Durarara!! x2 Shou – 12 (Fin)

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Everyone seeks purpose and relevance in life, and everyone has a code; boundaries they won’t cross to attain those things. Drrr! is largely about what happens when the interests and the methods of a great number of people clash, which is almost always immensely entertaining, especially when some of those people can carry sportbikes on their shoulders.

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The book on Chapter one of three of Drrr!x2 comes to a close with “Adversity Makes a Man Wise.” Shizuo is the force that ceases the brawl between the Rogue Dollars and Saitama, as well as Anri and Varona. Non’s kidnapper is punished, and both sides are satisfied and withdraw.

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Also, Walker opens his eyes. I would too if I saw Anri handling Saika.

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But that’s far from the end of the adversity. Mikado watched firsthand (while his vision wasn’t wreck from that flash grenade, that is) what the gang he founded has become. He doesn’t like it, and wants to do something about it; no more hanging back.

But first, Varona meets the unstoppable, nigh invincible Shizuo, who unlike Celty or Anri, is a full-blown human being, which both astounds and frightens her, because nothing she throws at him seems to work, nor can she get away with Sloan and Akane.

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Shizuo sets his mind to rescuing Akane, so after some car soccer, instant automatic weapon disintegration (IAWD), and box truck punching, he succeeds. Akane is confounded he’d save his would-be assassin, but he’s just glad she wasn’t hurt, and a new, unlikely friendship is forged, with a helmet-scratching Celty as witness. This was Varona’s first defeat this week, but by no means her last.

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Mikado, meanwhile, tracks down Chitage and Non to formally take responsibility as founder of the Dollars. Chitage doesn’t think he’s lying, but isn’t entirely impressed either, and believes the few moments of time he has to look over Mikado is sufficient to conclude Mikado has no business running the Dollars, and advises him to give it up at his earliest convenience and settle into “the ordinary life” he seems better suited to.

Little does he know that ordinary life is the very thing Mikado escaped his hometown and founded the Dollars to avoid. If he were to quit on them now, it would “negate his being.” He may be better suited for ordinary life, but he doesn’t want to live that way. He wants to be in the thick of it.

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Mikado isn’t the only one patronized and not taken entirely seriously. Varona is too, after her quiet meal with Sloan is suddenly interrupted by Aozaki and Akabayashi. Like her, I thought she was tougher than these guys due to her military training, but they bring her and Sloan down with grim efficiency, only to reveal that Varona’s dad has struck a deal with their organization to secure her safety and retrieve her.

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Dennis, Simon, and Egor arrive to pick her up, and point out that, after all, she’s “still a little girl” who hasn’t “hardened” yet, remarking that kids liker her can still “change in all kinds of ways.” She may have become an assassin at a very young age, but she’s not necessarily destined to be one forevermore. And the yakuza ambush really put her skills into perspective; up to that point, she’d depended heavily on firepower, stealth, and surprise. Not to mention her youthful exuberance over Ikebukuro dulled her senses.

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Speaking of hardening, that’s what Mikado aims to do, and furthermore, what he has to do to preserve the Dollars as he envisioned them. All the adversity he’s faced really has made him wise to the truth of his situation: to be able to take control of a group with no rules, he needs power, so he accepts Aoba’s offer to become the leader of Blue Square along with the Dollars, even forming a blood contract by uncharacteristically stabbing Aoba through the hand with a pen. Then again, Mikado is pissed Anri was put in harm’s way, so he’s mad.

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But once that contract is signed, he snaps back to his usual chipper self, even offering to dress the wound he just gave Aoba. In a way, he owes Aoba one for opening his eyes to the fact that he shouldn’t fear being left behind by all the strange and exciting things in the city, because he hasn’t caught up to it yet. His journey is incomplete, and this was never a static situation. He’s going to fix the Dollars and stay in the mix.

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We close with one more person being one-upped at his own game, as Varona was: Izaya, who had been slipperier than teflon throughout the show. Like Mikado, even he didn’t realize the full scope of his actions, and ended up stepping on the toes of one Yodogiri Jinnai, who didn’t want Shizuo and the Azuki group getting mixed up. For that, Jinnai literally takes Izaya out, leaving him lying in a pool of blood in a crosswalk. A provocative and enticing teaser for Chapter 2, to air in July.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 11

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This episode’s title references the fact there’s no use crying over spilled milk, which is, in Mikado’s case, the perversion of his Utopian Dollars gang into a regular old gang. His free-wheeling philosophy for the group lent itself to attracting scoundrels, and scoundrels are precisely what he has to deal with this week, fellow Dollars or no.

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Even though there’s no rule against Dollars taking hostages, it’s something Mikado won’t accept. Realizing the milk has been spilled, he grabs some proverbial paper towels and starts sopping that milk up. Even he can’t avoid action rather than talk; things have progressed too far for that.

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Meanwhile, in that schoolyard, Kodata and Chitage start brawling in the school yard,  but even though Chitage is still battered from his encounter with Shizuo, the two are almost exactly evenly matched, even throwing the occasional identical punch, kick, or headbutt. They do plenty of damage, but no one seems to have the advantage.

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Mikado can’t do much against small-fry Dollar punks who kidnap Chitage’s girlfriend Non and her three friends (one of them Mikado’s classmate), other than stand in their way until they knock him down and pummel him. But the fact he stood up to them and for his ideals of what the Dollars should and shouldn’t be, means a lot.

Also, we knew Anri wasn’t far behind him, and lucky for Mikado, she’s tough enough for both of them. Mikado shows his own resolve by vowing he’ll keep pursuing the kidnappers, before even seeking medical treatment. Anri decides to accompany him, assuring him she can be “somewhat useful” (understatement of the year).

It’s a nice moment for these two, with Anri in the role as protector, but Mikado not digging to deep into why she’s so good at protecting, because it’s a sore subject.

