What They Say:
A pitch-black headless motorcyclist who roams the city?! High tension, suspense, and action are taking over Tokyo’s Ikebukuro District! Warped romances and friendships – and plenty of hidden secrets – lie behind these big city walls.
Contains episodes 18-24, bonus episode 25, and a set of exclusive post cards!
The audio for this release is a bilingual presentation from Aniplex with both the Japanese and English tracks encoded in stereo at 192kbps. With the opening song being one of the strongest ones I’ve heard in the last couple of years, the mix comes across realy well here and there’s a definitely sense of space and depth applied to it. The show has a lot of dialogue to it and a fair amount of quiet moments but the incidental music and sound effects all come across really well both in placement and level. It’s a pretty rich mix in how it uses the soundstage and both tracks are solid. The English language track manages to work rather with the cast feeling like they blend into the world really well. The shift between internal monologue and spoken dialogue has a slight but noticeable level difference to it that I think is a bit harder to notice in the Japanese side and that helps to give it a little richer of a feeling.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The final eight episodes are in this set spread across two volumes with four on each of the discs. The animation by Brain’s Base has a distinct style about it here with lots of shark edges both in the characters designs, such as hair and faces, but also in their clothes. The world of Ikebukuro is very much a character in this show and the amount of detail given to it is shown really well here, especially as a lot of it takes place at night or in dark areas. It’s a rich and lively city that’s given a life here and the transfer captures it. Colors are rich when appropriate, especially with a lot of the backgrounds in the city, but also with the online aspect with the chat rooms that use bold colors. Cross coloration is nonexistent but there are a few moments of some line noise during a panning sequence or two which is rather negligible overall. It’s obviously leaps and bounds above the simulcasts I watched but it has a very strong look on our setup at seventy inches.
The packaging for this release is a digipak with a clear slipcover over it that helps to tie it all together thematically. The front of the slipcover is clear except for a pair of keep out bands across it that looks good against the digipak artwork. The back does the same though it goes across it a bit more and there’s a insert between the digipak and the slipcover itself. It’s here that we get the standard back breakdown with several shots from the show against a straight black background. The left side has a breakdown of the episode titles and numbers with what’s on which disc and a rundown of the production credits. There’s no plot concept or summary provided here so it has to sell itself entirely on pre-existing knowledge or just the appeal of the artwork itself, which is definitely good.
Inside the slipcover we get the digipak itself which has some really good design and character elements to it. It’s a dark cover overall with the cityscape filling up the background with the sunset colors falling down over it that gives it a warm feeling. The back of it adds a little more color with Simon, Izaya and Shizuo against the same wraparound. There’s a bit more light to the buildings in the background here which gives it a very distinctive feeling. The reverse side of the digipak has clear hubs on it and behind it we see the same backgrounds as the front of it but without any of the character artwork which further cements how much of a character Ikebukuro is to the series. Also inside here is a set of postcards that shows off a five different pairings of characters against a variety of colors. They all look really good and are definitely frame worthy.
The menu design for this is really quite fun as it uses some of the basic but good character artwork images of the main trio of characters done to a bit of a blue filter while having the various keep out strips across it, one of which has the navigation itself. What makes it more than just a basic looking menu though is that they’ve layered the images so it has a good sense of depth and the whole thing is bouncing around lightly to some very good music that sets the tone just right for it. The navigation strip is straightforward and very easy to use with quick load times and the submenus are nicely laid out as well. The discs read our players’ language presets which was a welcome change of pace to how many releases are.
The only extras included here are on the second volume with the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Durarara comes to a conclusion, it was at this stage of the series that I found myself having a fairly difficult time with it. The second half of the series with its main arc was one that didn’t click well for me after the first half, as the focus shifting to Masaomi felt like it was too similar to what Mikado had gone through, albeit with plenty of differences to really separate it. But the similar themes felt like it was too forced in some ways and while the meandering in the first half made sense because it was introducing us to all the characters and their situations, it doesn’t have quite the engaging effect here. At least, those were the issues I had with it when watching the weekly simulcast of it. And going into the second half with the previous volume, I had lowered expectations because of that, but came away appreciating the show more so when working through nine episodes in a row.
