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Durarara!! X2 Vol. #03 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Durarara X2 Volume 3 CoverMore explorations of Ikebukuro!

What They Say:
In the aftermath of the assault against Izaya Orihara, the information broker, signs of new disorder begin to develop like ripples across the water. Holding his own ideals, Mikado gains the powers of both the “Dollars” and the “Blue Squares” and started “cleaning” the bad seeds inside the Dollars. Meanwhile, Shizuo Heiwajima and Tom Watanabe end up hiring Varona for their debt collecting business. Paths cross and trouble brews as the plot thickens in this complicated web of conspiracies.

The Review:
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.

Originally airing in the summer 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.

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 Izaya with a fun mix of chess pieces and cell phones around him – and the blade with which he was stabbed with, all set with a really great kind of gray and white used for the background, which in turn lets the colors and the black from Izaya 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 with a similar kind of approach of various items floating around him. This installment didn’t have a wraparound with it like previously volumes do. Normally I don’t retain them so when writing it up it didn’t even cross my mind that it was missing!

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/pink 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 pink. There’s no artwork on the reverse side as it goes for a white background with some of the grey striping across it. Also included in the set is a great little booklet, done to the same red and pink 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.

The menu design for the series is one that plays well with its color tones as we get the various 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 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.

The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the first season of Durarara!! certainly got a lot of attention, I’ll admit I was surprised that it got not just another season but a three cour season spread out over two years of seasons. As much as I enjoyed the first season I wasn’t sure that it could really keep up with the energy, particularly in spacing things out as it has. The first cour came to a close with the previous set and it worked to showcase where things are now some months after the events of the first series. With that established, the second cour that kicks off here begins to show some of the ramifications. The problem, again, is that the show moves at such a particular pace that if you’re really looking for big moments you’re going to come up short.

Durarara!! is all about the small moments and connection. The way things ripple and impact each other as there are so many connections that we’re often unaware of and only feel the effects of without knowing why. That can be really engaging to watch and I’ll easily admit that I’m into it here, but there’s also just a sense that there’s not enough happening in a larger and more compelling way to really make it a must-see kind of series. At least not yet. With this set taking us through the halfway mark of the second season as a whole, there’s a lot established here and you can see how some of the threads are starting to come together. It just lacks the reason as to why they’re coming together, at least through the lengthy window through which I’m watching the series. Having really liked these characters a lot from the first season you can definitely just enjoy these interactions for what they are and wait (or hope) for something bigger to happen.

Durarara X2 Ten Japanese Volume 3 CoverThe Ten cour that we have here provides for some interesting changes and general fun. Most of it seems to stem from the incident with Izaya getting stabbed and ending up in the hospital, something that gets his name spread across the TV news reports and draws a lot of attention to him. With this and his being watched at the hospital, we see how he reaches out and shakes the feathers of others a bit. Just watching how he handles all of this is interesting since he knows he’s in a bad position but also knows that he’s got ways out of it if he manages it right. So there’s a kind of playfulness about him that we usually do see that shines here, especially while wearing the usual patient outfit and walking around with his IV drip attached. For a character responsible for so much and with a certain menace about him, it would normally humble him in the viewer’s eyes. But he still maintains his menace here and ins ome ways seems even more dangerous.

One of my big delights with Durarara!! is watching anything with Celty but in particular with Shinra. While we see her out and about dealing with things a bit and having her chase/escape from the police officer, it’s seeing her and Shinra essentially going out on a date in her carriage form that’s just fun. The two have such a great dynamic together where there’s such happiness and silliness from him and a really great kind of innocence about Celty – that comes through with her body language and her texting – that you can’t help but to root for them to keep being like they are. Neither has a particularly big role throughout this set of episodes but they provide a focal point later on where a number of characters end up at their place as a sort of protection subplot comes into focus with other characters.

Durarara X2 Ten Japanese Volume 2 CoverThat focus is on Ruri Hijibe, as she’s being targeted and Kasuka has come to Shizuo for help in protecting her on this. Ruri’s backstory is given some interesting time where we see that she’s definitely a monster on the inside, one that comes by it naturally and has had it honed and twisted because of the events that have unfolded over her young life, and I love that with see Anri getting all riled up just by her presence as she wavers between registering as normal and an utter monster. It adds a neat layer to Ruri and her mostly deadpan approach to everything – which is one of the reasons she seems to connect so well with Kasuka. He’s harder to get a read on though but there are some good bits between the two of them and Shizuo considering their relationship over the series to date.

Another subplot that develops well and focuses on backstory is that of Akabayashi as we see him doing his job as an enforcer type with some rank to him. I like the way he deals with the drug side of things with the club he’s looking out for as well as a nod to his past boss that died and why it all went down like it did, making him a solidly gray more character when you get down to it. Not a criminal with a heart of gold but rather someone that deals with the variance that is the world. What it does is make his scenes with his current boss’s daughter Akane work even better because it feels more honest. He’s not faking that he cares for her and her welfare, so it works in how he ends up helping her to go to a gym/dojo where she can begin to train to defend herself. This is a welcome exposure for her to more of the “real world” not protected by her father and his men, so there’s a great anxiety that comes from her during this that I really like. It made me wish we had more of this than we do here because it could be its own series with enough fleshing out.

In Summary:
Add in some time giving nod to how Mikado is trying to deal with cleaning up the Dollars while adhering to its principles and then having Masaomi coming back into Ikebukuro and there’s a lot of things going on here. And even more beyond these few layers that we touched upon. The series does a lot with its expansive cast and situations that are unfolding and you can really get into it as some solid character building and exploration. But it just lacks that oomph needed to give it a little more to drive it all home. It’s still great looking, has some wonderful humor mixed into it, and the few action sequences we get are fantastic, but I’m not sure what the intent is here. Aniplex USA has once again put together a solid release across the board so fans will definitely be happy with it in how it looks and sounds and with a well put together package as well.

Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
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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