In a city where everything and everyone appears to be linked by an odd series of seemingly “unconnected” circumstances, Mikado Ryugamine is the new kid on the block. Having just moved to Ikebukuro, Tokyo, at the invitation of his best friend Masaomi Kida, Mikado observes things he never imagined in his wildest dreams. He learns first hand that life in the big city is as exciting as it is treacherous, whether it be learning the origins of the mysterious gang known only as “The Dollars,” or trying to stay out of the way of some of Ikebukuro’s more undesirable characters, such as the sinister information broker Izaya Orihara. And to top it all off, on his first night in the city he catches glimpse of the “urban legend” known as the Headless Rider, a supposedly headless driver of a black motorcycle that zooms around the streets of the Ikebukuro.
Now I know that doesn’t really sound like much of a conventional plot summary, and that is intentional because Durarara!! is probably one of the most unconventional anime I have ever seen. It’s an anime that focuses more (at least in the beginning) on its characters than it does on an overarching plot. It relies completely on these unique characters to hook the audience, draw them in, and make them stick around long enough for the plot to get moving, which in all honesty takes a bit longer than it probably should. As an example, the screener disc I received contained the first five episodes and barely touched on what exactly was going on with the story. Luckily, the aforementioned characters do their job very well. In fact there are a few of which that are so completely enchanting that they successfully carry this show by themselves till the plot gets cranking. Not the least of which is The Headless Rider herself, Celty Sturluson, whose story is easily the most interesting of all the characters.
Because this show lives and dies on whether or not you like the cast of characters, it’s a good thing the design and style of the show are also way above par. The character designs and the animation are simple, sharp, yet fluid and fit the tone of the show perfectly. Additionally, the city of Ikebukuro itself feels like an active, living breathing entity through the fantastic animation. This is absolutely necessary as the city connects all the characters together through a series of chance encounters and shared acquaintances.
Durarara!! also has one of the strongest dub casts I have seen in a long time. Nearly every big name English anime voice actor has a part in this show. Johnny Yong Bosch ( Trigun, Bleach), Steven Blum (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Shamploo) Kari Walhgren (FLCL, Lucky Star), Yuri Lowenthal (Afro Samurai, Gurren Lagann), Michelle Ruff (Gurren Lagann, Ai Yori Aoshi) and Crispin Freeman (Hellsing, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) just to name a few. Every single one of these performances is fantastic. They bring so much life and personality to their rolls, you might just forget that this show was originally in Japanese. The show also has probably some of most unique and interesting music any anime has had in quite a long time. The opening and closing songs alone would be worth buying the soundtrack for.
That’s not to say that Durarara!! is without flaw. It does start slow, and of all the characters in the show, the main character Mikado is probably the LEAST interesting. His story doesn’t really get going until the end of the first story arc which is about 10 episodes in. Also, the show has a bit of ADD and throws a lot at you in the first few episodes introducing the huge cast of characters. But these are minor quibbles as you will eventually become too engrossed with what is happening to notice.
Simply put, Durarara!! is a ton of fun and infinitely re-watchable. There really is so much going on in this show and it all ties together in a neat little knot. On multiple viewings you will catch things you didn’t notice the first time through and then you will rewind it to check and see what else you missed. Throw in a stellar cast and you have one of the first truly great anime releases to come out in a very long time.
Story – 5 Visual/Anime Quality – 5 Audio/Subs – 5 Extras/Packaging – Not Reviewed
OVERALL – 5 stars out of 5
Durarara Review — English Dub
First 5 episodes
Released January 25th 2011