Genre: Action, Supernatural, Shounen
Writer & Artist: Ryohgo Narita & Akiyo Satorigi
Publisher: Square Enix (JP), Yen Press (U.S)
Serialized in: Monthly GFantasy
Translation: Stephen Paul
Durarara!! has been one of those series that I’ve always planned to watch, but never could find the time to do so. I’ve watched a few episodes of it at my anime club in school, but even though I might have been interested in watching it in my own time, focusing on higher education and having a bit of a social life put that on the backburner, and with other animes on my backlog, the show just kept getting pushed back. So considering that I’m reviewing any volumes of the manga before I continuing the show, there seems to be something wrong with this picture. However, I happened to get the two copies thanks to a contest a few months ago held by Katherine Dacey at The Manga Critic. It’s a good thing that I won it because I would never have been interested in picking up the manga truth be told; now I’m looking forward to buying Vol 3 because the varied plotlines running through these first two volumes got me hooked.
The main gist of Vol 1 starts with Mikado Ryuugamine, who has moved to Ikebukuro to attend a private high school. On his first day Mikado meets up with a friend from elementary school in Masaomi Kida. He subsequently bumps into one of the many characters in the story, Seiji Yagiri. After Seiji’s gone, he then is warned by Kida that there are dangers in the area, and dangerous people he should never try to mess with. Finally, he runs into an all-black figure on a black motorcycle as he was trying to cross the street.
Welcome to Ikebukuro, Mikado.
There are over 10 characters covered in the two volumes that have plotlines that at some point will have to tie together to form a sense of cohesion. The way the story is set up, this can be seen as an excuse for ineffective writing and a lack of either developing the characters or focusing on favorites to know which character(s) stand out from the pack. I view it as a great way of storytelling. These types of stories can flame out if it’s poorly written or there’s an element that’s not realistic, but once the Black Rider appeared in the first few pages of the volume, things weren’t going to be normal. Immediately as the story goes on and characters appear, elements of crazy personas make their appearance and through their weird and maybe deranged actions they move the plot forward; for Mikado, yes he seems all normal and your usual bland male character, but despite knowing of the dangers of Ikebukuro, he’s all excited. He had the stones to give his name to Izaya Orihara, who A) was one of the people Kida mentioned to never get involved with and B) happens to be crazy enough to take the time to solicit two girls who wanted to kill themselves through various methods and trick them because…he’s bored.
The Black Rider, who seems to be your usual abnormality in fiction, is a bit more abnormal since it has no head, is actually a dullahan from Ireland who is searching in Ikebukuro for said head, and that “it” is actually a woman, which gets found out at the end of Vol 1. Seiji, who at first seemed like he was a normal kid who happened to be unfortunate enough to have stalker Mika Harima tail him around, has major girl issues that involve a head and his sister Namie. Anri Sonohara, who seems to serve as Mikado’s potential love interest, is seemingly your typical shy girl who is aware of the fact that’s she using her friend to get around in her life. These are only a few of the characters that I’ll spoil their backstories and roles for you; there’s still that crazed guy in Shizuo Heiwajima, the big black guy who runs a sushi shop in Simon, and the Dollars, which features two manga loving couples and their eclectic personalities, that I could describe but that would require even more spoilers.
I’m compelled. I want to know how each of these characters try and solve their problems. I want to find out what the main goal will be for all of them when the main story arrives. At some point I can expect them to meet up and soon the real issue will confront them. For now, their emotions and reasons for doing what they do are good enough to compel me.
That’s not to say these volumes don’t have issues. I did find some elements off, like when the story focused on The Black Rider’s past and how she managed to get from Ireland to Japan. She was dressed like a knight in the early ages. She arrived in Japan 20 years from where the story took place. I find some sort of implausibility here somewhere. The art is good for the most part, but nothing too special. And in general, for some the way this story is presented—or the lack thereof of a story—may turn you off if you don’t care about any of the characters. But if you do, this is a fun read. Now I eagerly await Vol 3.