As much of a fan of Baccano as I am, I will admit to skepticism that Durarara could possibly live up to the bar it set. I did have a fair amount of confidence, however, that as it rolled into the endgame of the first season (meaning the midpoint of the series) that it had the wherewithal to actually do something with the giant pile of characters and potentially-intersecting plot threads.
I’m an anime fan, so I’ve grown used to disappointment when it comes to the coup de grace in series with massive amounts of potential and complex plots—there are far, far too many series that just plain blow it at the end. Not just Evangelion-style “the creator had a breakdown” disasters. Or Escaflowne-style “We’re trying to wrap up an entire season’s worth of material in four episodes” disappointments. Or Strange Dawn-style “I’m pretty sure there was supposed to be another season in here, and we just attempted to close every plot thread in the space of a single episode” catastrophes. Even far more coherent, together, well-planned things often just don’t quite pull it together when it comes to the finale.
So it’s telling that I had a great deal of faith in the first-season plot arc wrapping up in a satisfying way in Durarara. Which it did, in beautiful fashion. It was not quite the mind-blowing, multi-layered magnificence of the Baccano finale, but then it’s only halfway through, and expecting another five-way Crowning Moment of Awesome the likes of which the trope takes its name from is sort of unreasonable. It was, however, tremendously entertaining, twistedly heartwarming, and entirely satisfying as halfway points go.
Two episodes into the second season, and Durarara has just moved itself up from a merely great series to oh wow, I love this show. I was sort of expecting Celty—my favorite character by far—to take a backseat role now that she’d had her big moment. Nope. The series appears to know perfectly well how golden she is every moment she’s onscreen, and shows no intentions of holding back just how much potential there is for crazy-incongruent beauty.
The first episode of season two is sort of spectacular. The quirky, sweet, cute, funky, hilarious section that opens the second episode, however, is magic.
What has me surprised is that I don’t know exactly what made it so awesome.
It’s not the Matrix-action-scene, Project A-ko fully-automatic-missile-launcher, “That was awesome!” kind of awesome, to be sure. It’s pretty darned funny, but it’s not the laughing-so-hard-you-can’t-breathe level of hilarious-awesome, either. It’s marvelously weird, yes, but not quite the sort of deranged “What just happened?!” madness kind of awesome. There’s definitely some of the Lelouch-sytle, magnificent-twist, Crowning Moment of Awesome stuff elsewhere, but that’s not it in this case, either. It’s sweetly romantic, yes, and appeals to my sense of unlikely romance, but not so much so that it’s going to set whatever part of my brain that controls “having fun” on fire.
What I’m basically saying here is that it’s one of the best half-an-episodes I’ve ever seen, and I’m not entirely sure why that is other than a sense of so many lovably and marvelously incongruent things intersecting perfectly it’s hard to believe.
Other asides: As a fan of character animation, Celty’s body language alone is easily worth the price of admission—you’ve got someone literally without a head making it entirely clear what she’s thinking and feeling just based on the way she moves. Not to mention incredibly cute. Yes, this series makes the headless horseman incredibly cute, and it fits. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Also, there are some seriously bat-poo crazy characters in this show. Not all of whom are the villains. And they’re not clones of Vino, either—an entirely different sort of nuts. The second-season opening song isn’t nearly as good as the first, but it ups the named character count to an even twenty, besting even Baccano on that count. The end has the same twenty if you count the shadow as Celty, plus three color gang guys, which ties Baccano’s 23.
Anyway, while it’s always possible that Durarara will screw up the very end, if ever there was a series that I’m looking forward to every moment of the ride, up to and including the climax, this is it.
I’m watching it on Crunchyroll, but if there’s ever a series worth adding a physical version of to your collection, it’s this one. I’d already have ordered the rather-expensive (but worth it) DVDs if I wasn’t holding out hope for an eventual Blu-ray release. (Speaking of which, it appears that the Japanese BD of Baccano is just upscaled, so there’s apparently no point in waiting for that, although I’m still holding out hope for some Spice and Wolf goodness.)