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Masaomi is getting more and more restless in self-exile, and Saki picks up on it. She reminds him while she’s his girlfriend, they’re not friend friends in the same way he is with Mikado and Anri. She also assures him no matter what he does, Mikado will never hate him. He’s essentially crying over spilled milk too—worried about the ramifications of his running away—but he has Saki’s full support to return to Ikebukuro and help Mikado out. And right now, Mikado needs all the help he can get.

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Kodata manages to finally beat Chitage, but both men are about to keel over. Kodata asks Chitage to call off his boys, and in exchange, Kodata will make sure his comrades get justice. But when some of those comrades appear, the arrogant leader of whom wants to take Kodata down a few pegs, Kodata and Chitage join forces to teach them a lesson.

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Then the hostages come out, and all of a sudden superior strength is no longer the order of the day. Mikado and Anri have arrived, but before they can do anything Anri is jumped by Varona, who is as curious about Anri as she is disappointed Mikado is just a human.

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Varona sets off a flash-bang, and in the ensuing disorientation and chaos, Dollars brought by Walker and Erika rescue the hostages, while Walker decides to  lay some Tsukuyomi Komoe-style justice of his own.

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Then Shizuo shows up, holding Varona’s motorcycle like someone rolling in a keg about to join the pah-tay. This episode aptly illustrate’s Drrr!’s knack for snowballing events nearly out of control, as well as plucking numerous characters from every corner of Ikebukuro and dropping them in the same schoolyard.

But with Mikado on the scene and Masaomi on the way, all that spilled milk is on its way to being cleaned up.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 10

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I find it best to never underestimate Drrr!!’s capacity to swiftly flesh a new character at the drop of the hat. It’s done it successfully with Ruri and Varona, so I shouldn’t be surprised it did it with the Anri-haired Awakasu Akane as well.

Like Anri, Akane is a strong, gentle, good and decent person. When she sought to stop the bullying of a classmate, she did so not knowing the clout the Awakasu name carried, so she believed the matter was resolved of her own volition.

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When that fiction is broken and Akane learns that her dad is a gangster, it has the effect you’d expect on a good person like Akane: She’s devastated, and can’t live in that house of lies anymore.

She does what girls her age do in such a situation (Google “running away from home”), leading her to Namie and Izaya, who proceed to sic her on Heiwajima, who he says is a hitman targeting her dad. And now we know why Akane was trying to off Shizuo: whatever else her dad is, he’s still her dad.

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Frankly, Namie and Izaya kind of piss me off for not observing the unspoken age limit on manipulating people, but I guess they simply couldn’t resist starting mayhem, and in particular antagonizing Shizuo, who remains on the run his week.

Celty also finally realizes a headless horse and buggy are attracting too much attention, and morphs her black stuff into a black van; but Varona and Sloan are still on their tail.

When Shiki shows Shinra photos of his murdered men, Shinra immediately confirm’s Shiki’s suspicion that Shizuo didn’t do it. When considering who then did it, he remembers those vicious serial murders, which we know were committed by Shizuo’s brother’s new girlfriend Ruri. Small town, this!

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While trudging almost triumphantly about the burnt ruins of Ruri’s family residence, Izaya essentially admits he manipulated Mikado while posing as Kida, and basically challenges him to do something about it, and mocks Mikado for trusting Kida as his best friend so readily. He seems to be trying to rattle the comfy cage Kida’s built around himself, hoping he’ll break out and rejoin the Ikebukuro fray? I’m guessing.

Meanwhile, Chitage and Kodata circle each other, with Chitage wanting satisfaction for the Dollars recent transgressions against Toramaru, and Kodata telling him to bring him on. Even though he has no idea who those rogue Dollars are (that’s the way the Dollars work), he accepts Chitage’s assertion that the whole group is responsible for the actions of the others…though in Dotachin’s case I think it’s because he wouldn’t mind fighting Chitage.

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Sure enough, a colorless Dollar on the school ground spots them fighting and alerts the others, and not long after that, another Dollar sends everyone a photo of one of Chitage’s girlfriends in a cafe, suggesting they kidnap her for leverage.

Izaya is amused, Shizuo (atop the iconic Sunshine 60 tower) is disgusted, and Aoba is displeased: suddenly not everything is going as he’d planned. Mikado took off without giving an answer, and he suspects Izaya is still pulling the strings somewhere. Speaking of strings, he finds a black one on the bike Varona planted in the warehouse, and decides see where it leads.

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It will eventually lead him to Celty. She gets Mikado, Anri, and Akane to a parking garage where they assess their next moves, during which Celty gives Shooter a head far more frightening, in my opinion, than no head at all. When Mikado gets the two messages, he goes running, and when Celty shows Anri, she follows him

Sloan sticks with Celty and Akane while Varona tails Mikado, having a simultaneously accurate and overblown impression of his power and ability. On the one hand, he’s a passive weinie with no appreciable value, skills, or spine. On the other, he’s the reason the Dollars exist at all.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 09

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Huh…now why did I get the strange suspicion that almost nothing happened in this episode? While events did take place, the episode came off as a somewhat frustratingly slow-paced incremental step forward, and paling in comparison to episode 4, the show’s best outing to date.

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It doesn’t help that this week’s voice-over is provided by some yakuza guy we’ve never heard of and couldn’t care less about, who repeats “Disturbing” over and over again like some kind of mantra.

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So what does actually happen? Mobsters try to bring in Shizuo, even as Shiki doubts he was the one responsible for wasting his men. Aoba continues to bully Mikado until Toramaru thugs show up, and then Celty gets Mikado out of there, and Varona follows them. Anri and Akane are also accosted by mobsters but Celty and Mikado meet up with them and they all escape on Shooter, who Celty transforms into a horse and carriage.

