūgamine
The madness of Mikado Ryūgamine

Six months have passed since the showdown between the Dollars and the Yellow Scarves, with Mikado Ryūgamine and Anri Sonohara still eagerly awaiting the day their friend Masaomi Kida returns to Ikebukuro. Normality has somewhat returned to the city, but as usual those things can only last for so long. Fearful of how expansive and dangerous the Dollars have become, Mikado puts in motion a plan to purge the group – revealing a much darker side to his personality as he allies himself with the Blue Squares. As his plan causes conflict across Ikebukuro, it’s up to Masaomi to return to help his best friend see sense.

Elsewhere Ikebukuro is also suffering from a number of other interlinking problems. These include the appearance of a mysterious murderer known as the “Hollywood Killer”, the emergence of more wielders of the cursed sword Saika, the ongoing rivalry between information broker Izaya Orihara and barman Shizuo Heiwajima, and of course the sightings of Ikebukuro’s own headless black rider Celty Sturlson. Ikebukuro has become a boiling pot ready to overflow at any second, and with the likes of Izaya pulling the strings its only a matter of time until it does just that.

Anri, Kasane and Haruna
The first meeting of Ikebukuro's possessed sword club

Despite being a show with a heavy supernatural presence, humanity is and always has been the very heart of Durarara!!. It's a show (mostly) about humans and their reactions and emotions to things, and like Izaya the viewer is supposed to be drawn in and fascinated by these people. It also intends to blur the lines between man and monster, proving that it isn't things like super strength, an ancient curse or the lack of a head that make you a monster. This is perfectly exemplified in Mikado, who once again takes centre stage in the story. Both horrified and terrified by what his creation has become, Mikado's determination to purge the Dollars puts him down a dark path revealing a dormant personality that the previous series barely scratched. The constant machinations of Izaya, the Blue Squares and several others don't help matters either, pushing Mikado further and further to the brink of self-destruction. The knock on-effect on Mikado's all-out gang war spreads across Ikebukuro, tying together several plot threads as the entire extended cast slowly become involved. So fear not, if the Mikaro/Anri/Masaomi triangle isn't your thing there's still plenty of involvement from Celty, Izaya, Shizuo, Shinra and everyone else - including a whole host of new faces. With the sheer variety of characters Durarara!! has to offer, it's one show where you can safely say there's something for everyone.

Shinra and Celty
The best love stories all involve Dullahans

Arguably one of the biggest draws of Durarara!! as a whole is just how expansive it is. It really gives off a sense of how bustling and populated Ikebukuro is, filling it with a huge cast of characters with their own varying personalities and agendas. However as immersive as this may be, it also comes across as a bit of a double-edged (Saika) sword when it comes to Durarara!!x2. The second season features far wider cast than the original as it divulges into its various plot threads, sometimes with little time for proper introductions as it jumps from character to character. And for those unfamiliar with the novels or those who watched this weekly as it aired over those hefty 15 months, this can often lead to easily forgetting who is who and what exactly they’re doing in certain places. The overall story is still perfectly understandable thanks to the prominence of the main cast, but as a whole Durarara!!x2 gives off the sense that it might be aiming to be too large sometimes.

It may not be Brain’s Base behind the wheel any more, but having the staff of the original series return has meant the animation side of things hasn't taken too much of a beating. While Durarara!!x2 certainly has a rougher look to it in terms of aesthetics, it still very much retains the original's sense of style and unique look. Meanwhile the soundtrack hasn't changed a bit, so even if you find a slight new look hard to get used to the sound will at least help you feel right at home again. Throw in some great OP and ED music as well and you've got yourself some fantastic audio.

Izaya vs Shizuo
The showdown you'll have to wait 36 episodes for

Durarara!!x2 might not be quite as tight as its predecessor, but as should be expected from a 36-episode season offers a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the tale of Ikebukuro. There are certainly as many downs as there are ups – the sheer amount of characters and plot threads to take in, the often grating amount of verbal build-up leading to delayed payoff, but Durarara!!’s study of very human corruption and manipulation against a backdrop that also welcomes the supernatural proves to be just as engaging as ever.

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