Review/discussion about: Durarara!!x2 Ten
I am a suburban-born kid. I had the backyard, the nice house, and the friendly neighbors. I was not surrounded by shops or tons of cars or a plethora of people. Going to the city was an adventure. Usually for a sports game or a get-together with the extended family. Either way, I always felt out of place. I felt as if the city would consume me. That the city would take me in and never let me leave.
Ikebukuro, the setting within Durarara!!x2 Ten, would be another city where I would most certainly not feel at home. The lights and the bustle would contribute to this feeling, but the people – the super-strong butler, the headless rider, and the demonic slasher – would influence me the most. Yet the people in Ten, while fictitious, represent a similar sentiment of misplaced comfortability.
Ten sits in a strange spot. It is not the first season of the series, and it is not the (currently known) last either. It is the continuation of the setup for the last. In other words, what this season gave was even more setup.
Many of the plotlines within Ten are designed to be just that, setup. Minor details might carry over from one episode to the next, but Ten is more concerned about what has yet to be rather than what is about to be. Information dumping, character expounding, and so on. For example, one episode focuses entirely on a group of forgotten characters and their incestuous relationship, reminding the audience of who these people are and what they stand for. Another episode demonstrates a broker’s manipulative capabilities that, by extension, introduce a new set of characters. Another still provides extensive backstory on a gangster that was brought in during the second season (the setup to the setup). Each of these episodes are almost standalone in their presentation, as if their inclusion in the season serves little purpose outside of their singular episode. But given that Ten is on the divide between the climax and the rising action, these separate setups should seemingly pay off in the long run.
Unfortunately for the anime, there are a handful of plotlines that do not know whether they want to be setup or want to be important now. The most obvious culprit of this wishy-washy behavior is the Stalker Arc. This arc takes up a quarter of the season, putting a lot of emphasis on this portion of the show. The villain’s motivations are made clear, tension builds, and events progress, all in an attempt to make the plotline have relevancy. Then the plotline suddenly concludes. Technically the stalker is still at large, the built tension is lost, and the anime reverts back to its standalone format. The argument is that the Stalker Arc created the other scenarios that followed: Shinra’s recovery, Masaomi’s reformed Yellow Scarves gang, and so on. Meaning, the plotline is not completely useless. But since the main conflict never sees closure, the plotline feels incomplete despite the show supposedly wanting to use this arc again in the future.
It is not just the Stalker Arc that is confused. When Celty confronts Izaya on the roof about Shinra’s attackers, the aside about her sensing that Izaya has the head to her headless body is never followed through. The young girl that Izaya essentially told to commit suicide appears in the very beginning, once (without dialogue) sometime in the middle, and never again anywhere else. The dojo is presumably an important location – considering the old, semi-new, and new characters that walk through it – but those attached to the place, while shown occasionally, are not particularly influential within the season. As these examples prove, Ten does not always have a strong grasp on if it wants to do everything now or save its events for later.
However, Ten does have a grasp on one of its biggest themes: the sense of belonging. To be fair, the overarching plotline is a bit silly. Mikado is personally purging the Dollars in order to make Ikebukuro a home for Masaomi and Anri. Masaomi, worried about Mikado, starts up his gang again in order to defeat Mikado and hence protect him. All of this while Anri is ignored by both. Quite the asinine plotline. Despite the stupidity of the plot, what actually happens follows Mikado’s own ideas about the future of the city. Many of the staple characters, such as Shinra, Shizuo, and Kadota, are “taken out” of the city. These are the people who fit within the city the most, yet they are the ones that do not have a place within it. The iconic chat room evicts its original tenets in favor of new ones, indicating the shift Ikebukuro is feeling. Even the Dollars as well, the most tolerant group, are forcibly removing people from their “home.”