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The Dollars/Toramaru conflict is largely de-toothed this week, which is a shame, because the prospects of an all-out gang war brought a welcome sense of danger to the comfortable environs of Ikebukuro, just as Aoba’s ultimatum put Mikado in a position to actually make a decision on something. Unfortunately, we get neither the danger nor the decision.

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At least there’s some complexity to the conflict, what with Celty not knowing what her role should be (though she doesn’t pick sides when she rescues Mikado) and Varona continuing to stalk her (though Varona is still quite ignorant of the situation; not to mention Celty’s gender). Varona, like us, watches some stuff happen, but it doesn’t really us anything new or exciting. Varona expresses her excitement in the hunt for something her books haven’t prepared her for, but…we knew this already.

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Celty’s rescue of Mikado is a cop-out for what was a pretty tense situation. Anri and Akane’s encounter with the yakuza, who in turn more Toramaru thugs and are insulted by their boorish manners, is a little more interesting, in that, again, it adds layers of complexity to the conflict unfolding. But it’s really only a fragment.

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Previous episodes succeeded in telling cohesive stories within the story, but everything this week simply felt cobbled together and devoid of any payoff. I can weather such episodes as long as actual payoffs are on the way soon, but considering this is only the first of three cours planned for Durarara!!x2, this episode has made it apparent the show isn’t in any particular hurry to deliver further significant developments.

Still, I’d hope that un-compelling transitional episodes such as this remain a rarity. Variably clever dialogue and whimsical coincidences can only make up for a lack of narrative urgency so long.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 08

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Masamoi’s sublime life on the run with Saki is made possible by Masaomi’s services as gofer to Izaya. He doesn’t like it, but he has no other means of maintaining such a life. He’s like a pennyless toppled king living comfortably off the charity of those he probably shouldn’t be dealing with if he truly wants to stay out of the fray.

Case in point, shortly after running away, Akane was convinced by Izaya himself that Mitzuo was a hitman after her, hence her preemptive strike. Shocking everybody, Mitzuo is able to lay on that Heiwajima charm to assure the would-be mini-assassin this was Izaya’s idea of a little joke; one he’ll be responding to in kind.

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Last week I opined that Mikado couldn’t stay cooped in that dingy flat forever, but rather than leaving of his own volition, he is instead gently dragged out by Aoba and his goons, who take him to their hideout, one of those abandoned warehouses Ikebukuro seems to be positively littered with.

This happens to be where Varona planted her bike trap, and sure enough Celty is there, looking for Varona, who is watching her from a rooftop. The mouse-and-cat-and-mouse game on display is making Ikebukuro more appealling to Varona all the time.

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Chitoge has another opportunity to demonstrate his impeccable feminism by forcing the proprietor of a non-straight-and-narrow art gallery buy a nearly 2-million-yen painting for his female employee, who was trying to work Chitoge, in a lovely instance of a routine con backfiring in the face of one who recognizes it for what it is.

Whether Walker does too or not, he goes in to complain about the saleswoman’s lack of eloquence in describing the works of his favorite illustrator, only to be kicked out for being blacklisted. Walker, a suspected Dollar, is why Chitoge is there. But he’s always there for a woman in need, even if that need is false.

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With his “senpai” in his clutches, Aoba surrounds Mikado with his chattering, giggling goons, identifying themselves as the Dollars who jumped Torumaru, essentially starting a war under Mikado’s nose, but in his name. Aoba says they’re also technically Blue Square, longtime foe of Masaomi’s Yellow Scarves, and he appoints Mikado as their leader, insisting they’ll follow whatever orders he issues.

In setting all this up, Aoba shows his true colors to Mikado for the first time, and they’re colors as cold and cruel and manipulative as Mikado is warm, kind, and passive. He knows Mikado doesn’t know the first thing about what to do with the power being thrust upon him, and that’s the point: Aoba wants Mikado, who naively founded the Dollars, to reap what he’s sown. He wants to corrupt him.

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Meanwhile, Akane turned out to be an elaborate trap set by Izaya and Namie to frame Mitzuo for wasting three yakuza belonging to Shiki’s company, manufacturing further chaos. But the focus here is on Mikado’ choice, with Masaomi on the outside looking in and increasingly unsettled by the chat room silence.

That’s kind of where this episode falls down, because neither Mikado nor Masaomi are the most compelling characters on the show, especially now that they’re separated. They’ve basically built artificial worlds of passivity and normalcy around them, while their past deeds, no matter how innocuous the intent, remain on the outside, to be utilized by others to stir up trouble.

With most of Mikado’s allies busy with their own issues, I wonder who if anyone will swoop in to help him, or if if he’s finally on his own, which is what Aoba seems to want. Masaomi is free, and seems to be restless. Any action risks crossing Izaya, and thus threatening his life with Saki. But can a friend who is never around still be called a friend?

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 07

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This week’s Drrr! is all about the contrasts between similar pairs of people, starting with the Two grizzled Ivans somewhere in Russia, both post-Soviet arms dealers; one’s pretty much fire one’s pretty much water. The water Ivan is Vorona’s father, and she possesses both characteristics, sometimes in sync, but sometimes in chaos.

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When Egor enters Russia Sushi, Simon and Dennis initially suspect he’s there to knock them off, but he’s really there for Vorona over, among other things, stolen anti-materiel rifles. Dennis is doubtful Vorona would use such a weapon in Tokyo unless she was in “a real crisis”, and at that moment it become’s Chekhov’s AMR.

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For all its prolific complex, multi-modal, zig-zagging storytelling, Drrr is just as capable of focusing in one one person an delivering a quick, efficient profile. Vorona’s life as an assassin and general badass began with one of those real crises; an unsavory home invader.

