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 Ten – 06 (18)

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Yadogiri Jinnai is the undisputed Big Bad of this second cour of Drrr!!x2, and he calls in a favor from Adabashi, the stalker all the Dollars are talking about. In this episode that largely puts pieces into place for the big stalker arc payoff, we’re given new insight into Ruri-chan’s dark past (and present), Yadogiri’s hold on both her and her family, and her desire to protect her kitten, but Kasuka, even if it means sacrificing herself, knowing full well she may not  have the right to desire such things after all the murders she’s committed as Hollywood.

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Those who adore Ruri the idol want the stalker taken out ASAP (some, like Togusa, are perfectly happy to take him out themselves). Mikado tells Kadota he’s still very much in the Dollars, but now believes part of the absolute freedom of the group includes his freedom to want to restrict the freedom of members he believes aren’t meeting the same standards of quality Dollarhood people like Kadota and Celty meet.

Meanwhile, Izaya, whom Jinnai had stabbed as a message that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants, has been discharged, and the extend of Jinnai’s hold on Ruri, and his possibly intentionaly nurturing of the monsterous blood within her, adds new depth to the arc.

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First and foremost, Ruri and Kasuka give their cat to Anri (who, through Saika and along with Celty, senses something strange about Ruri’s aura), and then have former stalker Mika test their door locks (the locks fail miserably). Ruri shows Kasuka the side of herself that is drugged and laid out on a table as rich old men in masques poke and prod her with scalpels and watch her wounds heal instantly.

Their manager seems to believe it’s a kinky adult video, but Kasuka, not shaken by these new truths about his companion, doesn’t rule out the fact the yellow-afroed dude might know more. In any case, despite the lock-testing and big bodyguards, and especially the fact that Ruri is a super-strong oddity herself, everyone seems highly vulnerable to the stalker this week.

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Ruri and the stalker story dominate, rendering Kida’s return to Ikebukuro almost a footnote, but I like how casually the episode turns to his independent quest to right wrongs and clean up burned bridges. It doesn’t take long for him to spot someone on the streets he needs to apologize to: Shizuo, who’s with Tom and Varona. Shizuo barely remembers how Kido wronged him, but it’s water under the bridge after a powerful forehead flick. I can’t wait till he meets the New Mikado.

Finally, Shinra’s lock quandary becomes moot when Adabashi, failing at posing as a delivery man, helps himself in and beats the everloving shit out of Shinra. Shin knows plenty of people who can probably easily take on Adabashi, most of all Celty, but she and they can’t be of any service if they’re not there when shit goes down, as it certainly does here.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 05 (17)

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Chat rooms are abuzz with rumors about masked Dollars/Blue Scarves purging the gang of unwanted members. A combat training-obsessed loon is stalking Hijiribe Ruri. And Celty, having rescued a client’s beloved pet snake, comes home still upset about the white rider. How do all these disparate events connect? The people involved in them, and their myriad degrees of connection to one another.

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While there are a lot of developments involving newer characters and illustrating the rot around the edges of Ikebukuro are slowly spreading, this is an episode that puts the main trio of Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri front and center (as much as a sprawling ensemble show can do so). Their connections have changed, and they know it, but all three seem to be preparing to make a new go of things. Ikebukuro’s fate seems tied to these three, even if they may not have major roles in many episodes.

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Ostensibly, this is an episode about people coming to talk to other people; those connections we mentioned being crucial to them figuring out what’s going on and receiving counsel on how to proceed. Shizuo’s bro Kasuka and Ruri come to Shizuo seeking a connection to the Dollars, a member of whom is believed to be stalking her. Shizuo is no longer a member, but he knows someone who does/is in Shinra and Celty, so Kasuka and Ruri don’t come up empty. They also pawn Ruri’s Scottish Fold kitten off on Shizuo, fearing the stalker may harm it.

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Celty arrives home from her latest exciting, death-defying mission to find Anri wants her and Shinra’s counsel regarding Mikado. Anri, who knows him as well as anyone, thinks he’s acting strange, mostly because he’s so upbeat and confident in his own power, which is decidedly not what Mikado has classically been about.

While walking home, he even tells Anri he doesn’t care about her secrets (some of which he’s seen, but neither has spoken of); he only cares about “creating a place for her” in Ikebukuro, as well as a place everyone else. It’s what he intended when he founded the Dollars, and it’s what he’s trying to translate into the real world.

