Rushed? Yes. Low-budget? Yes. Bloated beyond imagination? Definitely! But is every minute a blast to watch? Honestly, it’s one of my favorites of the season! 🙂
Let me start off by saying my experience with the first Durarara was quite mixed. It was one of the first anime I saw on crunchyroll, and my initial response was “interesting, but a chore to watch”. While I liked the characters and the overall style, the stories never caught my interest apart from a handful of moments. And after watching it’s predecessor Baccano, I was firmly entrenched in the idea that Durarara was just an inferior relative. But with the announcement of 3 split cour seasons, I decided to re-watch the entire series from beginning to end, and the results were a mix of appreciation and bitter confirmation. The stories were indeed pointless and uninteresting, but the theme of how everything happens and nothing changes put into context that story was its least priorities. It’s all about these characters getting into crazy events that somehow connect until a web is strung, only to get cut towards the end and let daily life continue. And while this realization didn’t change my firm opinions, I started to understand why fans love it so much.
So how does the first of these sequels hold up to the original? Well unlike it’s predecessor, someone forgot to keep this show away from its crack supply. I’m not saying Durarara was ever normal, but all the crazier aspects came in increments throughout slice-of-life, stacking on top of other events until it exploded. But now that the explosion has happened, Durarara is juggling everything it’s got at a non-stop pace. If we aren’t seeing old characters get into some sort of adventure, new weirdos jump into the mix and cause further chaos. If we aren’t seeing relationships develop or subplots set up, we’re getting entire backstories slammed alongside conflicts likely to end in the same episode. And somehow these events all connect in a bizarre fashion before opening more possibilities in the near future. The sheer amount of things happening on-screen is nothing short of inspired, and the stories this time elevate what the first season tried to downplay. More supernatural events, more crime sprees, more gang wars, more twisted romance, and more crazy characters to look forward to.
The downside is that it tells it’s stories like how I summarized movies on a sugar high as a kid: it doesn’t know when to stop. Say what you will about how slow the first season was, but it definitely kept a consistent pace as it let its toys have some breathing room. This, on the other hand, barely manages to avoid becoming a highlight reel like Tokyo Ghoul. They’re clearly cramming content that would last at least 1 hour into 20 minutes, keeping only the core interactions and details intact. And while there’s definitely a strong connection between these events, there’s always a sense that something just as entertaining is ignored so it can focus on the bigger picture. It’s also quite obvious that the show is struggling to put this all together when narration and flashbacks aren’t enough to contain it all. We have to have characters in the middle of stories break the 4th wall, insert entire subplots into whatever blank space they found inside a finished story, or have flashbacks within flashbacks within EVEN MORE flashbacks!
Ironically though, I think this fits the theme of the show much better than the first season. If the whole point of Durarara was that the extraordinary could happen as often as everyday life, wouldn’t it make sense that there’d be too much to tell? More than ever, Ikebukuro seems to carry the energy of its inhabitants and guide them towards doors of escalating chaos, almost becoming a character of its own. And while the old characters are left with diminished roles for now, their presence is felt throughout the narrative regardless of their screen time. Furthermore, their lack of departure from routine helps highlight what’s rapidly changing around them. Aside from Celty getting attention as the city’s celebrity or Izaya and Mikado noticing a rise in violence amongst the dollars, we’ve got Shizuo’s brother dating a goth loli idol/immortal serial killer, Shinra’s pop remarried to a ditzy surgeon, a love triangle between Izaya’s sister and the younger brother of Blue Square’s creator, the travels of a biker gang leader who takes chivalry to its creepiest levels, and a group of Russian Assassins tasked with taking down Ikebukuro’s highest powers while chasing a little girl desperately trying to attack Shizuo. Okay, all of this revolves around love and violence, but aren’t those the most interesting things about Baccano and Durarara? It sure is to me, and there’s so much to choose from.
It seems this franchise will never reach a steady plane like its predecessor Baccano, but I admit the high points are worth waiting for. Without losing it’s core identity or reaching a safe spot, every episode has brought something new to the table. So long as this trend continues and more possibilities are explored, i’d say that the future for Ikebukuro is promising.