Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Anime review: "Durarara!!"

I think I already said it, but I feel very lucky this year with the choice of the anime I have watched. "Bakemonogatari"  and "Kimi ni Todoke" are among my all-time favorites, while "Akagi", "Tatami Galaxy", "Paranoia Agent", "Paradise Kiss", "Mononoke" and last season of "Nodame Cantabile" were all a great watch. After watching "Durarara!!", I am of a mind to put this anime to first group. At least, it definitely belongs to at least the second group.

I didn't expect such an anime when I started with it. Quick glance on AniDB gave me impression of... I don't know, something wacky and typically shounen. Big reason for that is the picture on its profile. That ochre helmet looked like a some kind of crocodile. Anyway, a big mistake from my side!

"Durarara!!" is made by same author as "Baccano!", Narita Ryogho, which is evident from first episodes. Difference is that this is much lighter anime than "Baccano!", in a way that it is much easier to watch and follow the plot. Because of that, I think it will be accepted by wider audience than "Baccano!". On the other hand, don't think that this anime makes some compromises to be better liked by general public.

Due to originality of anime and it dependence on plot and characters, I can't describe it in details.

"A young boy from countryside Ryugamine Mikado comes to Tokyo to enter high-school. There he meets his childhood friend Kida Masaomi and both of them fall for beautiful and innocent schoolmate Sonohara Anri. Three of them will get involved in some strange occurrences and it will be revealed that each of them have their own secrets..."

You see, it sound like a generic description of at least dozens similar anime. But, in first episode we meet some of original characters, residents of Ikebukuro (where the anime takes place). Like Celty Sturluson, headless Irish fairy who works as courier on black-bike; Heiwajima Shizuo, debt collector with super-human strength and short temper; Orihara Izaya, shady and sadistic information dealer; Simon, Russian of African descent, working as a hawker for sushi-bar... Ikebukuro is plagued with color-gangs: juvenile gangs which differ by wearing different colors. There is also one colorless gang, with base on the Internet: the Dollars... There are many other characters and each one is original on its own way.

First part of show centers on introduction of characters, each episode focusing on one or two main characters. Later we have two story arcs: one centered on Celty's head, the other about Dollars vs. Golden Bandanas (one of the color gangs) conflict. Anime is based on light novels. There are eight of them so far, and anime adapts only first three, so we can expect more season of this fantastic anime.

What differentiates this anime from the other similar shows is that "Baccano!" feeling. There is action, there is laugh, there is anger... As I said, it is not intense as "Baccano!", but it's good enough. Connection with "Baccano!" is strengthened with cameo appearance of awesome comedy duo, Miria and Isaac.

Good as this anime is, there are some flaws. First episodes, the introduction are great. And so is the first story arc. But second story, about gang fighting is evidently weaker that the first one. Fortunately, great characters and romance aspect of the story saves it, at least for me. Next flaw, which is something I mind very much in longer seinen shows, is that characters are always in same clothes. Some people also objected the fact that unimportant people (people on streets, mostly) are drawn as gray people. For me, this was actually a plus.

From visual side, the show is looking nice, but nothing impressive. Animation slowly degrades during the show, which is mostly evident in design of characters (e.g. Horada), but that's not an important flaw for me. Opening and ending are nice enough songs, especially both openings. Voice-acting is also good, but as I mentioned, I usually don't notice it unless is pretty bad.

So, this is definitely a recommendation. Especially for "Baccano!" fans, but also for every other anime fan older than 15. For those interested, Crunchyroll offers free streaming of this show here.

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