Ah, what a time to be alive, the cour finale for Durarara!!x2 is upon us, and it’d be a bitter-sweet occasion, if not for the fact we have 2 more cours to look forward to, so be joyous and merry, because more Durarara!! is coming soon. This specific write-up began as a post-finale overview for the first of the three cours (To those who don’t know, “cour” in this sense refers to a “Season’s worth of episodes, 3 months’, which is distinct from “Season” for various unimportant reasons) for Durarara!!x2, but as it kept growing longer, I gave in and turned it into an exploration of the themes I found interesting in the show, and how it went about them.
Part 1: The Great Game Begins:
In life, stories do not come to an end. There’s never a clean break, and there are always more storylines 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 cour-finale, as I watched it, and especially with all that’s been going on as the episode continued, I was left with the impression that this is doubly true for this cour .
(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 spoilers for the entirety of Durarara!! up to this point.)
You see, supposedly all the storylines have been grouped together in this episode, just as they were in episode 12 of the first season, but it just didn’t feel like it. It felt like this entire cour had been a setup for things yet to come. Yes, yes, Izaya is trying to create a big war, so everything’s a setup to that, but there wasn’t even the appearance of anything really ending here, merely being a stepping stone for what is to come.
This isn’t just about the last few episodes, or the so-called continuous story. Think of Hijiribe Ruri and Heiwajima Kasuka, think of Izaya’s sisters. You can say Izaya’s sisters were just there to spice things up early, and to become part of the gang, and that may be true, but what about Hijiribe Ruri and Kasuka? They did perform one role that was “completed” in this season, and that was push forward the theme of monsters and humans, between how people view themselves, how they relate to others. Varona wasn’t a continuation of said theme, she weren’t even a refutation of the theme, but she was there to show us how the world of Ikebukuro looks from without, how one who is all too human of a monster sees the so-called “monsters” who are quite human, and perhaps more human than most humans, let alone those such as her. Those two were there to show us that the line drawn between human and monster is beyond meaningless, as only actions matter.
So, how is it that those two, and specifically Hijiribe Ruri are actually a sign of this entire show being a setup? Who do you think killed those men that were later pinned on Shizuo? Apparently it’s been Ruri, AKA “Hollywood”. Why did she do it? Well, the subtitles or the lines in the cour-finale were very unclear, but from what I pieced together, and which also fits what was said in prior episodes, two yakuza groups were going to lay aside their differences and strike a truce, one of them, the Yodigiri group had somehow sinned against Ruri, who as a continuation of trying to kill those she holds responsible was trying to make sure the war between the two factions will continue.
Which brings us to the inevitable question, what exactly is it that was done to Ruri? That shows us that there is a plot-thread that was merely hinted at, rather than elaborated upon. More than that, it means that this storyline is yet to continue, with us seeing how much farther Ruri will go, how it’ll interact with Kasuka’s interest in her. Emotions and actions, that’s what it all revolves around.
And speaking of “tied up loose ends that show nothing is actually tied off,” what of Varona and Sloan? Someone did hire them. Someone who wanted to cause trouble between the two groups. It may seem as if that was Izaya, especially if you go by Shizuo-chan’s words, but we all know Shizuo is far too simple-minded when it comes to these things. So who? Going by what befell Izaya at the end, it seems as if it were indeed the Yodigiri group, the ones who’ve wounded Ruri, who tried to keep things going in this manner, and so, it seems that it’s not a lie that someone tried to keep the war between the two factions going from within.
Unless, Izaya is indeed the blame for that, but it doesn’t strike me as the point. And so, this finale that tied up loose ends and created new avenues? It didn’t tie up anything. Everything, with the small exception of the gang-war is as ever-present, and the gang-war? That’s kids’ play, almost literally, and merely the backdrop for the other theme, the one that this entire cour was setting up, for the sake of much greater things.
I’m speaking of Mikado, obviously. And of special interest in this last episode was Varona’s shout, that she’d rather die than lose her image of herself as a strong and independent, rational, fun-loving, assassin for hire.
Part 2: The Copycat Chaotic Evil; The Limits of Limitless Power:
Durarara!! is the story of Ikebukuro and its denizens, of their interwoven storylines, of the hijinks they engage in. Durarara!!’s main character is Ikebukuro itself. But that, of course, has a caveat. This is everything stated above, as seen from the position of the viewers, as seen from the position of Ryugamine. I find it fascinating how cruel we viewers of dramas are when we cherish those extremely sad moments, where characters break apart, where their hopes and dreams shatter. We’re sort of cruel like that, aren’t we? That we wish this terrible sadness upon characters, just so we could feel it from the safety of distance.
That’s us, that’s Orihara Izaya and Kuronuma Aoba, and that’s what in Dungeon and Dragons’ alignment system would be defined as “Chaotic Evil”. Yes, you and I, we’re Chaotic Evil, we’re the ones who will create chaos not because we don’t understand others’ feelings, but because we do, and because we find sustenance in their suffering. That’s Izaya and Aoba.
What about Mikado? Mikado is Chaotic Neutral, going by the fact he’s only attempting to go for the sake of “interesting”, rather than finding the suffering angle the one of interest. No, Mikado isn’t truly like that, as Dota-chin, Shizuo, Rokujo (Rocchi, the ladies’ man), and basically everyone else told him. He’s a good boy who’s just trying tokeep the peace, who’s trying to do what is right, and make sure everyone is happy, blissfully happy, in a boring world. But Mikado doesn’t want to be this person, this person whom he is down to the core of his soul, the person he grew up to be in the small village-town where he’d grown up, living an idyllic life. So he’s trying to be this very different person.
