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Saturday, January 8, 2011

DURARARA!! PART 1 -- DVD review by porfle


Based on the manga, which was based on a series of Japanese light novels  by Ryohgo Narita, the TV series DURARARA!! (2010) starts out slow but definitely gets better as it goes along.  By the end of the second episode, when things start to come together, I was pretty much hooked. 

The main character is a naive country teen named Mikado Ryugamine who moves to Ikebukuro, Tokyo to attend school and seek adventure.  There, he hooks up with his childhood friend Masaomi Kida, who is worldly and self-confident.  Masaomi introduces Mikado to his circle of friends and clues him in on how to get by in the big city, including who to avoid and how to stay out of dangerous situations.  This, of course, ain't gonna happen.

Rather than charging out of the gate right away, DURARARA!! takes its time introducing the many characters and their backgrounds, and laying the foundation for what promises to be a slowly unfolding network of interconnecting stories.  During most of the first episode, you might think you're watching a flashy little youth drama about inner-city kids and their quirky misadventures.  It even seems a little pedestrian at first.


Before long, however, various conflicts begin to come into play.  These involve volatile gangs such as the Yellow Scarfs and the Dollars, musclebound behemoths like a black Russian sushi chef named Simon Breshnev and the mysterious blonde brawler Shizuo (who has a penchant for hurling vending machines at people), and Izaya Orihara, a droll opportunist-manipulator who enjoys toying with the lives of others and may be responsible for a rash of suicides. 

Best of the supporting characters is Celty Sturluson, a black-garbed motorcycle rider who works as an underworld courier while cruising the city in search of her head.  This enigmatic urban legend, whose neck ends in a swirl of black smoke, is a supernatural superheroine who intercedes in the lives of the other characters at crucial moments.  Episode four details her origins and how she came to be hooked up with the young renegade doctor Shinra Kishitani, who shares her secrets and yearns for a more intimate relationship.  For me, this is the most interesting segment of the first five.


Meanwhile, Mikado and Masaomi become enamored of a beautiful bespectacled  schoolgirl named Anri, forming a love triangle which promises to become more complicated in later episodes.  This is only one of the many subplots begging to be explored, but DURARARA!! is in no hurry to do so.  The spotlight shifts seamlessly from one character to the next with equal emphasis and one can only guess how all of the various plot threads will eventually weave themselves together.


The series is beautifully drawn and colored--characters are expressive and attractively designed, and backgrounds abound with exquisitely-rendered urban landscapes that sparkle in the daylight and glow with neon at night.  The stately, contemplative pace of the stories gives us time to appreciate the show's rich visuals along with the stylish and cinematic direction.  The musical score is bright and evocative, with a cool opening song and an even better end titles tune.

The 2-disc DVD from Aniplex is in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen with Japanese and English Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and English subtitles.  This set contains episodes 1-9 of 24 (total runtime approx. 225 minutes) which will be continued in two subsequent volumes.  Five collectible postcards are included.  I received a screener with the first five episodes only and thus am unable to comment on the set as a whole.

With just five episodes to judge by, I can only guess how good this series will eventually turn out to be.  But based on what I've seen so far, DURARARA!! promises to deliver some top-notch anime entertainment. I look forward to watching the rest of this provocative saga. 

Watch trailers and clips at YouTube


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