Vorona, armed with a sprawling library full of knowledge in every field, but useful and useless, Vorona answers her sudden fear of being killed with a ruthless plan, luring the burglar into a trap and literally killing him with water (from the bath) and “fire” (from a hair-dryer), executing everything perfectly and precisely like her dad, but also seeming to take a bit of enjoyment from it like the other Ivan.

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Seeing this new side of Vorona for the first time, her dad let Simon and Dennis train her, and she learns quick. These two ex-military guys ostensibly came to Ikebukuro to start new, laid-back lives, but it’s cool to see their old lives on display here, and how closely they’re connected with Vorona, who’s only just arrived.

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Without their tutelage, she wouldn’t be nearly as tough and honed a killing machine as she is when we meet her. But because she’s not just a carbon copy of her father, once she gets really good, odd jobs and small fry aren’t enough for her. She seeks out her father’s rivals and eliminates them to a man, but not for his approval or to help with the family business or because they were an imminent threat. She did it because it was fun.

Her first kill was overzealous self-defense,  armed only with household appliance and her wits. But I don’t think Ivan turned his daughter into a monster by having her trained; he was only facilitating a foregone conclusion.

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That brings us to Vorona’s latest job; capturing Anri. Ikebukuro has been so weak and unimpressive to her thus far, she’s riding a wave of arrogance and invincibility, which rams her right into a concrete wall. Vorona is good, but she’s still human, and coming up against something not quite human is a glass of cold water to the face. Even more than that, it’s something she hasn’t read about in any of her books; an unknown.

Vorona and Anri are a lot alike, in that both are imminently capable and potentially dangerous young women, one of whom choses to explore that potential to the fullest, and one prefers as quiet and normal life as she can manage.

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Armed with her bookish knowledge, wits, resourcefulness, Vorona thrived, but she didn’t fact Anri with as an underdog, but with the mentality of of a favorite. Her earlier success wasn’t success at all; you cannot beheaded what is already headless. Suddenly outmatched by real and frightening aberrations, Vorona returns to that night before she took action, and remembers again what it’s like to fear being killed.

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In other words, she enters the “real crisis” mode Dennis thought so unlikely, whipping out the AMR and firing it right at Celty, blowing her away but obviously not killing her. Having bought some time, and learned more about what she’s dealing with, she’ll formulate a new strategy that doesn’t rely on brute force alone.

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That brings back to Mikado, who has followed Masaomi’s advice and stayed in of a Saturday night. Considering what went down, that looked like good advice. Of course, by staying in Mikado is subjected to another manipulative phone call from Izaya, who understands Mikado founded the Dollars not only to put some excitement in his life, but also to fit in, to belong within the ensuing community.

Just because that community is off doing unscrupulous things like picking fights with rival gangs, that Mikado doesn’t agree with, doesn’t mean it’s all falling apart, nor can Mikado impose his pacifist will on them without destroying the Dollars’ fundamental philosophy of freedom. The Dollars are evolving, that’s all, and Mikado’s fear of being left behind is similar in strength to Vorona’s fears about being weak, unable to cope with threats, or killed.

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It’s a New Day in the Dollars, and Mikado can’t stem the tide. Aoba, Izaya’s heir apparent arrives at his door the next day, as if to herald that fact. Simon’s voiceover returns, and he mirrors his earlier comparison of the two Ivans with these two Taros: one who is Mr. Nice Guy, and the other who uses nice guys.

Will Mikado evolve, or dig in and let the wave crash around him, leaving him alone and left behind, his greatest fears realized? Such a scenario suggests there’s no one around of like mind to help him resist that wave, which is untrue. But in that case it certainly points to some kind of conflict. Mikado can’t very well stay holed up in that room forever.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 06

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As plots and criss-crossing jobs are implemented, and the myriad enemies of the denizens of Ikebukuro amass, it’s the beginning of the end of “normalcy”, particularly for Celty. As she lies on the ground stunned by the other biker’s attack, she’s overcome by a desperate incredulity: things were so normal, and good…with her work, with her Shinra, with being able to be herself…this just can’t be happening, not now.

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A portion of the “abnormailty” slowly infecting all our friends’ lives is caused by one little girl, Akane, the granddaughter of Shiki’s CEO, whom Shiki hires Celty to find, while also keeping her eyes and ears opened for any information on Yadogiri Jinnai. This should have been a bad omen for Celty: this isn’t a normal transporting job, but she’s in a comfortable, safe place in her life and has Shinra’s blessing to keep working so she’s willing to take greater risks.

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Yadogiri, meanwhile, is after Akane too, and hires two elite foreign Assassins—Vorona and Sloan—to abduct her. The reason he needs the likes of them is that the girl will be protected by the Black Bike, whom Yadogiri believes is some kind of “magician” and thus human.

Would that Celty had Sloan’s intense superstition and penchant for getting stuck on very obscure thoughts like why men have nipples. Of course, Sloan is balanced out by the extremely knowledgeable and no-nonsense Vorona, who has straight, correct, and calming answers to all of Sloan’s bizarre questions.

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As Celty and Vorona begin their jobs, Akane is ironically at Shinra’s, the place Celty would be if she’d taken the night off. Brought there by Shizuo and Tom because they weren’t sure where else to take her, Akane runs a fever and Shinra puts her in bed to recover. Having her there puts Shinra at direct risk, especially if Shizuo leaves.

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Back in high school, Mikado takes Masaomi’s warning seriously and advises against going out at night for the weekend. He tells Aoba he has plans, but quickly backtracks when Aoba asks Anri out and it doesn’t look like Anri is going to turn him down.

It’s a rare but appreciated moment of Mikado asserting his fondness for Anri to the extent he’s not okay with some kohai going out alone with her. This, despite the fact neither quite know what they are to one another. Even with Masaomi gone, they haven’t grown that much. Then again, they’re still kids.