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Celty recalls a past visit from Kuronuma Aoba asking about an email address that they ended up giving to him. Shinra compared Aoba to Orihara Izaya in his greediness and need to feel the whole world in the palm of his hand, or to put it another way, his compulsion to bat a ball of yarn around and revel in its unraveling. Aoba hates the comparison because he hates Orihara, but also because he knows he comes across as a younger knock-off of that more famous troublemaker.

How much Aoba is influencing Mikado and how much of this is Mikado’s will is still unclear, but at least on the surface, and despite Anri’s reservations, Mikado does seem to have a good handle on things, and he’s using the Scarves to get rid of the nastier members of the Dollars who undermine his desire to create a place for everyone. It’s a nasty conundrum: excluding those who exclude in order to preserve inclusivity.

We see Masaomi preparing to return to Ikebukuro, with Saki’s blessing, at a time when, again, on the surface, Mikado needs him the least, but deeper down, may need that old connection to return now more than ever before he loses himself. In any case, I’ll bet Masaomi will be every bit as unnerved by New Mikado as Anri is.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 04 (16)

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Everyone has their favorite characters on Durarara!!, or their favorite combinations of characters, and you know what? The ostensible “main trio” of Mikado, Anri and Kida aren’t my favorite. One of my favorites has always been the enigmatic and ridiculously strong yet often kindhearted Heiwajima Shizuo. I also like it when new combos of characters are wrought, creating new and interesting connections.

So I was most interested in the unexpected but utterly logical “love” triangle of Shizuo, Vorona, and Akane. Mind you, both ladies swear they wish to kill/destroy Shizuo, but the desire to possess and dominate your “prey” or “quarry” is just love/romance y any other name. It’s all close human connection.

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Obviously, Akane is far too young for Shizuo, and is too young to even understand the feelings going through her head: She doesn’t want to kill him and thinks he’s a good man; she just thinks she has to kill him before he kills those closest to her. Because she’s so young and impressionable, the lies of others have complicated how she regards Shizuo, and necessitated her fatwa against him. If there were no fatwa, she could presumably grow up to become Awakasu’s female boss and name Shizuo as her right-hand man. But that’s too far down the road. Her mission is to kill him as soon as possible, even if she doesn’t want to and isn’t sure how to.

Vorona is a great mirror into the near future for Akane: a little older (20), a little wiser, a little stronger…yet nowhere near strong enough. Vorona is still in a funk after losing, not to Shizuo, but to those Awakasu guys, and losing badly. Her life belonged to them, and they showed mercy, but she feels like she’s failed her lifelong, life-defining mission to “test the limits of human strength.”

When she joins Shizuo and Tom on their debt-collecting run, she impresses them mightily with her strength, grace, toughness, and knowledge of the composition of Olympic and Nobel Prize medals. Yet she rejects their praise, despite being more than deserving of it, because she’s nowhere near where she wants to be.

The medal chat, while seemingly random trivia, actually says a lot about Vorona and her quest: when medals were pure gold they were easily susceptible to deformation, because pure gold is soft. That is to say, it may be pure, but it isn’t perfect,or at least the ideal metal for medals.

In the same way, the “pure strength” she seeks—and of which she considers, not wrongly, Shizuo to be the paragon—isn’t the end-all, be-all. Even if your life is all about beating everyone, until there’s no one who can stand against you, the ultimate strength isn’t enough.

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It certainly isn’t enough for Shizuo. He values his relationships and alliances, and is even cognizant of the way his actions reflect on his famous brother. He may be “all-lifting”, and can take a bullet or knife like a champ, he’s not invincible, and cannot stand alone, nor would he want to.

We see that when Akane, who Akabayashi leaves with the Orihara twins to train at their dojo (in self-defense, the same stuff Vorona learned years ago), encounter Shizuo, Tom, and their gorgeous new “secretary.” The duality of both Vorona and Akane’s feelings towards Shizuo are laid bare, as Akane is happy to see her “big bro” and Vorona is more than a little jealous by all these new girls up in her business.

Shizuo doesn’t detect any of this, of course. Like Takeo in Zane’s Ore Monogatari!!, he’s strong pretty much everywhere except in noticing things, whether it’s two girls fighting for the right to kill him, or the rumors flying furiously throughout Ikebukuro that Shizuo is somehow in a weak enough condition to take on.

A particularly foolhardy gang of Dekotora-driving roughs hear about this, and how Shizuo has a woman and even a kid, and they think “let’s kidnap the girls and bring Shizuo low.” People are always, always waiting for Shizuo to expose a weakness. But as we see, none of these girls are incapable of defending themselves even without Shizuo around.