Most importantly, though, is how Ten showcases the effects of these removals. With Shizuo arrested, people do not feel safe. With Kadota gone, the citizens are mentally frightened. With both of these men gone, Shinra is, understandably, worried about Celty’s safety. The new chat users make it confusing for the audience to follow who is who and who is saying what. As for the Dollars, their tactic of solving violence with violence is obviously nonsensical, but that is the point. Not having a place to call home means a bigger exposure to danger. So as Ikebukuro becomes less of a home for its denizens, the amount of violence that everyone – from Mikado to Izaya to Celty – experiences increases.
This is not the end for the Durarara series, but based on what Ten has provided and what it is supposed to come, it still has a lot of ground to make up.
Ten, like every part of the series, prioritizes the city and its cast over anything else when it comes to its art and its animation.
Per usual, the non-main actors in Ikebukuro are grayed out, a technique that keeps the spotlight on the cast. Per usual (per usual), the city is highlighted as much as possible. Low shots on a highway, aerial views of the skyscrapers, back alleys of the seedier areas, apartment complexes, and random locations on the street give the audience a virtual tour of the chaotic city in a similarly chaotic manner. Interestingly, the color palette of Ten is not remarkably varied. Many of the colors are drab; they do not breathe life into the city but rather remove life from it. Given the theme on belonging, this kind of artistic direction is a clever addition.
Slight errors in the art exist, usually when the anime places the camera far away from the characters, but nothing so egregious that a viewer would be distracted. Actual animation, however, should have followed in the art’s well-executed footsteps, because it did not. Despite the prevalent action and the eccentricity of the characters, movement of an appropriate level does not exist. Some instances do see an elevated amount, such as during Mikage’s arrival to rescue Izaya or when Celty is frightened of the coppers so she swiftly makes her escape (with a bonus, comical head shiver). These moments are rarer, though. Vorona’s acrobatic scenes are more common; the background is removed and close-ups are used in order to reduce the amount of actual movement. That is, Ten instead sticks mostly to showing off its art, with framed and angled shots that somewhat make up for the lack of animation throughout the season.
And as for the designs of the (new) characters, they fit right alongside the rest of the cast. Mikage’s spiky red hair, muscular body, and bandaged chest outwardly reflect both her tomboyish behavior and her fighting prowess. Adabashi has scars all over his body and has a snarl on his face, but when he wears his hoodie, the plain hair and plain faced man is like any other John Smith; the perfect disguise for a stalker. And Hiroto, the drug smuggler, wears a hoodie, glasses, and has frazzled brown hair that turns him into the moody teenager that he is. Some of the older cast members also see new getups. Shinra, after he is injured, has bruises and sprains aplenty. Mikado, too, with his new zip-up jacket highlights his new outlook on life. Even Vorona ditches her usual motorcycle gear in favor of some casual attire. Thus, anyone can tell that the designs of the characters (per usual…) are of high quality.
If the Durarara series is known for anything, it is the quirky cast that it contains. Iconic characters like Celty the Dullahan, her ominous background contrasting with her girly behavior. Recent characters like Hollywood, the idol by day and the violent murderer by night. Even the new ones like Kujiragi, who acted as the secretary for “Mr. Yodogiri,” but was in reality the leader of the Yodogiri group the entire time. This quirkiness is what is alluring. It is fun to watch these arguably unique characters come together and duke it out in various ways.
Yet, among all of the characters, there is one that, while not technically missing, does not have as much of a role this time around. That person is none other than Mikado. It is fair to say that Mikado is the main character. He is the leader of the Dollars, the largest gang in Ikebukuro. He is always (near) the front of the main graphic, acting as the poster child for the series. And he is connected to the most people in the city at any given moment. This season, however, has considerably less of the boy. Thus it begs the question, why displace focus away from the main protagonist? There are two reasons, one simple and the other complex. The simpler of the two ties back to the earlier discussion about the rest of the cast. Mikado is not interesting. He is a wimp. He is a passive dude. He is, for all intents and purposes, a boring guy. So, rather than focus on Mikado’s character, the anime tends to favor the abundant amount of interesting people that surround him.
