Durarara is a series that manages to grace perfection at its beginning, but loses its way to become a fun but ultimately flawed series.
Durarara, written by Ryohgo Narita of Baccano fame, follows a colourful cast of characters in modern day Japan as they try to live their peaceful lives. Of course it doesn’t help that most of them are part of street gangs and psychopathic murderers. Oh, and one of them is the headless horseman looking for her head.
There’s a lot of crazy goings on in Durarara, and at first it can be daunting to have to remember everyone’s name and their relationships to each other, but the characters are so likable that they’ll soon all become known to you by name. And if you struggle to know who is who, the opening does a nice job to introduce every character.
I believe that a story can be about anything you want, so long as the characters are interesting. In this department, Durarara excels. Like Baccano before it, Durarara is a supernatural mystery that involves large parties of characters all playing their part to push the story forward. The variety of characters means that you get your fill of each character archetype, while also letting the show play to your expectations.
For example, there’s the hot headed tough guy who always gets into fights but in reality hates fighting and wants only to live in peace, there’s also the teenage joker who seems to be blissfully unaware of the crime going on around him when he’s actually a lot closer to it than you think.
It’s the development of likeable and relatable characters that makes this show so enjoyable to watch, however it’s also the shows biggest downfall.
At the half way point of the show, a huge climax takes place that signals the shows ending. However, after a filler episode (in which Isaac and Miria from Baccano show up) the show starts a new and far less developed arc. The show decides to stop focusing on the complex and interesting characters in favour of focusing on the three lifeless teenagers. This means you get large chunks of episodes devoted to teenage romance and the difficulties of maturity, while completely ignoring the ongoing story line and other character relationships.
This shift from a mature modern day fairy tale to a teenage shonen series gives the show a loss direction. The reduced screen time of the adult characters and emphasis on the weak story of the street gangs changes Durarara from a character driven show to a plot driven show, and it loses most of its magic by doing so.
It doesn’t help that the latter part of the show has significantly worse animation than the first part. Fights are kept to a minimum while locations and shots are reused during convocations. It’s obvious when the studio was trying to save some cash when a scene randomly cuts to an environment while two characters are talking. While moments like that are bad, they don’t compare to the joke of a final showdown.
The final brawl takes place between the main characters and black blobs with red eyes. No, really! The show says they are meant to be henchmen for the evil villain, but they are animated like blobby background characters. Never has bad animation effected my enjoyment of a show quite like Durarara’s animation in the final half of the show.
Thankfully Durarara manages to redeem itself with its audio. Much like Baccano, it uses music of the era while also putting a modern twist on it. This means that while it’s set in 2000’s Japan, the jazz fusion music feels like it mixes elements of the 00’s while also the glitch music of recent years. The opening and endings also do a fantastic job at capturing the themes of the show, as well as being downright entertaining to watch.
The English dub is highly enjoyable, with Crispin Freeman’s Shizuo and Johnny Yong Bosch’s Izaya being the two standout performances. The only real complaint with the dub is how badly the fudged up Isaac and Miria, having completely different voice actors play their parts in Durarara and fail to capture what made them such wonderful characters.
Durarara is an enjoyable experience for the most part. While it’s first half is by far one of the best things out there, it’s the second half that really stops the show from becoming fantastic overall. While it’s not Baccano (seriously, if you haven’t watched Baccano just do it), it’s still an enjoyable time for fans of mature and well written anime.
Also, while the show’s ending is by far one of the biggest “get stuffed” endings in anime, a season two has been confirmed!
+ Creative cast of characters.
+ Music fits perfectly. The openings are great too.
+ Brilliant first half.
– Shame about the terrible second half
– Inconsistent animation
– Horrible ending
Durarara is available now from Anime Limited on Blu Ray and up for pre-order on DVD