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This ep’s title “a rumor lasts 75 days”, but it can last a much shorter time if it’s tested, as it was here by that gang, to their ruin. Shizuo may have a “girl” by his side, and she may have “eyes only for him”, and a “kid hanging off him”, but that’s only half the story, and even the other half is the whole story, because there are always new developments; changing, evolving connections.

Neither Akane nor Vorona are going to back down on their claims of Shizuo ownership. Yet, as they spend all this time talking about wanting to kill or destroy him, as if that would make their lives complete, the fact of the matter is, both girls are quickly becoming his friends. He’s someone they can count on, someone they trust and respect; someone that defines a large chunk of their existence; person they want to protect.

I imagine then, that despite their claim’s they’re in a hurry to get rid of him, a part of them would probably prefer to delay his destruction indefinitely.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 03

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Akabayashi Mizuki doesn’t like drugs. He doesn’t like them so much, in fact, that when some kids taking after Dollars and using the net for their rootless drug-dealing operation set up shop in the bathroom of an Awakusu Group nightclub, he feels the need to impress the lesson upon said lads: drugs are bad. Don’t sell them. Don’t do them. Flush them down the toilet. They and their jonesing customers will be better off; he’s sure of it.

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Why is he sure of it? Because drugs ended up killing the woman he loved, who happened to be Sonohara Anri’s mother, Sayaka. He fell for her when she slashed his eye with Saika six years ago, and though she had to refuse him because she already had a husband and family, her affection for her endured. When Sayaka’s husband became a violent drug addict (thanks to Akabayashi’s boss) and started abusing his family, including Anri, Sayaka killed him and herself, leaving Anri alone.

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When his boss, a particularly nasty piece of human garbage, shares his plans to adopt and pimp out Anri, it’s too much for Akabayashi to bear, to the point that when Sayaka’s kid brother shows up to stab his boss, Akabayashi does nothing to stop it, and his boss’s death is a victory for all decent humankind.

These events six and five years ago transformed Akabayashi from the wild “red demon” he was known as to a far mellower fellow, and it’s not hard to see why: after spending so long on the side of the night, Sayaka showed him the day, and he liked it. Now, in the present, he walks the thin line between night and day, protecting not only Anri but Awakusu Akane as well; and never passes up a chance to teach misguided youths that they do not want to be walking in the night.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 02

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This episode is called “Life is But a Dream”, which may not come from the most sophisticated or subtle song, but does manage to encapsulate the lives of Harima Mika and Yagiri Seiji. Considering everything these two have been through, having an ordinary life where they can go see movies and eat sushi together must feel like a dream. Too bad for Mika, then, that Namie isn’t done trying to wake her beloved brother up from that dream, and turn Mika’s into a nightmare.

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This episode also focuses in on the Namie-Seiji-Mika triangle that wasn’t really visited in the Shou cour, telling a relatively self-contained story that nonetheless depends on little assists from the rest of Durarara!!’s sprawling cast who are periphery this week. With Izaya in the hospital and his sisters feeding her good intelligence about her brother and Mika, Namie decides the time is right to lure Mika into another dark warehouse where she can rid herself of her once and for all.

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What neither Namie, nor I, expected was for Mika to put up such a good fight. Not only is she more athletic than either of us thought, she’s a lot shrewder, self-aware, and well, abnormal, to the point that Namie accepts her as a worthy rival rather than just trash. She ends up on top of Mika and is about to pour acid on her face, but Mika is able to keep her distracted long enough (by reciting all the secrets of the show, the protection of which keeps everything status quo) so that Seiji can figure out where Mika is, rescue her, then give Namie a calming not-kiss and scold her for “going too far.”

The status quo is maintained, Seiji and Mika remain an item, and Namie is appeased by the not-kiss for the time being. But both Namie and Seiji (and we) are also now more aware of what kind of person Mika is: the kind of person who would eat Celty’s head if it meant being able to stay by Seiji’s side.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 01

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It’s appropriate that I watched this particular episode of Durarara!! x2 on a national holiday like Independence Day, because this week pretty much everyone in the Drrr!! universe has the day off as well, as befits the day after all that excitement transpired.

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It’s a lazy, sprawling episode that checks in on almost everyone, even a few people I didn’t expect. It not only explores what it is to have a day off. Normal people go out and do something to experience something “abnormal”, while people who are abnormal every day (like most of the characters in this show) either don’t have days off or try to find even more abnormal experiences than they normally would.