The more complex reason is infinitely more interesting, and much more profound than simply focusing on the more intriguing characters like Vorona and Izaya. He is ignored because that is a clever way to continue the theme of belonging. By not focusing on the main character of the series, Ten effectively challenges what it means for someone like him to exist among the city of crazies. From his actions – taking part in violence to make Ikebukuro a “better” place for Anri and Masaomi to live – the audience witnesses how much Mikado does not deserve to be there. He did not deserve to be there before because he was going with the flow, and now he still does not deserve to be there because he is trying to turn the city into something it is not (through less-than-favorable means).
Who does gain the focus throughout Ten? Akabayashi, of the Awakusu group, is one of the earliest to gain the spotlight. His background is revealed, as is his run-in with the slasher demon that rests within Anri. Vorona and Hollywood, too, get extra attention once more. The former has conflicting feelings on who she is and what she is doing whereas the latter is shown to have a darker, twisted past than was previously thought. Not to mention Hollywood is, like many people in Ikebukuro, a novelty; her body is capable of regenerating itself. Even Namie, her brother Seiji, and his “girlfriend” Mika have an episode all to themselves, as if the anime wanted to let its audience know that these characters still existed. A nostalgic nod, and a welcome one, too.
Surprisingly, though, it is Izaya, the information broker, that receives the most satisfying development. Izaya has always been known as the pest, as the troublemaker without a heart. And for much of the season, Izaya is exactly like this: arrogant, manipulative, and cruel. Yet Shinra, much to the disbelief of everyone let alone Celty, recounts a tale of Izaya acting like a kindhearted person. Yes, him ruining the life of another to avenge his friend is still a bit twisted, but “it is the thought that counts,” as they say. So for the first time, the audience sees a side of Izaya that had been repressed.
Izaya’s development is at the expense of Shinra’s incapacitation. For many other characters, this same theme – someone influenced by the troubles of another – persists. Walker and Saburou are spurred on due to the disrespectful attack on Kadota, their best friend. Vorona regresses back to her normal self after Shizuo is arrested. Masaomi, realizing that Mikado is risking his life, becomes the leader of his old color gang once more. Mikado, Hollywood, and Akabayashi, discussed earlier, likewise grow as characters but only at the expense of others.
What this theme demonstrates is how much everyone in Ikebukuro relies on one another. Even more profound is that this demonstrates that everyone in Ikebukuro are who they are because of one another. Combined with the theme on belonging, Ten makes it clear that people can only be who they are when the people close to them are safe and sound.
Though not everyone gets attention. The new dojo siblings, Eijirou and Mikage, are barely characterized despite their apparent connection and feud with Izaya. Aoba is the hidden kingpin, but outside of a menacing glare in the middle of the season he has little else given about him. And Celty, for the second season in a row, is still more or less on the sidelines. To be fair, Ten has a humongous cast, so expecting every single person to change over the course of twelve episodes is absurd. But given that these same characters are either brand new, are highly important, or have been around since the beginning, and they all contribute enough to remain relevant throughout the season, not giving them the appropriate amount of change that they deserve is not what one could call a boon.
The opening theme for Ten makes the listener feel as if he is riding on a highway within a bustling city. That is a cool feeling, especially because Ikebukuro is such a prominent part of the series. The song is also invigorating due to the vocalist’s passionate singing. On top of all this, the erratic noises during and at the end of the song match the kind of chaos Ikebukuro is prone to. Alongside the small recaps (which are very helpful when not binge-watching the anime), the OP is quite the strong piece.
Even stronger is the ending theme. A mellow start quickly builds up into a powerful bout of singing and instrumental work that fills the listener with joy. The scrolling characters, the fast beat, and the catchy lyrics come together throughout the piece, but it is the middle section, where it briefly returns to its calm roots and then immediately back to its quickness, that captures the tone of the song. Despite all this, it is the chanting of the chorus, which sort of symbolizes the togetherness of the characters in Ikebukuro, that pushes the ED from nice to stellar.