The eight episodes here, seven main story ones and an epilogue one, come across more tightly plotted and with a real sense of purpose, even with the meandering. Masaomi’s story has its differences with how he founded the Yellow Scarves, whereas Mikado reworked the Dollars, and much of what Masaomi works through is the pain of someone he cared for being abused at the hands of the Blue Squares and not being able to stop it. It’s a defining moment for him in his young life as he wanted to see her when she was in the hospital, but he was more intent on crushing the others because he couldn’t bear to face her and this was the only thing he could do. Saki understood this, which eased things when they were able to start seeing each other later on.
But as the Yellow Scarves started to appear again, Masaomi got drawn back into it as a reluctant leader that had to deal with the fear of what’s running through Ikebukuro, such as Celty. The gang had changed as older people started to get involved in it, but there’s that edge of fear to Masaomi about it as he can see yakuza types mingling in and adding to the troubles. The one in it already have caused enough problems with their ways, furthering the public concern over it, which flows into what the Dollars are all about since they wanted to do positive things to try and change their city. While Masaomi is trying to wrestle all of this, he’s being subverted by Haroda, who wants the Yellow Scarves to be a proper gang that strikes fear and accomplishes things of a less than savory nature. But he doesn’t really have any sort of vision to speak of, just the ability to wrangle control during a time when Masaomi isn’t sure what he wants to do.
And a lot of the issue comes around to the revelations that happen about who is who, with both Mikado and Masaomi learning who leads what and what it all means. As young men, it certainly chafes each of them in different ways, but what’s really going on here is Izaya as he plays his games with them. It’s unclear that he has a real goal in mind, other than to see just how strange and unusual humanity is under varying circumstances, as he continues to come across as a collector of human oddities, both in story and physical form. Izaya’s way of breezing into situations with that grin of his has you completely unsure of what he’s really intending, and that even if you learn what it is you can’t be sure that it’s true, is one of the most charming elements of the show. He’s a difficult character to get a hang of, but he reminds of those characters that are chaos for the sake of chaos, but with that kind of controlled element to it as we see in how he plays it like a chess game.
In the end, it all comes down to the characters and the way they interact with each other. What I particularly liked when watching it in this fashion is that the young men, Mikado and Masaomi, really do act like young teenagers who have their own views of the world and not a grasp on how people really interact with each other. There’s a naivete about them that’s real and honest even as they put together some strikingly different but significant organizations and hierarchies. When you throw Anri into the mix, providing someone that both are interested in but have their reasons for not getting too close to, especially for fear of upsetting the other, it moves to another level as they push against each other in ways that they’re not even aware of. The three principal characters all come across very well here, especially with Anri as she learns to master more of her abilities and to use them for the purposes she wants, rather than the weapons purposes. You almost want to spin each of them off into their own series, but you can say that with just about every character here. I mean, who wouldn’t want a series about Simon, a Russian sushi man.
Durarara was one of the best things I watched when it aired in 2010 overall, but I had my issues with it. With the DVD series release, watching the show in marathon mode for each of the sets, my perceptions of it changed a lot when it came to the second half and this set only cements that even further as the show is pretty tight, well written and with some solid action, but not action that dominates. It’s about the characters, how they interact and relate with each other, that draws you in, and the cast gets nicely expansive but not overly so as it pulls everything together. Aniplex has put together a kick ass release here through and though and has left me very pleased with it. It’s definitely a solid release that is worth having on the shelf. You can tell they put the effort into the production with just about every facet and it’s an easy home run for them. If you’re a fan of the show, there’s no reason to not own this release.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: May 31st, 2011
Running Time: 225 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.