When Ryuugamine arrives in Ikebukoru for school, he discovers a city that’s nothing like anyplace he’s been before.
What They Say:
Ryuugamine Mikado, a young man longing for something special to happen in his life, moves to Ikebukuro at the invitation of his friend, Kida Masaomi. He will begin a new life, living alone, as a high school student. He arrives in Tokyo for the first time in his life. Bedazzled by this new world, Masaomi gives him a warning: "If you want to live peacefully here, stay away from Heiwajima Shizuo, Orihara Izaya, and the mysterious color gang the "Dollars." Just then, he heard a sound similar to the neigh of a horse. Mikado and Masaomi follow the sound to its source and come across what they'd thought was only an urban legend: the "Headless Rider", atop a pitch-black motorcycle...
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels by Ryohogo Narita, who has gained some stateside fame recently with Baccano! being released from FUNimation, Durarara!! is a twelve episode series being produced by Brain Base, which also did the work on Baccano!. Durarara! has six light novels as of this airing so there’s certainly material to work with and this episode sets up the stage well while leaving a whole slew of questions. The primary one, throughout much of the episode though, is to wonder just what it is this show is about. But the same could easily have been said about Baccano! – and I know I said it during the entire run – so right now the show is all about style and unearthing exactly what it wants to be.
Durarara!! kicks off by introducing us to the somewhat quiet and introspective Ryuugamine Mikado. Ryuu has just arrived in Ikebukuro as he’s going to the Ikebukuro East high school where it’s an above average place with a solid program and great location. After living a fairly quiet life, keeping mostly to himself for the last few years, he’s excited about this change as it brings him back into contact with his childhood friend Kida. Kida had moved away four years ago when they were in elementary school together but now they’re in the same place. They kept in touch online though, a welcome nod to the way society has changed, so there isn’t a huge meeting sequence as the two young men reunite. They’ve known all about each other from chat rooms and email all this time, but they do need to readjust to being in each others presence again. This isn’t so bad since Kida is an outgoing and talkative guy who gets to show off his home of Ikebukuro to his best friend.
The opening episode of Durarara!! focuses on two main tracks as it lays down the foundations of the series. The first is that it has Kida showing Ryuu around the city in the evening and letting him see the wonders and beauty of it. At the same time, he warns him of the dangers, from the various color gangs that roam the area that the police deal harshly with to the mysterious gang called the Dollars that he only says very little about. Along the way we meet a few of his slightly geeky friends and a black Russian man named Simon who works as at a sushi restaurant where he tries hard to bring in new customers. Through Ryuu’s eyes we get to see the city really well and it has a great life to it that makes you see easily why Ryuu is excited to be there.
The second track that appears here is that there is definitely some evil underfoot in the city. This is seen primarily through a kidnapping of a young woman by three men with a truck that adds a good sense of danger to the big city. What this angle is set to show though is there is something in the city that’s out to deal with such troubles, a someone that’s called the “black rider,” a headless person on a black motorcycle with a yellow helmet that has sharp animal ears on it. There’s a good action sequence included in this as the black rider chases those responsible and they deal some serious and controlled bloody moments to it, but it adds the supernatural as well as you see the rider tossed from the bike and without a head after the helmet is tossed off. Add in a shadow ethereal scythe that they use to cut down one of the bad guys and it’s certainly very intriguing.
What helps this show immensely in its first episode is that the animation itself is really quite beautiful. Ikebukuro doesn’t get too much love in the anime world in general, at least by name, but here it’s quite the character itself in the series as it feels very much alive. People walk through its streets, plenty of cars pass by and with its introduction at night, it has a very strong sense of presence about it as Ryuugamine takes it all in for the first time. The character designs are really good with a bit of an angular look that works for it and the whole thing has a ton of detail that will make watching it over again very worthwhile. The color palette and the real world style is exactly what this show needs to grab your attention early on since it seems to be something of a slow starter.
Right now, Durarara!! is all about the potential. The show has a lot going for it – solid animation, great design and its origins with Ryohogo Narita. With twelve planned episodes, we’re likely to get the basic starting story that’s fairly self contained but with plenty of room for it to go afterwards. This opening episode starts laying down the foundations and it is really nicely done, executed well and a good mixture of style and substance, but it’s not a huge hook. It has enough of one to draw you back a second week just on the production qualities alone and the story idea has some potential to it. But it’s not an out of the park hit with this opening piece. It does leave you looking forward to next week though.
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.