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Durarara!! part 01 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

February 1, 2011 by  



One of the best looking anime TV series that I have seen in the last decade.  “Durarara!!” is an enjoyable anime series that features awesome character designs, one of the best artistic backgrounds featuring Tokyo and an awesome storyline with cool characters!  Another magnificent release from Aniplex and I can’t wait for part 2!

Image courtesy of © Ryohgo Narita/ASCII MEDIA WORKS/Ikebukuro Dollars/MBS. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Durarara Part 01

DURATION: Episodes 1-9 (325 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 LB, Japanese and English Dolby Digital 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex Inc.

RATED: Suggest 13 and up

Release Date: January 25, 2011

Originally created by Ryohgo Narita

Directed by Takahiro Omori

Series Composition by Noboru Takagi

Music by Makoto Yoshimori

Original Creator: Ryohgo Narita

Character Design by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Akira Ito

Produced by Akeko Yokoyama, Atsushi Wada, Hiro Maruyama, Kozue Kaneniwa, Yasuyo Ogisu

Anime Production: Brains Base

Featuring the following voice talent:

Miyuki Sawashiro/Kari Wahlgren as Celty Sturluson

Toshiyuki Toyonaga/Darrel Guilbeau as Mikado Ryūgamine

Akio Ohtsuka/ as Shingen Kishitani

Ayahi Takagaki/Mela Lee as Erika Karisawa

Daisuke Ono/Crispin Freeman as Shizuo Heiwajima

Hiroshi Kamiya/Johnny Yong Bosch as Izaya Orihara

Jun Fukuyama/Yuri Lowenthal as Shinra Kishitani

Kana Hanazawa/Michelle Ruff as Anri Sonohara

Kazuma Horie/David Earnest as Seiji Yagiri

Mamoru Miyano/Bryce Papenbrook as Masaomi Kida

Mariya Ise as Mika Harima

Sanae Kobayashi/Bridget Hoffman as Namie Yagiri

Takaya Kuroda/Patrick Seitz as Simon Brezhnev

Takuma Terashima/Spike Spencer as Saburou Togusa

Wataru Takagi/Kyle Hebert as Horada

Yuuichi Nakamura/Steven Blum as Kyōhei Kadota

Yuuki Kaji/Brian Beacock as Walker Yumasaki

Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Mikado Ryugamine is a young man who yearns for the city like no other. At the invitation of his childhood friend, Masaomi Kida, he leaves his hometown and enters Raira Academy in Ikebukuro. Masaomi warns Mikado about the mysterious organization of unknown origin known as the “Dollars” and some dangerous people in Ikebukuro to watch out for. In particular: the brawling champion Shizuo Heiwajima and hobbyist information broker Izaya Orihara.

On his first day out in the city, Mikado, remembering another of Masaomi’s stories, sees a jet-black motorcycle being driven by the fabled “Headless Rider.” From then on, a series of random attacks and events begins to occur on the streets of Ikebukuro, and a group known as the Yellow Scarves arises as Ikebukuro begins to crumble!

Back in 2004, light novelist Ryohgo Narita, who won a Gold Prize in the 9th Dengeki Novel Prize for “Baccano!” returned with “Durarara!!” and teaming up with illustrator Suzuhito Yasuda (known for his video game work “Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor”).

With a total of eight volumes published in Japan by ASCII Media Works (ala their Dengeki Bunko imprint), a manga adaptation would be created by Akiyo Satorigi and published in the shonen magazine “Monthly GFantasy” in 2009.  The popularity of Narita’s works, especially with “Baccano!” would lead to an animate adaptation  of “Durarara!!” in January 2010. And now the series has been released in the USA courtesy of Aniplex, Inc.

The anime production for “Durarara!!” is by Brains Base (“Brave Story”, “Kure-nai”, “Spice and Wolf II”, “New Getter Robo”, “Akikan!”) and the series is directed by Takahiro Omori (“Aruna”, “Gakuen Alice”, “Kuragehime”, “Zoku Natsume Yujin-Cho”) with series composition/script by Noboru Takagi (“Baccano!”, “C”, “Koi Kaze”).  Character design is by Takahiro Kishida (“Cheburashka Arere”, “Dragon Half”, “Ninja Cadets”) and art direction by Akira Ito (“Elfen Lied”, “Shadow Star Narutaru”, “Street Fighter Alpha”).

The series features an ensemble cast and their experience living in Ikebukuro, Tokyo but how their storylines are somewhat connected to each other.

Mikado Ryugamine is a young man who transfers to school from a small country town to the big city in Tokyo and his childhood friend Masaomi tries to show him the ropes of Ikebukuro, which can be dangerous as color gangs have corrupted the city.

Before the yellow scarves were the dominant gang and now on top of the gangs are a mysterious group known as the Dollars, with a leader that no one knows about, all that is known is that members are chosen and are hooked up through the Internet.

But recently, there have been several deaths causes by a murderer dubbed “The Slasher” and also rumors of a headless woman riding a motorcycle.