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As we know, Vorona finds Celty easily, sets a trap, beheads her without any trouble, and rides back to her and Sloan’s cool and cozy customized Mobile Assassin Base. It’s a great look into the lives of this peculiar new duo, but after Vorona explains why 13 is deemed unlucky by society, she comes up to sit in the cab with him and laments on how easy taking out Celty was (assuming she died when her head was removed)

She’s disappointed with how Ikebukuro has turned out so far. Doubtless she’d heard more impressive tales of the place…or possibly just watched the season one blu-ray and figured the town would put up more of a fight.

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But that’s the thing about Ikebukuro and the Dollars: Mikado never meant for them to be the kind of group that would pick fights with rival gangs or get swept up in supernatural battles. More than anything, it was meant to be a community of friends for Mikado. “Kanra”, i.e. Izaya, contacts Mikado (with Masaomi’s number) to essentially say it’s out of his hands, and an otherwise sleepy Saturday night turns more sinister.

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Anri, who was in the chat room along with Mikado and the twins, all noted that “Setton” (Celty) was missing. This unsettled Anri more than anything. Both Mikado and Anri’s rooms are so dark and foreboding looking, and lonely, that even the modest chat group cannot brighten them up. Those who are absent cast a far darker shadow.

That shadow rings Anri’s doorbell, and when she cracks the door, a pair of shears snap the chain. Is she “other job” Vorona mentioned? Whatever the case, things aren’t going to be normal from here on out.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 05

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The tone of the close of last week’s episode was clear: playtime is over, and this week largely renewed that tone by setting the table for the impending war, albeit with a healthy dose of both comedy and the overarching cynicism and disgust of Namie, who tosses away Izaya’s soul manipulation video journal and occasionally remarks on events through her unique lens I’ll call rubbish-vision.

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It starts with a newbie to Ikebukuro, Rokujou Chikage, or “Mr. Paternal.” He doesn’t hurt women, physically or emotionally, and severely punishes anyone who does. He’s also the leader of Toramaru (the white zebra-suit gang), and wastes no time throwing his weight around, protecting a damsel from a shoplifter but going so far in taking revenge for her sake that he ends up alienating himself (and having to run off with his harem before the cops come)

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Ironically, Rokujou is in town to voice his exception to be Shizuo’s overblown reaction to his men picking a fight with him. Rokujou is under the mistaken impression Shizuo has a low setting, but finds out pretty soon when he lands a right uppercut to Shizuo’s face, and while it knocks out his lit cigarette, an unfazed Shizuo simply continues the sentence he had started. With this utterly ineffective punch, the real war begins.

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Meanwhile, the Dollars new and old are having a lively online chat, when Kida suddenly private-chats Mikado, but not to catch up: his message is simple: stay indoors tonight, because there are shadows looming. He doesn’t explain how he knows this either, but for all I know he and Saki are holed up in Saitama, where the zebras are from, and heard things from people about them being on the move.

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Rokujou ends up enduring four of Shizuo’s blows before collapsing in defeat, but Shizuo doesn’t finish him and sends him to Shinra for treatment, because Rokujou told him he has a woman who can tend to those injuries, which makes Shizuo jealous. Still, unlike Izaya, Shizuo has no particular beef with him, either, and I’m sure he also subscribes to the “don’t hit women” ethos.

That doesn’t stop Shizuo from letting his guard down to an adorable little girl who seems excited to have found the guy in her photo. When he gets close enough, she zaps him with a stun gun. Another sign stuff is starting to Get Real: pint-sized assassins. Also a sign, from Namie’s perspective, that women aren’t something to be protected and treated like they’re made of porcelain.

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Rokujou’s bandages now explained, he plies through the sea of Ikebukuro with his doll collection in tow. But their chatter to one another about his general idiocy and immaturity give them agency that an airheaded harem wouldn’t normally have.

They’re well aware all of them lusting after this guy means they have strange tastes, but they like what they like, and they’re there because they want to be, not because Rokujou protects them. And other than Izaya’s ramblings and Rokujou’s fight, all of this week’s major action is the work of women.

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Ikebukuro is full of old-fashioned men with old fashioned ideas of what a woman should and shouldn’t be. That’s illustrated rather succinctly when highly independent badass Celty, paying the endlessly polite Shiki Haruya a visit for a new job, accepts his offer to remove her helmet, and Haruya’s henchmen wig out.

Haruya may speak like an old samurai, but his sensability is a lot more modern: when he tells his bald friend “It’s perfectly normal to remove your helmet indoors,” He’s really saying “Get with the times, cur.” This is how things are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Of course this is not always the case. The throng of people who witness Shizuo interact with the little girl don’t see an innocent man being attacked by a crazy urchin, they see a sweet, innocent girl being brutalized by a cowardly brute.

When Shizuo and Tom realize how bad they look, they run off before the police arrive, as Rokujou did when his scene became too hot. But the girl clings to them. She may be far to young and small and weak to complete her mission to assassinate Shizuo, but those shortcomings do not faze her, and now that she’s found her quarry, she’s literally not going to let go.

This only creates more problems for Shizuo, who is always going to look like a creep and a criminal instigator in a fight where the other participant is this little girl.

(FYI, the girl is quite fittingly voiced by Kuno Misaki, who also voiced Hoshimiya Kate in Zvezda, another tiny but tough cookie.)

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Meanwhile, hopefully Mikado and Anri and the twins are safe in their homes, because Rokujou has brought EVERYONE to face the Dollars, about whom he has a very warped idea. The Dollars are high schoolers and a handful of otaku an itasha van who mostly chat online, right? Be that as it may, their territory is now officially under assault. Weathering it out indoors won’t accomplish anything, since I doubt the Zebras will leave without facing their rival head-on.

