Durarara!!x2 Ten – 09 (21)

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After opening with an “insurance agent” interviewing a guy who apparently sold Orihara Izaya his name, Drr!! cuts to the familiar cat-and-mouse of Celty vs. Kinnosuke, before she returns home, exhausted and lamenting her police-target status before putting things into perspective: Shinra is in bed convalescing, having been beated half to death by Adabashi (Of course, Celty is also missing her head, so I think she wins the whole despair sweepstakes).

While changing Shinra’s bandages, Celty discovers an old scar, which Shinra proceeds to talk about despite the fact he has some mixed feelings about it. He received it twelve years ago in middle school. That’s incidentally where and when he first met Orihara Izaya, and learned of his love of observing humans. He got him to join a two-member “biology club”, even though they wouldn’t be doing much biology.

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It seems they mostly hung out in a lab, collecting money for sports betting. One of their classmates, Nakura, got in too deep and demanded a refund with a pocket knife, but Shinra came between them, getting stabbed in the process. After stopping the bleeding with duct tape (truly a mob doctor in the making), Orihara asks Shinra to tell the police he, not Nakura, stabbed him. In exchange, he’ll make sure Nakura regrets it the rest of his days.

It would certainly seem like Nakura regrets a great many things, considering Orihara made him both “Lizard” of Amphisbaena and “Mr. Momui” of Heaven’s Slave, two apparently fictional leaders of the two organizations, fictions whose respective Number Twos (Mimizu and Shijima perpetuate to maintain order. And if there’s ever a gang war between, say, Awakasu and either or both of those organizations, Nakura, not Izaya, will take the heat.

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It was the first of many acts by Izaya that could be construed, depending on your perspective, as selfless, thoughtful, or loving acts to protect his friends and family, or more selfish poking and prodding of humanity. Ostensibly, he tortures Nakura to this day for hurting Shinra, and hired Celty to protect his sister, but in both cases those actions served him just as much as the beneficiaries.

And as Izaya continues to carry Celty’s head around, it would appear his own stabbing by an associate of Yodogiri Jinnai hasn’t discouraged him from continuing his usual habits.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 08 (20)

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This marks the second-straight episode of anime, after OverLord – 04, in which a group or groups are ultra-confident to the point of arrogance they have the upper hand over a foe, when in fact, they’re hanging by their pinkie off the edge of a cliff. The one to show them reality in OverLord was Momonga; here’s it’s everyone’s favorite human observer / information broker, Orihara Izaya.

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The confident parties include Heaven’s Gate, a group we were introduced to when Akabayashi broke up a drug racket in a club bathroom, and Amphisbaena, a rival group running underground casinos using cashless IC chips. Awakusu asks Izaya in investigate the latter, who knows he’s investigating them, and Heaven’t Slave knows too and wants to find a way to make it to their advantage.

Izaya by now has assembled his team of muscle made up of Zombie Dragons, martial-arts ace Sharaku Mikage, a girl who is a Saika vessel, and a due with a big hammer, and more. Yet, throughout the episode we cut from him interacting with both his team members, sisters, and Celty (to transport a laptop displaying GPS tracking data), to a man in his clothes with a burlap bag over his head being very lightly tortured by a very comely, well-dressed Amphisbaena member.

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Heaven’s Slave crashes Amphisbaena’s party, which gets both groups in the same place, and then it’s time to unmask the captive. Both leaders get phone calls from someone with a disguised voice who momentarily gets them to believe they may have accidentally captured one of their own bosses, only for the captive to take his bag off and reveal it was Izaya all along, utterly unimpressed with Amphisbaena’s interrogation techniques.

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Then Izaya’s friends storm the place and lay absolute waste. Again, like in OverLord, there’s no contest between those who thought they had everything figured out and those who actually do. Heaven’s Slave and Amphisbaena are humiliated, and their inexperience with how things are done in Ikebukuro—with supernatural beings and elite specialists in various fields—and end up looking amateurish. The lesson is: don’t mess with Awakusu…or at least don’t mess with them when Izaya is working for/with them.

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From Izaya’s victory we cut to another conversation with Shiki in the back seat of his car. Shiki is pleased both the rival gangs were dealt with, but warns Izaya they know he went above and beyond, and not to overstep his bounds with his new over-leveled mini-gang, and to call Akabayashi as soon as it’s convenient.

Izaya acts the submissive part, as someone who receives “bliss” for being “used to the max” by Awakusu Group as an information broker. It’s not necessarily a dishonest statement, as his work does allow him to observe very interesting humans doing very interesting things. But I can’t believe he assembled that team just for that one job. There’s much more to observe and do.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 07 (19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durarara!!x2 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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