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Durarara!! X2 Vol. #01 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Durarara X2 Japanese Volume 1 CoverMore secrets reveal themselves within Ikebukuro.

What They Say:
Half a year after the turmoil that rocked the entire city of Ikebukuro – peace has once again returned to the city and people are living each day normally. The high school students enjoy their days of youth as the strongest and most dangerous man of Ikebukuro works diligently. The informant plots a new scheme and the headless rider is pursued by the cops as she rides through the night. But soon this ordinary life will be cut short by extraordinariness. Slowly but surely, the unknown will seize the city and face an all new storm.

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 compared to streaming or DVD. 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 winter 2015 anime season, the transfer for this six episode set is in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with three episodes per 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. 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 packaging for this release brings us a slipcase style approach with the soft packaging that holds the single clear Blu-ray case inside. The front cover uses the artwork from the Japanese release with Mikado in the foreground and Celty in the background with a really great kind of gray used for the background, which in turn lets the colors and the black from Celty have a lot more pop to it. The logo along the top keeps things clean and appealing without overpowering the artwork. The back cover goes for Shizuo and his brother, which has a slightly darker look overall because of the bartending outfit. The wraparound does its usual business here where the front side breaks down the basics of what’s in the set while the back digs into the technical specs, both sides of which covers everything clearly and accurately.

Within the box we get the clear case that uses the artwork from the front cover but does it inverted through a blue filter that gives it a different kind of pop. The back cover just goes with the series logo in the center while the episodes by number and titles with which disc they’re on are along the top in a far too small font done in white on the blue. There’s no artwork on the reverse side as it goes for a black background with some of the white striping across it. Also included in the set is a great little booklet, done to the same blue tones, that digs into the main characters of the moment and provides their designs, a few details and a look at some of their settings. I really loved the postcard set included, which has about six pieces to it, as it uses the cover artwork for half of it and then does the special illustration piece on a white background that has a really fun flair about it.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is one that plays well with its color tones as we get the blue shading from the case artwork itself, but it has a lot more pop and vibrancy to it here. The main layout goes for using that in the background with the white stripes and other gray elements to provide some weight to it while the foreground is given over to the character artwork. The first disc in particular works well as it uses the main promotional piece of Mikado, Masaomi and Anri together. The second disc provides a bit of the supporting cast so that we’re not getting the same looking menu over and over. The navigation strip along the bottom, which doubles as the pop-up menu, fits into the theme of it well with a white strip on top for some of the selections while the bottom has the main navigation on a black stripe. Everything loads quickly, smoothly and without problem.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty good beyond the basics, which includes the clean opening and closing. The big extra we get is the pre-air special that was put out as it clocks in at twenty-four minutes and provides a great look at the series that was while setting up for what’s to come. It uses a lot of footage and still material to be sure, but it also brings in some of the cast to talk about the show and it’s just simply, fluffy, goodness.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Durarara!! series aired back in 2010 and was such an utter delight for me that I really loved watching the simulcast, then the DVDs, and then the complete Blu-ray collection. Each viewing brought me closer to it in a way and I felt the connective storylines and subplots in a strong way because of it. While it was a few years between series, the property came back this January with a new season, one that’s planned for three seasons of twelve episodes each. This time around I skipped the simulcasts and just dove into the Blu-ray releases because I wanted the bigger picture feeling each time, even if each set is just half the season. There’s a flow and a vibe to how this show works and being able to settle into it for almost three hours with six episodes is, frankly, ideal.

The first part of it, known as the Sho cour, is one that has a lot of the heavy lifting to do in that it sets up what’s to come without really revealing a lot or even giving it much weight. In a way, this half of the season feels like it’s more about just reconnecting us with the characters and their situations now that time has passed since the events of the first series. That’s not a bad thing considering it’s a few years, though they at least avoid doing heavy recap and in a way it doesn’t even dig into the past that much outside of a few minor reflections. The focus is more on experiencing who these characters are now, which makes it a lot more accessible to new viewers while allowing previous viewers to come into it with a lot more knowledge and understanding. But even with that, I’ll say there’s not a lot going on here.

Which is fine. Because I like these characters, this setting and the way they all interact with each other. One of the focuses is on Celty, as you would expect since she’s one of the main draws of the show. She’s continuing to do her courier work and other bits of employ that come up along the way, but she’s also a lot more recognizable now after the events of the recent past. Because of her being recorded more now, and especially with a sequence where she essentially flies across the rooftops, well, that there are bounties of sorts out on here isn’t a surprise at all. With a lot of money riding on someone bringing her in to one of main media moguls that wants to find out more about her, that gets a lot of folks on the road keeping an eye out. What’s welcome though is that since she was instrumental in keeping the area safe before, you get the sense that a lot of people are looking out for her rather than trying to cash in on her. Preferring her presence and privacy over the money side.

Some attention is given to Mikado in this set as he’s still mostly our eyes and ears into the city even though he’s been here for a bit now. His time with the Dollars gives him an interesting perspective, especially as others seem to start nudging their way into the district for reasons that aren’t altogether clear just yet. What we get from Mikado is a sense of belonging here now, which is made problematic by the unease that he starts to feel as small warnings come his way about what may be coming, yet with nothing concrete. His relationship with Masaomi factors into this since the warnings come from there, but that sense of distance and strain that exists after the events with the Yellow Scarves is still palpable. Not having the two of them as immediate in the same place best friends just feels wrong. What is amusing though is seeing his relationship with Anri as he hasn’t quite taken it further yet, though he wants to, and starts to get jealous as others are showing a possible interest in her. His jealous side is really cute to watch come up because it’s one of those rare times we really see him emote.

While Shizuo is my favorite character and he has a couple of nice moments in this set that are setting up larger things – possibly, what really won me over with this set is Shinra. I was really hit or miss with him in the first season because of how he comes across, but this time around something just clicks better as he’s managing better with Celty and his intentions with her. The two of them have some utterly adorable scenes together, especially since Celty really does feel “right” with him and is able to confide in ways she can’t otherwise. There’s a real charm and magic to their relationship, one that can even survive Shinra’s father of all things, that makes them probably one of my favorite aspects of the show. That they start off so well here, not having to do all the foundation aspects from the first season, just cements my love of them as a couple as well as enjoying how they are when apart and dealing with their jobs.

In Summary:
While the opening salvo of Durarara!! may be a bit light on the overall story elements of what’s going to happen, it’s worth remembering that there are three cour for this particular iteration and this is just scratching the surface. For me, this was all about reconnecting with the characters, the setting, and the general mood and atmosphere of the series. With these first six episodes it does it very well as we revisit a lot of what made the original work while also starting to sketch out the differences and where it wants to go next. The end result is something that feels accessible to new viewers, detailed for existing viewers, and full of potential. It’s a great looking release from top to bottom as I’d expect from Aniplex USA and what they’ve set here is something that will definitely please fans that are looking for a very solid quality release. I’m excited to see what’s in store across the rest of this sprawling series.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, Pre-air Special Talk Show by Japanese Cast, Textless Opening and Ending

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
MSRP: $99.98
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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