The main characters of “Durarara!!” are:

  • Mikado Ryugamine – A first year high schooler who moves to Ikebukuro, Tokyo after his childhood friend Masaomi had invited him.  A shy guy, Mikado is trying to learn the ropes and restart his life.  He becomes a class rep and starts to follow for the female class rep, Anri and because his friend Masaomi also likes her, it becomes a bit of an interesting love triangle.  Mikado just wants to change and not be normal.
  • Masaomi Kida – Mikado’s childhood friend.  He seems very over-confident with girls, when actually he is not good at it.  Also, he has a mysterious backgrounds and something happened to a girl he knew…  Like Mikado, he also likes Anri.
  • Anri Sonohara – A girl who wears glasses and is a class rep. She is shy and timid and hangs out with Mikado and Masaomi.
  • Celty Sturluson – A headless rider who is looking for her lost head.  Celty is a Dullahan from Ireland (a headless woman) who has black smoke coming out of her body.  Despite being depicted as monster and killer during the old days, she has been taken in by doctor Shinra Kishitani and carries out missions.  Despite not having true emotions, she feels love towards Shinra but unable to  understand the feelings that she has due to not having any living DNA.
  • Shinra Kishitani – A underground doctor who lives with Celty.  His father was the first to operate on Celty (in exchange of giving her a place to stay) and even was given a chance to learn how to do surgery at the age of 4.  He works for corporations underground in trying to help them remove memories from people.  He is also in love with Celty and is able to understand her emotions despite her not having a head. He also a childhood friend of  Shizuo and Kasuka.
  • Izaya Orihara – Known as the information broker.  He sells information and likes to start trouble or loves to examine human’s when they are conflicted.  He is a master of using a knife and causes problems for Shizuo Heiwajima.
  • Shizuo Heiwajima – A blonde guy with a very short temper who wears a bartender suit and has enormous power.  He can take a lot of pain and it is not known how he is able to have enormous strength and to heal from major injuries.  He is friends with Celty, his brother Kasuka (who goes by Yuuhei Hanejima) is a popular actor in Japan and if there is anything he hates more than anything, it is Izaya Orihara.  Izaya’s presence makes his blood boil so much that he ends up destroying property around him.
  • Simon Brezhnev – A Black Russian who works outside a Russian sushi restaurant.  He is known for his great strength.
  • Kyohei Kadota – Also, known as “Dotachin” (a nickname that he hates), he is a member of the Dollars and leader of his group of friends which include Walker, Eri and Saburo.
  • Walker Yumasaki – A carefree otaku and manga fan who hangs out with Eri.  A member of the Dollars and hangs out with Dotachin.
  • Eri Karisawa – An otaku and close friend of Walker, a member of the Dollars and Kadota’s group.
  • Saburo Togusa – A member of the Dollars and Kyohei’s driver.
  • Seiji Yagiri – A classmate of Mikado’s.  He quit school to be with Mika but in truth, he is obsessed with the severed head of Celty’s that was put on Mika.
  • Namie Yagiri -The older sister of Seiji. A chief of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals and regrets introducing her younger brother to Celty’s head and for his obsession with it.  She appears to also have feelings for her younger brother.  She is also responsible for the human experimentation going on in the city.
  • Mika Harima – Anri’s good friend who, for some reason, has Celty’s head.  She was Seiji’s stalker and now lover.  Namie wants to get her revenge on Mika because Seiji just wants to be with her fulltime.  Meanwhile, Celty is looking for her (because she has her head).

Here is a brief spoilerless summary of episodes 1-9 for “Durarara!! part 01” included on two DVD’s:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Exit 1/First Words – Mikado Ryugamine moves to Ikebukuro.  Meanwhile,  a girl is kidnapped by three men.
  • EPISODE 2 – Highly Unpredictable – Mikado and Kida begin their school year.  The girl who was kidnapped is in Mikado’s class, along with a guy named Seiji Yagiri who comes to class and tells everyone he will not be attending.   We learn that the girl that was kidnapped is Rio Kamekichi and learn about the events that led to her kidnapping and what happened afterward.
  • EPISODE 3 – Rampant Evil – Anri Sonohara and Mikado become class reps.  And the love triangle begins with Mikado, Masaomi and Anri and the trio meet information broker Izaya Orihara who is then pursued by a madman named Shizuo Heiwajima.
  • EPISODE 4 – Utterly Alone – We learn more about Celty’s story of her missing head and she finds out that a man in Ikebukuro has been drawing artwork with a woman with a missing head.
  • EPISODE 5 – False Advertising – Anri tells Mikado and Masaomi the story of her friend Mika Harima and how she went after a guy named Seiji (the guy who left the classroom in episode 2).

