Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 09 (33)

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Another week closer to the end, another incremental episode that can’t help but feel over-contemplative, repetitive, and dilatory. The suspense is building…I guess…but only in fits and starts, not a surging stream. Last week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi; this week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi.

Anri and Saki have been milling around, and Nasujima has been standing around smirking for ages. Akabayashi serves as occasional narrator this week, weighing whether he should get involved somehow, for Anri’s sake.

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At the construction site, Mikage fights to a draw with Varona and Kasane; because none of the three actually wish to fight. Mikage even agrees with Varona that Izaya’s chances against Shizuo are slight, but she wants to see Izaya go all out for the first time. The results are…disappointing.

Back in the beginning of Durarara!! fights between Shizuo and Izaya were almost played for comedic effect: these were just two diametrically opposed dogs who no one could convince to ever like. It’s almost as if a kind of twisted relationship deeper than friendship evolved from their intense conflicts. But I fear that conflict’s grown a bit stale, like the Neo-vs.-Smith by the end of the Matrix trilogy.

Izaya decides the best way to kill Shizuo is by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, so he leads him into an area where a pocket of the stuff slowly chokes him. Then Izaya tosses a match, apparently abandoning that method and settling for blowing Shizuo. (Also, CO2 isn’t flammable, so I guess there was something else being pumped in there).

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There’s a big bang, but it’s quickly swallowed up by Celty. Like Izaya, we’re not sure what Celty’s game is; as far as we know her memories are gone, and yet here she is, showing allegience to the explodee rather than the exploder. Is it the basic morality and kindness that made Shinra fall for her in the first place, shining through even in her rebooted state? The episode doesn’t say; we don’t get to see or hear from Celty other than when she consumes the boom.

As for Shizuo, he naturally survives the blast, and pulls down the entire steel structure upon which Izaya stands, sending him plummeting. Before he can hit the ground, Shizuo belts him with a girder like a bat hitting a ball, sending Izaya flying through the starless urban night he loves so much. Much has been made of Shizuo’s monstrous strength and durability, but Izaya is clearly not just a regular human either, as he’s always surviving or dodging Shizuo’s attacks.

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The Kodata gang is reassembled (sans Erika, but plus Saki, Anri, Namie, Mika and Seiji), and Kodata warns Anri to get out of town, but she won’t. Her eyes flashing red (like Shinra’s), she tells him there’s “something she has to do,” which is see this thing, whatever the heck it is, all the way through.

Chitoge and Masaomi get a birds-eye view of the situation on the ground, with swirling masses of ordinary people moving around in strange mechanical patterns, around the Russia Sushi epicenter. They spot un-Saika-fied but masked Blue Square members down below, and Chitoge goes to see if one of them is Mikado; we later see it isn’t, and Mikado is on his own with his gun in his jacket.

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Finally, in one of the more unexpected pairings, Manami ends up helping a wounded Shinra enter a taxi so he too can get to where everyone else seems to be going. While en route, she tries to avail herself of Izaya’s one and only true friend’s insights about the best way to get him to despair as much as possible.

Shinra’s answer probably isn’t satisfying: Izaya, whom Shinra believes may be the most human of all of them, is a bottomless receptacle for all the worst impulses and actions of humans. He’ll accept it all and love humans unconditionally; not because his soul is strong, but because it’s fragile. As for Shinra, as the unnecessary flashbacks repeated, he is willing to lose his humanity and become a demon for the woman he loves.

Another few inches forward we lurch.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 08 (32)

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While I acknowledge it contained some progress and a couple of Durarara!! firsts, this episode had a disappointingly incremental feel about it. Sure, virtually all Durarara!! episodes are incremental, but the better ones do a better job keeping me entertained and distracted enough to overlook the fact there is a dizzying number of players involved. It’s starting to get a little out of hand.

But let me get back to one of those firsts: Celty finally has her head back. In true Dullahan fashion, she doesn’t simply reattach it to her neck, but carry it in her arm. Her horse turns back into a horse, and she regains her original armor, but considering she has no idea who Izaya is when she sees him, it would seem her memories of Ikebukuro to date have been erased.

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If that’s true, that would be a real bummer, but in the meantime Izaya has a fight to the death with Shizuo to take care of, so Celty kinda just…slinks away from the episode. Back at Shinra’s, Kodata shows his face for the first time since the hit-and-run, and wants Erika and everyone else to stay indoors. Tom Tanaka, pissed that neither Shizuo or Varona showed up for their rounds, has some late night Russian sushi, unaware the streets outside are growing more dangerous for him by the minute.

