Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 04 (28)

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Chikage’s confrontation with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves looked like bad news, but he’s only there on behalf of himself, and wants to use them to smoke out the “purge” Dollars who hit Kodata. But because this is a meeting of gang leaders who don’t mind the occasional rumble, it comes to fisticuffs, and we see Masaomi in actual action for the first time in a long while.

I assumed he had some skill to be the leader of a color gang (even one as wishy-washy as the scarves), but I didn’t expect him to hold his own so well against Chikage (though he isn’t able to do any damage, he’s able to dodge his attacks well enough). Still, the “blood is thicker than water” title/theme applies here, as Chikage is loyal to Kodata through the bond they forged in righteous, honorable combat.

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The Saika family reunion continues, with Anri stating her reservations about manipulating people she holds dear with Saika as Haruna does. It comes down to them having different values. Kasane lays it out thusly: one can either entirely enslave their Saika or allow their Saika to entirely enslave them. Anri is trying to be nice to “both sides”, which Kasane believes is untenable.

Of course, she’s driven by the desire to acquire Saika from Anri, which would mean extracting her, but that can only happen if Anri truly doesn’t want Saika anymore. Anri still feels she owes Saika for saving her from her father, among other things. But Kasane remarks that Anri is too hard on herself for believing herself a parasite, or somehow not or less than human.

Letting go of Saika could perhaps mean returning to “normal” humanity in a biological sense, but she’ll always be one of the “family” by virture of her flesh, her blood, and her past. It’s a fascinating discussion between three very different personalities. Erika lightens the mood effectively both by inviting Kasane to a cosplay event and announcing Dotachin has come out of a coma and can see visitors tomorrow.

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Masaomi and Chikage’s duel continues, with Chikage ending up falling off the building when Masaomi bails out. Just then, Izumii Ran shows up with a gang of men and his mallet, looking to continue his revenge tour.

His taunts easily provoke Masaomi into attacking him, but a fierce punch to Izumii’s head only results in Masaomi breaking his hand. Will Chikage, who was just fighting Masaomi, get back up to that roof and help him stay alive against another superior opponent?

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Like Dotachin, Shizuo has been mostly an inert element this cour, as he’s in jail after a woman pressed charges against him for assault. An obvious Saika plant in the cell neighboring him wants him to tear up the joint so they can make off with the head in the commotion, in exchange for the charges against him being dropped.

However, this Saika plant seems to be too late with his proposal, as Shizuo is released without having to do anything after the woman drops the charges. No sooner is he free to go than some kind of rocket or missile hits the police van carrying Celty’s head. Varona of all people makes off with it, staring down Shizuo momentarily before zooming off on her bike. Shizuo assumes this is more of that wretched Izaya’s handiwork.

Prior to this to-do, around dusk, presumably after Haruna left Kasane and Anri, she is kidnapped by a Saika slave and brought to her former boyfriend Takashi, who has plans for her, none of them good.

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All the news of Celty’s head being out there, exposed to the world, causes her nightmares. She wakes up to find an understanding and supportive Shinra, who has spent the day trying to deal with the Yagiri siblings under control (mostly through sedation).

When Emilia says a girl with glasses is at the door, Shinra assumes it’s Anri, but it’s not; it’s Kasane, who is apparently not done wheeling and dealing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the one who hired/compelled Varona to snatch Celty’s head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 03 (27)

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Mairu and Kururi sorta narrate this episode, but only sparingly, but they have a couple funny moments despite never appearing in the episode (even through chat): First, Mairu interrupts just before a masked man tells Shijimi his name. Second, Mairu wonders if some kind of world revolution is afoot, and Kururi calls that “a stretch.”

That’s certainly true, since Durarara!! has virtually strayed outside Ikebukuro’s borders, nor has there ever been any indication that the things that go on there have any effect on the outside world. But what if Ikebukuro was the world, in it’s entirety, as for all intents of purposes, it is in the show? It would mean the world really was in the midst of upheaval.

All the characters who dot Ikebukuro’s landscape are the players who shape Ikebukuro World. Rather than gangs, the Dollars and Yellow Scarves and mafia are nations; their leaders world leaders. And Saika isn’t just a parasitic demon, but an ideological movement. Anri, Niekawa Haruna, and Kujiragi Kasane are three different “schools” of Saika, and those schools butt up against each other this week.

Ever since Anri cut Haruna, there have been two Saikas inside her mingling, and since Anri’s Saika is older, it’s a form of control that’s also opened Haruna up to other emotions and ways of thinking – as well as Anri’s confused feelings for Mikado and Masaomi. Haruna wants to join forces – Anri will help her attain “real love” with Takashi; and in return she’ll help Anri with her romances.

 

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Anri declines, because she doesn’t want to use Saika for nefarious purposes, only to protect; which provokes Haruna into fighting her. That’s when Kasane, who was hanging out in the park the whole time, neutralizes and chastises the “daughter” Haruna for raising a hand to her “mother” Anri (speaking in Saika terms, of course.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean Kasane is on Anri’s side. In fact, Kasane is somewhat surprised by how little Anri has mastered or even used Saika; which frustrates her more now that she knows how good having freedom feels. So she breaks out a proposition, just as Haruna did. No joining forces; rather, she’ll take Saika off Anri’s hands for a handsome, fair sum. I mean, if she’s using it so little, she doesn’t really need her, right?

