This week I’m bringing you something fun, something gritty, something quite unique in its medium and execution, something you won’t be able to stop watching. First aired in 2010, Durarara!! remains my favorite anime I’ve ever seen, and this week I’ll tell you my reasons.
As always, the anime is adapted from the manga of the same name (started in 2004), but although I own one of them, I haven’t had a chance to read all the books, so this rec is strictly to do with the anime version.
Let’s not waste any more time and get into it.
GD’s 10 reasons to watch Durarara!!:
1. The concept. Although there are supernatural-y things going on in here too, the series mostly focuses on humans, morals, and how they live and get influenced by corruption and a secret underworld. If not animated, it would’ve made quite an interesting, noire-esque tv series.
2. The story. Here’s where Durarara!! is something special. Although the story centers around the town of Ikebukuro and its various goings on, we get to hear it from a whole lot of characters. Wikipedia puts it at 11 main characters who all get their own episode to express their views on events, and so the story is put together from different POVs and opinions, reliable or unreliable narrators. We have Celty Sturluson, an Irish Dullahan who came to Ikebukuro to find her missing head, and who now works as an underworld courier. We have her roommate, Shinra Kishitani, a doctor whose clientele is more or less shady. There’s Izaya and Shizuo, an information broker and a bodyguard for a debt collector respectively, who hate each other. Or well… Shizuo hates Izaya. There’s Dotachin’s group of misfits, the high schoolers Mikado, Kida, and Anri, and a whole bunch of other people. There’s The Dollars - an internet gang - The Yellow Scarves, the Saika, the human traffickers and the shady pharmaceutical company etc etc. So many things happen in Ikebukuro to so many people, and although seemingly unconnected, the threads begin to disentangle as the story progresses and our heroes chase their storylines to the same endgame.
3. The content is quite mature, and it’s clear from the get-go it’s not a fun kids’ anime if all the swearing is any indication. It showcases various dealings with mobsters and gangs, fights, shady teachers ogling students on the bustier side, kidnapping and human trafficking, dissections etc etc. It’s definitely a show for adults is all I’m saying.
4. The art style. Although the characters aren’t drawn in an unique way to anime, it’s the backgrounds I’m more interested in here. Not only is the scenery always incredibly beautiful and evocative, but the background is actually participant in the storytelling. If a character is not important to a scene, they’re drawn as just a gray shape, thus giving the whole image a heightened sense of reality that I find particularly neat. If you’ve looked at my own projects, I tried to evoke the same kind of feeling in my feature film, Focus, although obviously not to DRRR!!’s extent.
5. Its length is just perfect. It’s only got 2 seasons and a few special episodes, so it doesn’t have the often seen 500-episode run. In total, without counting the specials, it has 61 episodes of about 20 or so minutes each. The fear of getting bored out of your mind watching dozens of fillers before getting back to the main story doesn’t exist here. Even if some episodes feel like fillers, they’re important to understand the characters and the evolution of the main plot, and will be just as interesting and fun to watch, especially as they pace the series properly and give you time to breathe and make sense of all the twists in the thread.
6. The characters are honestly so well introduced and even better developed. There isn’t a single character from the main cast I don’t find interesting, and even though I dislike some of them, I still recognize their value in the story and enjoy watching them. Some of them, like Anri, seem like the stereotypical anime characters (like the shy but attractive girl who can barely talk to boys, Hinata Hyuga-style), but boy do they subvert those tropes. Anri, Mikado, and Kida are probably the most surprising characters in terms of depth and truth of their stories (those plot twists are too good to spoil), but they’re not the only ones worthy of mentioning. Celty is one of the coolest female characters I’ve seen in anime, and her badassery coupled with her softness for Shinra and friendship with the rest of the characters make her super intriguing, not to mention the whole headless thing she has going on. And Izaya… wow. If I could write all my thoughts about Izaya I’d take up too much space. He’s a scheming bastard and his reasoning for being an asshole and a horrible person is that he “loves humans”. His fascination with understanding humans and their reactions and behaviors is fascinating, and not gonna lie, although he’s awful, he’s got some pretty relatable lines. He annoyed me to no end, but I loved every second of it. Also, he’s horrible but he’s attractive. There, I said it.
7. Speaking of characters, the voice actors are some of the industry’s best. Both for the sub and the dub, you’ve got a stellar cast and voices/seiyuus you will definitely recognize from other anime. Izaya’s Seiyuu, Hiroshi Kamiya, also voiced Mephistopheles in Ao No Exorcist, Akashi in Kuroko no Basuke, and Yato in Noragami. Shizuo’s English voice actor, Crispin Freeman, is the voice of Itachi Uchiha. The list goes on but you get my drift, super famous anime, super recognizable voices.
8. The music, of which I mean intros, outros, and in-series music, is fantastic. I never skipped season 1’s intro and outro, and the jazzy, trumpet-y melodies throughout the episodes contribute even more to the series’ tone and noir feel.
9. Even non-anime fans will like it. I can confirm, a person very close to me who is partial/doesn’t like Asian media has watched the whole thing and liked it. It could’ve been Izaya magic, but I’d like to credit the whole series for that.
10. Going off from point 7, I’ve watched both versions and I can attest that both the sub and the dub are awesome. I know anime fans tend to watch subbed versions because the dubbing takes away the magic and isn’t always very accurate, but DRRR!!’s is honestly in a league of its own. The lines are adapted so well they sound incredibly natural, the mass of text bubbles and messaging boards are translated so they’d be easy to read and understand, and the characters’ unique voices come through just as well as the originals’.
There’s a lot more I can say about this series but I’ll let you decide for yourself. I’ve seen people who were completely bored by it too, so by no means am I saying it’s perfect and everyone will love it, but I did. So much so that I’ve rewatched it several times, as I do with all the things I rec here. If anything, the technique and character dynamics might inspire you like they inspired me.
I know we’re back in crime land and we’ll stay there next week as well, but what comes after that is a complete tone change, so stay tuned!
Thank you for reading and see you next time!