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Nasujima, now some big-shot rogue Saika host, has turned dozens if not hundreds of citizens into Saika zombies, with which he intends to capture Tanaka and use him as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Shizuo. Shijima is with them to, though I’m not sure why.

Back at the construction site, Izaya briefly recalls what Shinra said to him about the benefits of getting along with Shizuo (he’s a tiger who will one day be an urban legend) rather than remaining adversaries (someone will get hurt or killed). Back in the present, Shizuo and Izaya are only circling each other. A big fight seems imminent, but it’s still just sputtering so far.

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Chikage decides the best way to get Masaomi and Mikado to meet is with the chat room and a little bit of theater. He interrupts Namie’s ranting to demand Mikado call Masaomi’s phone…or else. When Mikado calls, Chikage answers, and sets up a meeting to hand over his “hostage.” Mikado agrees, and sets a location very near and dear to him vis-a-vis the Dollars.

That other Durarara!! first? Mikado actually has a gun, given to him by Izumii when they met. I have no idea what he intends to do with it, but it’s clear he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to use it properly; though at the end of the day, point-and-shoot will suffice. Call it another step deeper down the dark inscrutable abyss for Mikado, albeit an incremental one.

Once guns start being shot, the results can quickly become something one can’t simply, as Tom puts it, “let slide.” When bullets fly, impasses and stalemates start to become irreversible conclusions. I’ll hope Mikado takes after the re-booted Celty, and keeps his head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 07 (31)

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The item Mikado got from Aoba’s brother is not revealed; instead, Mikado is coy to Aoba about the content of their conversation, and then gets distracted by Namie’s meltdown in the Dollars chatroom, witnessed by the twins.

Namie isn’t about to forgive Mikado or let him have his perfect life without reminding him that he defeated her and messed up her life, but didn’t destroy her. Namie is just one of the “loose ends” Mikado will have to reckon with before he can reach his goals.

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As indicated by Anri’s eyes reddening, Kasane’s Saika slaves are out in force, blocking all the roads and alleys that lead to the area where she’s restraining Celty’s body. Shizuo, not one to break the law unless its necessary, dutifully rides past the barriers, but soon realizes that he has to break through to get to Celty. Meanwhile, Izaya has come out to observe Shizuo’s confrontation with Kasane from on high.

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I loved how calm and civil everything was. Sure, Shizuo crumbles a bit of wall and tosses it at Kasane’s associate, President Yagiri, but he and Kasane do not engage in any violence. Kasane merely restrains Shizuo, putting her hand on him. Whatever would have happened next is interrupted by the arrival of Varona with Celty’s head.

I also loved how Shizuo didn’t feel in the least betrayed by his junior, because, well, he wasn’t. He didn’t disallow her from taking other jobs on the side, but does recommend she chose more carefully in the future.

Shizuo appreciates that Kasane has business to conduct, but his friendship with Celty won’t allow them to treat her as a product or thing, even if that’s the best way to describe the state she’s in.

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Kasane also appreciates Shizuo’s personal investment in this situation, as well as Varona’s complicated relationship with Shizuo, and decides the best thing to do is retreat for now. Despite her best efforts, her plan ran into a hitch, and that hitch was Shizuo. Howver, Izaya isn’t content to leave things there, and drops “liquid on the litmus paper” in the form of a pile of steel beams on Shizuo. Varona pushes him out of harm’s way, but a beam falls on her leg

Now Shizuo wouldn’t have been hurt by those beams (he flicks the one off of Varona’s leg like a 2×4) but Varona acted to save him anyway, because until she’s able to destroy him under her very specific conditions (i.e. going all out), she doesn’t want him to die. Similarly, when Izaya drops an excavator on Shizuo, he catches it on his shoulder and flicks that away too, saving Varona for real.

Izaya has seen the human chemical reactions he wanted to see, and likely wants to see more tonight, but when he calls Shizuo to chat, all Shizuo says to him is “So long.” No listening to his drivel, no angry outburst, no tossing of the excavator back at him. Shizuo won’t let harming his junior pass. He’s coming for him.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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This relatively spare (and almost entirely supernatural-free) episode focuses on the major players once more: Mikado, Masaomi, Anri, and Izaya, with Chikage narrating as he learns more about the state of things in Ikebukuro.

