Aniplex of America
The creator of Durarara!!, light-novel author Ryohgo Narita (who also brought us Baccano!) has said that the title doesn’t mean anything; but you can’t help but think that it’s just a poor approximation of the English word ‘Dollars’ and that he’s lying to cover his mistake.
Like Baccano!, Durarara!! features an extensive and highly variable cast that almost seems like it was culled together from five different series, all in different genres. Primarily, we focus on three high school students (though all of them have some rather bizarre secondary traits); but beyond that, we have a man in a bartender’s outfit with super-human strength, an ancient Irish fairy/headless motorcycle rider, a Machiavellian plotter who also has superhuman strength for some reason, mad scientists, a magic sentient sword, obsessive otaku, a black Russian sushi hustler, and many more.
What’s great about Narita’s work is that he doesn’t skimp on any of them. They are all fully-realized characters in their own right. They aren’t there for shock value, or just for the sake of making things weird; they are characters that interact believably with the other characters and the world around them. It would have been so easy to make Celty, the headless fairy, a mysterious figure lurking in the background, revealed in spectacular fashion in the last episode. Instead, only a few episodes in, there’s an episode devoted to her home life where we meet her roommate/love interest and learn that she is actually a fairly normal young woman, sans head.
The main character (in as much as there is one), Mikado Ryūgamine, says in the first episode, ‘It was both very, very strange, and also the sort of thing that could happen to anyone,’ and I think that’s a good assessment of the series as a whole. As strange as the events and characters in the series are; they are treated like normal, everyday things. And in that way, the series comes off seeming believable.
The one downside to such a large cast is that not everything is resolved at the end. The central conflict of the series is; and one character doesn’t complete their mission, but comes to terms with that fact; but there are other things, especially the machinations of a certain plotter, that are just left hanging in the end. That, however, is a minor quibble in an otherwise beautifully orchestrated series. It’s not the kind of hanging thread that makes you regret watching, it’s the kind that makes you want another season.
Aniplex of America has essentially just repackaged the Japanese Blu Rays for the North American market. What this means is perfect audio and video that retains all the Japanese credits and titles. In order to justify the 50%+ discount, they’ve removed a disc of extras, leaving us nothing (and I mean nothing) but the episodes. The discs are packaged in three Blu Ray cases inside a hard cardboard slipcover, that itself is inside a tin lunch box (exclusive to the N.A. release). It looks nice, but like any novelty package, it’s a bit of a nuisance.
It’s a shame that the price is going to keep most people from giving the series a shot; especially since Baccano! was released on Blu Ray by Aniplex for one-fifth the price. If you liked Baccano!, you’ll like this as well, but I’m not sure you’ll like it five times as much.