The only problem is, while Anri certainly hasn’t mastered Saika, she has more or less accepted her as a part of her, not to mention relied on her in times of trouble; she’d likely be dead without her. Losing her wouldn’t necessarily make her human (a human would never have had Saika to begin with), so I’m doubtful she’ll make the deal. However, I’m also doubtful Kasane will give up easily.

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Despite the rarity with which she needs or uses it, Anri has become dependent on Saika as a form of defense in a dangerous Ikebukuro World; a weapon to keep sharks off her in that world’s roiling waves. Meanwhile, Mikado tells Izaya in a lengthy but wonderful phone call that he wishes to remain in a boat, detached from those waves, but able to watch them ebb and flow and be entertained.

That’s the “interesting world” he first sought when he arrived in Ikebukuro World (an arrival akin to a birth). It’s why he founded the Dollars. And it’s why he’s evolved into someone who isn’t the slightest bit surprised by the face Celty’s head is in a bush (though he is relieved by Mika’s hilarious voicemail message about it not being her head).

Now he’s put himself in a position to press the reset button on the Dollars, hoping he’ll catch lightning in a bottle once more. He and Izaya are revealed to be a lot more alike than I ever considered, as the two may use different metaphors, but both seem willing to act as both arsonist and firefighter in order to mold the world into something interesting.

I’d say Mikado differs in that he has empathy for humans and has a few he actually cares about and doesn’t want swept up in those waves…but I doubt Izaya wants his sisters hurt, either. It’s also interesting in this particular situation, that Mikado knows something – that Celty’s head was found in the park – before Izaya.

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That’s a rare moment of someone having the upper hand over Izaya, which is always nice. And knowledge is definitely power in Ikebukuro World; just look at which Saika dominated the other two, and why. That being said, there’s nothing Izaya adores more than humans acting unpredictably.

The Saika trio and Mikado-Izaya phone call are the A/B plots, but the episode still managed to fit in a C and a D: There’s the hiding Shijimi, who is approached by a masked man who was in the passenger seat of the car that hit Dotachin, offering to bring him in on some kind of heist of Yadogiri Jinnai’s fortune.

Then there’s Chikage confronting Masaomi and his Yellow Scarves, 1 on 8, and giving them a choice: let themselves be taken over, or be destroyed. And we know there’s no one among those 8 scarves who is a match for Chikage alone. Mairu is right: the time of revolution, war, and global upheaval is nigh in the Ikebukuro World.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 01 (25)

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This third and final cour of Durarara!!x2 is subtitled Ketsu (結) Japanese for (among other things) “sintering” (compacting a solid mass without melting it) and Chinese for “knot.” (It can also mean “ass”, referring to the end of Dura2…but stay with me.)

We begin where Ten ended: Celty in her and Shinra’s apartment, which is full of random people, and she has no idea why they’re all there. That is the knot, the puzzle that is loosened and unraveled in this episode. On a larger scale, Ikebukuro itself has always been like a knot: a combination of disparate strings periodically tightening and loosening, with often surprising results.

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This episode follows the same pattern as most Dura episodes: a central narrator (this week Shinra) comments on all the various goings on. We dart from string to string in the Ikebukuro knot, from Mikado still mixed up with Aoba in an imminent war with the Yellow Scarves, a potential conflagration Aoba wants to keep Kururi and Mairu out of. Two cops under Saika’s control try to get rid of Heiwajima, but the motorcycle cop Kuzuhara frees him.

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It’s not easy when the only people in her house who aren’t certifiable are Igor and “the driver” (Togusa), Celty gradually learns their reasons for being there. Shingen and Igor descended on Seitarou and Kujiraji Kasane in gas masks to rescue Namie (using gas bomb that made the news in the process). Walker and Togusa are hiding out, as is Yagiri Seiji and Mika.

I must say there’s a great imaginative, insane energy to putting all these kooks together. Shingen, Emilia, Walker, Namie and Mika are each their own special blend of crazy, and knotting them together makes for interesting exchanges and reactions, none of which really help Celty get to the bottom of things.

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As for Izaya, who looked to be in bad shape last cour, was only pretending to be passed out as the Saika-controlled Sloan took him to a hideout of Izaya’s enemies. He had Sharaku and Kine follow Sloan, who he knows is under the influence of Kujiraji, not Niekawa or Anri.

The immediate puzzle of her many houseguests thus solved, Celty lays out her goal: to retrieve her head from Izaya and leave it in the care of Nebula (which Shingen and Emilia belong to). She’d rather they poke and prod it than leave Izaya to use it as a ball or vase; it’s a matter of pride and principle.

The crazies all unite right then and there to form a “guild” on Shinra’s suggestion in order to aid her, with his true reasoning being keeping his lover as minimally involved as possible in the head retrieval process, knowing that she and the Dollars, are at the very center of the storm brewing…which is, after all, nothing new.

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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 Shou – 06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 04

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

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

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Let’s merge these chases!

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

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

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“Time to do my thing.”

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

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“Your assistance is appreciated.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“I love it when a plan comes together!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 02

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

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

So why am I dropping Durarara!! this week?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hannah’s Take

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

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

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

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

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

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

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