Durarara!! was one of Winter 2010’s most hyped series mainly for the setting of one of Japan’s biggest entertainment districts, Ikebukuro and the notion of gang wars really sparked huge amounts of interest from the very beginning. Durarara was all about character development and for such a large cast of characters, 24 episodes was plenty to develop such a cast. It did succeed in bringing a whole host of different characters enough time to really show viewers who they are and what they really mean. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the plot. It is solid at first, with each character bringing their own piece of the grander puzzle amidst territory disputes from various gangs in the city like the Dollars and the Yellow Scarves. The way each character brings their own involvement into the grander picture is done very well and manages to throw a few shocking twists at the end without it feeling awkward or stiff. But the last 1/4 of the series is filled with a lot of misunderstandings and melodrama that it could have been better presented and explored differently. That was probably my biggest complaint of this series.
The music in this series definitely works here, paying special attention to particular scenes and emotionally important ones. It’s funky, fresh and fun – which is what this series is exactly all about. The OP/EDs are okay, but the real treat from them is the stylish visuals that serve to refresh your memory on the entire cast of characters (which is a lot). The animation is stunning, bringing out a bustling district like Ikebukuro and giving it even more flair to the point where it’s overloaded with visually appealing instances that you can’t help but marvel at.
But the real treat comes not from the production values but the cast of characters themselves. It’s this huge cast that truly brings out the best of Durarara!!. The way each character is presented is truly fascinating and how each of their personal stories has a role in the grand scheme of things only heightens how wonderful creator Ryogo Narita is at storytelling. They don’t just enhance the plot, but they are the reason why people adore this series: They’re memorable, they make a name for themselves and they don’t try to be someone else.
A complaint is raised from those who have seen Narita’s other series, Baccano!, because of the more relaxed nature of Durarara!! impacted the character development which in turn leads to a more weaker plot. Having seen Durarara followed by Baccano!, i can attest that the latter is very much a stronger series than the former: With only 13 episodes (not including the specials), Baccano! was able to develop a dozen different main characters while telling a story that spans more than hundreds of years apart. Yeah, that’s pretty amazing and Durarara!! can’t hold a candle to that but what it can do is show that even without a grand, confusing plot it can still rely on the strength of its diverse and large cast of characters to make for a wonderful viewing experience.
Animation: 9/10 – It’s breathtaking to see how just one city can look so visually appealing but since its Brains Base, i’m not surprised. I really like the character designs too, they really fit well with the animation.
Story: 7/10 – It really went a bit downhill in the second half of the series. It was still good, but after the Dollars (temporarily) disbanded the whole Mikado/Kida/Anri drama really didn’t feel right at all and the ending was a bit too cheesy and wide-open.
Music: 8/10 – I like the OP and ED visuals alot, but the songs themselves aren’t that interesting. The background music is another story: Once again Makoto Yoshimori manages to work his magic and create another addicting score.
Characters: 9/10 – This is why people love Durarara!!. The characters are wonderfully diverse and bring their own unique qualities front and center for a great viewing experience. Whether it’s Shizuo and Izaya’s constant skirmishes, Celty’s journey to realize who she really is, Kida’s womanizing tendencies or Anri’s switch from typical megane girl to something scary, Durarara!!’s large cast of characters never feels forced and never gets old.
Enjoyment: 8/10 – I’m glad i got to see this series first instead of Baccano! because while Durarara!! didn’t live up to the same heights that Baccano! accomplished, it did really flesh out the huge cast of characters with a longer episode count, accompanied by a great premise and a great location to put these plot points together. This show was great developing its characters, but the plot needed some fine tuning. Nevertheless, i really enjoyed Durarara!! and highly recommend it to anyone.