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 6 – Never Before Seen – A story about Masaomi’s friends who are members of the Dollars and how they are trying to rescue a foreigner named Kaztano who has been kidnapped by the three who kidnapped Rio Kamekichi (from episode 2).
  • EPISODE 7 – Storm and Stress – A story about Shizuo Heiwajima and why he despises Izaya Orihara.  And his relationship with famous actor/younger brother
  • EPISODE 8 – Ephemeral Dream – A story about Celty who keeps having a dream of finding her head.  She also wants to do something good for Shinra for all that he has done for her.
  • EPISODE 9 – Love and Cherish – Celty along with Shizuo see Seiji and Mika.  Celty is shocked that the girl has her head and when Seiji tries to protect her, he gets into Shizuo’s way.  Meanwhile, as Mika runs away from Celty, she runs into Mikado.

VIDEO:

“Durarara!!” is presented in 16:9 LB.

I’m confident to say that “Durarara!!” has one of the best look animation and artist backgrounds that I have seen in years.  In 2010, I felt that Production I.G. raised the bar for artistic backgrounds for televised anime series with “Eden of the East” and “Ghost Hound” but I have to really give credit to Stuio Base and art director Akira Ito for doing a magnificent job in capturing the look and feel of Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

Almost every scene is new.  Rarely in this series do you see re-used art background scenes and every location featured in “Durarara!!”, there is magnificent detail, vibrant colors, deep blacks and literally I was impressed.    Personally, “Durarara!!” would be best suited for an HD release on Blu-ray because it looks so fantastic!  The animation and character designs are wonderful and the style of the character design and the art backgrounds have great balance.

This has to be one of the best looking anime series and you typically do not get this much effort for a televised anime series.  It just doesn’t happen due to the tight schedules of anime production companies.  So, “Durarara!!” was a pleasant surprise but literally left me in awe.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Durarara!!” is presented in Japanese and English Dolby Digital 2.0.  Audio quality is very good for stereo tracks, dialogue and music is quite clear.  While the Japanese voice acting was top-notch, I also gave the English dub a try and for the most part, it was well-done!  The only thing I do wish that Bang Zoom had done for the English soundtrack was to give it a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack instead of 2.0.

I chose to have my receiver set to Stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Durarara!! part 01” features trailers for upcoming Aniplex series and credits.

EXTRAS:

“Durarara!! part 01” comes with a digipak with a plastic slipcase.  Also, included are five postcards.

Once in a while, you will find an anime series that just surprises you for its storyline, animation, art background and overall presentation.  “Durarara!!” is an anime that literally surprised me by its quality and I have to say, this is one of the coolest anime series I have seen in awhile.

For anime series, you often seen the banality of reused storylines with slight changes and different animation and for the most part, while characters and storyline are different, things are much similar in concept.  With “Durarara!!”, while not as dark as “Boogiepop Phantom”, and the fact it is created by “Baccano!” writer Ryohgo Narita, he still manages to craft a fresh, urban, fantasy, supernatural storyline.

And what makes it so fun is how certain scenes of different characters and storylines are interconnected.

You get the high school student element with characters like Mikado, Masaomi and Narita.  Then you get the supernatural/action-based sequences typically with Celty, Izaya and Shizuo.  But then you get this fantasy element with Celty who is a Dulahan from Ireland in search of her head.  And as these characters are quite interesting, you throw in other characters such as Masaomi’s buddies, the Black Russian Simon and all these other mysterious characters that everything together leads to a fun time. These characters are interesting and each storyline has been well-written and planned.

And as the characters are a big part of “Durarara!!”, also is the city of Ikebukuro in Tokyo.  How the city is featured in this anime series is fantastic!  Every scene is new and showcasing areas from the city with so much detail, color and for the most part, the character and art design for this series is one of the best I have seen. The overall feel is urban and definitely Tokyo street style!

I’ve mentioned last fall of how I felt “East of Eden” and “Ghost Hound” were one of the best anime TV series I have seen and now I have to add Studio Base’s “Durarara!!” to that list.  The only difference is that the other two have been released via HD on Blu-ray and for an anime series that looks this spectacular, one can only hope that Aniplex does consider this series for Blu-ray release in the near future.

As for the DVD release, once again, the English dub for “Durarara!!” is awesome and very well-done.  I was enjoying the Japanese soundtrack but after watching the English dub track, everything fits and each voice actor that was cast is perfect for the role they play. So, another wonderful job by Bang Zoom!

But with the high of the animation and the overall series, the only low-point is the lack of special features.  It would have been nice to have audio commentary from the voice talent (Japanese or English).  It would also have been nice to see Bang Zoom giving the English dub soundtrack a 5.1 Dolby Digital treatment than Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.  But for those with receivers that can select stereo on all channels, that is probably the best for an immersive soundtrack.

But Aniplex does make things up with a pretty awesome digipack case with plastic slipcover and five postcards featuring artwork of the various characters of “Durarara!!”.

Overall, this series is fantastic!  It’s one of the best looking, stylish anime TV series ever created.  I’m always down for an Urban street culture type of anime series and “Durarara!!” was just fantastic, fresh and fun!  I enjoyed this anime series immensely and I can’t wait for part 2.

Highly recommended!






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Comments

  • one of the best anime series in the last few years, I haven’t seen the dub yet other than the trailers but to me this is a buy anyway just random that only bandai and rightstuf.com has them available

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