And here we go back to Hijiribe Ruri and Heiwajima Kasuka’s talk (and also to Kaiki’s monologue in Nisemonogatari), where it is the fake who tries to be real who is much realer than the true reality, and even if not, is to be more admired for attempting to be this way. A monster who tries to be human will be far more human than many humans, because of how far he’ll go to make sure that he is, because of how far he’d go to make sure he understands that he’s truly human (Oh, Decim ;_;). Likewise, Izaya and Aoba, they create chaos naturally. Mikado is now the shounen who tries to prove he is seinen; the boy who is still innocent, who tries to prove how edgy and mature he is, which means he might go far farther, not because it’s necessary, but because he must leave no doubt that he’s willing to go the distance, in his own mind.
This will seem like a weird digression, but bear with me. Why did Shizuo quit the Dollars? You think it was because he did not want to belong to any group containing such scum as he proceeded to beat up? That was a small part of it, and if you think it’s all then you’ve missed the way this story was progressing. How did this all happen? By members of the Dollars acting like shits. Shizuo, unlike Dotachin, isn’t going to beat up other members of the Dollars like that, so he quit the Dollars, so any of his actions will not be the members of the Dollars, and any trouble he’s in (including with the Awasugi family), will not get the rest of his friends (including innocent Mikado, Celty, Dotachin, and all the others) into trouble.
This is very Japanese, or at least very “Japanese anime”, where the wrongdoings of a club-member, or of a school’s student, reflect very badly on the place where they’ve studied, and someone is forced to take responsibility.
Mikado wanted to take responsibility. I need to stress that again: Mikado wanted to take responsibility. Yes, the Dollars have no leader, but this is his way of owning the group, his way of showing it’s his child. If it’s truly owned by all the members, then he’s responsible for others’ actions just as much as anyone else. If the Dollars decide to create rules for themselves, as a group, then everything would be fine, right? But the mere fact that he thinks of it in those terms, as if he has to be the one to shut it down, or create rules, as if he is the one who will make the decisions show it’s not his fear that he’ll change the Dollars by acting as if he’s owning it, because he already acts that way. Mikado is facing a decision where the mere consideration shows he thinks of himself as the Dollars’ owner, a thought that undermines what the group symbolizes.
And what is Mikado’s decision? First, he’ll show what a badass he is to Aoba, and then he’ll have his own faction, in his own faction. Mikado is afraid that creating rules for the Dollars will break the Dollars, so his decision is to, you guessed it, create a faction of knee-breakers who will manipulate events from behind the scenes to make sure the Dollars will go in the “right direction”, but, no rules! Isn’t everything simply great now?
I discussed this at length at the episode 11 editorial, but there’s no such thing as “no rules”. The implicit Social Contract is a form of rules as well. Mikado is erroneously thinking that so long he doesn’t state rules outright, it’d be fine. But he’s doing the exact same thing, while not being honest about it, and not letting people know. Mikado is a firm Marxist, in his stance that so long people are allowed to think there are no rules, and so long everyone acquiesces to his demands, it’s all fine, and no one will rise against him because there are no “strict overt rules” for them to oppose.
And so, Mikado, realizing he cannot exert power without exposing the fact no one has to listen to him, without using the power of the group in a manner that he sees as one that might break the group from which he draws power to destroy itself (akin to using the military to dismantle the military, as opposed to getting them to disarm), he’s infiltrating his own group, supplanting its morals, its ethics, of people doing what they wish, but being upfront about it.
If it were only to save the Dollars, then we could simply think of Mikado as hopelessly hopeful. If it were only to save, not the Dollars, but his image of it, then we could simply think of Mikado as naive. But it’s not. Mikado is doing this, in this manner, because he came to Ikebukuro to become someone else, to become one of the movers and shakers.
Mikado is lying, to himself. Mikado is lying to himself about why he’s saving the Dollars, twice. First, he’s telling himself he’s saving the Dollars from his involvement to keep their nature, but he’s keeping them because he likes feeling responsible and powerful for them. Second, he’s lying to himself about why he’s doing these things, because he’s telling himself he’s a mover and shaker when he’s not, in terms of personality. But Mikado is further lying to himself by believing he’s not a mover and shaker, when his whole attitude to the Dollars, and the reality (of being able to shut the group down as he did in the Slasher incident, of being able to call forth a gathering) is that he’s a mover and shaker.
Wait, Mikado doesn’t believe he’s a mover and shaker, or does he? Ah, see, this is where it’s really interesting. On the one hand, Mikado believes he’s a mover and shaker, and will create chaos to prove it to those who tell him he’s not. But on the other hand, Mikado feels deep down inside as “just another boy”, which is why said “rejection” of his status as a cynical and interesting mover and shaker hurt him so.
Save us from people who want with their entire souls to show how dark they are, because they truly have no limits. But as serious watchers, he’s giving us exactly what we want, and for that, we’re Chaotic Evil.
I’ll give this cour 7.3/10. There were production issues, there were episodes that were interesting but did not properly add up with the others. This all makes sense, as this cour was to a large degree “merely set up”, in Durarara!!’s irrepressible and unique nature, but it was still a cour with a lot of setup, where numerous characters told their stories and got off stage.
I wrote a small editorial-“Things I Like” post after every episode of Durarara!!x2 Shou but one, you can read them here.