Friday, May 7, 2010
Winter 2010 & Beyond: Durarara!!
(YouTube is acting up on me, so no previews. If you would like to check the series out, Crunchyroll has been running subtitled episodes online.)
So far, it's too early to say that an anime, in my opinion, has hit it out of the park yet in 2010. Most of the anime shows that are running haven't ended, and those that have finished in the winter 2010 season likely were not been given a second thought regarding another 12-episode run in the first place. There are a few that appear to merit second looks so far (Giant Killing, Arakawa Under The Bridge, and others that will be reviewed soon), but races are meant to be watched until the end. (Editor's note: of course, look at me, going against my own advice by giving some shows only one glimpse. Way to go.)
If there was to be a guess, Durarara!! could quite possibly be front-runner behind the usual long-running programs. While the show is following the recent trend of converting light novels to manga and anime almost simultaneously, this may turn out to be a boon for the series, as the show tends to do an uncanny job at hiding secrets. People are already drawing parallels between Durarara!! and Baccano! for their multiple points of view, as both light novels were written by Ryohgo Narita. The show is directed by Takahiro Ômori and animated by Brain's Base, both familiar with one another from their work on Natsume Yûjinchô (Natsume's Book of Friends) and the aforementioned Baccano!
Durarara!! is centered in Ikebukuro, the main district of Toshima Ward and one of the most densely populated sections of Tokyo. The district's crowds make good fodder for the series and draws Mikado Ryûgamine, a quiet country-boy sort, to the city so he can join his friend Masaomi. What Mikado finds is that Ikebukuro has its own underlying pitfalls to deal with—rumors of gang wars, shifty business dealings, and slasher crimes abound—but it is the urban legend of the "Black Bike", a speedy motorcyclist in black with a vehicle that brays like a horse, that draws the most attention.
From this point, Mikado and Masaomi, along with their classmate Anri, get involved with a Wonderland of characters: a super-strong man in a bartender's suit, an eccentric troupe of otaku who claim to be part of the "Dollars" gang, a Black Russian sushi-ya employee, a pharmaceutical chief jealous of her brother's new girlfriend, and a black-market doctor. All of them appear to be connected with each other and to that "Black Bike" rider, who can command the shadows and a haunting scythe, or are they all connected to the schemer Izaya, who watches over the district like a black cat?
The diversity of characters makes the series work, as some episodes come from the perspective of a single character at a time, slowly revealing their good (or bad) intentions regarding the city. At times, we even get a digital glimpse of what the characters are thinking through an online chat-room session, invoking allusions to the Serial Experiments Lain OAV series from last decade that thrived off of the early stages of Internet-rumor culture. Durarara!!'s ability to unlock doors in the plot, only to reveal more doors in need of keys, makes the series hard to predict, and the characters aid in the mystery by being as shifty as possible. The music itself gives off a haunting vibe at times, a lone marimba occasionally wafting up like cigarette smoke.
At first, I made the childish association of Durarara!! to FLCL, as Mikado had the uncanny resemblance to Naota, and both series appeared to deal with female bikers on the hunt for something, but I found that to be the only real commonality between the two series. That being said, Durarara!! has the capability of being a solid hit that can keep attention spans until the end of the story with its shady nature and its constantly-evolving center of gravity. There's always a new explanation of events around the next corner, and the next character may completely change the story just by being introduced. It's obvious that Durarara!! will end at 24 episodes, but that ending may just be one of the most anticipated endings this year.