Some Thoughts on Durarara!!

Durarara!! is just like Baccano! “Well duh,” you might say, “Thanks for the tautology.” I know the same guy, Narita Ryohgo, wrote both series of novels, but that’s the thing — does he have the taste and talent to write just one type of story?

The dilemma reminds me of Guy Ritchie. In fact, Narita’s style reminds me of Ritchie: casts full of oddball characters, dialogue heavy, snappy and full of energy. I’m not a fan of Ritchie and, similarly, I’m not big on either Baccano! or Durarara!!, but at least they’re different. I doubt Narita will ever be overexposed in the anime genre full of harems anyway.

I’ll preface this by saying I don’t think Durarara!! is a bad anime. Omamori Himari is a bad anime. After five episodes, I just think Durarara!! is boring. At the end of the day, I’ll probably concede that it’s not my type of anime. Another thing (probably the most important) I gotta say: this is a personal gripe post rather than a deconstructing criticism of the show. This won’t stop people from probably interpreting my thoughts here as a personal affront to their favorite show, but c’est la vie. Now that I’ve said that, let me try to explain my disappointment with the series thus far.

1. The Dullahan is just another hot anime babe.

I should have seen it coming. It’s anime. The headless motorcyclist has ears on its helmet. Of course it’s gonna be someone with a perfect body (sans head) and, as badass as she may seem at first, of course it turns out that she’s a bit vulnerable:

Pardon me for not being emotionally invested in the existential crisis of a headless lady, but it really makes her seem kinda weak and trite. With so many characters in the cast already, I personally don’t think the Dullahan needed to be another one, but character development isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Selty’s “Who am I?” just rubs me the wrong way.

2. So who am I rooting for again? I certainly hope not this Joe Blow:

‘Cause he’s as cardboard cutout as they can be.

The way the anime works is by alternating characters between episodes. Today, we’ll learn about Mikado. The next day, we might follow the exploits of Izaya. The only common thread so far is supposed to be Selty, but I don’t like her portrayal and I don’t think her story should be the main conflict of the story if it truly is the one. Her identity issues are far too personal and exclusive to really bring the entire cast of Durarara!! together. But if not her, the only person with meaningful character development, then who? The end result for me is a mishmash of people and conflicts with no chance to identify with a single hero or heroine. Who’s driving this entire thing forward?

3. It’s going to be twenty-four episodes long. I personally believe few anime should be so long (let’s not talk about the even longer ones). It results in so much dead space, and hell, some anime can’t even handle filling up thirteen. I said earlier that Durarara!! reminded me of Ritchie’s movies. At the end of the day, something like Snatch is just two hours long — everything’s tight and focused. Durarara!! is a long series. As a long series, it develops much, much more slowly to the point where the plot meanders. We have entire episodes just to introduce new characters, for instance. Typically, pacing suffers in stories like this so Narita tries to cover up the lack of purposeful forward thrust with lots of energy.

Stuff happens. Lots of chaotic stuff happens, but what they ultimately mean to plot progression is just miniscule. I know people love to triumph this sort of character development — this snail’s pace sewing of some rich tapestry — as the best kind of character development. If we spend twenty minutes just hinting at some plot or quirk of a character, people would be enthralled and discuss for hours what might happen next.

4. Too much narration. Unnecessary narration too:

Simon tells us everyone’s scared when we already see they’re scared. Why do we need to be told, for example, that Mikado — being the painfully shy shounen protagonist that he is — is desperate to make a name of himself?

The anime does a good job animating his nervousness just to then pound it into the audience with the incessant narration.

*****

So, ultimately, what’s my point? Five episodes is too long to go without a rudder. There’s little motivation for me to watch and this is where I throw in the towel. If most people use the three episode test, I think I’ve given Durarara!! a fair chance.

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22 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Durarara!!

  1. coburn

    I’m up to episode 7 myself and can agree with the accusation of persistent rudderlessness. The narration point is interesting to me because I’m used to thinking of heavy narration as a sign of a bad scriptwriter but here it seems to be an active attempt to counter the sort of criticism you level at Baccano!. DRR isn’t exactly over-sophisticated but I do feel that the cast are more involving on account of their constant monologuing, familiarity over depth I’d say. What keeps me tuning in is intrigue rather than momentum.

    A criticism you don’t make, but I would, is that unlike its predecessor DRR isn’t that striking as action/comedy. Since the payoff is all in throwing the cast members into conflict it’d be nice if the action was a bit less cursory.

  2. Landon

    The comparison with Snatch and the like is pretty accurate, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m digging the series. If I had to sit down and decide if I prefer series where we follow one main character or follow a big mass of characters like Snatch or Durarara, I’d pick the latter. I never felt the need to “latch” onto one character and identify with them, but most people prefer that, so I can’t fault anyone for not getting into a series like this.