While much of that state can be attributed to Izaya, who has Chess, Shoji, Go, and Othello pieces scattered on his game board as he builds a house of tarot cards (a bit too much game imagery here, frankly) he’s correct in stating no one person is to blame, because everyone played little roles that added up.

At this point, he’s super-excited about Mikado’s state in particular, and interested in what he’ll do next, even if it means he himself becomes a pawn. He also wants this to be a humans-only game from here on out, which means taking Anri, Kasane, Celty and Shizuo out of this stage.

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Still, it’s Anri’s human side that shines in her first meeting with Mikajima Saki, which cam as a surprise to me, considering how long this show has gone on. Saki has come prepared for war if Anri was to express feelings for Masaomi. While she heard from her boyfriend that Mikado was crazy about Anri, she wanted to meet her one-on-one to get her own impression of her.

What she finds is a cute, charming, mild-mannered young lady who has convinced herself that she’s a parasite who neither knows how to love anyone nor believes she deserves to love or be loved. It’s a much more nuanced situation than Saki imagined. The reality is, she’s no more certain of what love is than Anri, but being a parasite (or a puppet, as she once was) doesn’t automatically disqualify them from love and happiness.

Mika decides to further explain her relationship with Masaomi by going into her past with him; to a time Anri wasn’t present for. Despite having made a promise to the guys that they’d reveal their respective secrets upon meeting again, Anri is intrigued and lets Mika proceed.

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Izaya’s efforts seem intended to pare down the players, especially limiting them to those who are only plain old flesh-and-blood humans. Mika’s efforts seem intended to enlighten her about the love triangle in which she’s been the fourth vertex for long enough.

And then Chikage, who is titularly “in for a penny, in for a pound”, breaks Masaomi’s dilemma down to brass tacks: He wants to see Mikado and save him (either by punching him or being punched, in the simplest possible terms). Blue Square is in the way, so Chikage will help Masaomi get close. If Mikado won’t answer a call from Masaomi’s phone, then Chikage will call him on his. Easy peasy, right?

…Perhaps not. Izumii Ran visits Mikado (much to Aoba’s consternation), they proceed to have a very civil conversation, Izumii gives Mikado some kind of “gift” hidden in his arm sling, and then leaves in the car of Awakusu’s Aozaki, activity that Aozaki’s rival Akabayashi learns about pretty quickly.

These are presumably the “grown-ups” Chikage is worried about getting tangled up with. His basic plan could work if he could just get two old estranged friends in the same room together to hash it out, but with an apparently important object now in Mikado’s possession that probably wasn’t given to him so he could pull out of his tailspin, it may already be too late for basics.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 05 (29)

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I misread Kasane’s intent last week: she didn’t come to Shinra’s intending to make a deal. Instead, she’s only implementing the next step in her comprehensive Celty research. She takes control of Shinra with a long kiss, plucks him out of his wheelchair and jumps out the window into the night.

Celty goes berserk, transforming into a big black ball of rage and gives chase just as Kasane intended. We see a lot of emotions going through the darkness of Celty’s mind, but the one that stands out the most is Shinra, Shinra, Shinra. And so her body moves instinctively to retrieve him.

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As Varona stands by a car with Celty’s head inside, Kasane leads Berserk Celty through the skies of Ikebukuro, periodically firing blades to slow her down. Meanwhile, Chikage accompanies Masaomi to his Yellow Scarves hideout after saving him from Izumii earlier in the day, putting their fight on hold for now.

Masaomi, for his part, is shocked to hear Izumii is fighting on Mikado’s behalf as a member of the Dollars, while Chikage wonders what version of the Dollars he’s encountered truly represents them.

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Kasane eventually meets up with Varona, who is this week’s narrator, and unlike everyone else running around this week has a lot of time to think about things. She admits she felt the euphoria that comes from gaining power when she stole the head; but it didn’t last long, and she realizes that it’s because her cover was blown instantly, and by Shizuo, no less.

Varona remains a deeply wounded and scarred young woman, but Ikebukuro and Shizuo have definitely had a profound – and I believe positive – effect on how she looks at the world and her role and values in it. She isn’t denying her feelings, only trying to figure out what they are and why she has them, and it all comes back to Shizuo and the peaceful daily life she enjoyed. She concludes it’s too late to go back now; that life is gone. But is it?

