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Durarara!! X2 Vol. #02 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Durarara X2 Japanese Volume 6The shape of the Dollars begins to change.

What They Say:
Falling right into Izaya’s trap and framed for the murders of their members, Shizuo finds himself on the run from the Awakusu Group. Meanwhile, the rumor that the Dollars members are engaging in assaults against the Toramaru gang enrages Chikage Rokujo, the leader of Toramaru, and he rushes to Ikebukuro for revenge. Mikado is frustrated with the current situation that the Dollars are in but is unable to do anything to mend the situation. At the same time, Aoba proposes that Mikado become the new leader of the Blue Squares. Mikado makes a decision that may damage his friendship with Masaomi and Anri. Various emotions come together as an ominous scent fills the city.

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 and with the OVA added onto the second 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 Masaomi 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 Izaya and Aoba, which has a slightly darker look overall because of the character designs in general. 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 that has Anri and Akane leaning against each other but does it inverted through a red 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 red 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 several great 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 only extra included in here is the 4.5 OVA that has a standard episode runtime to it. What we get from it is actually a good bit of fun as it essentially provides some stories about a few of the characters from their younger days, especially focusing on Mikado and Masaomi as kids and some of what they got up to. It’s wrapped up in the container of several characters getting together for some hot pot at Celty’s place and it’s definitely charming in its own way, even if it doesn’t impact the larger storyline. It simply adds more color to it all.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first of the three cour X2 run of Durarara!! comes to a close with this volume and the six episodes it has, plus the OVA that we talk a bit about in the extras section. Durarara!! proved in its first series that it’s very much a slow build to what it wants to do as it was around the halfway mark of that series that I truly fell in love with it. It built what it wanted to do with all the introductions and provided its twist with the Dollars and the Yellow Scarves. With this series, going into it with all the characters established, it naturally has a different flow and feel to it. In particular, there’s the basic idea that this first cour really is just the opening chapter to the three part storyline, albeit one with a conclusion to it.

Durarara X2 Japanese Volume 5 CoverWhat this results in is a kind of uneven feeling to all of this where, at the end, you’re somewhat uncertain as to what the real goal of it was. There are several smaller stories running along this particular cour that do come to a conclusion here, but it all feels so loose and ill-defined that it’s hard to pin down what’s truly meaningful. Some of it is just plain fun, such as the time spent with Akane, the daughter of a yakuza type who has run away from home. While she’s being pursued by her father’s men she ends up in the Anri’s care and protection. That provides some nice bonding material and gives her something real and true to protect. Akane’s backstory is actually quite nicely done and given enough depth and weight to it that you kind of hope that we do see her again in a few years worth of in-show time to see how she’s grown and adapted to all of it. It doesn’t feel like it impacts the larger work here but instead just adds some good threads of color to the overall narrative.

A bit more interesting is the continuing story with Sloan and Varona as they work through their plans to take down Celty by following her for awhile. This ties back into the larger Russian storyline, which has its own comical bit on the two type of Igor’s and Ivan’s that also plays into the types of Taro’s, but the background material doesn’t feel like it connects. It’s fun and silly in the Durarara!! kind of way, but it’s just color as opposed to meat. Sloan is less of a presence here overall, more of just the driver than anything else, but he does help give Varona someone to talk to and bounce things off of. The chase itself works well during the course of this set, but it’s the actual action moments that makes it engaging. Varona has a real sleekness and skill to her that makes her fun to watch as she deals with such an unknown like Celty and having it balanced against Celt being kind of miffed and comically uncertain of what’s going on at times makes it all the more fun to watch. The creativity and fluidity of these action sequences is great and it lets Celty really take it up a notch or so with what she has to do to keep things going. Her poor helmet, though!

Durarara X2 Japanese Volume 4 Cover
Durarara X2 Japanese Volume 4 Cover

The critical part of the show, the one that I suspect will play the larger role as the other two cour go on, involves Aoba making his move to try and shake up the Dollars and wrest control of it. We’ve seen the manipulations he’s done to get things going with the Saitama group and how he’s using the Dollars to do it, which goes against what Mikado set it up as. There are several offshoots from this, particularly as we get the Saitama guys rampaging around Ikebukuro at different times causing trouble, but it all comes down to that warehouse where Aoba confronts Mikabo about the change that he wants to put in play. This is a testing moment for Mikado to realize the Dollars can’t stay the same and that things have to change. It’s amusing watching him get serious, though we know he certainly can, because he always balances it with a kind of naive element. I like where they do leave it, and leave it with the Saitama group, but it comes across as prelude rather than true conclusion.

In Summary:
Durarara!! has a decent enough conclusion to its opening chapter, but if you were hoping for something similar in power and intensity to the first half of the first season you may find yourself disappointed. It’s certainly not bad but it feels more loose and fluid than what we had before. The various interactions going on here continue to be well handled and I love the shifts between characters and some of the smaller throwaway moments, such as Shizuo being fooled by a sign on a door. There are a lot of stories going on here and most of them reach a closure point of some sort, but it all speaks of bigger things yet to come – just not with enough to truly tantalize. This set of episodes almost feels a little ephemeral in a sense as I’m not quite grasping the full weight of it. It’s a visual delight once again and the characters are great, as is the physical media release itself with its top to bottom excellence. Fans will definitely enjoy digging into it overall.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, OVA 4.5

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: November 24th, 2015
MSRP: $99.98
Running Time: 175 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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