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.