    While Celty has a weakness, I’m not seeing her as “weak.” She isn’t buying into Shinra’s crap that she’s perfectly fine without her head, her “relationship” with him seems to be more out of convenience than of dependence, and most of her human-like qualities seem more like quirks than anything else. And while she isn’t the most fascinatng character in the series, I like her because she lends to the whole “urban myth” vibe the series seems to be going for. The only problem with her story is that we probably got too much information too early in the series. She should have been a mysterious force for awhile, then towards the end we’d find out there’s a more “human” side to her personality.

  3. adaywithoutme

    What nags at me about this show is the amount of attention Celty’s body gets in conjunction with that fact that she has no head. So, essentially, you can just stare at her boobs all day long and never have to engage her in conversation, because she can’t talk directly – much easier to ignore a text message or something of the sort than actual verbal speech. So she seems to be wish-fulfilling in that manner, even as she runs around and kicks bad guy ass. You can just stare and not have to deal with all that silly talking that women like to do! What a relief! Ick.

    Its too bad; I was impressed by the show’s handling of suicide, but it hasn’t exactly been living up to that early impression since.

    1. gorgeglish

      Seems like even existing passes for misogyny these days.

      Episode 6 had a lot of the humor that was said to be absent from the first few episodes, so I’ll stick around for a bit.

  4. Shanny

    “The Dullahan is just another hot anime babe.”

    But Dullahan is the first hot anime headless chick! Autopsy never was so interesting.

    I like that kind of character, outside – Selty looks like a badass rider who roams around and kills people with scythe, but inside – fragile, scared and cute. Thanks god she’s not a Catwoman on a motocycle.

    ‘What if it was an alien’ – She won my heart with that.

    There are a lot of characters to follow, and the fact that it’s gonna have 24 episodes means to me, that there’s a lot to tell about every of them. That slow progression in characters development makes it more compelling, although in some cases it backfires as some characters are really boring.

    I’m really surprised you’ve such little patience to that serie while watching Qwaser, I guess it just really doesn’t fit your type. I personally don’t feel like jumping to next episode asap, but I’d really like to see some more Izaya, Shizuo, Selty episodes.

    1. E Minor Post author

      Bad shows are easier to watch. Doesn’t mean I think something like Qwaser is better.

      but inside – fragile, scared and cute.

      That’s my point. Why does something badass have to be fragile and scared? Why can’t she just be badass and something else?

        1. E Minor Post author

          Fragile women are lame. Besides, nobody asked for steel women. Just not a weak, vulnerable one.

          One’s boring bad and the other’s over the top bad. Sometimes I laugh at Qwaser’s ridiculousness. DRR just flat out bores me.

        2. Shanny

          Meh my bad for arguing, it’s ‘Moe Sucks’ after all, blame me all you want for loving Mio, Selty etc :P

          Difference in opinions I guess, for me Qwaser is just tiring and impossible to watch, it’s like workout in a gym except that you don’t get muscles. Durarara could be boring at times but overall it’s interesting for me.

          I respect your opinion anyway.

  5. KizukuKanshi

    Which of the 3 do you think is worse?

    A) No direction up until the end which throws in a twist that makes what you were seeing worth the wait.
    B) Starting out with a purpose or plot and losing steam and going random up until the end.
    C) Staying on course and then dropping a twist that effectively makes the entire show a waste of time.

    It’s just a question, actually. I personally think that they’re a bit equal in terms of disappointment. B is basically a normal thing, nowadays and C is recoverable if you can imagine alternate endings and whatnot, but I think that there’s no recovering from A. I don’t know of anyone who starts a series just to see how good the ending episode is. Now I do like Durarara. There is a reason that’s a little abstract, though. I’m currently creating a game. This game has a crapload of characters in it, so for a while, I’ve been watching a lot of shows as reference using this article as a station for those references: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters

    I think you’re familliar with TV Tropes anyway. The reason I like it, is because so far, I think it’s handling its amount of characters fairly well so far compared to the show I just finished, Negima. I’m looking for ways to make characters distinct, but not just for the sake of being distinct. On that judgment, I think I’m enjoying it.

    I’ve gotta say, though, I can’t even reference how the story’s told yet, ’cause there really doesn’t seem to be one other than the whole thing being a mysterious situation. So far, it may as well be a collection of short stories.

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  7. John Vu

    Dude, durarara sucks. theres barely any fighting. there is at least 5 eps about celty trying to get her head back, but doesnt get it at the end? wasted so much of my time. mostly see them talking. no actions no fighting. how is this anime so good i dont get it. id give it a 3/10 cuz its a waste of ma time.