Then we have Shingen warns CEO of Yagiri about getting too close to the likes of Yadogiri Jinnai, who may be shaping up to be the big bad after stabbing Izaya. He certainly seems to have his hands in all things abnormal. They’re just glimpses of these peoples lives, resulting in a scattered but eclectic “character flight” upon which to nibble before things get started in earnest.

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Fittingly for a down episode, we’re introduced to a character who considers her plight and her mission to be of the utmost importance, but to everyone else is about as insignificant as one of the extras walking Ikebukuro’s streets. This girl, who holds a murderous grudge against Izaya for getting her involved in that suicide business under his alias “Nakura”, learns about Izaya’s stabbing from The Great Connector—local TV—and decides tonight’s the night to exact her revenge.

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Izaya joked during his long and boring time recovering in the hospital that with enough properly placed rumors about Shizuo, some less informed individuals with bones to pick might get the idea that he’d be vulnerable to attack. Thanks to the news report, it’s Izaya who is the “sitting duck”, or at least appears that way, but even if this disgruntled girl prepared her body and mind for this night, she’s still no match for even a recently-stabbed Izaya.

But even though the girl fails, the fact she saw the news and came to Izaya’s hospital room to murder him inadvertently serves as the latest example of why Izaya loves the humanity he observes so much. Even with everything he’s seen and experienced on the superhuman or non-human side of the world, sometimes ordinary humans can surprise him too.

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Kekkai Sensen – 03

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Leo isn’t one to freak out when confronted by a ghost, especially if she’s cute. Instead, he takes her picture to confirm if she’s a ghost, but she shows up in the photos. White tells him she likes him and draws nearer, only for Leo to wake up in his apartment. The transition has us wondering how much of his interactino with White is in his head, but there’s no time to ponder such things, as he’s being evicted and has forty seconds to vacate or, presumably, be eaten. Just another day in the ‘Lot!

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From there, we see him dozing on the couch in Libra HQ, refusing a stipend any higher than the standard rate even though he’s still delivering pizzas and sending money home. But this week Leo is on the sidelines, as the bulk of the episode follows Klaus on his quest to satisfy his fix of Prosfair, which is perhaps best described as “Chess on Acid”. It’s a game as intricate and bonkers as the world that conceived it.

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Initially, the game is introduced as a little joke, with the physically imposing yet cultured Klaus getting way to into it on his original Macintosh(!), to the bemusement of his colleagues. But when Zapp and Chain’s efforts to investigate the distribution of an advanced (and world-unbalancing) new drug called Angel Scale, it rises to the utmost importance, since one of the most powerful overbosses in the Alterworld, Arlelelle Eruca Fulgrouche (what a name!), happens to be a huge fan of Prosfair.

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When he arrives with his comely colleague K.K., Klaus is shocked to find Prosfair grandmaster Ulchenko has also come to challenge Fulgrouche. In the Russian’s mind, he has risen as high as he can amongst mankind in the game, and so playing a non-human is the next logical step. Also, he wants his country to have nuclear weapons, something Fulgrouche can make happen.

Alas, Ulchenko is no match for the don, coming up two minutes short of the nine hours he had to survive in a game. The exponentialy increasing speed and complexity of the game as it drags out nearly kills Ulchenko, and as per their agreement, since he lost, Fulgrouche will take the rest of that life.

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That’s when Klaus finds his opening to finally connect these events with the mission to uncover the Angel Scale ring. If Klaus lasts 99 hours straight, Fulgrouche agrees to not only reveal the trafficking routes of the drug, but also spare the Russian. And doggone it, the guy does it! As K.K. chain smokes and Ulchenko waits in stunned disbelief.

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Klaus doesn’t win, but he hangs with Fulgrouche for the full 99 hours, and all to the lovely stylings of Ludwig van’s vaunted Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, an inspired use of a classic piece of music that really lends the duel otherworldly grandeur, as befits a prosfair battle taking place in the Alterworld.

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Klaus gets the trafficking routes, Ulchenko is freed, and K.K. makes sure Libra takes out all the cells pushing Angel Scale. It’s all made possible thanks to Klaus’ unparalleled strength, selflessness, and perseverance. Yet, to hear it from Leo, book-ending the episode with his interactions with White, he has no idea what Klaus did for the firm, and he may never know.

