Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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This relatively spare (and almost entirely supernatural-free) episode focuses on the major players once more: Mikado, Masaomi, Anri, and Izaya, with Chikage narrating as he learns more about the state of things in Ikebukuro.

While much of that state can be attributed to Izaya, who has Chess, Shoji, Go, and Othello pieces scattered on his game board as he builds a house of tarot cards (a bit too much game imagery here, frankly) he’s correct in stating no one person is to blame, because everyone played little roles that added up.

At this point, he’s super-excited about Mikado’s state in particular, and interested in what he’ll do next, even if it means he himself becomes a pawn. He also wants this to be a humans-only game from here on out, which means taking Anri, Kasane, Celty and Shizuo out of this stage.

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Still, it’s Anri’s human side that shines in her first meeting with Mikajima Saki, which cam as a surprise to me, considering how long this show has gone on. Saki has come prepared for war if Anri was to express feelings for Masaomi. While she heard from her boyfriend that Mikado was crazy about Anri, she wanted to meet her one-on-one to get her own impression of her.

What she finds is a cute, charming, mild-mannered young lady who has convinced herself that she’s a parasite who neither knows how to love anyone nor believes she deserves to love or be loved. It’s a much more nuanced situation than Saki imagined. The reality is, she’s no more certain of what love is than Anri, but being a parasite (or a puppet, as she once was) doesn’t automatically disqualify them from love and happiness.

Mika decides to further explain her relationship with Masaomi by going into her past with him; to a time Anri wasn’t present for. Despite having made a promise to the guys that they’d reveal their respective secrets upon meeting again, Anri is intrigued and lets Mika proceed.

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Izaya’s efforts seem intended to pare down the players, especially limiting them to those who are only plain old flesh-and-blood humans. Mika’s efforts seem intended to enlighten her about the love triangle in which she’s been the fourth vertex for long enough.

And then Chikage, who is titularly “in for a penny, in for a pound”, breaks Masaomi’s dilemma down to brass tacks: He wants to see Mikado and save him (either by punching him or being punched, in the simplest possible terms). Blue Square is in the way, so Chikage will help Masaomi get close. If Mikado won’t answer a call from Masaomi’s phone, then Chikage will call him on his. Easy peasy, right?

…Perhaps not. Izumii Ran visits Mikado (much to Aoba’s consternation), they proceed to have a very civil conversation, Izumii gives Mikado some kind of “gift” hidden in his arm sling, and then leaves in the car of Awakusu’s Aozaki, activity that Aozaki’s rival Akabayashi learns about pretty quickly.

These are presumably the “grown-ups” Chikage is worried about getting tangled up with. His basic plan could work if he could just get two old estranged friends in the same room together to hash it out, but with an apparently important object now in Mikado’s possession that probably wasn’t given to him so he could pull out of his tailspin, it may already be too late for basics.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 12 (24, Fin)

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The conclusion of the second of three cours of Durarara!!x2  is marked by two major plotlines: Mikado’s Dollars vs. Masaomi’s Yellow Scarves, and the whole Yadogiri Jinnai business. In both cases, there’s a lot to be hashed out in the third and final cour next January.

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Ten, like Shou, ends with Mikado and Masaomi very far away; or as the former puts it, the threads of their bonds are so tangled up that perhaps it’s best just to burn those threads and start over. Celty thinks Mikado has gone mad, and is even more upset when he insists he isn’t. She also laments that for all her centuries of experience, she’s unable to stop two young friends from going to war and possibly destroying one another, simply because neither is willing to budge, and Anri isolated from both of them.

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Ten, like Shou, also ends with Izaya outmaneuvered by Jinnai (who isn’t an individual so much as a network of old-man decoys led orchestrated in the shadows by Kujiragi Kasane, who has the red eyes of Saika. That I was not expecting, but it does mean we may see more of both Anri and Haruna (who also carry Saika within them in some form or another). It also establishes the latest “monster” threat for the final cour, running parallel to the “human” threat of Mikado and Masaomi’s war.

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I also daresay Celty is as confused as I was by suddenly coming home to find so many disperate characters assembled in her and Shinra’s apartment. There’s Shinra’s parents, Namie, Egor, Seiji, Mika, Togusa, and Walker. Their gathering isn’t explained any further than the fact no one assembled was able to resist being brought together.

How will this seemingly random collection of people make their mark on the third cour? I have no idea, but like every season of Durarara!! it’s going to be a very full plate.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 11 (23)

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The Dollars supposedly doesn’t have a hierarchy or a “symbol”, just as it doesn’t have a color, but as far as Shinra is concerned, the unofficial twin chief deterrents of the Dollars are Shizuo (armed) and Kodata (psychological). And I can’t really argue with him that things could crumble quickly now that one is in a coma and the other is arrested, even if Celty believes things won’t be that different.

Meanwhile, Anri is with Erika as the two wait for Dotachin to wake up; one because of everything he’s done for her, and the other for the same reason, but also so that she can tell Walker and Sabura as soon as Kodata awakes, hoping to stop them from doing something rash, like, say, toss a molotov into a karaoke bar.

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Just the Dollars lose two very visible, well-known and feared pillars, Kida is back in town, re-mustering the Yellow Scarves to “save” Mikado from himself, even if he has to “kick his butt.” As far as Kida’s concerned, Mikado is in the wrong pool and out of his depth, and he’s going to pull him out, whether he wants out or not.

As Aoba leads Mikado and Blue Square to a new hideout (the same one where there was the yakuza dust-up) Mikado doesn’t seem interested in quitting. In fact, he seems both shocked and a little excited that Aoba invited Celty to join them, proposing she fill one of the void left by Kodata; and after meeting with Izaya, Akabayashi shows up, wanting to join and possibly fill the void left by Shizuo.

