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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