Durarara!

My review of the original 26-part Durarara! series is available on the Neo magazine website, along with my review of the first sequel series, Durarara!! x2 Shou.

My Neo review of the second sequel series, Durarara!! x2 Sho, is below.

Following the skirmishes in Durarara!!’s previous volume Sho, Mikado has made the fateful decision to return to the heart of the Dollars gang, while someone has dared knife the seemingly untouchable ‘information broker’ Izaya. The storm is gathering…

Watching this latest 12-part helping of Durarara!! – effectively parts 39 to 50 of a 62-episode saga – fans will be torn between respect for the show’s continued integrity and intelligence, and frustration at its diminishing returns. Still exceptionally well-written, Durarara’s overstuffed storytelling now feels considerably less joyful and manic, especially when there’s less madcap comedy to make the show’s convolutions digestible to the frazzled viewer trying to remember who everyone is. It also means you’re likelier to notice the sometimes slapdash drawing, though this remains a minor problem – Durarara!!’s strengths and failings are far more in its writing.

In theory, Ten hinges round story developments with Mikado – now once more the unofficial non-leader “leader” of the anarchist Dollars he founded – and his old friend Masaomi, who finally comes back to Ikebukuro. But in practice, Mikado and Masaomi’s story is squeezed into a few scenes, and even most of those are separate. Their long-awaited reunion is powerful, even shocking, but it’s hard to care deeply about their fractious story-arc, now that it’s been spun out so long.

Rather than give them more screentime, Ten is full of tangents into crannies of Durarara’s world. Some are great – the second episode lets the long-neglected girl character Mika transform from pitiably mad to magnificently mad, only for the show to promptly forget her again. There’s slightly more time given to another monomaniacally fixated female, the Russian assassin Vorona, who was introduced in the Sho season. Vorona now finds herself paired with the volcanic barman Shizuo, the one man who outmatches her, and she falls in warped, uncomprehending, hilarious love with him. Then there’s a Perfect Blue vibe in a strand where an idol singer is terrified by a monstrous stalker – though we know the singer herself was a serial killer from the Sho season.

This is all good fun, but there are too many characters now, their stories elbowing each other throughout the season. There aren’t enough satisfyingly concrete developments; one mystery, about who stabbed the Loki-like Izaya, devolves into a string of red herrings exactly when we didn’t want them. Long-standing characters are violently assaulted in what feel like cynical bids to maintain a sense of urgency that the story can’t deliver.

Much of this volume consists of relentless set-ups, with all big payoffs deferred until the final Durarara volume, subtitled Ketsu, due in November. It’s quite possible that Ketsu will deliver enough payoffs to make Ten better in retrospect, but many former Durarara!! fans will surely bail before reaching them.