Durarara!!x2 Shou Review

This is review number four hundred and thirty seven. This anime is part of the Winter 2015 lineup, and it’s called Durarara!! x2 Shou. It’s a twelve episode anime about a bunch of different characters in the insane city of Ikebukuro. It’s an awesome show, so let’s read on.

Story

The anime follows after the events of the first Durarara anime, but new characters enter the fold. New stories are developed, new conflicts arises and new trouble brews except it’s still the same old city overrun by the same old people that makes it so unique to live in.

Taking the Pants Off

I wasn’t really planning on reviewing this anime, since I haven’t done the first season yet. I know this is done by a different studio though, and there’s a good five years between the original anime and this new one. Anyways, I watched the first episode and I kinda finished the damn thing in one day. So yeah, here’s my review now. I remember the Brain’s Base Durarara because it was released at the heels of Baccano’s popularity. It’s kinda like how Mob Psycho aired at the heels of One Punch Man. The author is in a hot streak and a lot of studios are clamoring for their works. Durarara even went as far as to have the same OP style as Baccano, and Brain’s Base really wanted to scream that this is the new hot sh*t from the writer of that bonkers train ride with a lot of mafias in it. Studio Shuka took up where Brain’s Base left off and continued the story of the various people of Ikebukuro.

It Begins Again

When I first heard the story will continue, I wasn’t really sure what to feel. I was mostly concerned that Brain’s Base is no longer releasing it. Actually, it reminds me of how I feel right now when OPM went from Madhouse’s intense animation to JC Staff’s lackluster attempt. Each studio kinda have a vision of how an adaptation would go down, so knowing Durarara left Brain’s Base’s capable hands was a problem for me. After all, they made us care about the series so it feels weird the ball is passed onto a new studio. This anime being Shuka’s very first anime released. I dunno. I guess I’m just a purist. Now, I won’t talk about the whole debate about different studios working on the same anime (Studio Deen vs UFOtable, anyone?) because I honestly don’t care about it. I’ll b*tch and moan as an involuntary reaction, but I’ll still watch it and see its merits on its own. As long as the story is solid, the animation is presentable and the adaptation is tight then I’m all for it whether it was done by the old studio or not. So, is Shuka’s attempt good? If you can finish an anime in one day, is the show considered bad? I should just review the anime now, huh?

It should be pointed out that the old staff of the first anime actually returned to make this new one, so it’s really all just technicalities at this point. It even had the same director, and I guess that makes sense. If it was truly done by a new group of people, then they won’t continue where Brain’s Base left off. Instead they’d attempt to do a Full Metal Brotherhood or a Fruits Basket Brotherhood wherein the slate is wiped clean and the story goes on a do over. I guess there is a deeper story behind the staff making their own studio to continue Durarara. So the narrative is now a bit different. Shuka is basically saying we can do it better now that we have control of the adaptation’s direction. They also believe Durarara is too good not to continue. I agree, because the first anime really left me wanting more.

Reintroducing the Familiar to the Unfamiliar

It should be obvious that you need to see the first anime. A bunch of characters are introduced there and they become key players in this show. It also helps that you have an idea of how the story is presented. It’s chaotic and random as it’s told through different point-of-views. Shuka is a really thoughtful studio though, because it actually crafted a story that didn’t really need to rely on the first anime that much. So, even if you haven’t seen the first anime, you are actually welcome to watch this show on its own. I think the only thing that needed clear context in this anime is the proper introduction of the recurring characters. It’s a very minor detail though, because the story’s main strength is actually character introduction done through scattered plot points. It’s kinda like Game of Thrones where you really only learn about the character through how they act in the story and how they relate to the other characters. Actually, GoT and Durarara are incredibly similar in its approach. Is it possible Martin influenced Narita? Ah damn it, I realized I’ve written a ton of stuff right now and I haven’t actually touched on the show itself. In relation to this anime not relying too much in the old anime, it actually re-established the story using the three episode rule.

