Mikado Ryuugamine is a young boy who craves the abnormal and supernatural, but his quiet life in the countryside offers no opportunity for adventure. With some encouragement from a childhood friend, Mikado moves to Ikebukuro, a lively downtown district in Tokyo. However, the naïve boy may be in for a lot more than he bargained for.
Ikebukuro is home to a host of strange individuals, such as a monster of a man dressed in a bartender's outfit, a sadist who sells information for fun, and an underground doctor with an odd infatuation. But the most unusual of them all is the legendary "Black Rider," a headless being who silently rides through the night on a pitch-black motorcycle. When Mikado witnesses this urban legend on his first night in the city, his initial excitement triggers a thrilling but deadly sequence of events, affecting numerous others throughout the city.
Well I happened to notice that nobody had bothered to write a review for the Durarara!! (the exclamation marks are very important) light novels before now, which I found quite surprising given the popularity of the anime adaptation, but anyhow I’ve taken it upon myself and I apologise in advance for the lousy job that I do but still nevertheless this will end up as the most helpful review, well for the time being at least.
First things first, I think that I ought to talk about the anime just a little bit. One of the major problems that people have with the anime, are in
one way or another, to do with the plot and the reason is because the anime was an incomplete adaptation which only adapted around about three of the thirteen novels so unsurprisingly there were a fair few loose ends. This, to some degree, will be remedied by the upcoming sequel but I doubt they will adapt all of the novels so I predict that there will still be plenty of loose ends so if you really want to know what happens you’re best of looking into novels.
Now onto the actual review...
Well trying to describe the plot of Durarara!! (remember that the exclamation marks are extremely important) is liable to give you an aneurysm. To start with it doesn’t exactly have one plotline, instead we are given a massive cast of characters who are all acting for their own reasons and interests and the story follows each of these characters as their path cross and intertwines with each other, as events unfold as a consequence of the characters actions the plot develops.
Well that may be a little vague so I will try and make it a little clearer.
The story is set in a rather chaotic area of Tokyo known as Ikebukuro, a town filled with gang conflicts between colour gangs, monstrous bartenders, Russian sushi chefs, otakus and any number of urban legends. The story begins when an ordinary, unassuming teenager who grew up in an ordinary, unassuming, un-descript Japanese town, Mikado Ryugamine, moves to the city and ends up getting more and more involved in the events of the city known as Ikebukuro.
If I was to try and answer the question; what is Durarara!! all about? Then I would have to answer with two words. Twisted Love. While on the face of it, this may seem to a supernatural action series, underneath all the bizarreness and lunacy this is basically Narita Ryohgo’s take on a love story and frankly it’s brilliant, whether it be an information broker’s love of humanity, an otaku’s love for anime and manga, a young boy’s fascination with a severed head, a sister’s abnormally strong feelings for her brother or a person’s obsession with an idol it is all captured absolutely perfectly.
But still it is near impossible to pinpoint the main plot in this story and also it is impossible to identify any side plots because everything that happens is linked together and this is only really made possible due to Narita Ryohgo’s brilliant writing. Everything is planned ahead of time and there is never any time wasted. Every scene, every bit of dialogue and every action is significant in the grand schemes of things (something that is lost in the anime due to the abrupt ending)
Now I think I’m going to talk about the characters a little bit...
The cast of Durarara!! is massive and overflowing with iconic, eccentric, larger than life figures. Talking about the entire cast of headless monsters, omniscient information brokers, bartenders that personify violence, knife wielding psychopaths, yakuza, Russian sushi chefs, Russian assassins and the trio of high school students who wind up in the centre of the chaos brought about by these people; it would take me way too long, but I think I will talk about some of the stand out characters a little bit.
Ryugamine Mikado, who is probably the closest thing to the main character in the series, begins as a rather dull protagonist, it must be said, but it must also be said that his character has deliberately been written that way. Anyhow while he may start out as being a rather bland character over time his character, his personality, his beliefs and everything about him gets shaken by the events of the story and his character ends up developing into something that I really wouldn’t think of calling bland.
Masaomi Kida is the best friend of Ryugamine and is also quite the contrast. He is confident and he is assertive and he is also the one who convinced Ryugamine to go to Ikebukuro. He leads Ryugamine through Ikebukuro and teaches him what’s what. He has changed a lot from how Ryugamine last met him and needless to say this was due to the city known as Ikebukuro.
Anri Sonohara is quiet and not particularly sociable girl who ends up becoming acquainted with Masaomi and Ryugamine but she has difficulty opening herself up to them because of the dark secret she has.
Izaya Orihara, who is my personal favourite character in the series, is an information broker who claims to love all of humanity, except for Shizuo Heiwajima. He is probably the closest thing to an out and out antagonist in the story but he is not exactly evil per se. He acts like a sort of puppet master who manipulates information in order to create interesting situations in which to observe humans. He takes an interest in Ryugamine and is usually involved behind the scenes of the events in one form or another.
Shizuo Heiwajime is essentially wrath incarnate, however he doesn’t like violence at all he just has a short fuse and monstrous strength so more often than not he is seen doing something absurd like throwing vending machines across the street or what have you. Also he and Izaya don’t really get along too well...that may be a bit of an understatement.
Celty Sturlunson is a creature of myth straight from a folk tale. She is a dullahan. Originally from Ireland she is in Ikebukuro searching for her head that was stolen from her. She is in a relationship with a doctor named Shinra and their interactions were always my favourite parts of the story because they were just so outlandish, cute and funny all at the same time.
Well I could go on but that I think that is enough. To summarise, the cast in Durarara is fantastic and go a long way in making the series memorable. Narita has a real talent for creating fascinating characters with interesting worldviews, beliefs, personalities and interactions.
As far as enjoyment goes, I cannot think of anything to say other than Durarara!! is entertaining as hell (why else would it have two exclamation marks huh?)
I would recommend these light novels to just about anyone, but since most people wouldn’t even consider reading light novels in the first place, probably the reason why there wasn’t any reviews either, it’s kind of pointless in a sense but well if you liked the anime then I would urge you to go and check out the light novels at some point...or not. You can always wait for an unknown amount of time to wait for them to get adapted but there isn’t really any guarantee that this will even happen...
At any rate I award Durarara!! with a score of 9 out of 10
(Would you look at that, I managed to write a review of Durarara!! without mentioning Baccano! even once.)