As chance would have it, after teaching some punk kids a lesson, Shizuo ends up with another bike on his shoulder when he encounters Celty’s horse. In the funniest and coolest scene of this entire Ketsu arc, the horse goes through various forms of transportation for Shizuo to ride it until settling on the bike, which he mounts and is then propelled at very un-bike-like speed.

While I’m unsure how interconnected Celty and her horse are, or whether they’re one and the same, it did seem like the horse was acting more reasonably than the mindless black ball of rage being messed with by Kasane. Whatever the case, it’s a given that the horse and Shizuo are on a direct course to the car with both Shinra and her head in it, which just so happens to be driven by his former adoptive protege.

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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 – 12 (Fin)

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Everyone seeks purpose and relevance in life, and everyone has a code; boundaries they won’t cross to attain those things. Drrr! is largely about what happens when the interests and the methods of a great number of people clash, which is almost always immensely entertaining, especially when some of those people can carry sportbikes on their shoulders.

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The book on Chapter one of three of Drrr!x2 comes to a close with “Adversity Makes a Man Wise.” Shizuo is the force that ceases the brawl between the Rogue Dollars and Saitama, as well as Anri and Varona. Non’s kidnapper is punished, and both sides are satisfied and withdraw.

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Also, Walker opens his eyes. I would too if I saw Anri handling Saika.

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But that’s far from the end of the adversity. Mikado watched firsthand (while his vision wasn’t wreck from that flash grenade, that is) what the gang he founded has become. He doesn’t like it, and wants to do something about it; no more hanging back.

But first, Varona meets the unstoppable, nigh invincible Shizuo, who unlike Celty or Anri, is a full-blown human being, which both astounds and frightens her, because nothing she throws at him seems to work, nor can she get away with Sloan and Akane.

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Shizuo sets his mind to rescuing Akane, so after some car soccer, instant automatic weapon disintegration (IAWD), and box truck punching, he succeeds. Akane is confounded he’d save his would-be assassin, but he’s just glad she wasn’t hurt, and a new, unlikely friendship is forged, with a helmet-scratching Celty as witness. This was Varona’s first defeat this week, but by no means her last.

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Mikado, meanwhile, tracks down Chitage and Non to formally take responsibility as founder of the Dollars. Chitage doesn’t think he’s lying, but isn’t entirely impressed either, and believes the few moments of time he has to look over Mikado is sufficient to conclude Mikado has no business running the Dollars, and advises him to give it up at his earliest convenience and settle into “the ordinary life” he seems better suited to.

Little does he know that ordinary life is the very thing Mikado escaped his hometown and founded the Dollars to avoid. If he were to quit on them now, it would “negate his being.” He may be better suited for ordinary life, but he doesn’t want to live that way. He wants to be in the thick of it.

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Mikado isn’t the only one patronized and not taken entirely seriously. Varona is too, after her quiet meal with Sloan is suddenly interrupted by Aozaki and Akabayashi. Like her, I thought she was tougher than these guys due to her military training, but they bring her and Sloan down with grim efficiency, only to reveal that Varona’s dad has struck a deal with their organization to secure her safety and retrieve her.

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Dennis, Simon, and Egor arrive to pick her up, and point out that, after all, she’s “still a little girl” who hasn’t “hardened” yet, remarking that kids liker her can still “change in all kinds of ways.” She may have become an assassin at a very young age, but she’s not necessarily destined to be one forevermore. And the yakuza ambush really put her skills into perspective; up to that point, she’d depended heavily on firepower, stealth, and surprise. Not to mention her youthful exuberance over Ikebukuro dulled her senses.

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Speaking of hardening, that’s what Mikado aims to do, and furthermore, what he has to do to preserve the Dollars as he envisioned them. All the adversity he’s faced really has made him wise to the truth of his situation: to be able to take control of a group with no rules, he needs power, so he accepts Aoba’s offer to become the leader of Blue Square along with the Dollars, even forming a blood contract by uncharacteristically stabbing Aoba through the hand with a pen. Then again, Mikado is pissed Anri was put in harm’s way, so he’s mad.

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But once that contract is signed, he snaps back to his usual chipper self, even offering to dress the wound he just gave Aoba. In a way, he owes Aoba one for opening his eyes to the fact that he shouldn’t fear being left behind by all the strange and exciting things in the city, because he hasn’t caught up to it yet. His journey is incomplete, and this was never a static situation. He’s going to fix the Dollars and stay in the mix.