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Speaking of heads, the job the woman without one was give by Haruya was to locate the same little girl Shizuo encountered, suggesting she’s involved with the yakuza. But just before setting off (and giving her horse-bike a cute pat on the withers), another woman in a jumpsuit on a bike sidles up to her. Celty gets away, but her helmet is sheared off by a garrote the other rider had set up.

The Dollars would be a distinct disadvantage without one of their trump cards, so I’m eager to see where this goes. As for Namie, she doesn’t care if its men or women taking the lead, she remains disgusted with the number of humans continuing to increase in number, like so much rubbish being piled up in an alley.

Then again, considering how ludicrously obsessed with her brother Seiji, everything Namie says, no matter how much sense it may make, must be taken with a grain of salt.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 04

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You Do NOT Pick on Mikado…and you do NOT take a Kodata punch.

For three weeks, we’ve watched intently and patiently as Durarara!! built another painstakingly insane Rube Goldberg machine with a combination of familiar and new faces. This week, the machine is complete, and all that’s left is to switch it on and hope it works. Well, it not only held together, but blew me away. Even more amazing? For our friends, this was a day off.

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Let’s merge these chases!

Rather than a changing of the guard, this culmination was an initiation for the communities newbies.  The existing team isn’t going anywhere, necessarily, so the new guys will be augmenting and adding complexity…which is in ample supply this week.

The van quartet, fresh from rescuing the twins, also show up in time to rescue Mikado, Anri, and Aoba, and all of a sudden the van’s at capacity with the zebras on their back. In a brilliant piece of synergy, their chase merges with Celty’s, and the only way to get the kids safe is to hold the stampede off.

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“Time to do my thing.”

Celty finds an underpass and does just that, using her Dullahan skills to form a barrier. But even if the force against her is mostly numbskulls, there are hundreds of them, and she’s not about to kill anyone today.

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“Your assistance is appreciated.”

When her web starts getting holes, the man in her package pops out to help, looking a lot like a lanky Freddy Krueger. They’re also assisted by a headless suit of armor, which we see at the beginning is in Ruri’s workshop. This episode is called “Do as the Romans Do”, and Ruri and “Freddy” are in Rome, so they dive right in to help Celty.

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You tore my shirt and dropped by 500-yen coffee. Prepare to DIE.

The Zebra gang is soundly beaten, but because they know their boss won’t tolerate them crawling home with their tails between their legs, they try to find a tough rival gang to dice with. Bad move. Those unwelcome in Rome who pick fights meet a sticky end…and I’m not just talking about Shizuo’s spilled Starbucks.

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“Why don’t you smile?” “I AM smiling.”

Meanwhile, Kasuka makes what is the beginning of a beautiful personal relationship with Ruri a professional one as well, getting her signed to his agency after the CEO of hers has turned up missing. Ruri remarks how there’s so much she hasn’t told Kasuka about her, like what the missing CEO did to her, how she became Hollywood, and plenty else besides.

Kasuka doesn’t want to hear it; but not because he’s being insensitive. He’s afraid if she’s allowed to say everything she wants, she’ll think she’s free to die, and he doesn’t want her to die. Not only that, when she threatened to kill him, he got flustered and excited; he felt emotion. He’s not going to let someone who can affect him in that way go easily. But Ruri has found kinship in Celty and Egor and tasted life in Rome, so perhaps Kasuka is worrying too much.

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“I love it when a plan comes together!”

Speaking of Doing as the Romans Do, the Izaya twins decide to craft a scheme that would make their big brother Orihara proud…if they happened to care about his opinion, that is. That scheme starts with finding Celty’s ¥1 million, and ends with Celty getting all ¥1 million back…though in a way that the twins get a first-hand look not only at Celty, but all the other crazy shit going down in this town. In other words, an adventure far more exciting and fun than a boring sightseeing tour.

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The million comes back to Celty two ways: paying Shinra ¥200K for patching up Egor, then via the Sushi Head Chef (repaying the twins for fronting the Shinra cash) by hiring Celty to transport Egor in a bag for ¥800K. It gets Celty out in the open, and the twins a front-row seat. It also caused a lot of collateral damage, but most of that affected the biker gangs and bounty hunters, who were asking for it making such a stink in Ikebukuro anyway.

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While that busy day may have initiated, the twins and Egor to the Way Things Work in Rome, while adding their own mayhem to the formula, they still retire to their own apartment for a quiet celebratory meal. They’re not Dollars, after all; not yet, anyway.

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Back in possesion of her ¥1 million, Celty decides to learn how to cook, in order to be a better girlfriend to Shinra. In her choice of women, she demonstrates how your first (Anri) or second (Erika) contact may not have what you’re looking for (and let’s face it, those two just aren’t cooks, through and through) one or both of them are sur eto know someone who does, i.e. Mika, who is a top-notch cook.

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And in the process of searching for one, Celty turned the one-on-one lesson into a cooking class, which results in Shinra’s suggestion for a big Dollars hot pot party. While voicing her worry that continuing dangerous jobs will put Shinra and her other friends in danger, Shinra’s response is perfect:

“We’re family, so a little trouble doesn’t faze me…And if I can scale that wall with you, no predicament on earth can ever feel like trouble to me…See, I was able to overcome the greatest wall of all, getting you to love me, right?”

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We’ll see if that testimony holds up, because as Izaya remarks to Namie as the two observe the post-party-they-weren’t-invited-to chatter online, this was everyone’s day off. Soon, vacation will be over. Not only that, there’s another newcomer to Rome—Aoba—firing up a new gang to rival the Dollars and stir up his own trouble, but first aiming to get rid of Orihara.

