Oct 1, 2015
ZephSilver (All reviews)
There's a popular theory by playwright, Frigyes Karinthy, known as the "6 Degrees of Separation," which claims that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

Basically the theory implies that everyone is connected to everyone else, in one way or another, within six acquaintances or less. So in some way, you, the reader, is connected to me, the writer. I find this theory to be not only appropriate but also an essential insight when talking about Durarara!!. Not only does it adhere to this philosophy in the way it approaches its story but also in the way it brings it all together. Despite the ignorance that the characters of Ikebukuro have towards each others' personal affairs, when the layers are all peeled back, they're all a part of an intricate, interconnected web. And it's seeing this interconnected web all flow into a central stream of consciousness to form one overarching narrative that sets DRRR apart from its contemporaries. But despite being able to encapsulate this kind of story better than most titles, Durarara still suffers from the same issues that plagued its prior installments.

Without question, DRRR's unique approach to storytelling is its biggest highlight, and that isn't something that has changed as it continues to build upon its franchise's name. Picking up from where we left off in DRRR!!x2 Shou, we find ourselves following up on the events that happened in the Shou's climax after the dust has settled from the turf wars. Since Shou was mostly dedicated to gradual buildup, this season was able to benefit off of its coattails by zeroing in on a more focused narrative. The plot doesn't feel as scatterbrained as before, which automatically makes it more engaging than the season prior.

By far the most significant change comes with Mikado Ryuugamine's new methods of dealing with the Dollars. While he never believed in establishing any sort of law-and-order and let the gang operate without his interference, his new actions are almost night and day, as we see him become more abrasive and hands-on with his approach. No longer is he a bystander in the turmoil that occurs in Ikebukuro, now he's an active player, as we see him roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. Whether Mikado is the proprietor or merely a pawn being used by someone else is up for debate, but his new outlook is undeniable. While the actual buildup to this extreme mindset change was, to be quite honest, half-assed, it still does wonders for keeping the audience engaged. Since the pacing of DRRR has always been notoriously slow, this plot development was one that was greatly welcomed. It brought much-needed change in what can be considered a monotonous dribble at times. While there are still episodes and moments where the meandering became overwhelmingly apparent, the payout at the end of each plot point at least delivered more than the season prior. But like the seasons before it, the sluggish pacing coupled with the "beating around the bush" approach of storytelling still prevented it from having any significant progression in the narrative throughout. This is an anime where most of the intrigue comes from piecing the puzzle together, than the actual finished product you'll get from it when it's all said and done.

As mentioned before, the most prominent character transformation comes from Mikado Ryuugamine, but another noteworthy standout this season was also Izaya Orihara. While what I'm about to say may seem like a minor detail, I still think it's worth mentioning. If you look at the show's cover art, it gives hints as to who the focus of the season will follow; this is also evident when compared to the cover art of every season so far. A quick glance through the catalog will show an abundance of characters in the prior season's cover pictures, but this time, the show only highlights the 2-star attractions (with exception to the show's mascot Celty separating their profiles). This can allude to the show shifting focus from the ever-expanding cast and take on a more compact narrative approach. Instead of branching off into several plot lines, most will now revolve around Izaya and Mikado. Both characters are now using their influence to stir things up in the city and have ultimately become the puppeteers for a lot of occurrences that happen throughout the show's run-time. Even the supposedly "stand-alone" story-lines find themselves being distorted and warped by the actions of these two important figures. The turmoil that comes, as a result, gets the other side characters caught up in the cross-hairs. In typical DRRR fashion, the "point of view" method of storytelling is the process used to show the influences Mikado and Izaya has on others. This also includes several of the characters that will provide a new piece to the puzzle, regardless of their awareness of the situation at large or not. This perfectly ties back to "6 Degrees of Separation" theory, showing that Ikebukuro is connected on the most rudimentary of levels.

Izaya was always something like Ikebukuro's version of the Joker, and now with the extra screen-time finally given to him, he's able to get the proper characterization and fleshing out that he greatly lacked before. This was an issue that the seasons prior suffered from since the show spread itself too thin by trying to cover every character under the sun. While the same can't be said for a majority of the cast, it should be noted that there were some improvements to be found, as more life was breathed into a few characters that came off as wooden before. This isn't to say that most of them aren't still heavily reliant on one personality quirk to stand out, it's just that the ones that do get the extra minutes of screen-time are slightly more tolerable than they were before.

But despite the much-needed improvement to some characters, it's still almost nauseating at times trying to keep tabs on all of their involvement in the plot. Not to say that it's hard to follow, but there are still far too many irrelevant characters that serve close to no purpose to the show's overarching narrative to warrant their presence being anything worth keeping track of. And for those that do have a connection to the bigger picture, a lot of them remain underdeveloped. Some did get a chance to be fleshed out, but even then, it was only covering the fundamentals that should have already been done by the seasons prior. If a show takes 40+ episodes to meet the basic standards of characterization expected of it, then that show isn't being handled well. As I said, there are improvements found but far too little to support the increasing demand placed on it by the content provided.

All in all, the downsizing of the character focus helped to make this season a little more tolerable than the scatterbrained approach of Shou. While this could be a direct result of Shou serving to set the stage and x2Ten piggy-backing off of that, regardless of the reason, it was less taxing as a result and therefore easier to invest into the scenarios that were playing out.

The art and animation, for the most part, remained relatively the same as the quality found in Shou. This made the transition into the new season to feel like one cohesive piece, which will help to maintain immersion for those watching them back to back. This also applies to the character designs as well, which didn't show any noticeable changes in the way they were drawn. The contrast between the opaque textures found in the background and the figures in the foreground also helped in giving everything depth of field. The soundtrack from the prior season is also carried over as well, but with the darker tone shift that this season seems to be taking on, the track choices are more on the drearier side of the OST, than the usual upbeat songs like "The Sought-after Extraordinary."

Enjoyment | Overall: 5/10

While I've found more to enjoy out of this season than what the prior had to offer, it still isn't all that much to enhance my opinion of the franchise as a whole. There are still many dead time moments and focus placed on tag-along characters for me to get fully invested. For the most part, the show just ends up being a snore fest. It's just not my cup of tea.

For every decent payout that Durarara offers, it is followed up by a stagnant and often tedious buildup that makes the endless journey not worth it. Every time I consider suggesting DRRR to someone, I'm constantly reminded that the pacing is still abysmal, the characterization is still lax, and no matter how "cool" the idea of an interweaving narrative sounds, it doesn't amount to much if very little is being done with it. Durarara isn't a bad show; it's just one that is poorly realized at this point, being stretched out entirely too long for its own good.