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We close with one more person being one-upped at his own game, as Varona was: Izaya, who had been slipperier than teflon throughout the show. Like Mikado, even he didn’t realize the full scope of his actions, and ended up stepping on the toes of one Yodogiri Jinnai, who didn’t want Shizuo and the Azuki group getting mixed up. For that, Jinnai literally takes Izaya out, leaving him lying in a pool of blood in a crosswalk. A provocative and enticing teaser for Chapter 2, to air in July.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 11

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This episode’s title references the fact there’s no use crying over spilled milk, which is, in Mikado’s case, the perversion of his Utopian Dollars gang into a regular old gang. His free-wheeling philosophy for the group lent itself to attracting scoundrels, and scoundrels are precisely what he has to deal with this week, fellow Dollars or no.

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Even though there’s no rule against Dollars taking hostages, it’s something Mikado won’t accept. Realizing the milk has been spilled, he grabs some proverbial paper towels and starts sopping that milk up. Even he can’t avoid action rather than talk; things have progressed too far for that.

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Meanwhile, in that schoolyard, Kodata and Chitage start brawling in the school yard,  but even though Chitage is still battered from his encounter with Shizuo, the two are almost exactly evenly matched, even throwing the occasional identical punch, kick, or headbutt. They do plenty of damage, but no one seems to have the advantage.

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Mikado can’t do much against small-fry Dollar punks who kidnap Chitage’s girlfriend Non and her three friends (one of them Mikado’s classmate), other than stand in their way until they knock him down and pummel him. But the fact he stood up to them and for his ideals of what the Dollars should and shouldn’t be, means a lot.

Also, we knew Anri wasn’t far behind him, and lucky for Mikado, she’s tough enough for both of them. Mikado shows his own resolve by vowing he’ll keep pursuing the kidnappers, before even seeking medical treatment. Anri decides to accompany him, assuring him she can be “somewhat useful” (understatement of the year).

It’s a nice moment for these two, with Anri in the role as protector, but Mikado not digging to deep into why she’s so good at protecting, because it’s a sore subject.

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Masaomi is getting more and more restless in self-exile, and Saki picks up on it. She reminds him while she’s his girlfriend, they’re not friend friends in the same way he is with Mikado and Anri. She also assures him no matter what he does, Mikado will never hate him. He’s essentially crying over spilled milk too—worried about the ramifications of his running away—but he has Saki’s full support to return to Ikebukuro and help Mikado out. And right now, Mikado needs all the help he can get.

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Kodata manages to finally beat Chitage, but both men are about to keel over. Kodata asks Chitage to call off his boys, and in exchange, Kodata will make sure his comrades get justice. But when some of those comrades appear, the arrogant leader of whom wants to take Kodata down a few pegs, Kodata and Chitage join forces to teach them a lesson.

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Then the hostages come out, and all of a sudden superior strength is no longer the order of the day. Mikado and Anri have arrived, but before they can do anything Anri is jumped by Varona, who is as curious about Anri as she is disappointed Mikado is just a human.

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Varona sets off a flash-bang, and in the ensuing disorientation and chaos, Dollars brought by Walker and Erika rescue the hostages, while Walker decides to  lay some Tsukuyomi Komoe-style justice of his own.

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Then Shizuo shows up, holding Varona’s motorcycle like someone rolling in a keg about to join the pah-tay. This episode aptly illustrate’s Drrr!’s knack for snowballing events nearly out of control, as well as plucking numerous characters from every corner of Ikebukuro and dropping them in the same schoolyard.

But with Mikado on the scene and Masaomi on the way, all that spilled milk is on its way to being cleaned up.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 10

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I find it best to never underestimate Drrr!!’s capacity to swiftly flesh a new character at the drop of the hat. It’s done it successfully with Ruri and Varona, so I shouldn’t be surprised it did it with the Anri-haired Awakasu Akane as well.

Like Anri, Akane is a strong, gentle, good and decent person. When she sought to stop the bullying of a classmate, she did so not knowing the clout the Awakasu name carried, so she believed the matter was resolved of her own volition.

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When that fiction is broken and Akane learns that her dad is a gangster, it has the effect you’d expect on a good person like Akane: She’s devastated, and can’t live in that house of lies anymore.

