Anime Review: DURARARA!! (previously reviewed on 1/11/11)

And now the very first anime review that I wrote, DURARARA!! Enjoy:

What do you get when you take a kid from the country looking to make a new life in the city, a friend whose jokes are lame and can’t hit on girls to save his live, a black Russian promoting a sushi shop, a psychopath who can rip vending machines off their bolts and throw them around as if they were nothing, a sociopath who likes to see the reaction of other people’s pain and a hot but headless biker searching for her head, and have the show take place in Ikebukuro? Well you get DURARARA!!
First a light novel, then a manga and now an anime, DURARARA!! Is probably one of the more interesting shows that I have seen, and I have seen a lot of anime. After ending its Japanese air dates back in June 24, 2010, Aniplex of America had decided to localize it and bring it over to the US, which I have had the good fortune to be able to review the first DVD dub, containing episodes 1 through 5. “Why only 1 through 5 and not the entire volume?” you may be asking yourself. The obvious reason is that is what the press contact sent me, and I like to think that it usually takes about 5 episodes to really get viewers into a show. If you’re not hooked by then, it was a waste of time and money. With that said, I’ll be taking a look at a few of the main things that I think make or break an anime: Story/Plot, Characters/Voice Actors, Art/Visuals and the music/OP/ED.

Story/Plot – DURARARA!!’s story revolves around all of the main characters, going on through their daily lives in Ikebukuro as strange things start happening that will change their perceptions of each other. As the story progresses, pieces of it are told through the eyes of each character as they experience it and each experience intertwines with each other. So, for example, in Episode 1 we see a rather large vending machine go flying in the air, yet we do not know why. Then in the second episode, we see the same situation as in the first, but now viewing it through a different character and angle, which is a main character ripping said vending machine off from its bolted support and tossing it in the air. We are able to see other characters’ perspectives. As for the plot, we learn just enough that something is brewing in the streets of Ikebukuro, and that a mysterious gang known as the Dollars is somehow behind it. The story and plot kind of reminds me of the movie CRASH in how the actions and the events that unfold around the characters affect them and how they themselves influence each other through their reaction to the events unfolding. This is definitely different from other anime that I’ve watched.

Characters/Voice Actors – The characters of Durarara!! at first don’t seem out of the ordinary, but nothing is what it seems. Each character seems to have their own secrets about them, making you feel that you have to know what they know or what secrets of their past they aren’t sharing. Each has their own distinct personality and that personality changes the further the show goes as strange events happen more frequently in Ikebukuro. Now, I tend to prefer the Japanese voice actors over the American voice actors. With that said the, voice actors do a really great job in portraying their characters. This is especially true between Jonny Young Bosch (Izaya Orihara) and Crispin Freeman (Shizuo Heiwajima). Both actors are known to play really crazy, out of their mind type of characters and they bring that to DURARARA!! in the form of banter and sometimes brawls between their characters. Another pair that really seems to work together is Celty Sturluson (played by Kari Wahlgren) and Shinra Kishitani (played by Yuri Lowenthal). The “banter” between these two (and I say “banter” with quotes because technically Celty doesn’t have a head) is of two people trying to find the right way to say how they feel about each other even though one is missing their head. These are just two examples that stood out to me, but overall the voice casting is very solid, with veterans of the industry bringing their best work.

Art/Visuals – The look of DURARARA!! (to me at least) feels both new and familiar. While it doesn’t look like other anime that is in the same genre, it uses the same art style. What makes it new and fresh is that the area it is modeled after. Not many anime show different areas other than downtown Tokyo, Shibuya, Akihabara or Shinjuku. Being able to see a not often seen part of Tokyo is a welcome change. You know that saying “The world is different after dark”? That truly applies here, as familiar corners and streets seem to change after dark when strange things start to happen. The characters also seem different yet similar. I think it’s because of the voice actors, each of them matching the personality to the look and feel of their character.
OP/ED music – In anime the OP and ED (opening and ending) are a key part in drawing in the audience and getting them hyped and excited for the show. DURARARA!!’s OP, Uragiri no Y?yake (Sunset of Betrayal) is a rock tune that seems to catch the feel of the location the anime takes place in. The title of the song in English, Sunset of Betrayal, really plays into the overall theme of people are not as they seem during the day. The ED is Trust Me by Yuya Matsushita is just as good. As the story in DURARARA!! progresses, trust starts to play a big factor as past lives and actions are revealed and relationships are tested. Having the ED as a J-R&B song really suits it well.
DURARARA!! is one of the more interesting anime that came out of the Summer season. While most anime went either the moe or ecchii route, DURARARA!! went with neither and focused on a great intertwined storyline, characters who are more than they seem, art and visuals to match the feel of the story and characters with great OP and ED. This show is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. Right now it’s showing over at Crunchyroll.com, and Aniplex is bringing the first volume on January 25th. If you’re looking for something different, check it out on Crunchyroll.com, but I highly recommend giving this a buy.
So that wraps up the first anime review on the site. Hope you enjoyed it and feel free to comment, as I’m still trying to find a good format to use for future reviews. Thanks again and remember, support the industry and buy legally so that we can have even more anime come to the States. 


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