It's time to catch-up on the inhabitants of Ikebukuro with what's essentially an introduction for newer viewers.
What They Say
Magazine journalist Niekawa's unbridaled passion cannot be stopped. It's raging as strong as ever. A foreigner who runs a sushi shop, the Awakusu organization, an information broker, the Headless Rider... He investigates the supposedly strongest man in Ikebukuro, Heiwajima Shizuo, by walking around the town and talking to people. However, he is suddenly attacked! But that wasn't the only tragedy that night...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Episodes like this frustrate me, even when done well like it is here in Durarara!! With the second half of the season slowly picking up steam again as it deals with this Slasher storyline while mixing in more online elements, we essentially take a detour to deal with a new character who spends his time wandering around Ikebukuro trying to interview people. We get him hitting up all the usual folks such as Izaya and Simon in order to get a feel for what people see out there when it comes to the story he's working on for the magazine where he's following up on who the strongest people of the city are.
Naturally, he's had a run in with Shizuo.
Niekawa fits the mold as your pretty standard magazine hack with his hat and overcoat, the way his life has fallen to pieces and how much is riding on this one last story he needs to get right. His wife left him some time ago and he's got his teenage daughter, in her second year of high school, who pretty much views him as a joke, though we never see her. Taking his tour of Ikebukuro, he can't believe some of what he sees, such as how Simon approaches all of his customers or the kind of cold calculation that Izaya has with his business and how he knows oh so much about Niekawa. His arc is fairly uninteresting until his life takes more of a downturn and the Slasher gets involved, but admittedly by then it was feeling like an episode that you'd want to fast forward through anyway.
There are some interesting nuggets to be had here though when it shies away from Niekawa. We do learn a bit more about the Yellow Scarves in that the group specifically has been instructed to stay away from Izaya, a good idea by any account, and that they're ostensibly led by a man known as the General, though only the most senior of the group has actually seen him. What becomes more interesting is that we start getting some background on Anri as we learn how disconnected she is from the life she leads and the way she dreams of living forever with her parents. The death of her parents five years earlier obvious changes the view of Anri and how she handles herself in social situations as well as life in general and makes you want to go back to revisit the first half of the series to see what nuances may have been missed because of this. The voiceover during her story is amusing and sad as it paints a very lonely picture for her, making her even more sympathetic as she continues to be stalked by the Slasher.
While there are moments to be liked here and there throughout the episode, I found myself largely uninterested in it because it felt like a fake recap of sorts. It's all new animation but most of the story is told from Niekawa's perspective and it's just getting us to meet the various characters we already know pretty well. With his story, we really did not learn anything new about Ikebukuro or those he met with outside of a couple of small nuggets about the Yellow Scarves. Anri's brief story was much more welcome as it gave us some new insights into her as well as replayed a few recent scenes from her perspective that highlights how she views her life and the way she's so disconnected from things. There are things to like here overall, but this is the kind of episode that helps a show lose some of its steam at a time when it needs to be building it again.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.