She does what girls her age do in such a situation (Google “running away from home”), leading her to Namie and Izaya, who proceed to sic her on Heiwajima, who he says is a hitman targeting her dad. And now we know why Akane was trying to off Shizuo: whatever else her dad is, he’s still her dad.

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Frankly, Namie and Izaya kind of piss me off for not observing the unspoken age limit on manipulating people, but I guess they simply couldn’t resist starting mayhem, and in particular antagonizing Shizuo, who remains on the run his week.

Celty also finally realizes a headless horse and buggy are attracting too much attention, and morphs her black stuff into a black van; but Varona and Sloan are still on their tail.

When Shiki shows Shinra photos of his murdered men, Shinra immediately confirm’s Shiki’s suspicion that Shizuo didn’t do it. When considering who then did it, he remembers those vicious serial murders, which we know were committed by Shizuo’s brother’s new girlfriend Ruri. Small town, this!

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While trudging almost triumphantly about the burnt ruins of Ruri’s family residence, Izaya essentially admits he manipulated Mikado while posing as Kida, and basically challenges him to do something about it, and mocks Mikado for trusting Kida as his best friend so readily. He seems to be trying to rattle the comfy cage Kida’s built around himself, hoping he’ll break out and rejoin the Ikebukuro fray? I’m guessing.

Meanwhile, Chitage and Kodata circle each other, with Chitage wanting satisfaction for the Dollars recent transgressions against Toramaru, and Kodata telling him to bring him on. Even though he has no idea who those rogue Dollars are (that’s the way the Dollars work), he accepts Chitage’s assertion that the whole group is responsible for the actions of the others…though in Dotachin’s case I think it’s because he wouldn’t mind fighting Chitage.

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Sure enough, a colorless Dollar on the school ground spots them fighting and alerts the others, and not long after that, another Dollar sends everyone a photo of one of Chitage’s girlfriends in a cafe, suggesting they kidnap her for leverage.

Izaya is amused, Shizuo (atop the iconic Sunshine 60 tower) is disgusted, and Aoba is displeased: suddenly not everything is going as he’d planned. Mikado took off without giving an answer, and he suspects Izaya is still pulling the strings somewhere. Speaking of strings, he finds a black one on the bike Varona planted in the warehouse, and decides see where it leads.

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It will eventually lead him to Celty. She gets Mikado, Anri, and Akane to a parking garage where they assess their next moves, during which Celty gives Shooter a head far more frightening, in my opinion, than no head at all. When Mikado gets the two messages, he goes running, and when Celty shows Anri, she follows him

Sloan sticks with Celty and Akane while Varona tails Mikado, having a simultaneously accurate and overblown impression of his power and ability. On the one hand, he’s a passive weinie with no appreciable value, skills, or spine. On the other, he’s the reason the Dollars exist at all.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 09

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Huh…now why did I get the strange suspicion that almost nothing happened in this episode? While events did take place, the episode came off as a somewhat frustratingly slow-paced incremental step forward, and paling in comparison to episode 4, the show’s best outing to date.

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It doesn’t help that this week’s voice-over is provided by some yakuza guy we’ve never heard of and couldn’t care less about, who repeats “Disturbing” over and over again like some kind of mantra.

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So what does actually happen? Mobsters try to bring in Shizuo, even as Shiki doubts he was the one responsible for wasting his men. Aoba continues to bully Mikado until Toramaru thugs show up, and then Celty gets Mikado out of there, and Varona follows them. Anri and Akane are also accosted by mobsters but Celty and Mikado meet up with them and they all escape on Shooter, who Celty transforms into a horse and carriage.

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The Dollars/Toramaru conflict is largely de-toothed this week, which is a shame, because the prospects of an all-out gang war brought a welcome sense of danger to the comfortable environs of Ikebukuro, just as Aoba’s ultimatum put Mikado in a position to actually make a decision on something. Unfortunately, we get neither the danger nor the decision.

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At least there’s some complexity to the conflict, what with Celty not knowing what her role should be (though she doesn’t pick sides when she rescues Mikado) and Varona continuing to stalk her (though Varona is still quite ignorant of the situation; not to mention Celty’s gender). Varona, like us, watches some stuff happen, but it doesn’t really us anything new or exciting. Varona expresses her excitement in the hunt for something her books haven’t prepared her for, but…we knew this already.

