While some series are important because of their situation, characterisation or theme, in Durarara!! location takes precedence, and in this case a particular district of Tokyo. Although it’s very unlikely that this place really does contain people akin to those in this show.
The onomatopoeically named Durarara!! (it is the sound of a motorcycle revving) or DRRR!! for short, began as series of light novels in 2004, followed by a manga adaptation in 2009 and an anime version in 2010. However, a second series was announced just over a week ago. It features lots of different genres such as action, mystery, romance and the supernatural, and is one of the more popular recent series, partly due to its ensemble cast of characters.
The series starts with schoolboy Mikado Ryugamine, who has just moved from the country to study in a school in Tokyo district of Ikebukuro (it is where The Strand is in the Tokyo version of Monopoly). Welcomed by his old friend Masaomi Kida, a guy with a terrible scene of humour, Mikado is introduced to some of the locals. These include Simon Brezhnev, a black Russian who helps run a sushi restaurant; anime obsessives (otaku) Walker Yumasaki and Erika Karisawa, as well as their van-driving friend Saburo Togusa and old pal Kyohei Kadota.
However, Masaomi also warns Mikado of the people he should avoid. There are the Dollars, an online gang who are making their presence felt in Ikebukuro; Izaya Orihara, an atheistic information broker with a sadistic streak; and his bad-tempered enemy Shizuo Heiwajima, a man who is always dressed as a bartender and who over the years as built his strength to almost super-human levels.
But the strangest resident of all is something of an urban legend. Celty Sturluson, the “Black Rider”, is sometimes seen riding her black motorbike around town, wearing black leathers and large helmet with a tinted visor, so no-one sees her head. There is a reason for this: Celty is a dullahan – a headless horsewoman. Originally from Ireland, her head was stolen and she has tracked it to Ikebukuro. After getting her ghostly horse to possess an old motorbike, she travels to the city and now works as a transporter. She lives with Shinra Kishitani, who was a young boy when they first met but now works as an underground doctor and is totally in love with Celty.
This whole range of these characters, as well as other ones, is what gives Durarara!! its appeal. Mikado meets and becomes friends with most of these characters and more, including a buxom bespectacled girl in his class called Anri Sonohara who also has an important role in the show. The storytelling is clever, because the episodes are narrated by a range of different characters, who tell the story from their own viewpoints. So Mikado will talk about his experiences of Ikebukuro, then Celty will continue the search for her head, or Shizuo will discuss why he is so easily angered and strong. The location of Ikebukuro also acts a nice backdrop for the whole the thing.
There are various different plots which played over the 26 episodes broadcast so far. Aside from Celty’s search for her head (the viewer actually learns of its location rather early), there is a mystery concerning a slasher attack, and rivalry between the Dollars and the other gangs in the area.
The way all of the plots intertwine with each other, and how the characters bring everything to life, make Durarara!! a fun and rather cool series. The story is enticing, the animation looks great and the soundtrack is grand. It all works together wonderfully.
Also, due the first series being made by the same company and the same director, this anime also surprisingly features a cameo appearance from some of the characters from Baccano! (No. 45), but I will not say which ones to avoid spoiling both series too much.
The first series of Durarara!! is now available as a limited edition Blu-Ray from All the Anime, with a DVD version to be released in May. The second series is in production.