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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Oregairu 2 – 07

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In shopping list she slipped into her brother’s bag, with whom she’s on good terms again, Komachi writes that what she wants most is his happiness (and detergent). But he’s increasingly unsure of how to get that happiness. All he knows is that saving people with his methods hasn’t quite done the trick.

Something is missing: “His responsibility…the answer” he needs. And as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, there may be no more answers in the Service Club, which he now attends increasingly for Yui’s sake, haunted by what would happen if he wouldn’t and Yukino’s “smile of giving up.”

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He may not realize it yet, nor does she, but Hikky’s answer may lie in Iroha, and hers in him. He is someone she can be herself with, after all, and who insists on carrying her bag even though it’s not heavy. I initially thought Iroha’s presence on the show would lead to cliched conflict, but we’ve instead been blessed with a far more complex and satisfying dynamic as the two tentatively circle one another.

The way the camera stays on the other side of the street as they cross and make the bag hand-off had just as much power as past close-ups of said hand-offs, if not more. Hikky isn’t just settling for handling Iroha’s tough stuff; he wants to support her in the little things too.

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If only it were that easy. Hikky hasn’t been this earnestly hands-on a “service client” like this before, nor has he faced quite as formidable and opaquely frustrating an opponent as the other school’s talky president, who continues to spew unproductive bullshit as the clock ticks on the Christmas event. Among the elementary kids they’ve recruited to assist is Tsurumi Rumi, whom I think I’ll call “Mini-Yukino” due to her not-at-all-not-coincidental resemblance to Hikky’s emotionally estranged club mate.

The council quagmire is the challenge he’s facing now, but Rumi is a symbol of someone he saved before with non-ideal, imperfect methods: sabotaging the bonds of the peers who bullied her so they’d no longer trust one another or level coordinated attacks on her, while leaving her just as alone in the end.

Later that night Hikky is treated to someone on the other end of the spectrum: Saika, who thinks it’s cool the way Hikky’s always working hard for others without complaint. Saika’s opinion is valid from his point of view, though he’s not in on the whole picture.

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Someone else who doesn’t have the whole picture is Orimoto Kaori, who bumps into Hikky and Iroha on the streets and, perhaps due to her proximity to her classmates, her vague language about her past with Hikky pique Iroha’s interest. Is it just me, but it feels like Yukino and Yui fade out of focus whenever Hikky is with Iroha, and having Kaori around makes a triad—a new triad.

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In fact, when Iroha very overtly puts her hand on Hikky, it looks every bit like a gesture of possession, not idle flirtation, in the presence of another girl Hikky may have had “dealings” with. “This is my man now,” so to speak. She seems happy that such a scenario may have occurred, though, because it reinforces the part of her that sees Hikky as a suitable mate. Whoa, sorry for gettin’ all Discovery Channel there!

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Bag hand-offs and arm-touching aside, in semi-public Iroha still plays her rapid-rejection card when she senses Hikky is flirting with her, but like Hikky, she’s maintaining a facade that doesn’t express her true feelings about the way Hikky is treating her.

That facade always mentions some quality she believes Hikky doesn’t possess or never will, in the process painting the picture of an ideal guy she’s never met, and maybe never will. Meanwhile, here is Hikky, staunchly by her side, worried he may be carrying too much of Iroha’s load with regards to the event, but still feeling responsible for her being there to begin with.

I should also mention that Hikky reaches out to Rumi even though he doesn’t have too, simply sitting with her and helping with decorations so she won’t be alone, then encouraging her to go to the others. If Hikky were the guy his facade less and less convincingly attempts to assure us he is, he’d never bother, but he can’t help it, especially with someone he feels an obligation to be nicer to after providing only an imperfect solution to her problems.

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Which brings us to an understated but ultimately pretty heartbreaking closing scene as Hikky bumps into Yukino. He’s been nothing but submissive, contrite, and polite to her since she’s been able to occupy the same room as him, but he only told her a half-truth about being busy with Komachi’s exams. In reality, he’s busy with Iroha, and enjoying it as well. Yukino knows this, and knows there’s little she could contribute.

She also believes Hikky is only still attending club out of obligation. For Shizuka, who brought them together, but tellingly has been nowhere to be seen of late—maybe the experiment is over, with mixed but still valuable results? For Yui, who not only wants to walk to the club with him, but wants to be seen walking with him by others.

But Yukino, without any hint of bitterness, tells him he doesn’t have to beg her pardon or ask her permission or force himself to attend. Yukino’s analysis may be right—Hikky is certainly deriving happiness from helping Iroha—but she also walks away before Hikky can at least attempt to respond to it. Maybe he just likes attending club. Or maybe it’s time to move on.

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