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Celty’s rescue of Mikado is a cop-out for what was a pretty tense situation. Anri and Akane’s encounter with the yakuza, who in turn more Toramaru thugs and are insulted by their boorish manners, is a little more interesting, in that, again, it adds layers of complexity to the conflict unfolding. But it’s really only a fragment.

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Previous episodes succeeded in telling cohesive stories within the story, but everything this week simply felt cobbled together and devoid of any payoff. I can weather such episodes as long as actual payoffs are on the way soon, but considering this is only the first of three cours planned for Durarara!!x2, this episode has made it apparent the show isn’t in any particular hurry to deliver further significant developments.

Still, I’d hope that un-compelling transitional episodes such as this remain a rarity. Variably clever dialogue and whimsical coincidences can only make up for a lack of narrative urgency so long.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 08

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Masamoi’s sublime life on the run with Saki is made possible by Masaomi’s services as gofer to Izaya. He doesn’t like it, but he has no other means of maintaining such a life. He’s like a pennyless toppled king living comfortably off the charity of those he probably shouldn’t be dealing with if he truly wants to stay out of the fray.

Case in point, shortly after running away, Akane was convinced by Izaya himself that Mitzuo was a hitman after her, hence her preemptive strike. Shocking everybody, Mitzuo is able to lay on that Heiwajima charm to assure the would-be mini-assassin this was Izaya’s idea of a little joke; one he’ll be responding to in kind.

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Last week I opined that Mikado couldn’t stay cooped in that dingy flat forever, but rather than leaving of his own volition, he is instead gently dragged out by Aoba and his goons, who take him to their hideout, one of those abandoned warehouses Ikebukuro seems to be positively littered with.

This happens to be where Varona planted her bike trap, and sure enough Celty is there, looking for Varona, who is watching her from a rooftop. The mouse-and-cat-and-mouse game on display is making Ikebukuro more appealling to Varona all the time.

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Chitoge has another opportunity to demonstrate his impeccable feminism by forcing the proprietor of a non-straight-and-narrow art gallery buy a nearly 2-million-yen painting for his female employee, who was trying to work Chitoge, in a lovely instance of a routine con backfiring in the face of one who recognizes it for what it is.

Whether Walker does too or not, he goes in to complain about the saleswoman’s lack of eloquence in describing the works of his favorite illustrator, only to be kicked out for being blacklisted. Walker, a suspected Dollar, is why Chitoge is there. But he’s always there for a woman in need, even if that need is false.

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With his “senpai” in his clutches, Aoba surrounds Mikado with his chattering, giggling goons, identifying themselves as the Dollars who jumped Torumaru, essentially starting a war under Mikado’s nose, but in his name. Aoba says they’re also technically Blue Square, longtime foe of Masaomi’s Yellow Scarves, and he appoints Mikado as their leader, insisting they’ll follow whatever orders he issues.

In setting all this up, Aoba shows his true colors to Mikado for the first time, and they’re colors as cold and cruel and manipulative as Mikado is warm, kind, and passive. He knows Mikado doesn’t know the first thing about what to do with the power being thrust upon him, and that’s the point: Aoba wants Mikado, who naively founded the Dollars, to reap what he’s sown. He wants to corrupt him.

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Meanwhile, Akane turned out to be an elaborate trap set by Izaya and Namie to frame Mitzuo for wasting three yakuza belonging to Shiki’s company, manufacturing further chaos. But the focus here is on Mikado’ choice, with Masaomi on the outside looking in and increasingly unsettled by the chat room silence.

That’s kind of where this episode falls down, because neither Mikado nor Masaomi are the most compelling characters on the show, especially now that they’re separated. They’ve basically built artificial worlds of passivity and normalcy around them, while their past deeds, no matter how innocuous the intent, remain on the outside, to be utilized by others to stir up trouble.

With most of Mikado’s allies busy with their own issues, I wonder who if anyone will swoop in to help him, or if if he’s finally on his own, which is what Aoba seems to want. Masaomi is free, and seems to be restless. Any action risks crossing Izaya, and thus threatening his life with Saki. But can a friend who is never around still be called a friend?

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 07

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This week’s Drrr! is all about the contrasts between similar pairs of people, starting with the Two grizzled Ivans somewhere in Russia, both post-Soviet arms dealers; one’s pretty much fire one’s pretty much water. The water Ivan is Vorona’s father, and she possesses both characteristics, sometimes in sync, but sometimes in chaos.

