Durarara!! – The Sound and Fury of Life

Durarara!! AnimeShortly before Winter’s season was ending, I was feeling a bit meh over all the anime I was watching, and didn’t feel like tackling all the shows I already started, so picked a new show to watch, with the intention of marathoning it. In short? I loved Durarara!! It made my heart swell, it made my thoughts race, as I’m filled with an inexplicable joy and feelings of overwhelming love for the whole world. That show invigorated me and made me want to run, and act.

Durarara!! (DRRR for short) had been written by Narita Ryogo, the author behind fan-favourite Baccano! (meaning “ruckus”), and their anime adaptations also share a director. I hadn’t watched Baccano! yet, but they both are light novel adaptations displaying a very varied cast, and both deal with noise, if only thematically. DRRR is a very loud anime, not in decibels, but there’s music that is somewhat ill-belonging present in almost every scene. The music disarms you, the music forces you to enter the world, to weather the fury, to embrace it. Repeating sounds are what draws you into a ritualistic mindset, and it’s very present here.

While they are Light Novel adaptations, I think these are exactly the stories that benefit from being adapted into a visual medium, as the intersecting story-lines and characters can be seen in the background, as we see this breathing world, without attention being drawn to it by the author. It’s a word which different characters share, and we get to see things from various angles. As much as it is a story of the characters, Durarara!! is very much the story of Ikebukuro, a district within Tokyo. It’s the story of the world inhabited and created by the cast.

(This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that have risen in my mind as I’ve watched it. There will be premise spoilers, but while I might spoil what some of the situations are, I won’t spoil how they are resolved.)

Ah, and the characters. Bigger than life doesn’t even begin to cover it. A doctor madly in love with an immortal ghost? A man who flies into a rage and throws around refrigerators at the drop of the hat even as he narrates to you his hatred of violence? So many characters, and while they’re all so flamboyant and crazy, their interactions yet feel strangely real and mundane. Yes, they are crazy, and yes the world is crazy, but the interactions aren’t.

Durarara!! Anime Heiwajima Shizuo vending machine

Heiwajima Shizuo. No still shot can capture his essence.

Heiwajima Shizuo, who narrates episode 7 in a manner that is reminiscent of Rorschach from Alan Moore‘s Watchmen tells you how the city stinks. He is a man who resorts to extreme violence at the drop of the hat, so the section where he tells you how he despises violence with calm soothing music is one of the best in any series. He is the epitome of the indomitable spirit of humanity, who wishes to act and do, no matter the cost to his body. His is the uncontrollable will. And then we have Orihara Izaya, who loves humans, and who finds them intensely interesting, and as such tortures them, to elicit interesting reactions. These two are humanity.

The actor cast is amazing. Most of the actors are top-tier, and almost all of them deliver superb performances, from the playful and slimy acting of Izaya by Kamiya Hiroshi (Monogatari’s Araragi), to Shinra the lovestruck doctor by Fukuyama Jun (Code Geass’s Lelouch), to the enveloping voice of Celty by Sawashiro Miyuki, or the great deadpan Russian accent of Sushi Russia’s “Simon (Seymon). The only performance I don’t care for is Hanazawa Kana‘s, but considering the size of the cast, it’s an impressive feat.

Episode 12 culminates a major story-arc, but when you break it down, you realize we’ve concluded quite a few main arcs, and a large number of small character arcs. However, these are lives, lives that keep on going with all the noise and flamboyance of living people, so nothing is truly resolved, and that is just how it should be.

Durarara!! Anime The Dollars

The Throng. Ikebukuro.

And then we have the second arc. as is often the case with 2-cour shows, and here the demarcation line was exactly half-way. Though I don’t think of DRRR’s first half as episodic, everything intersects and interacts, as I’ve said, but it does cross multiple storylines, rather than one consecutive and cohesive story. So we move from a vignette style of storytelling to having “one story”. “One Story”? You could say three intersecting stories, right? One for each of the main characters it follows. And yet, these are all things that relate to what happened in the first half of the show.

The story of The Dollars and Masaomi, aren’t they also the story of Dotachin and his crew? The story of The Slasher, isn’t it also the story of Celty? Masaomi’s past is also very much Izaya’s tale. This is Ikeburu, this is Durarara!!, and all the stories are interwoven in such a manner that they cannot be separated.

And yet, it’s still a much more focused tale we have here, even as it brings back and has asides for the burgeoning cast. It often felt as if HanaKana wasn’t the best fit for the role there, I must say. It is ye olde story of teenagers in love, unable to talk to one another, and withdrawing rather than sharing their problems, and if they only could speak, everything would be resolved. Except… not really. They didn’t trust one another, and didn’t want to burden one another, but even had they spoken to one another and revealed all, it’s not as if everything would’ve been magically solved. Life isn’t as clean and simple as that, and to default to such storytelling at this point is something Durarara!! knows better than doing.

Durarara!! Anime Kida Masaomi

A tale of tears and misunderstandings.

It was told competently, it was filled with good characters and solid acting, and there never was a sense of melodrama. Still, after the amazing high of the first arc, how can one compare?

The two specials captured that crazy atmosphere of the show. Boundless energy, and the desire to run outside and hug the world for being so marvelous, for its great usage of music, bubbled up within me.

I think the first half was somewhere slightly above 9/10, the second arc around 7.4-7.8/10, and the show as a whole will get 8.6/10 odes to life out of me :)

Durarara!! is like a madcap asylum where the inmates are running the show, and all you wish is to join them. I’m almost sad it’s going to end in but 14 short episodes, at least the first season, but that sadness is nothing like the joy thinking of watching another episode provides me. I find myself laughing and clapping my hands as I watch it.

3 comments on “Durarara!! – The Sound and Fury of Life

  1. […] going on in the background, and things are always, not starting, not ending, but ongoing. That’s always been what Durarara!! has been about, and especially the first half of the first season. And yet, while thinking ahead to the […]

  2. […] and story-paths into a single tapestry, and is a much stronger proof of concept of this theme. You can read my post on Durarara!!, which indirectly makes this […]

  3. […] their daily lives even as they do not interact with him. A time-travel story is a good fit for a “Durarara-style” story about the bustling city, because we can also see how the characters around the main character act without his interference. […]

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