Be it Aoba, Egor, Ruri and Kusaka, or the Izaya twins, haven’t quite experienced this place when the sparks are really firing. This episode’s dark closing ellipsis may foretell a time in the near future when the twins’ scheme, as fantastic and entertaining a machine as it was, will be seen as a harmless toy by comparison.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 03

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Drrr!!x2 continues its free-wheeling pulp-fiction-style non-linear storytelling. This week we get more pieces of the puzzle started in the first two, and the image we start to see is that while Ikebukuro is full of misfits of one sort or another, there is a class of misfit above the rest with supernatural powers that finds it particularly hard to exist in the normal world. But while that world isn’t easy, it isn’t unforgiving.

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The “Zombie” Shizuo duels (and defeats) is Hollywood, the serial killer who has been tearing people apart. Shizuo’s brother Kasuka learns that Hollywood is really idol, actress, and master makeup artist Hijiribe Ruri. He takes her to his place and has Shinra come by to patch her up, and they learn she has healing powers on par with Shizuo and Celty. In other words, another ‘S-class misfit’.

Kasuka may not have super-strength, but he’s on their same level; he wields a tremendous amount of power, but through his charisma, not his muscles. Ruri wields through both, but at different ends of her personality. He can relate to Ruri’s feeling like she’s on the wrong planet. And as much as growing up with Mitsuo stunted Kasuka’s ability to express his emotions, he still has them, and gathers insight from his acting roles to make sense of them.

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In this regard, he saved Ruri despite knowing what she is, because she was a damsel in distress, and anyone who’d ignore or forsake her isn’t a man. This is obviously quite hubristic, as Ruri could have easily killed him at any time, but Kasuka put her life before his own. Her alias may be Hollywood, but he’s the one following the classic script of the dashing knight in shining armor, albeit an expressionless one.

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Kasuka arranges to have Celty deliver Ruri back to her place safe and sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose Celty specifically so Ruri can see how another S-Class misfit survives and thrives in the modern, mundane world where absolutes aren’t allowed and nothing is sacred. Celty’s kindness inspires Ruri to rethink her plight in life. Yes, she’s a monster, but that’s nothing to apologize for, as it’s nothing she can change, and monsters can enjoy life too.

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That’s just Kasuka and Ruri’s part in this episode. We get a better idea of the timeline of events because Shinra is involved in many of them (he had a long and busy night!). He’s ripped away from Ruri to fix up the guy the twins found and brought to Russia Sushi, chats about Ruri with his dad, who wanted her as a test subject, and is swarmed on the way home by tabloid reporters who saw him exit Kasuka’s house.

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The next morning, Saburou and Mairu are beside themselves at the news their respective true loves ended up with each other instead of them. There’s no solace for Saburou save Kyouhei’s insistence he’s more wholesome than the bickering, twisted Erika and Walker, but Kururi calms Mairu down with a long kiss.

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Their PDA gets the attention of a particularly ridiculous-looking gang of thugs who surround them menacingly, but Kyouhei & Co. pass by just in time to shoo them off, and the twins show they can handle themselves against small fry if they have to. Ikebukuro may be crawling with potential trouble, but there’s also a potential ally around every corner. Forget six degrees of separation; most of the cast are only one or two away.

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While not quite on the same existential level as our S-Classes, Mairu and Kururi are still misfits in this city, with ideas and attitudes that may clash with the conventions of the world they live in. But like Celty staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters, Mitsuo punishing petty thieves, or Kasuka and Ruri staying one step ahead of the tabloids, if the world doesn’t have a place for you, you make one.

I wonder what kind of misfit Aoba is. Another student and manipulator of humanity, and Izaya’s successor? Or something else? Let the tour of Ikebukuro begin.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 02

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To say ‘too much is going on’ in Durarara!! doesn’t adequately express why it frustrates me, nor is it entirely accurate.

In fact, there are several sequences during Durarara!!’s second episode where the story flows nicely and we experience the new characters, learn their lovely quirks, guess at their inner mysteries, and the story moves forward through their interaction.

So why am I dropping Durarara!! this week?

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Summing it up: Sexy/Psycho Twins Orihara and Kuru Mairu, and Dollars-fan/member Kuronuma Aoba “Wakaba Mark” are the newest additions to Mikado’s school. Each twin is bullied initially but quickly DESTROYS the opposition through brute force or fire. Kuronuma, on the other hand, has his eyes on Mikado, who he’s rightfully identified as a Dollar — a top brass Dollar.

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Kuronuma convinces Mikado to give him a tour of Ikebukuro, Mikado convinces the otaku duo of Erika and Walker to help (because he doesn’t even know it that well) and all is going very well, except a tall and intimidatingly evil American guy sets off Anri-chan’s spidey-senses as he passes her karaoke booth, there’s a zombie fight in a park, the twins find Celty’s money, the tall guy is gravely injured and asks if the twins can take him to the Russian Sushi place, and a million other things happen.

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What irritated the hell out of me: was this episode is half of what I really want Durarara!! to be. The moments with the twins and Aoba were great. The moments with Aoba, Mikado, and then Mikado and the Otakus too.

But the everything else part was a total drag. Shinra’s Dad, forced and awkward backstory explanation, and Shinra being stuck in a sphere continually dragged us away from the new moments and broke any attachment as soon as I was making it.

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However, the biggest issue was Shinra and his inexplicable break through the fourth wall. Not only is Shinra a less interesting character than most, not only should he not know any of the scenes he’s ‘setting up,’ the very fact that he stares into the ‘camera’ and narrates multiple time frames to us is absurd.

It completely rips the viewer out of the experience, which destroys all of Durarara!!’s wonderful world-building.

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Verdict: This is the Fate/stay night of winter season. It has unquestionably stupendous production value, a great world, and many interesting characters, including a zombie.

Sadly, a bloated, shambling corpse wandering around in a confused haze is the most appropriate metaphor I can think of for Durarara!! x2. I used to love it, and I still enjoy the moments where my chainsaw and it’s flesh meet and I get clarity.

