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Durarara!! X2 Vol. #04 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Durarara X2 Volume 4 CoverEvents continue to tighten up, but it’s a slow burn.

What They Say:
Izaya quietly returns to Ikebukuro and schemes a plot pulling strings of various people from the shadows. Worried that Mikado may be manipulated by Izaya, Masaomi comes back to Ikebukuro as well. But he finds out that his best friend is a different person from what he remembers… In order to save Mikado, who has gotten stuck in the darkness, Masaomi determines to gather the ex-Yellow Scarf members to crush the Dollars. Meanwhile, Izaya, while searching for “Jinnai Yodogiri” who stabbed him, incidentally finds a secret of this mysterious man and finds himself in grave danger!

Contains episodes 19-24 & OVA 13.5 plus a 16-page deluxe booklet, illustration post cards, clear cases with 2-sided wraps.

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 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 artifacts 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 Anri and Masaomi together in the midst of a move with blood flying everything. It’s a great design with some solid color choices that has a lot of pop to it that really catches the eye. The logo along the middle keeps things clean and appealing without overpowering the artwork. The back cover goes for a group approach complete with the minivan that has a lot of fun to it with just the expressions on all of them. 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 Shinra but does it inverted through a purple 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 purple. There’s no artwork on the reverse side as it goes for a white background with some of the gray striping across it. Also included in the set is a great little booklet, done in the same purple 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 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.

Extras:
This set has no extras to it though it includes the episode 13.5 OVA as one. This works well enough since it takes place earlier in the series than this set of episodes does and it’s a nice little diversion piece. Though there are a few little nods mixed into stories and characters elsewhere, the main focus is on Shinra and Celty off on their date of sorts with Shooter back in classic horse mode with the carriage. Celty and Shinra are always fun to watch together with their brand of nervousness and seeing the way they’re playful, bashful, and sometimes just plain weird and silly is a delight. There isn’t much in the way of actual story here but the end results are what they need to be, which is adorable.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second cour for Durarara!! X2 comes to a close here with the back half of the Ten segment and it’s certainly turning out to be an interesting ride. As I had mentioned in my looks at the first three volumes so far, I really enjoy the world of Durarara and there’s a lot to like in just being able to connect with these characters. The big appeal of the first series was settling into the world and then having the rug pulled out from under us with the reveal of the Dollars, digging into Anri and what she was, and exploring some of Celty and the others that are/were searching for her head. There were a lot of things to unearth. With the X2 series, however, it’s been a much slower burn and build with some really great moments but not enough of that really strong defining material to really sink your teeth into.

That continues to be a problem here where with the back half of the course you can watch it, enjoy it, but then struggle to figure out what it is that really defines it. The movements of the show are what it wants to focus on and these are interesting. Watching as Mikado manages and works the Dollars as he does is engaging when he’s actually doing it because you see a different kind of maturity coming from him as he’s taking ownership of events. That he has others that are still inserting themselves into the Dollars to cause mischief is a problem but we also see that some are using it to get closer to him for a different agenda. It’s interesting to be sure, but it’s a very small subset of the many stories that are going on here. And with Mikado largely operating with this Dollars group he’s aligned himself with, there’s no room for Anri, whose role is reduced greatly once again, and the lack of being able to play off of Masaomi definitely hurts the show.

Events in this set show various little tightenings that are going on, including the Yodogiri storyline, but even that feels like it doesn’t get enough attention to resonate. Shizuo gets little time here and we get very little with our Russian sushi friends and the young woman that’s attempting to kill Shizuo but hasn’t quite figured out how to pay him back for a favor he’s done for her first. These little threads have their fun but they’re nowhere near enough to really drive events. The bigger event that works here is with Izaya being captured and held hostage as there’s a lot to like in seeing how he orchestrates things to his own advantage here. But with the way the series as a whole within X2 has played out, it really feels like it doesn’t have too much meaning. I like Izaya but he’s coming across as even less of a player in the game this time around than before, and he really nailed the cool and secretive aspect that made him a compelling character.

That said, Izaya does get one of the best episodes here as we get Shinra in recuperation mode after being assaulted at his apartment. With Celty caring for him, she asks about one of his scars and he talks about when he and Izaya were in high school together and how they became friends of sorts. It all revolved around Shinra’s wanting to start a biology club so he could do whatever he wanted, but it really worked an interesting kind of bond between the two because of Shinra’s good nature. He may be a doc for the bad guys of the world and has his darker side to him, but he really is a good guy at heart and that comes through in his personality. Seeing him and Izaya when they were younger definitely has a whole lot of fun to just because you see their personalities in a similar way but with a bit more innocence to them to some degree.

In Summary:
The characters of Durarara are the true draw of the series for me but there’s something that’s just not sitting too well with me here. It’s beautifully animated and has some great sequences – Celty trying to get out of a ticket from the highway patrol! – but the larger storyline simply doesn’t feel like it’s there. You can see the threads of them floating about but it’s spread so thin that it’s hard to get into it. It’s just not compelling on that front. I enjoy watching the lazier moments of the show with characters hanging out talking, digging into their past a bit, or just some of the action moments. The connections just aren’t there beyond that, however, which is frustrating because you know the show can be so much more – because it was. Here’s hoping that the Ketsu arc will tie it all together in a bigger and more satisfying way.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: May 24th, 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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