Besides the OP and the ED, the rest of the soundtrack maintains its atmospheric feel. It is almost exclusively the same music that the series has used from the beginning; jazzy tunes, frightening scores, and accordion mixes. Thus and once again, none of the tracks are worth listening to on their own, but when coupled with Ten (or any other part of the series), the OST stands its ground.
As for the voice acting, while the performances are not poor, nobody provides anything outstanding or notable. Youji Ueda as Adabashi is not as psychotic-sounding as a stalker of his caliber would presumably be. Miyuki Sawashiro as Celty adds extra emotion to the headless woman who seemingly cannot provide any. And Hiroshi Kamiya as Izaya still has one of the cockiest voices imaginable. Misaki Kuno as Akane uses a cute voice, Eri Kitamura as Mairu always sounds so energetic, and Hiromi Igarashi as Mikage provides an underwhelming performance. Altogether, the performances are standard offerings.
Once again, I found myself irked by this show.
The glorification of Izaya for the umpteenth time was one of the biggest reasons. I cannot stand his character. They tried to humanize him a bit this time around; his avenging of Shinra and attempts to locate Namie, for the first time, made him out to be someone who was potentially a pretty cool dude. Then the anime would revert back to its old ways with him. He was happy about getting stabbed. He outsmarted two clans simultaneously. He gained a bunch of new followers, one even being a woman that he raped (supposedly, because the anime nonchalantly mentions this in passing only once). Like the previous season, though, Izaya gets some just desserts right at the end, which was oh-so-satisfying for me. I was happy to see this cocky chump be on the losing end once again because he almost neveris. And that irritates me.
I am also a bit selfish with this series. I like the relationship that Celty and Shinra share. At least, I like the romantic direction that it appears to be going. So, when the anime does not capitalize on the opportunity to further said relationship, it frustrates me. Celty is taking care of Shinra and Shinra is revealing parts of his past with Celty. Would it hurt for them to connect on a deeper level emotionally? The anime certainly thinks so. Shinra goofs around too much to be serious and Celty is either oblivious to his feelings or uncharacteristically scared (Shinra is not a cop) to do anything with him. I love romance and I like their relationship, so getting constantly teased about the fact that there might (potentially) be more simply bugs me.
As for everything else this season had to offer, I am ambivalent. I wish there was more Vorona. I liked that there was less Mikado. I was fine with the amount of Shizuo we got. The anime can be funny at times, although it sticks more to drama. The new characters, like Kujiragi and the dojo siblings, are fine yet so little is given on them currently that a judgement call on their characters is hard to make right now.
As a final comment, having such a large cast makes the show interesting, no doubt. Though I cannot call itenthralling. I chalk this up to the series not pairing up its cast members more generously. Have Anri collide with Izaya. Show Simon interacting with Hollywood. Let the Orihara sisters chat with Shinra. All of these cool characters, together in one city, yet it never feels like they cross paths enough. They are like a bunch of cogs in the same area, but they never seem to move in unison. The result is a stalling of the contraption and, subsequently, a reduction in the amount of entertainment produced.
Durarara!!x2 Ten is stronger than its predecessor, with flavorful characters and some impactful musical choices, although this one is not without its own flaws. The story, once again, could use more direction. Some of the cast members are, once again, forgotten about. And parts of the series are, once again, grating to experience. Yet despite these issues, seeing where Ikebukuro and its citizens will ultimately end up in the near future should be more comforting than any trip to a strange city could ever hope to be.
Story: Fine, nice setup for the next season, a silly plot, some self-confused threads, and a strong theme on where one belongs
Animation: Good, cool artistic direction, nice character designs, slightly below average actual animation
Characters: Good, not focusing on Mikado is purposeful and clever, strong themes on belonging and expense, but still a sizeable chunk of the cast is ignored
Sound: Good, good OP, great ED, still the same atmospheric OST, okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, Izaya continues to be beyond annoying, needs more Celty and Shinra romance, ambivalent towards most other facets, and just not enough path-crossing
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3