Shou

The first three episodes is actually an arc on its own. It gives you an idea of how Narita tells his story. He focuses on characters that eventually branches off to create their own subplots that eventually reaches a climax when all the subplots gather in one big event. The loose ends aren’t tied up though, because they usually spurn into subplots of their own continuing the story of the characters involved. In the first anime, the Dollars came together to square off with the Yellow Scarves in its climax and the fall out of that event trails off into the new anime. Before reaching that climax though, we are introduced to a lot of characters. There’s a guy with freakish strength, a headless horseman on a black bike and three seemingly unassuming kids that are soon revealed to be very important chess pieces to the chaos of the climax. As we soon learn of the characters, their motivations are established and their connection to the story is slowly revealed. The climax really just serves as a temporary high, because the characters we invested in soon gather to meet each other. It’s a fun way to tell a story, and Narita really perfected it compared to his early style in Baccano.

n4wwxyt

So this anime actually opens with a re-introduction of the many characters. A lot of them are different from their iteration in the old anime though. Minor characters are given more importance, the important ones are suddenly side characters and the show goes out of its way to tell you they are the same people you watched before but they’re different now. It’s an entirely new different experience despite being familiar in a lot of ways. The first three episodes actually follow a bunch of new characters that creates their own subplot. I think we have four subplots established in the first two episodes, and then they come together in the third. I’ll try to be vague, but it mostly follows the infamy of the headless rider and the trouble it attracts. Throughout that chaos, two popular actors are revealed to be dating, Izaya actually has two psychotic twins, and the group of otaku in a van went from liking Spice and Wolf to f*cking Mahouka. I can only imagine that this was a mandate by Dengeki Bunko. If you want to adapt the other LNs of Durarara, then promote our other works. Seriously though, Mahouka?! We have a slew of Dengenki all stars and they decided to feature Mahouka of all titles. It pisses me to no end. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a cross-over of Dengenki Bunko and Shounen Jump at this point though? Or has that already happened? Anyways, you have the first three episodes to get your feet wet into the crazy world of Durarara because the remaining episodes feature a bigger and more confusing arc. I did notice though that there is, indeed, a main character in Durarara and he was heavily established in this first arc.

The OG Main Character

I’m talking about Ikebukuro itself. The big city that is inhabited by all the zany characters is the main character of the story. Come to think of it, it’ll be like New York being the main character for the comic MCU since it houses a lot of popular heroes. New York is inhabited by Iron Man, the Avengers, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, some people of SHIELD, and Luke Cage. You may not notice it, but the city itself gives personality to the characters and the stories that happen in it. The same goes for Ikebukuro shaping the characters and influencing the flow of the story. The colorful characters of the city establish the place itself as the true main character of this anime. The first episode pointed this out very clearly. Instead of reintroducing the characters, it decided to reintroduce the city instead. With a lot of the characters walking its very street, it won’t be surprising to see the subplots unfold in the middle of a crowded area with normies seemingly unaware of the insane sh*t that’s about to go down. The first episode also emphasized the people living inside the city, because the next arc actually focuses on a lot of out-of-towners.

Welcome to Ikebukuro

The second arc had a lot of new characters, like an insane amount to follow, and they all have one thing in common: they are not from the city itself. The first arc ended with the craziness attracted by the headless rider getting resolved in a really fun climax. It had a serial killer, a hired assassin and the headless woman herself closing the chapter under a bridge. The second arc follows the fallout of the first. It followed subplots revolving around out-of-towners ready to raise hell in the city. We have the leader of a biker gang out for some blood, we have Dollars imploding from within, we have Russian assassins getting introduced to the supernatural beings that walks the pavements of Ikebukuro, and we have a little girl with a stun gun. The second arc is incredibly insane and the out-of-towners are even crazier. Now, I do understand that explaining the story or the characters in any manner will spoil the show, so I’ll just skip it entirely. All I can tell you is that the subplots and the characters are so good that I kept on watching the episodes until I ran out of them. Since I was already accustomed to the scattered storytelling of the anime, it was just so fun to see the plot points come to life.

I especially love the new characters, because they are all fascinating in their own twisted way. Some of them are kinda lame carbon copies of certain characters, but you just can’t help imagining the potential these characters hold. The show utilized flashbacks, its scattered POV storytelling and narrations to really shape these characters. Once they started interacting and clashing with the recurring characters, then the fun really keeps amping up. I especially love how the out-of-towners would have no idea who Shizuo is, and they would brazenly pick a fight with him. Overconfidence would get them killed though, and they really learned the hard way. Actually, Shizuo’s fist really affected the story for a lot of the subplots of both arcs. Getting beaten up by the guy that dresses like a bartender seems to be an inevitability when you decide to visit Ikebukuro. The chemistry of the new characters and the old characters are actually really refreshing to watch. You already have an idea how the old characters act, so it’s always fascinating to see how the new characters square up. Will they be overwhelmed by the characters we grew to love, or will they be good enough to stand face-to-face with them?

