I give this bold, crazy, snazzy, and modern anime...well, a 73/100.
Yeah, I gave this anime a rather low rating (by my standards) for good reasons. Now don't get me wrong, to an extent I liked it (and shall provide reasons for why in my review), but some parts of it just turned me off. Hard. And I don't mean that in a good way. At first, I didn't watch this when it first aired, but all my friends loved it, and when I learned it was going to air on Adult Swim on my birthday (June 25th), I decided to give it a try and DVR the first episode. I see why it's popular, but...like I said, some parts of it kinda make me want to beat my brains out. Now, onto the review!
So at the beginning, the show's about a shy and timid boy named Mikado Ryugamine who moves into the city of Ikebukuro, yearning for some fun life in the city. He runs into his childhood friend Masaomi Kida, who shows him around town and tells him about all the fun things in Ikebukuro: like the Russian sushi place owned by Simon Brehznev, the super powerful guy named Shizuo Heiwajima, the headless Black Rider named Celty Sturluson, and a bunch of other things. But deep in Ikebukuro's layers lies a so called notorious gang called The Dollars. Who are the Dollars? Why do they exist? What do they do? No one knows. But there's more to Ikebukuro than The Dollars. Crazy info brokers, weird underground doctors, promiscuous ganguro girls, kids who want to commit suicide, human traffickers, sword slashers, and...a disembodied head?
Well, let's begin with the animation, which happens to be one of this anime's best points! It's animated by Brain's Base, the animators behind shows like Natsume Yuujinchou, Spice and Wolf II, and Baccano. They've developed a steady reputation and their animation for this anime is very creative and well done. I especially like how modern it looks, since the show itself is a modern take on the craziness of teenage life (that's what I think). Buildings and railings are detailed, character movement is fluid and consistent (with a few hiccups here and there but I think those were intentional), action scenes are well animated for once (super speed is lazy animation to me!...and some other people!) and it's just downright cool! In a way this anime might remind you of shows like Cowboy Bebop because of it's interesting take on it's subject matter.
Okay. I'm gonna get flamed for this. I know. But let me say this: don't get me wrong. I LOVE Makoto Yoshimori, the composer for the music in this show. He did the OSTs for a lot of great anime, like Natsume Yuujinchou, Baccano, Koi Kaze, Gakuen Alice, and Kuragehime! Later he's gonna do the music for Hotarubi no Mori e, another Yuki Midorikawa work in the making! His soundtracks are very fitting and diverse for each show he works on. His work for NY is soft, simple, sweet, and heartwarming while Baccano's OST is perfectly loud, jazzy and out there. All the OSTs he made for those anime really worked, and are well beloved among his fans, including his OST for Durarara. But...Durarara? For me...honestly, people, don't hate me for this. We're all entitled to our opinions and I DO NOT say this to slander all you Durarara fans, but...I'm obliged to say this. Yoshimori's work on Durarara...as well as the OST in general...is the WORST THING I'VE EVER HEARD!!!!!! Sorry guys, but I need to get all of this out. This soundtrack made my ears bleed every single time the BGMs played! Some were so grating I needed to cover my ears while some sounded like mash and hacked rip-offs of other OSTs! For example, take a listen to this piece:
Ugh. This particular piece!! This sounds like five different pieces of background music put in a blender and the end result didn't mix well! Heck, two effects in particular sound like they've been mashed together with a hammer!
Also, this piece:
This I feel is the worst out of them. This thing sounds like it was hacked together on the computer using cheap sound effects you find in animation class! I hated all the times this piece played because it RAPED MY EARS!!!
