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Durarara!! Vol. #01 Manga Review

4 min read

Thrust into a world of crime and mystery, we are given a myriad of characters and plots while maintaining a sense of control.

Creative Staff
Story: Ryohgo Narita
Art: Akiyo Satorigi
Translation/Adaptation: Stephen Paul

What They Say
Welcome to Ikebukuro, where Tokyo’s wildest characters gather!! Meet an ordinary boy who daydreams about the extraordinary. A naive stalker girl. The strongest man in Ikebukuro. A shut-in doctor with questionable credentials. A hedonistic informant…and the “headless rider” astride a pitch-black motorcycle!? As their paths cross, this eccentric cast weaves a twisted, cracked love story…

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Based on the anime adaptation of a series of light novels, Durarara is part of the ever growing adaptation of an adaptation manga market. While it is the thought of many is that the quality one perceives from a given adaptation depends on what your first exposure to the material is, each adaptation should be strong enough to stand on its own. Durarara is a case of the latter; it adapts the material faithfully and with the same energy and exuberance of the anime while allowing readers to control the pace as to not become overwhelmed.

Durarara is the story of Mikado Ryuugamine, a 15 year old who has just moved to Ikebukuro to attend high school. Upon arriving in Ikebukuro, Mikado reunites with his childhood friend Masaomi Kida and immediately begins his tour of the city. Throughout this first volume, we follow Mikado and Kida as they travel the city and meet a myriad of characters with very different personalities and all of whom Kida knows to some extent. Mixed into this fast paced introduction of characters we are given three side stories that interconnect with Mikado in some fashion. The first is that of Seiji Yagira, a young man who is seen running past Mikado with a young female stalker chasing him. It turns out that Seiji has a darker side to him and one that is intelligently left vague so that readers can invest in wanting to see who he is and how he will play in the overall story. The second is that of the Black Rider, an urban legend rumored to be a reaper without a head that runs through the city at night murdering people. This story is what presents Durarara with a level of fantasy as the characters origins are slightly explained in this volume as a near mythical creature that no one is sure of its existence; except that Mikado sees it up close on his first day in the city. The third side story is that of Izaya Orihara, a man whom Kida warns is possibly the most dangerous man in the city and strictly warns Mikado to avoid at all costs. Of course our main characters do run into him and the stage becomes set for dangerous activities and a genuine sense of dread as to what may happen to our lead as the story progresses and Izaya becomes more prominent.

The artwork in the volume is extremely clean. With so many characters being introduced and quickly dismissed, we are still able to discern each of them as individuals. The character designs are very distinctive and with a series like this, they need to be. All of the action and speed lines never feel too cluttered or distractive. This allows readers to remain within the pages of the book and effectively feel any sense of excitement that is intended to be passed. In fact, this is why the book stands out so well as terrific entertainment. The anime version moves at the pace of a standard episode, with events and characters whirling by without any control from the viewers. This can make the series harder to follow as there is just too many characters and things happening all over the place. The manga adaptation controls the chaos extremely well in a manner that is not difficult to perceive or follow. The extra benefit is the simple fact that it is a manga. The readers control the pace; we can stare at each panel or page as long as we want and turn the pages as fast as we want, this allows the material to connect much more effectively so that the base enjoyment of the series can be increased. With distinctive character designs and smooth, clean artwork we are entering a world that’s expansive and genuinely immersive, without becoming overwhelming.

In Summary
The first volume of Durarara is kind of a strange beast. Over the course of its 200 pages, absolutely nothing happens regarding an actual arcing plot. Yet, so much is happening that the reader cannot help but be intrigued and feel the overpowering urgency to read the next volume. That is what makes this book so successful. With extremely clean artwork and the ability for the reader to control the pacing and soak up each individual detail, we are thrust into this world with dozens of characters and it never seems muddied. We are given an introduction to this world and a glimpse at the possibilities that the series may offer us further down the line without giving us the core plot, just a cast of characters and hints of what may await us in the future. As far as introductory volumes go, Durarara is top notch and I for one am excited to see how subsequent volumes play out once a plot starts forming.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: January 24th, 2012
MSRP: $11.99