Durarara Midpoint: I Officially Love This Series
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. Â 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 Â 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: Â 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 itÂ 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.)
March 22nd, 2011 at 12:30 pm
Well,Marc,one of the things you said in your early review of “Durarara” caught my attention. It was the Dullhan character. It wouldn’t surprise me if she or he said “I’ve got a relative or friend in America.” I have no idea how many Irish live in Japan but there are a lot of Irish who live in America.
If I remember right,they’ve been coming here since the Colonial days,so their presence here isn’t surprising. So,if there were to be a Dullhan outside of Ireland,one of the places where it might show up is this country. So,Marc,what’s your opinion of this?
And Chainclaw,I want to ask your opinion on something. With all the different “Neon Genesis Evangelion” manga coming out these days,how long do you think it will be before we see a “Neon Genesis Evangelion:USA” manga? And what do you think about something like that?
March 22nd, 2011 at 8:36 pm
Not likely. Celty has almost no memory of her past as a Dullahan in Ireland, and we don’t get the sense that headless specters of death incarnate have a lot of relatives.. In fact it’s pretty strongly implied that she wouldn’t have been anything like that if she did have her memories (and head). She does speak a little Gaelic in a dream, though
I will admit having another Dullahan show up from somewhere else in the world would be highly entertaining, and it’s not something I’d put past the show. Issac and Miria from Baccano do make a cameo in the season finale, though, so technically there are two Americans somewhere. There’s also a big black Russian dude and an illegal Italian immigrant (not an immortal one, either) for extra international flavor.
March 23rd, 2011 at 11:15 am
I’m afraid I can’t help you on that one Ghost Writer. I’m not the right person to ask about NGE, seeing as I’m one of the few anime fans out there who hasn’t seen it, or read any of the manga either.
March 23rd, 2011 at 11:28 am
By the way Marc, does Crunchyroll require payment to watch shows on their website?
March 23rd, 2011 at 12:51 pm
Well,Chainclaw,I did see the “NGE” tv series once but I never really got into it. It was too gloomy for my tastes. And the only manga from the franchise I’ve read were “Angelic Days” and “The Shinji Ikari Raising Project.” I liked both because they mixed science fiction with romantic comedy really well.
And this one’s for both of you. I read your reviews of “Catblue Dynamite” and “ARIEL.” I hope they have the wisdom to bring “Catblue” to America because I’d really like to see it. Again,I’m interested in anime that’s set in America so this looks like it might be right up my alley. There are two anime series that are set in America that I’d wish they’d bring to this country,”Sci-Fi Harry” and “Legendz.” I’d really love to see them both and I wish that they could be brought here.
And Marc,I’d probably have been better off if the Dullhan character said “I’ve got a friend who lives in America.”
March 23rd, 2011 at 12:54 pm
“By the way Marc, does Crunchyroll require payment to watch shows on their website?”
Nope, so there’s really no excuse not to watch this. You can pay for higher quality and no ads, but it’s not required. Heck, there’s even a free iOS app if you have an iPad/iPod/iPhone; the Android app requires you to be a paying member for some reason. Be warned that the ads are incredibly repetitive, but there aren’t that many of them, so it’s hard to complain.
Incidentally, the free Crunchyroll video of the second season looks noticeably better than the first, for whatever reason. No idea how the subscription version looks, although I might try it out at some point.
March 23rd, 2011 at 1:04 pm
“I hope they have the wisdom to bring â€œCatblueâ€ to America because Iâ€™d really like to see it”
They already did–it’s available streamed, legitimately and free, on Crunchyroll. There are links to it in the Availability section of the review and the Notes.
I actually wouldn’t mind buying a DVD–his other similar series, URDA, has one in the US–but even in Japan it’s only available streamed, and the quality is no better than the US version. You can, in fact, watch that one if you prefer, but the only difference is Japanese subtitles: http://channel.okwave.jp/cqr/resort
March 23rd, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Sorry to dissapoint you, Marc, but the reason I asked about Crunchyroll wasn’t because of Durarara.
The reason is because I saw they had a series I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. As far as I know, it’s the only anime ever made about American football: Eyeshield 21.
I cannot tell you how excited I was when I found out about Eyeshield 21. Two of my favorite things, anime and football, in one? Outstanding. My excitement quickly turned to depression when I found out there is no boxed set release yet. With almost 150 episodes, it would have been way too expensive and impracticle to buy the whole series on individual dvd volumes.
Quite frankly, I can’t believe they havn’t done a better job releasing it in the US. It didn’t even come out until last year, and they never made a dub. I mean come on, it’s about American football. Surely the makers must have known that would make it exceptionally desirable among American viewers.
But now it appears I will be able to watch the series. The only question left is, when will I sleep?
March 25th, 2011 at 11:57 am
Well guys,I wanted to tell you something. “Catblue Dynamite” wasn’t the first anime to be done orginally in English. I’d heard of was a real obsure one called “Cipher.” I first read about it in “The Anime Encyclopedia.” I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment on it. But there is a review on the OVA on the “Anime Review” website. It seems he didn’t like it very much. But I did read a little of the manga. So,what do you two think?
March 25th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
Never heard of Cipher (sounds interesting if for no reason other than that it’s so obscure I’ve never heard of it), and it sounds like it might be the first English-exclusive anime, but there have been plenty of other anime productions since, and not all of them are US-based indie projects like D7 Peacemaker or Shadowskin.
Even if you don’t think Dead Space: Downfall is stylistically anime, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust certainly is, and that’s a massive-budget theatrical movie.