Also...who thought it a good idea to play accordions in an epic fight scene?! (reference to episode 12.5 with Shizuo throwing a tree with a guy in it)
HOWEVER!!! I'm not saying the ENTIRE OST is bad. There are some awesome pieces in the show, and I like them! What do I think is the best part of the OST? The ending theme! Particularly the first one, Trust Me by Yuuya Matsushita. I LOVE THIS ED THEME!!! And the weird thing? Anybody who knows my taste in music knows I CAN'T STAND RAP!!! You can blame my school bus playing the 99.3 station for three years (which officially made me hate artists like Soulja Boy and Kanye West and anyone of the like). I mostly hate modern rap and hip-hop because most of what I hear is just full of blatant and barely hidden references to violence, sex, drugs, etc. But this ED theme? NO!!! This theme is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE THAT!!! One: It's well sung! Two: It has a neat visual idea (An anime character tower/bean stalk! Woohoo!). Three: IT ACTUALLY HAS POSITIVE LYRICS AND A POSITIVE MESSAGE BEHIND IT!!! No explicit language, no references to violence, no sex, no drugs, no NOTHING OF THE LIKE!!! To this day, this is the ONLY rap/hip-hop song that I actually not just like, but LOVE. But other rap songs? Go die in a fire. This OST? In my opinion, Yoshimori's weakest work. For me, it killed the show.
Now enough of my ranting for the music, now onto the characters!...who are...kinda a mixed bag. Durarara has a nice, large, diverse set of characters, and while this can be a good thing for most shows, I feel that this is one of Durarara's flaws as well. Some of the characters are awesome, some are annoying, and some are...kinda bland. Among those who are annoying is...again, I know I'm gonna be flamed for this...Izaya. Yeah yeah, I know everybody loves him, but...I found him to be REALLY annoying! I just think it's too weird and convenient that he's behind literally EVERY LITTLE THING that goes on in a character's life, let alone an entire group of characters for that matter! Sorry, but I just don't like him. Plus when he laughs, he sounds like he's on marijuana! My personal favorites have to be Kida, Celty, Shinra, and Erika (Their English voices are absolutely AWESOME!!!). Kida is just adorable. Sure he's a bit of a perv, but he doesn't go anywhere with it, and I just want to hug him whenever I have the chance! Erika is just plain cool whenever she's with Walker and his gang. Shizuo's awesome, but I don't really consider him my favorite. Mikado and Anri are cool too, and I want to say I like them, but...I don't have much of an opinion of Mikado, and Anri, as cool as she is in various episodes (and the fact that she's voiced by Michelle Ruff in the English dub! YAY!!!), kinda resembles me and all the things I don't like about myself (shyness, big chest, etc. Don't even go there). But that's probably just my stupid autistic brain going on overdrive. I kinda liked the chemistry between Celty and Shinra. They're cute together!
While this anime may have a lot of realistic depictions of the modern teenager (both Japanese and American), this isn't really a slice of life show. It's got fantasy elements too, though to a very small degree. I kinda feel the fantasy bits are rather out of place, but I think they're there to give the show some more appeal. I've only watched the English dub on Adult Swim, but I've kinda picked up on some of the themes of the show: technology taking over and lack of communication. In every little scene, you see someone with a cell phone. Cell phones are a pretty common motif in this show. EVERYONE has one. Everyone in real life has one. But even though communication has been made easier, the lack of face to face communication grows stronger with every new piece of communicative technology. This is especially apparent when in the final episodes, the kids don't talk to each other or answer their cell phones. Discommunication and misunderstanding are major themes in the show, as the three main characters go through these throughout most of the episodes, which may make some of the characters annoying to some, but if you look at it more closely, it's actually quite understandable and realistic because this is what a lot of teenagers go through in their lives. Kids are always afraid to talk to each other out of fear they might ruin a relationship, or they just don't clarify anything (this I think has become a VERY big flaw in all new anime in general). This anime takes this, and other teen issues, and gives it a nice spin without turning it into some cheesy soap opera. This I think is Durarara's best point. And seriously, what kid ISN'T in some gung-ho gang in this day and age? Though to be honest, most of the episodes were kinda dull. My favorites have to be episodes 6 and 12.5. That's it. I don't think I'd want to rewatch this show unless my friends want to.
While Durarara isn't the best show in the world, it's a nice take on the life of the modern teenager and a pretty bold, crazy, and complicated anime in general...though I still hate that soundtrack.