But there’s no gleam in its dead eyes. It’s dead and it’s on me to put it down now…

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Hannah’s Take

I don’t have a lot to say that differs greatly from Franklin’s take, but I will say I am going to continue to watch and review the show on my own, despite two episodes that filled me with glee on some points greatly disappointed on others.

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I agree that Shinra and his family simply didn’t deserve as much time as the show dedicated to them, and in both episodes they kind of drag everything down. I was about as mad as Frank that we got so much good content about Izaya’s awesome twins (Kitamura Eri and Hanemoto Kisato are money), who might have stolen the show if Shinra hadn’t already hijacked it with his overly-omniscient narration.

Don’t get me wrong; I actually like the mischievous Shinra. Many of the show’s more tender moments have been between him and his supernatural love interest. But the (over)use of him here doesn’t serve him, it doesn’t serve the show, and it didn’t serve me in quite the way I expected.

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In past episodes, I’ve even enjoyed the slight whiplash one gets by the sudden shifts in time, but in all those cases it was handled more cleverly. It felt more like a forced gimmick this week.

That aside, I will be staying aboard the Durarara!! train to see where it takes us next. Aoba and the twins are a most welcome addition, though the preview indicates the guy they both idolize—Shizuo’s celebrity brother Kasuka—will be next week’s focus.

UPDATE: I re-watched the episode and liked it a lot more, hence my uptick in rating below.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 01 (First Impressions)

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[Rubs hands together vigorously]…Alright, here we go! Durarara!! is back, people. And because it was a show that interested both Franklin and myself, we’ll be trading off the review duties weekly. I’m first, so I’ll write a slightly longer review up here, and Frank will include his shorter take. Next week we swap places.

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This episode’s title borrows the familiar adage “A picture is worth a thousand words”, though I’ve tried not to write a thousand words about it. We certainly got a thousand pictures, which works out to a million words. But in his bookend appearances, Mikado needs only nine to say it best: “half a year later, nothing about us has changed.”

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Sure lots has happened, and some people have grown closer or drifted further apart, but some haven’t moved at all, and nor has most of the town. For a show that I haven’t watched in three years, I appreciated being eased back into the thick of this milieu by mirroring the first season’s opening episode, which also had a non-linear timeline and an almost unsettling amount of stuff going on. Dare I call it…a breathless yet oddly comforting barrage of characters and situations. We’re home, where life has gone on much as it had, and it’s good to see everyone’s well.

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In the first season, I was, like Mikado, a yokel in the middle of a giant city teeming with life and things I’ve never seen or experienced before. Now, Mikado and I are initiated in this tangled, engrossing network (albeit separated by a few years) and less overwhelmed by the onslaught of yelling TVs and murders and car chases and scheming in apartments and scientific research and everything else.

We get a taste of just about everything, but no full portions yet. It’s not unlike my first trip to Tokyo, which I took in between Durarara!!’s first and second cours (and in part because of them), and hummed the show’s various musical themes as I walked the real-world version of the streets these characters walk. I only had a week, so I didn’t see a fraction of what I wanted to, but it was a good introduction to the place and its possibilities. This introductory episode does the same hing.

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I like how Mikado and Anri simply top and watch Celty race past them on her trusty horsecycle and things slow down and we get the same deep mythical music theme as when he saw her for the first time so long ago. It’s a nice reminder of just how strange and mysterious and bizarre an entity Celty is. And yet, she’s also a sympathetic victim of profiling!

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Mikado isn’t quite right about “nothing about us has changed,” because the last time he watched Celty go by like that, he was with his good friend Kida, who was ultimately the reason he ended up in Ikebukuro. Mikado has no idea where he is or what’s become of Kida, but we see he seems to have settled into a laid-back blissful domestic existence with his cute girlfriend Saki; connected to everyone else through the shared experience of that TV with its hyperactive news coverage.

Saki’s “Aren’t you going to watch?” right after Mikado narrates that “nothing has changed” is as much a challenge to the audience as a question to Kida. Not surprisingly, Mikado follows that with the qualifier “…I don’t think.” This was an exciting, if at times dizzying and indulgent, re-introduction that showed both how little and how much has changed in its world, and teased lots of seemingly disperate scenarios that are sure to gradually connect in strange and interesting ways moving forward.

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Stray Observations:

  • Kyouhei name-drops Index, Walker and Erika bring up SAO and Black Bullet, and Miyuki from Mahouka is slapped on the van now. Ironically, it’s the otakus in an anime, who seem the most attuned to the real world.
  • This show loves to mix up how people communicate, best represented by Celty showing her texts to Shingen, who is talking to her through a tablet.
  • The line below made me giggle. This guy’s Japanese is way better than his English!

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Oigakkosan’s Take:

Creating a sequel is difficult work and creators always run the risk an over reliance on cameo and nostalgia to please the fans. In complicated terms, Durarara!! 2 can come off this way: we ‘check in’ with nearly every character of the original series and get brief ‘synopsis’ moments to remind us of their personalities and relationships within the setting.

However, we also get roughly equal screen time for characters, and newly upgraded side characters — and despite the range in ‘volume’ each personality brings to the screen, every character (or at least every scene) is equally loud, detail filled, and attention drawing.

Unfortunately, I found the result was so evenly baked that I found no emotional core to latch on to.

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Certainly, all the characters I loved before are here and the murder plot and emphasis on the entertainment industry being everywhere will give them things to do. However, the mystery of how our cast will respond to these new developments pales in comparison to the mystery of who our cast was and what their motivations were in the original series.

In simple terms, this is what turned me off all the way through the episode. None of the new characters are a mystery. Shrina’s Stepmom? The television executive? Explained in seconds and, frankly, dull to boot.

In all fairness, Durarara!! 2 earned a lot of goodwill last time around and this version still looks and sounds great. However, as Chuu2Koi Ren proved last year, just doing something again, even with grand production values, can fall very very flat.

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