Review/discussion about: Durarara!!x2 Ketsu
Durarara!!x2 Ketsu is like this grilled-cheese-and-honey-mustard sandwich I ate the other day.
Could’ve been appetizing – but ultimately wasn’t.
Ketsu marks the end of the Durarara anime series. That means it has a lot to do. It needs to tie up plotlines, resolve character arcs, and provide a satisfactory ending. After all, the series spans sixty episodes (plus a special or OVA here and there). Did it do that?
No, not really.
Ketsu centers three central happenings: Kadota’s removal, Saika’s hypnosis, and Celty’s lost (now found) head. All three intertwine to create the overarching issue that plagues the city – unbridled chaos – as well as the myriad of smaller plotlines happening simultaneously – Ryuugamine versus Masaomi, the gangsters, and so on.
At the minimum, the overarching plotline does see a conclusion. Kadota comes back to return the favor. Saika is quelled. And Celty returns to being her normal self.
Albeit these separate conclusions are not exactly thrilling. Kadota and his crew aren’t together for very long as they are sidetracked by lots of traffic and trying to save Karisawa. Nobody interesting or important gets slashed or hypnotized during the Saika debacle.
Yet the biggest offender is Celty and her head. Despite the emphasis on it throughout the entire series, her beheaded reunion is strangely anticlimactic. Besides walking around slowly and stopping the major conflict with shadow magic, this inter-season dilemma simply lacks the necessary gravitas it supposedly contained.
Indeed, the lead-up to the reunion is somewhat silly with Kujiragi strolling into Shinra and Celty’s apartment.
The smaller plotlines also fail to materialize their importance. Ryuugamine’s quarrel with Masaomi is too esoteric, relying more on miscommunication and separation than any tangible issue between the two. The gangsters are around, but, with the exception of Izumii (the hammer-wielding older brother of Aoba) and the lent gun, don’t play much of a part in the festivities.
Again, though, the biggest offender derives from a lack of something happening: Anri and the boys’ keeping their collective promise.
Throughout much of this final season (and, to some degree, the other seasons following the first), the anime makes their promise a point. That they will get back together again to reveal their respective secrets. But not only does this never happen (at least on-screen; all the audience gets is the three of them putting their hands together as though they were on a sports team), but also Ryuugamine even spoils his secret to Masaomi before the three of them finally reunite. The same for Anri to Kadota and Namie’s group.
To be fair to Ketsu, some of the smaller plotlines are taken care of. Ruri’s stalker receives a conclusion. As does Varona’s inner conflict. Meaning, the anime does manage to bring about some satisfaction – even if these plotlines are necessarily powerful.
Despite the various plotlines tripping over themselves as they reach the finish line, they reveal a connection between them. In both Celty’s and the three teenagers’ cases, reuniting occurs. It’s a theme that can be seen many a time. Haruna reunites with her “lover.” Shizuo reunites with Varona. Kadota reunites with his crew. And so on and so forth.
Such a connection is nice to see, but what’s even nicer are the outcomes. Or rather, what Ketsu argues reuniting means. On a superficial level, it spurs action. When two people reunite after a long time, be they the best of friends or mortal enemies, the sudden yet familiar interaction causes emotions to fly and movement to occur.
On a deeper level, reuniting means rethinking. In nearly every reuniting case, the characters involved rethink. About their situation, about the other party, and, perhaps most importantly, about themselves.
Finally, on a broader scale, the show could make some nifty and weird narrative choices. For example, Ryuugamine being saved from his self-inflicted headshot by Celty’s powers goes along with his desensitizing to extraordinary events. On the other side, having the main antagonist be the teacher from the first season, while a neat little callback, doesn’t make much sense when he has not been around.
Altogether, the series’ last hurrah comes out only half-hearted rather than filled with gusto.
Ketsu, not unexpectedly, maintains the same level of art and animation throughout this final season.
Artistically, the different shots of the city once more add a sense of familiarity and wonder. High-rise depictions, glimpses of street, and the various locations – insides of buildings, a local park, etc. – add dynamism to the already chaotic city. Characters can appear wonky, especially when the anime zooms out to a medium distance, and the show even appears to forget that Mizuki has a missing eye and scar over it in his scene with Aoba in the final episode. But the art more or less sticks with its detailed locales.
The show’s faded-civilian appearance returns one last time as well. Dropping the coloring of the unimportant people places extra emphasis on the other characters which in turn gives them more importance. But even more importantly for this season, having the civilians as a mass of gray adds to the zombification conflict that occurs.
The character designs, similar to the city and the uncolored civilians, remain mostly the same. Anri’s unemotional face gives her all-black garb a more menacing feel, matching her (and the anime’s) focus on “monsters” (more later). Semyon, the Russian-black-sushi hitman, keeps his white-and-blue outfit. And Kujiragi’s sexy figure and yellow blouse hide her wicked ways.