It’s not just the new characters that make this anime great. A lot of the old characters are really given some major roles this time around. I was especially surprised when the four otaku in the van was suddenly so active in the story. I remember that they didn’t really do much in the first anime. They were just really there dropping references and reading LNs in a bathroom stall or something. This time around, these guys are all over the place proving that they can really hang with the lunatics that we saw the first time around. We also finally understand what the hell is up with that black guy handing out sushi fliers. I distinctly remember that he was the one that gave Izaya the beating he deserved in the first season, but he didn’t really have a clear role there. In this anime, his presence finally made sense. Basically, he was established early just to give contrast to certain out-of-towners that will join the story. He also has a weird foreigner sense of humor that I really enjoyed. Really, once the show gets going, there is a lot to love and enjoy while watching each episode head into its big climax. Speaking of, there is one subplot that confused the hell out of me.

The Loli with a Stun Gun

It all started when a girl leaves the station platform to kill a certain someone. Soon, this girl brought a sh*t storm so big that it was really hard to follow. I’ll try to be vague, but her subplot involved a lot of moving parts. I guess you can call it the Flying Pussyfoot of this anime. Remember that subplot in Baccano? It was huge as it featured a psychopath killing a bunch of mafia in the middle of a rival kidnapping while a bunch of immortals square off with even more psychopaths. The little girl’s subplot is basically as insane. It also featured a kidnapping, rival mafia gangs getting involved, mercenaries complicating the story, a frame up job and a gigantic conspiracy theory. Given the story’s scattered approach, I was seriously lost trying to make sense of the events in my head. I think this particular subplot will be explained more clearly in the next season, since it had a lot of loose ends that’ll grow into subplots of their own. As it is though, it is confusing as a cursed image. What even qualifies as a cursed image? Despite being confusing though, I still love how off the trails this subplot turned into. Once it introduced more characters into the mix, I often didn’t care what was happening as long as the characters were raising hell in their own way. As I look back though, while writing this review, I had to really piece the story in my mind because the progression in the anime was hard to follow. Basically, it warrants a re-watch and the show is so good that I don’t have a problem with it. I do have one problem with Durarara as a whole though.

The Italian Train Sound

This is a minor nitpick, but Durarara stood out because of its young cast. Being set in modern times, the story separated itself from Baccano because of its relatable content. Seeing mafia and yakuza and a bunch of psychopaths is kinda disappointing, because Baccano already did that. I have no problem with more foreigners entering the story, but some of them really feel like they belong in Baccano instead. I particularly don’t like how characters are introduced in pairs with one being quirky and weird while the other being straight faced and serious. Did you notice that the new characters basically had this dynamic? The Orihaya sisters are a good example of this, but then the hired assassins also had the same routine. Kida is weirdly paired with another character while a bunch of the yakuza and mafia characters are introduced in pairs as well. I think this was just the easiest way to introduce bulk characters, since the story needed to hurry along. Still, it was becoming formulaic and I mostly love Narita’s work because of how methodically chaotic it is. But again, this is just a minor nitpick. After all, the characters of Ikebukuro can’t all be young adults. I guess introducing yakuza and mafias is unavoidable for the growth of the story. I just wish it wasn’t so predictable. It would be nice to see characters not introduced as pairs moving forward, and maybe moving away from the Baccano motif would also be great. I do know that Shuka is basically adapting the entirety of Durarara. There’ll be three seasons, and the last one is even titled “Completion” so it’ll be interesting to see if Durarara can do its own thing outside what Baccano already accomplished. Then again, it’s not really that bad to see the author reach in his known bag of tricks. So, again, this is really just a minor nitpick on my end.

Takahiro Omori and Shuka

I think Omori became a hot ticket item after directing popular works like Durarara and Natsume’s Book of Friends. He must’ve been big enough to branch off on his own and establish a new studio with other former Brain’s Base people. Looking at Brain’s Base’s filmography, Omori’s name does stand out as having done a lot of titles that established the studio. I guess it’s no surprise that he’s confident enough to do the same for a brand new one. In terms of directing, the man is pretty talented. With the backing of Brain’s Base, he was able to bring Yuki Midorikawa’s work to life in all its gentle glory. He also adapted Ryuhgo Narita’s insanely complicated light novels, so he clearly knows what he’s doing. Having a career of storyboarding and key animating other works, it’s no wonder the man can do no wrong. I can’t wait to see how his vision of Durarara leads us. Now, I personally love brand new studios. They often come in daring and confident, since they have a lot to prove. I mean, I still remember the spectacle Trigger had when it was first established. Shuka seems to be on a mission as well, and I would love to see where their confidence takes them.