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When Egor enters Russia Sushi, Simon and Dennis initially suspect he’s there to knock them off, but he’s really there for Vorona over, among other things, stolen anti-materiel rifles. Dennis is doubtful Vorona would use such a weapon in Tokyo unless she was in “a real crisis”, and at that moment it become’s Chekhov’s AMR.

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For all its prolific complex, multi-modal, zig-zagging storytelling, Drrr is just as capable of focusing in one one person an delivering a quick, efficient profile. Vorona’s life as an assassin and general badass began with one of those real crises; an unsavory home invader.

Vorona, armed with a sprawling library full of knowledge in every field, but useful and useless, Vorona answers her sudden fear of being killed with a ruthless plan, luring the burglar into a trap and literally killing him with water (from the bath) and “fire” (from a hair-dryer), executing everything perfectly and precisely like her dad, but also seeming to take a bit of enjoyment from it like the other Ivan.

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Seeing this new side of Vorona for the first time, her dad let Simon and Dennis train her, and she learns quick. These two ex-military guys ostensibly came to Ikebukuro to start new, laid-back lives, but it’s cool to see their old lives on display here, and how closely they’re connected with Vorona, who’s only just arrived.

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Without their tutelage, she wouldn’t be nearly as tough and honed a killing machine as she is when we meet her. But because she’s not just a carbon copy of her father, once she gets really good, odd jobs and small fry aren’t enough for her. She seeks out her father’s rivals and eliminates them to a man, but not for his approval or to help with the family business or because they were an imminent threat. She did it because it was fun.

Her first kill was overzealous self-defense,  armed only with household appliance and her wits. But I don’t think Ivan turned his daughter into a monster by having her trained; he was only facilitating a foregone conclusion.

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That brings us to Vorona’s latest job; capturing Anri. Ikebukuro has been so weak and unimpressive to her thus far, she’s riding a wave of arrogance and invincibility, which rams her right into a concrete wall. Vorona is good, but she’s still human, and coming up against something not quite human is a glass of cold water to the face. Even more than that, it’s something she hasn’t read about in any of her books; an unknown.

Vorona and Anri are a lot alike, in that both are imminently capable and potentially dangerous young women, one of whom choses to explore that potential to the fullest, and one prefers as quiet and normal life as she can manage.

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Armed with her bookish knowledge, wits, resourcefulness, Vorona thrived, but she didn’t fact Anri with as an underdog, but with the mentality of of a favorite. Her earlier success wasn’t success at all; you cannot beheaded what is already headless. Suddenly outmatched by real and frightening aberrations, Vorona returns to that night before she took action, and remembers again what it’s like to fear being killed.

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In other words, she enters the “real crisis” mode Dennis thought so unlikely, whipping out the AMR and firing it right at Celty, blowing her away but obviously not killing her. Having bought some time, and learned more about what she’s dealing with, she’ll formulate a new strategy that doesn’t rely on brute force alone.

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That brings back to Mikado, who has followed Masaomi’s advice and stayed in of a Saturday night. Considering what went down, that looked like good advice. Of course, by staying in Mikado is subjected to another manipulative phone call from Izaya, who understands Mikado founded the Dollars not only to put some excitement in his life, but also to fit in, to belong within the ensuing community.

Just because that community is off doing unscrupulous things like picking fights with rival gangs, that Mikado doesn’t agree with, doesn’t mean it’s all falling apart, nor can Mikado impose his pacifist will on them without destroying the Dollars’ fundamental philosophy of freedom. The Dollars are evolving, that’s all, and Mikado’s fear of being left behind is similar in strength to Vorona’s fears about being weak, unable to cope with threats, or killed.

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It’s a New Day in the Dollars, and Mikado can’t stem the tide. Aoba, Izaya’s heir apparent arrives at his door the next day, as if to herald that fact. Simon’s voiceover returns, and he mirrors his earlier comparison of the two Ivans with these two Taros: one who is Mr. Nice Guy, and the other who uses nice guys.

Will Mikado evolve, or dig in and let the wave crash around him, leaving him alone and left behind, his greatest fears realized? Such a scenario suggests there’s no one around of like mind to help him resist that wave, which is untrue. But in that case it certainly points to some kind of conflict. Mikado can’t very well stay holed up in that room forever.

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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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