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Durarara!! Complete Set Lunch Box Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

16 min read

Life in Ikebukuro revs up in ways that its residents often never thought possible in this beautiful, sprawling series.

What They Say:
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!

This limited edition is packed inside an exclusive Durarara!! lunchbox and includes a deluxe booklet and a double-sided poster.

Contains episodes 1-24 plus bonus episodes 12.5 and 25.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is very good as we get the original Japanese language and the English language dub both in stereo using the lossless PCM codec. The series is one that uses its forward soundstage well in a number of ways which is brought to bear in a more noticeable form here. The music is the biggest winner here, particularly the opening sequence, as it has a real richness to it. But the show massages its dialogue very well with lots of placement and some good tricks along the way for certain characters that comes across much richer because of it. The sound effects have some great placement here and the use of the online aspect has even more resonance with the way the mix handles things. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and everything sounds great with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in the first half of 2010, the transfer for this twenty-six episode series is in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across five discs with five episodes per discs and six on the fifth disc. The show has a very strong visual design to it with the animation, detail and backgrounds used and the high quality authoring here with the bit rate being used effectively brings it to life in a way that it couldn’t have been before. Having seen it in high definition streaming and standard definition DVD, it’s easy to say that this it he best the show has looked for me so far. Colors are rich and vibrant where needed and the blacks are handled beautifully with no visible artifacting or noise. There’s a lot of variety to what the show does with its setting and characters so we get a good range of things here for the transfer to work through and the end result is a work that lives up to what the animators put themselves through to bring to life.

Packaging:
The limited edition nature of this release puts a lot of pressure on the package and it definitely pays off with something that stands out. The limited edition side of it has everything inside of a black lunchbox that has a Beatles inspired visual with some of the main characters on one side while the other has the Celty helmet image against a black background. The sides have a great little detail to it where it has the five icon images from the online side of the show that gives it a great bit of color. There’ve been a few lunchbox style releases over the years and this one definitely looks slick and fits the show very well.

Inside the lunchbox we get a good piece of padding to hold everything in place as well as the heavy chipboard box. The box is done with black as the background and the back panel uses the same icon strip with looks good. The front is more traditional as it’s a very busy if muted piece with its color choices as it shows off a lot of the main cast of characters and parts of the city to give it a good ensemble feel. The box is kept minimal overall but it has a good look to it and lets the characters shine well. Inside the box we get a good little two sided poster that shows off the cast with some slick colors and really good paper quality. There’s also a really interesting full color booklet included as well that’s filled with the original staff messages done during the production run that covers some neat little tidbits about the choices made in adapting the show. It also includes a few pages of character designs as well.

The set also includes the five discs which are spread across three standard sized Blu-ray cases. Each of the cases uses a different primary color with some blood splattered black blood splotches across it and with different character artwork, each of which looks pretty striking and stylizde here. Mikado gets the first, Shizuo gets the second and Anri takes the third case. The back covers do the same, again with different colors, as it brings in Kida, Izaya and Shinra with a really good bit of style. Shinra’s image takes it a little further as the black splotches also take the form of Celty with the two of them practically dancing across the cover. Each cover also has artwork on the reverse side, a different minimalist look at part of the city, along with a breakdown of what episodes by number and title are on the respective discs in that case.

Menu:
The menu design for this release mirrors the DVDs overall as we get a smattering of character artwork with some primary colors used for backgrounds and the strips all over it similar to police lines where the navigation sections are. It comes together well on the big screen and has plenty of space to work the designs while giving it a fresh flair overall. Colors look good for it and while it may take a moment to orient yourself at first with where everything is, it does work out well to use in the end. The layout is familiar to those that import since it’s designed to be bilingual where you choose what you want at the disc launch but it can all be changed easily once you get to the main menu itself. Everything loads quickly and is a breeze to use.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels by Ryohogo Narita, who has gained some stateside fame recently with Baccano! being released from FUNimation, Durarara!! is a twenty-four episode series being produced by Brain Base, which also did the work on Baccano!. Durarara! has six light novels as of this airing so there’s certainly material to work with and this collection sets up the stage well while leaving a whole slew of questions. After watching the series in simulcast form, seeing nine episodes in a row certainly does alter the view of it, as well as having seen all of it and knowing some of the key answers.

Similar to Baccano, Durarara is the kind of series which has a whole lot going on with a number of layered and interconnected stories. The series has as its true central character that of Ikebukuro itself where all the characters reside. The human cast is pretty varied and different ones take on the narration depending on the episode of the time with what the story is about. Ostensibly, you could say that the main leads of the series are the main trio that makes up a lot of the advertising. The show opens with the introduction of Ryugamine, a first year high school student who has gotten into his school of choice in Ikebukuro. He’s come largely because his friend who moved here several years ago goes there named Kida. The two are very good friends that have a great on screen relationship where Ryugamine is fascinated by the city and Kida does his best to make sure he doesn’t get abused by it. Though she has less of a role in this set, Anri is a the third principal character as a fellow student and class rep that who harbors her own dark secrets that are only lightly touched on here.