Sight and Sound

I love Suzuhito Yasuda’s character design. He made the LN covers and all that stuff. He also did the characters for “Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon?” so that’s pretty fun. I particularly love Yasuda’s facial design. They’re almost round coming down the chin. It reminds me of Takashi Takeuchi and his work on Fate Stay Night. Yasuda’s LN covers are different from most covers though, because they’re usually depicted as dark contrast the usually bright color palette of most LN. They look more like game covers than LN ones, and I do love that approach. Again, it feels like the characters are moving in an urban jungle while they do complicated poses and flash some fan service. The anime gave them a brighter color, but I think Yasuda’s design is kept intact. His fierce facial expressions are there as well as the unique way he draws the characters hairstyles. They’re kinda pointy, boxy but the colors make them stand out in a cool manner. Of course, his design shines brighter in the way the characters dress. Some are simple, like girls in tracksuits, while some are a bit more complex to make them standout. I love Izaya’s coat, even though it doesn’t really add anything. It’s just a cool way to make him stand out. Female characters often wear tight clothes though, and I’m guessing fan service is the main motivator on how they’re designed. It’s a shame the animation isn’t consistent enough to deliver the fan service though.

You can sense Omori’s style not skipping a beat, but the animation is all over the place sometimes. I do understand that the studio is still starting out, so they need to get their footing first. Details are often lost during transitions, and the colors become dull during inconsistent scenes. I also don’t like how the camera would be so far away that the characters don’t have lips to move. It’s a cheap approach to animation, and I’m not a fan of it. Some movements are also weirdly rubbery as opposed to the smooth style that Brain’s Base established. It doesn’t really take away from the experience, since you can still feel Omori’s effort pour out of the animation, but it is still a negative for the show. Certain action scenes are also lacking, and most fights lack impact in their movements. The animation is competently presented, but it really just lacks emphasis to really make a scene memorable. A good example is the first fight at episode eleven. The fight was so bland, and it definitely could’ve been done better. I’ve seen it done better in the first anime. But, again, this is just a minor nitpick. The animation still told the story and the characters in such an effective manner that it still draws you in to keep watching.

The anime’s OP is “HEADHUNT” by OKAMOTO’S. This is where by bias really rears its ugly head, because I love the first anime’s OP. It felt epic, and comparing it anything would ruin the latter. This is the case for this OP song. It’s an OK song, but the tempo just feels weird. It’s slow in some parts and janky on others. The lyrics are also a mess, but I mostly couldn’t process it because of how uneven the song is tempo-wise. The OP sequence is pretty great. It is the same as the first anime, as it flashes all the important characters as they move about the city. It’s nostalgic and awesome at the same time. The anime’s ED is “NEVER SAY NEVER” by THREE LIGHTS DOWN KINGS. It suffers the same biased judgement from me. While the first anime’s ED is stupid, it fits the sequence nicely. This song is pretty good though, and it does grow on you. I love the tormented lyrics it has and the lead’s voice does have a nice charm to it. I still love the Justin Bieber-ish feel of the original though, and the purist in me isn’t budging. The ED sequence is, again, like the old one. It features all the characters in one big picture, but it scrolls up to feature them all. This ED is also a good way to keep track of characters since they are positioned next to people that are related to them in the story. Take a good look at the loli though, I wonder why his father isn’t part of the sequence? I’m guessing it’s a subplot for the next season. I can’t wait to see it.

Overall Score

7/10 “It’s fast paced, chaotic and exciting to watch. It’s exactly how the first anime was, and it’s as if there wasn’t a five year gap with a studio switch between both anime.”

This anime is Durarara. That’s really all you need to know. It’s the same insane energy that made the first anime great. It’s a really engaging experience and you don’t need to know the first anime to enjoy Durarara Shou. The flow of the story might be overwhelming for some and the animation might be lacking, but the effort to deliver the light novel’s story is really commendable. If you love story driven show with a lot of madness in it, then you’ll love this anime. I recommend it.

Thank you to my patreon backers. If you want to recommend an anime, then become a five dollar backer. Backing me for a dollar gets your name at the bottom of my reviews moving forward, like these awesome people.

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