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January 12, 2011

Bento Bako Lite: Durarara!! Anime (eps 1-5)

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Durarara!!
Director: Takahiro Omori (based on the light novels by Ryohgo Narita)
Studio/Licensor: Brain’s Base/Aniplex of America
Distributor: Bandai Entertainment, Right Stuf
Episodes: 1-5 (of 24, plus two bonus episodes)
Vintage: Originally aired January 2010-June 2010 in Japan, first DVD set releases on January 25, 2011
Genre: Drama, mystery, comedy, supernatural, 13+

First year high school student Mikado RyĆ«gamine has recently moved from his small country town to the big city, Tokyo (specifically, Ikebukuro). His childhood friend Masaomi Kida greets him and takes him on a tour of the city, showing him the main sites and introducing him to his friends…and warning him of those he should stay away from, like the various gangs in Ikebukuro (mainly the most dangerous and mysterious gang, the Dollars). There is Simon Brezhnev, an enormous black Russian who hands out flyers in front of his friend’s Russian sushi shop, but appears to be quiet friendly despite his intimidating appearance. Kyohei Kadota, Walker Yumasaki, Erika Karisawa, and Saburo Togusa are Masaomi’s friends and well known otaku. On the first day of school, Mikado (sort of) meets Seiji Yagiri, a classmate who shows up late to class, then promptly leaves to take care of some personal business; he is scouring the city to find the woman he loves. They also go to school with the quiet and cute Anri Sonohara, whom both boys quickly develop a crush on. Masaomi makes it a point to warn Mikado of the underbelly of Ikebukuro, hoping to protect his friend from the darkness. The two biggest names, and the two people Mikado is strictly warned to stay away from (but somehow ends up bumping into anyway), are Izaya Orihara and Shizuo Heiwajima. Izaya is a mysterious young man who works as an information broker. He also enjoys finding people who are swirling in dark depressions and observing them, then calling them out and forcing them to examine their inner darkness. Whether he really wants to help people overcome their struggles, or enjoys toying with peoples’ emotions for his own amusement, isn’t yet clear. He is frequently at odds with Shizuo, a young man who walks around town in a bartender’s suit, throwing vending machines at people who cause him trouble. His incredible strength is usually used against people reneging on loans, when he’s not using it in fights against Izaya. But the most interesting person in Ikebukuro isn’t a person at all, but a mysterious headless woman who rides a motorcycle named Celty Sturluson. Celty often works as a courier or transporter for Izaya, and lives with a young doctor named Shinra Kishitani, who often works as a surgeon in the underground. Celty is actually a dullahan, a Celtic spirit similar to a shinigami (death god) that rides on a black coach drawn by a black horse, and that carries its own head under its arm as it rides. When she went unconscious and awoke in Ireland without her head, Celty traced it across the land until it led her to Japan, where she has spent years trying to find it again. Her horse has taken on the more appropriate form of a black motorcycle, and those who see her riding the streets of Ikebukuro have come to call her The Headless Rider. The gangs are starting to move again in Ikebukro, and poor Mikado is getting overwhelmed by the big city. Who knows what other surprises lie in store for this small town boy?

DURARARA!! TRAILER.

What an…interesting show. It hasn’t really roped me up and pulled me in yet, but it’s certainly intriguing. It reminds me of a slightly more coherent Paranoia Agent. I watched this with my 12-year-old step-son in the room, and he said he kind of liked it, but he didn’t really understand all of it. That’s OK, I said, I’m kind of confused by some of it, too. The show tends to flash back and forth between the present and earlier events. So you’ll have one of the characters start a narration while doing one thing, then some fairly recent event (like maybe the night before) is shown, which leads up to whatever was going on at the beginning of the episode. The first two episodes are essentially the same episode, just told from different perspectives. It’s an interesting way to tell the story, and it’s done well, but it can be a little disorienting until you figure out what’s happening. There’s also a good sized cast of characters, and it’s a little difficult to remember everyone’s names (and some of them have online personas as well). The opening credits help, as the image of each main character pauses on the screen with their name. They’re all well defined, and each of them seems to have something mysterious going on behind the scenes. I’m not quite sure what’s really going on in the story yet, beyond Celty’s hunt for her head. There’s lots going on, sure, but currently there’s no real decisive ambitions for the other characters. There are some hints, like Izaya’s interest in the dark realities of humanity. And obviously Shinra wants in Celty’s pants. These first five episodes give us a setting, and introduce us to the characters, at least in name if not by motivation, but they do little to set up the meat of the story. They are enough to pique the viewer’s interest, though, and really, that’s what you want out of a good series, so it’s a promising preview.

Solid animation, a fantastic soundtrack, a good English dubbing (both well cast and well directed), and a unique story make Durarara!! worth a look. The series will be divided into three sets, releasing on January 25, March 29, and in May 2011, respectively. Each set comes with two discs containing eight to nine episodes, and they will be $49.98 ($39.98 at RightStuf.com) each. RightStuf.com and Bandai’s “The Store” were running a pre-order special that included a PVC keychain (of Celty’s helmet), but the cut off was December 7. Sometimes if the limited items exceed pre-order totals, the items will be given out on a first come first serve basis with orders made after the date, so you may still be able to snag one if you order soon. The sets will also include some very nice looking post cards with characters and art from the series (4-5 each), and some pretty classy box art.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_Kris

A copy of the first five episodes was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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4 Comments


  1. Jade

    Ah! I really want to see this. I really liked Baccano too and I’m not too big a fan of anime in general.

    I’m not a big voice actor fiend, though I prefer subs, but Baccano had such an excellent line-up of voice actors on both sides of the language barrier that it’s seriously tough to pick which audio to watch with.Bryan Massey chewed the scenery apart as Ladd Russo.

    At any rate, Durarara sounds pretty good, but I have to know if the dub is great or just passable; Baccano set a pretty high bar.


  2. Kristin

    Just off the first 5 eps, I’d say it’s more than passable. I have a real love/hate relationship with English dubbing. I recently pitched a fit over Black Butler’s English dub. Though in this case, it’s a fresh exposure. I never saw DURARARA in Japanese. On that account, I thought they did a good job on the dubbing. The voices fit. It’s well directed. It’s a good cast (Crispin Freeman FTW).


  3. John R.

    I want to check this out in english to me the series was amazing to the point of me watching this twice already on crunchyroll. To me this is for sure a series to own even if the dub isnt that great.


  4. Aecen

    I enjoyed the series, however I feel it started to become somewhat stale towards the end unlike baccano. Still some great characters and a good story (though the anime only covers a rather small part of the entire durarara story, or so i’m told).

    Also I really liked both the OP songs.



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