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Seemingly more peripheral to the apparently imminent showdown between the Dollars and Yellow Scarves (with the Dragon Zombies possibly involved as well), Namie is abducted by her uncle Seitaro, who also plans to capture Seiji and use him to get her to cooperate. It’s Yadogiri Jinnai’s secretary Kujiraji Kusane who subdues her.

And again floating above it all, though not aware of everything yet (such as who is using one of his screen aliases in the chat room) is Izaya, Namie’s former employer. That mysterious chatter is spreading rumors of the Yellow Scarves using Kodata to declare war on the Dollars.

Ikebukuro is a tinderbox once again, and there are a variety of potential sparks that could set it ablaze. We’ll see who ends up setting the fire, and how much damage it will do next week, in the final episode of the Ten cour.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 10 (22)

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After a week off, a new Durarara!! arc begins with a scattered (even for this show) and at times yawn-worthy table-setting outing in which Erika lures Anri into trying out cosplaying, and the remaining members of Kodata’s crew are having a meal at Russia Sushi when they’re confronted by Masaomi, who wants them to leave the Dollars and join his Yellow Scarves. Masaomi wants to “destroy” the Dollars, who have been corrupted by Blue Square in order to “save someone” who we know to be Mikado.

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Meanwhile Aoba’s puppet-master Aoba is confronted by his aniki Izumii Ran, fresh from working with Izaya and hungry for revenge against Kodata & Co. A lot of dirty laundry is aired, including Aoba setting fire to Ran’s room when they were younger, and Ran agreeing to take over Blue Square from Aoba once it got too big and unruly.

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As for Kyohei, he says he’ll consider Masaomi’s offer and discuss it with his crew (of which Erika is absent), later pondering the recent change in Mikado’s personality and his involvement in the internal purging of the Dollars. Then he’s suddenly hit by a car; most likely Izumii Ran’s opening salvo in his quest for revenge. Just like that, a major player in Ikebukuro is taken out, leaving all who relied on his strength and honor a lot more vulnerable, not to mention torpedoing Masaomi’s plans.

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As Aoba rides in a van with Mikado and other Blue Square sharks, we see Mikado continue to portray the proverbial kingpin, saying he himself probably shouldn’t go visit Kyohei, but suggesting Aoba do so, but not to bring the wrong kind of flowers. He even seems a little morbidly relieved that Kyohei is off the board for the forseeable future, even if he wasn’t aware Masaomi was trying to recruit him.

If nothing else, Mikado is happy to keep working in his current role with his current support group, diving down a hole that may not have a pleasant bottom. Masaomi wants to save his gentle-hearted friend, but that Mikado may no longer be around, and may not be coming back.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 07 (19)

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With the stalker—scratch that, stalkers—initiating their attack on Ruri’s acquaintances, it’s Mikado who takes charge, warning Celty to get to the severely beaten Shinra post-haste, as well as dispatching Blue Squares to foil the stalkers targeting Shizuo (whom Kida is with) and Anri (keeper of the kitten). In this way, the damage the stalkers do is mostly minimized, but a lot more suddenly comes to light that breaks this cour wide open.

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Adabashi, for instance, manages to get Anri where he wants her, but is so fixated on killing the cat that he leaves Anri alone to chase it, and ends up tangled up with a bunch of Blue Squares. He’s more than capable of tossing the relatively weak amateurs aside, but didn’t count on Kida being their to deliver a professional crotch kick. He even manages to recover from that and turn on Kida, but one of the masked Blue Squares sets Adabashi’s back on fire, forcing a retreat.

Kida, who has seen texts from both Mikado and Aoba, assumes his benefactor is the latter, but then Mikado, his nose broken and his forehead split open, removes his mask and reveals himself to Kida. This is Kida’s first encounter with “the New Mikado”, and it shakes him to the core, especially when Mikado asks his friend to wait a little longer for the time when he can make Ikebukuro a place where Kida and Anri can live.

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Kida had worked so hard for so long to keep Mikado out of the fighting, but in his absence Mikado has rendered all that work moot, placing everything on his shoulders. I was expecting Mikado to even ask Kida for help, but he doesn’t: he tells him it’s best if they don’t see each other until his self-imposed ideal conditions have been met.

Kida is shocked, but then turns around and tells Anri the same think Mikado told him: to just hold on and wait a little longer. Clearly, Kida senses, this isn’t the right time to come clean to his two estranged friends about everything he did as leader as the Yellow Scarves prior to his exile.

In the meantime, we see a new face in a pipe-smoking, monocled fellow who seems to be Yadogiri Jinnai’s immedtiate superior. This villainous-looking fellow wants Celty, Anri, and Ruri for his own purposes, and won’t accept failure; if Jinnai can’t get it done, he’ll find someone who can.

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We only saw a brief glimpse of Izaya last week, but he is already working towards reasserting his primacy in the goings-on of Ikebukuro. He’s recruited a number of familiar faces—including the tomboy dojo instructor, a heavily bandaged Sloan, the girl who tried to murder him in the hospital, and the badly-burned Adabashi, plus at least six others who don’t look like people you want to mess with.

Izaya has welcomed them into the Dollars just as Mikado is attempting to purge the group of unwanted or unstable elements. But something tells me re-introducing instability and chaos is high on Izaya’s to-do list, no matter how much that agenda might clash with the Dollars’ founder. And you know what? I’m glad Izaya is back, about to raise hell that will test Mikado’s resolve.

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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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