What Durarara deals in is a variety of stories wherein these characters are the observing players for now. Ryugamine is introduced to the complexities of it through Kida where he explains how a year ago there were a number of gang wars as several of them existed by colors, such as the Blue Squares and Yellow Scarves. Events turned to have those broken up and there now only seems to exist some formless group called the Dollars, though more people seem to pretend that they’re in it than actually are. With that as the backdrop, Kida shows him some of the more colorful people in the city. Simon’s a black Russian who works for a Russian sushi shop that has very unusual tastes, an underground doctor named Shinra and an interesting bartender named Shizuo who doesn’t seem to have to sense much pain and is incredibly strong. His main focus in life is to deal with a man named Izaya who works as an information broker and manipulator in the city.

The most unusual character in the city is known as the masked rider, a headless woman who rides a motorcycle through the city as a transporter. Celty’s actually far more than that as she’s an at least century old Dullahan, a creature of legend from Ireland. She woke up several years ago uncertain of who she was or why she has no head, just puffs of black smoke coming from her neck, but was drawn to Japan in search of her missing head. Celty’s method of communication is priceless in the modern age as she uses a cell phone to type out messages for people. While the general population is just generally in awe of her as something mystical when they see her, if they even believe it since she wears a cat-themed helmet, she has a good relationship with others, especially Shizuo whom she hangs out with and Shinra, whom she has known for twenty years and lives with. Their past is explored over one episode that really highlights her origins in a way that makes her truly fascinating. The way she brings something supernatural to the show but ties it with technology so that it has a really natural feel to it.

Durarara is a series where it’s hard to really talk about what’s going on because it works with so many smaller stories that are layered to it. The first two episodes play out a number of events with Ryugamine’s arrival from different points of view, where a kidnapping seems like it’s one thing but it has larger meaning when we get to the second episode and see it from that perspective. The gangs are a part of it as we start to understand their history in the last couple of years and there’s something about a mysterious Slasher as well that’s touched upon. Add in the kidnappings, Izaya’s manipulations and all that’s involved with Celty and the search for her head, which actually becomes relevant in this collection, and watching all the threads of the story weave together is beyond intriguing. There are so many points of views and connections here that repeat viewings are definitely warranted, especially after you’ve seen the whole thing as you see the connections in new light.

The culmination of the first storyline is one that is very good as I remember the surprise I felt as Mikado’s plan was unveiled as he brought in Izaya and Celty in order to stymie the woman who was after the head. The sense of power about it as the Dollars make an actual stand under Mikado’s guidance is really well executed, especially as it causes Celty to truly reveal herself to everyone in a way that cements her as a supernatural force, though there’s still that disbelief that many have over it. What we get out of this is a new way of viewing all that went on during the first set as we have to take in what Mikado has organized and built. Going through the exploration of how he was out in the country and managed to organize the Dollars as a force for good at a time of transition is really great to see unfold and it speaks a lot not only for him but for all those that are involved.

Once done with that though, Durarara moves into a very interesting direction as it shifts its focus to Anri. With her getting closer to both Mikado and Masaomi, she’s still doing her best to keep them at a relative distance because of fears she has about getting too close to anyone based off of her past issues. There’s a lot of charm in watching Mikado trying to get closer to her since he’s so obvious about it and Masaomi actually does things right by making sure he gets opportunities and steps out of the way, but there’s some serious interest on his part as well in her which is cute. Of course, Anri has a lot going for her with both looks and personality, so it’s understandable why he’d be interested. Of course, she has her own issues that come about as this storyline progresses.

As we’ve caught hint of before, the story involving the Slasher takes center stage here as it’s causing more problems in the area and Anri’s connection to it becomes much clearer. The Slasher’s attacks are getting more and more violent and Anri is getting caught up in them, which is where the exploration of it is going. There’s a curious approach used with a reporter who ends up being taken over by the Slasher who is there to find out about Shizou, but before he gets taken over we get a good look at how more of Ikebukuro functions and some of the connections between the characters. That it turns violent for him isn’t a surprise, but the layers involved with his past and how it connects to things is another piece of the Durarara puzzle as it reveals itself. That continues to be one of the biggest aspects of the series that’s so tightly written.

Durarara second arc is an interesting one where we see more of how Ikebukuro is continually changing. With the past having been explored some with the Dollars, we learned a bit about the Yellow Scarves and the Blue Squares with the rivalry that they had going which ended up causing both of them to disappear, though it seems like the Blue Squares made out the worst between the two. With the end of this set, Masaomi starts to realize that more and more people along the streets of his city are wearing yellow in various ways, showing the slow but sure return of the Yellow Scarves. There’s an amusing twist to it as he sees it happening though and that makes you grin as it starts to reveal another layer that has you wanting to go back to rewatch the earlier episodes again just to see all the nuance you might have missed the first time around.
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 final eight episodes of the series, 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.

In Summary:
With this being the third time seeing the series since it began in 2010, I had wondered if some fatigue would creep into it. Surprisingly, the show is every bit as engaging as it was the first two times around, especially since the viewing sessions for this was different than before. Spread out over multiple nights, I watched this with my two girls, ten and twelve, and they were completely enraptured by it across the board. Not surprisingly, Shizuo was their favorite character, but they got into the way the show worked its narrative and managed such a large and connected cast. Durarara is one of those shows that can take such a cast, work it beautifully and not make the fatal missteps that so many others seem to do. The foundations were laid down beautifully, it knew how to do the callbacks right and it progressed with great reveals and twists. Aniplex’s newest edition gives us everything under one roof with beautiful high definition video and lossless audio in a sharp and attractive package. This really is the best any fan could ask for and is the definitive version of Durarara. Highly recommended.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
MSRP: $189.98
Running Time: 624 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

 

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