All Steve Starphase said is that “anything in this world can happen”, which has so far proven true. For Leo, those words must be pretty reassuring, because the one thing he wants most in the world is to heal Michella.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List

Kekkai Sensen – 02

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A giant Nausicaa-style beast flying over a Gothic/Art Deco alternate NYC skyline as if it were the most mundane thing in the world: This is one of the iconic, “nutshell” images of Kekkai Sensen, which joins the 10 Club this weekend with one hell of a second episode.

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After last week dropped us in the middle of Jerusalem’s (or Hellsalem’s) Lot with Leo and had at it, this week starts with formal introductions to his new co-workers at Libra, and they’re a fun, colorful bunch that also feels like a tight-knit family. Leo’s the ‘new adopted kid brother’ to Zapp, who is always butting heads with his ‘sister’ Chain, while Klaus has an undeniable dad-like quality to him. (He also looks like Beast from X-men.)

Rounding out the core of the Libra we know is organizer Steven A Starphase and Combat Butler…yes, Combat Butler, Gilbert F. Altstein (Alfred, anyone?) Leo seems a little overwhelmed with all the new names, but thanks to the helpful HUD-style character labeling, and the sheer variety of colorful personalities, it was a cinch for me to remember them.

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There’s more great world and character building as Leo continues his pizza delivery route, as the untold numbers of Libra members are all over Jerusalem’s/Hellsalem’s Lot but keep a low profile like the Dollars of Durarara!!, so it makes sense to keep living his regular life. The only thing is, every pizza he tries to deliver is intercepted by Zapp, who seems to be testing Leo’s reflexes (and patience!) while simultaneously keeping an eye on the boy with the Eyes That See All, a valuable new tool in the Libra arsenal.

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Those eyes pay immediate dividends, as while Leo is on his pizza route with Zapp in tow, he detects a dry cleaning van that doesn’t look right. In fact, he’s just seen past a form of camouflage previously unknown to and undetected by Libra, hiding a demonic courier van illegally transporting live humans.

Leo decides to retreat and regroup when he accidentaly meets eyes with the baddies, but it’s too late, and swiftly pounce on his Honda Gyro and nab him, leaving Zapp out of commision in a pool of his own blood. Tellingly, Zapp makes sure to get some of that blood on Leo’s clothes before the crims take him.

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From here we see the true awesome ability of Libra in action, utilizing far more than just brute strength to maintain the balance in the city. As a tied-up Leo protests the bad guy’s blatant violation of the “Chrysler-Galadona Accord”, Zapp is in contact with Chain, Klaus, and Steve. Chain has eyeballs on the van, but when it turns into a far less conspicuous vehicle (a Toyota Camry, LOL), she loses it. But Libra’s not done yet.

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The whole reason Zapp is in such a bad way, and furthermore seems to absorb every blood transfusion the hospital gives him, is that he’s got a thin strand of blood tied to the van that nabbed Leo. When Leo manages to stop (read: crash) the van by using his eyes to overwhelm the vision of his captors, all Zapp has to do is ignite that blood thread, but since he can’t move, it’s up to Chain to follow the fire to paydirt. Klaus, Steve, and Gil also follow in their jersey-barrier-busting, badass LXG-style custom pursuit vehicle.

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From there, the chase is on, which we follow both by watching Chain fly along the rooftops, in the crazily-driving butler’s instruments, and a nifty 3DCG map that tracks everyone. It’s a fantastically set-up and thrillingly staged chase scene that really capitalizes on the complexity of the city and the super-abilities of the cast. And it’s all set to Jazz. This show knows what it’s doing.

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So does Libra, and so once they catch up to the van of couriers (who weren’t prepared to be detected in the first place, let alone for serious combat), it doesn’t take long to take them out and recover the missing people, along with Leo, who was badly injured in the accident.

Still, by taking it upon himself to fight his captors rather than just sit and wait for help from others is something his Libra-mates admire, and they congratulate him on a job well done, which they couldn’t have done without him in the first place.

Leo also realizes Zapp was stalking him because it was his way of serving as his bodyguard, something Libra would never let Leo go around without, considering his valuable eyes.

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Having been officially accepted into Libra and proven both to them and himself that he belongs there and has something unique to offer, Leo wanders the hospital grounds while completing his convalescence.

In a gorgeous, ‘I so want to go to there’ cemetery, he meets a philosophical ghost, White (Kugimiya Rie!), who asks him whether it’s best to fear death despite is inevitability, or not fear it out of the belief it isn’t inevitable? Some interesting food for thought from another intriguing new character, and yet another layer from among Kekkai Sensen’s elaborate multitudes to explore.

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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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