  8. apple2

    well, I’m just finished it. The ending was great and the special 1 episode was super awesome. Their lives were always intersecting with each others. Man, I guess this is the coolest thing I ever seen. This story was created after Baccano!, an Anime was also had the same style of plot. In Baccano, the story was filled with Mafias’ live, but in Durarara, it tells about the story about youngster these days and the live of the street gangs. The characters, it’s a bit exaggerate, but they kept on cooling my head. My favorites are Shinra-sensei and of course Heiwajima Shizou-san, the hottest bartender ever.

  9. ARRGH

    gah!! i just finished watching the whole thing and i have to say this is just BAD! the first episode stank cuz i didnt no wth was going on and it pretty much just threw everyone in ur face cuz u no making sense is for stupid people (uh wuh?) but i managed to pass through it more and i found the suicide thing to be quite interesting although it was executed poorly. the revelation that the girl reaches isnt exactly something u can agree with but i guess it’s like looking on the bright side of a crap situation and it was a shame that episode #2 is the last time you’ll ever c her cuz even for an incredible lifeless character her history had a lot of potential to effect the overall mood of the series but nope they give you even more crap but wrapped around a ribbon around it and called it chocolate. A few episodes after that is pretty much a slice of a quirky life which i actually enjoyed since it added life to the other characters that made no sense. One major gripe i have with this series are the characters starting with the bartender dude. Supposedly he is the hulk, the difference being that there was a reason why the hulk exists and this guy is just someone ur just supposed to just take in, u no cuz explaining things would just make more sense which is something that the series has vowed to not do. but after awhile u find that his RAGE!! is actually quite amusing to watch. then u get lovable black russian man who is just as strong but has a heart of gold, ok i guess ill take him in too, then u have a headless chick on a motorcycle and by this time i realize this is just a bunch of stupid crap mashed together so at this point it could either be really amazing or really stupid. unfortunately it falls into the stupid pile because there is just so much drivel poop running amok. u have the series trying to make some philosophical points that are less coherent than the babbling of a demented old man. the plotline started off semi-serious and semi-slapstick which i like and then it tried to get all super serious which i could have liked if the plot wasnt written by a goth 7th grader pulling pseudophilosophy of out of his ass. seriously if someone tries this hard to try to make a point it could either be (a) the writing and script is bad (b) ur philosophy makes absolutely no sense or it is just an atrocious abstract or (c) both ‘a’ and ‘b’, either way half of the series was a complete waste of time. started off well then just took a nose dive into a septic tank. u can also tell when the characters are trying to make a point when they use the same word over five times in a single sentence. let me give u a little taste of how their speech goes “the reason why u think this is bad because ur idea of bad revolves around the idea that badness is the result of not having things u like or understand which would be goodness, but then again can’t u ssay ur bad to the fans of this show because u think their idea of “good” is ur idea of “bad” but does that mean ur idea of “good” will be their idea of “bad”? if ur idea of good is also their idea of good then does that mean they are just bad people, with bad tastes driven by bad ideas, allowing their badness to increase as they are exposed to even more bad things? and if u let this happen doesnt that make u bad also!!!” if u r still reading u r probably saying “WTF!?!?” which was basically me from episode 11 to the end

    1. Anonymous

      LMFAO wow you really hit the nail on the head. cliche characters and a simple plot that pretends to be deep. it drags itself out while taking points and over complicating them with rambling. filling in the time quota with characters speaking the same subjects they have already overemphasized with different words in different scenes. i loved how you made fun of the “reasoning” with the good and bad; while if someone said…”so your saying there is no such thing as good and bad, because everyone has different perspectives….” just fucking say that! by their reasoning “if i say alot of words on a simple concept in an overcomplicated manner i’m smart and meaningful. lmao! i’m sure if you pointed that out they’de bang their head on the fucking wall.

      1. Cerise

        See, that’s the trouble with MOST books/anime of the ‘light novel” genre. Try looking at any anime that was adapted from a light novel and count how many of them DON’T talk like that.

  10. L

    Agreed.

    I’ve read the first 3 chapters of the series and cannot find a plot. Durarara!! is about a boring, snotty male in high school who always get what he wants, in love…typical. He is a very dull character indeed.

  11. Eco

    I wish I had trusted my instincts and left this one alone. Baccano! was crazy and entertaining. Although the end was lame and while the characters were lovable.

    It’s missing something big.
    Anyway my favorite part of the Baccano! Anime is the intro, watch that and forget the rest.

    You’ll be fine.

    So I decided to give this one (DRRR) a chance. 14 episodes later. Nothings changed.

    Your criticisms of DRRR are spot on.

    Too bad I read so many glowing reviews and didn’t see this instead =(.

    1. E Minor Post author

      I think people starve for great anime whether or not they like to admit it. When a show comes along and initially looks good and has potential, people just latch onto it like “yeah, I’m blogging the latest and greatest — I’m on the bleeding edge.” I’ve seen this happen to plenty of shows; mediocre anime that somehow get tons of praise because people can never shake that first impression.

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