In all honesty, many of the characters – such as Saki, Namie, etc. – are not eccentric in their details. But that has never given them less-than-ideal designs. Indeed, their realistic looks have kept the show grounded despite the headless women, psychological whispers, and random lunatics.
If nothing else, Ketsu gives many of its cast members new “designs” in the vein of making nearly everybody appear beat up in some form. Shinra, Masaomi, Ryuugamine, Shizuo, Izaya – many of the cast do not escape the wrath of the finale.
Yet, for one last time, the actual animation remains relatively low. Arguably the lowest it has ever been for the series. Some of the action, such as Shizuo and Izaya’s duel or Ryuugamine getting stabbed multiple times, can prove otherwise. But it’s more often the case that the anime simply cannot keep up the fluidity. Evidenced by the massive amount of sitting or standing around and talking that goes on.
In this final season, Ketsu has many characters that it ultimately does not handle well. Ryuugamine’s whole existential crisis and reasoning behind his new behavior is bizarre. Aoba, despite his conniving and believing he is in the thick of it, does not have an impact on the proceedings whatsoever. And many of the cast members are simply not given satisfying endings.
However, all that being said, the anime does hit some high notes. In particular, it chooses to focus on a singular character that has been around since the beginning. Not an unexpected choice. Perhaps surprising. Definitely interesting.
Her name is Anri.
As the audience already knows, Anri became quick friends with Ryuugamine and Masaomi. Ryuugamine had a crush on Anri, and Masaomi had some feelings for the girl, too. Although his feelings were more a way to mask his true feelings (about Saki). Nevertheless, Anri joins up with the boys to make a fun little clique.
Yet Anri had a secret: She was the wielder of Saika, the blade capable of controlling others through the smallest of scratches. Her backstory – involving her family and a certain mafia man – is sad to hear, but, thankfully, Anri’s will has managed to keep Saika in check all this time.
Discussing this backstory, despite it already being covered in earlier seasons, is important to both Anri’s development and this anime’s single most important idea. In this case, what it means to be a “monster.”
Stepping back for just a bit, the focus on Anri makes sense given what is going on with Masaomi and Ryuugamine. Their “feud”, their separation, places more emphasis on Anri because she has found herself distanced from both of the boys. Not really of her own doing but isolated nonetheless.
Such isolation allows her to meet with many other characters that she had never interacted with much before (or at all). And with each encounter, Anri develops while also cementing the show’s theme.
Her first major encounter this season comes from Erika. Erika’s presence defines Anri. Where Erika is loud and energetic, Anri is quiet and reserved. A fine case of night and day. This juxtaposition essentially gives Anri’s character her baseline, where she will progress from over the course of Ketsu.
Lo and behold, her next encounter tests her. Tests her hard. Izaya has harsh words for the kind girl, letting her know that, no matter what she may believe about herself, she is nothing more than a “monster.” Izaya’s obsession with humans and nothing but humans drives home his words even further.
Izaya doesn’t only dig at Anri. He also digs at Ryuugamine and Masaomi. The combined verbal attack makes Anri almost lose control – which is exactly what Izaya wants in order to prove his point.
Erika stops her, but the seed has been planted. Anri starts thinking about whether or not Izaya’s words are true; she keeps asking herself the same question. Is she a “monster?” While deep in thought, she happens upon not only one Saika holder but two: Haruna and Kujiragi.
While they each wield Saika, notable differences between the three can be spotted. The differing forms of the weapon – Anri’s singular katana, Haruna’s dual knives, and Kujiragi’s clawing wires – as well as their looks are some of the first contrasts. But it is their dispositions that garner the most attention.
Their café conversation highlights this idea well enough. Anri, per usual, remains passive. Haruna is forward and aggressive. Kujiragi has a more tactical, if not economical, mindset.
Yet the most striking difference, when compared to Anri, are their underlying feelings. Haruna is insane. She has nothing and wants nothing else besides the teacher she is so madly in love with. And Kujiragi, as seen through Anri’s eyes, has a horrifying evil nesting within.
Anri’s talk with the two women, who appear to be “monsters” and who also wield Saika, forces her to ask herself that same question again. Is she a “monster?”
At this point, it’s pertinent to dive into the anime’s main theme for this final season.
Anri sees these girls before her and wonders whether or not she is a “monster” herself. Quotes have been used because they have been necessary. For the actual question Anri is attempting to answer is the following: What makes a “monster?”
Anri is not the only example. Take Celty. She’s a dullahan, so she’s a monster. But is she a “monster?” She cares for the teenagers, she loves Shinra, and she fears the police. Seems pretty human.
What of Shizuo? His inhuman strength would certainly make him into a monster. So would his unrelenting hatred for Izaya. But his friendships with Celty, Shinra, and Varona prove he is far from being a “monster.”
On the opposite end, a character like Nasujima is a “monster.” His disregard for others – running over Kadota, using Saika to control others for his own gains – demonizes him. Izumii crushes others with his hammer, so he can be viewed as a “monster,” too.
Even Ryuugamine falls under this category. His twisted take on obliterating the Dollars and his misshapen perspective that the extraordinary is now only ordinary gives him a “monster” vibe, too. (Shooting his friend solidifies this as well.)
So what’s the difference between a “monster” and a human? The answer is simple: love.
Love happens to be the purest, most wonderful feeling that people have at their disposal. And as the characters of Ketsu show, love drives these people towards humanity.
For instance, Kujiragi finds herself feeling jealous of the love shared between Celty and Shinra, so she, too, vies for that same connection, lessening her overall evil persona. Varona’s love for Shizuo pushes her to stop him from killing Izaya, from committing the ultimate monstrous act that would, indeed, turn him into a “monster.”
But it’s not just lovers’ love that counts. Love between friends and people in general counts, too.
Masaomi has love for his best friend, love that tries to help him in all earnest. Kadota’s group love him as well, visiting him at the hospital and figuring out the culprit behind his attack. Shingen’s love for his son causes Shingen to mess up the plans of the one that orchestrated the attack against Shinra.
Yet as Manami (the girl trying to “kill” Izaya), Haruna, and Namie show, love can be used in an evil manner. Meaning humans almost always have the capacity to become a “monster” – how they love determines which side of the spectrum they end up at.
Back to Anri and her next important encounter. When Anri gets home, Saki speaks with her about Masaomi, whether or not the bespectacled girl loves the boy. She does – but not in the same manner as Saki. Saki is relieved, and, more importantly, she starts to get Anri to think about something besides that question. That maybe she is human.
Her second-to-last encounter proves the most pivotal. After meeting with Saki, the two of them join up with Kadota and Namie’s groups, hitching a ride in the van. While inside, Anri does something she’s never done before: She tells everybody about Saika.
It’s a strong moment because Saika is also about love. More specifically, it’s “her job to love humans.” So Anri loving, or at least controlling, Saika demonstrates that Anri is not a “monster.” She (as she says) may not fully understand how to love others (holding parallels with Saika’s way of “loving” humans), but, through this and her many other encounters this season, she has learned that she is truly human.
Indeed, her final encounter with Mizuki, the gangster who has ties to her past and ripped out his own eye to stop Saika from entering him, proves her newfound outlook. He asks her if she likes Ryuugamine – and she doesn’t shy away from saying yes. Those are “her feelings.” Feelings that make her into the girl, the person, the human she has always been.
The same jazzy, chaotic tunes return, as do the voice actors and voice actresses for this final push. Per usual, the former adds a mysterious atmosphere to the proceedings whereas the latter more or less capture the spirit of their individual characters. (Which, at this point, they better.)
Granted, nobody gave any amazing performances, but some special shout-outs are deserved regardless. Mamoru Miyano as Masaomi strains his voice with sincere emotion. Miyuki Sawashiro as Celty reacts to the different situations with more than just the placid tone she normally uses. And Houko Kuwashima as Kujiragi keeps her voice level no matter the situation.
Moving on to the opening track, it’s a nice piece. The beginning buildup, the middle with its somewhat somber vibe, and the end’s exciting finish gives Ketsu a fun, catchy OP for the audience to listen to.
The ending track is nice, too. Piano, guitar, and drums come together to create a cool and crazy piece that matches the overall feeling of the series itself. The vocalist’s calm yet quick singing, with the occasional change in passion, is similarly fitting for the song.
For one last time, this series just does not do it for me.
Mostly due to two characters in particular: Ryuugamine and especially Izaya. Ryuugamine is just not an interesting protagonist to me – no matter how straight-laced and demented the show tried to spin him. As for Izaya, like always, he simply got on my nerves. His demeanor. His holier-than-thou attitude. His group of girls that surround with a “hate him but secretly like him” mindset.
But worst of all, Izaya lives another day, escaping his inevitable demise and aggravating me even further.
Izaya is definitely my biggest grip, but other parts contributed to me not getting much entertainment out of the season. The different brawls weren’t fun, and the drama wasn’t moving. A couple of the comedy skits, like Namie and Mika having to sleep in the same room because of their lovers’ quarrel, could put a smile on my face. But more often than not, the anime simply failed to make me happy.
Durarara!!x2 Ketsu is a disappointing conclusion to an interesting series. Some of the music is nice and Anri’s whole arc is a definitive highlight. But the final story’s push lacks impact, many of the other cast members are mishandled, and the various unenticing elements harm this finale. If there is a next time, it needs to hold the honey-mustard.
Story: Bad, a theme on reuniting gets covered by anticlimactic events, not following through on certain ideas, and mixed narrative choices
Animation: Fine, nice artistic direction, good character designs, below average actual animation
Characters: Fine, while many of the cast members receive little in the way of attention and satisfaction in their arcs, Anri’s development as well as a theme on “monsters” and love find strength
Sound: Fine, good OP, okay ED, nice OST, about average VA performances
Enjoyment: Bad, nice to see the series end, but it’s disappointing all the same
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3