Durarara!!, Vol. 3

By Ryohgo Narita and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On.

Anyone who reads any of Narita’s two main series, Baccano! and Durarara!!, knows how much he likes his gangs and gangsters. Be it yakuza, mafia, camorra, or just kids wearing colors and yelling about territory, it’s a huge theme in his books. And with the teenage gangs he does a very good job showing off how much the desire for control and power is motivated by simple fear, and how easy it can be to let situations spiral out of control. We learned at the end of the last volume about who Masaomi Kida really is, but this third volume shows us that, of the three teens who have been our protagonists so far, he may be the weakest… which of course makes his comeback and true strength just that much more satisfying.

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I think Narita’s habit of creating a bunch of divergent situations and then arranging them so that they all crash into each other at the end is something that might work better in a novel than in an anime – a lot of people have complained about the episodes of DRRR!! where nothing happens, but of course it’s all just required setup. the book doesn’t really have this problem, and so you enjoy seeing more and more information get revealed as time goes on. Both to the reader AND to the characters – the reader has been aware of the true identities of Mikado, Anri and Masaomi for some time, but it’s not till the climactic battle that each of them sees the truth.

We also meet Saki, Masaomi’s not-quite-girlfriend and the target of much hatred among the fan pairing community, mostly for existing. I like her, while acknowledging that we aren’t supposed to at first. She’s almost Izaya’s thrall, and as with everything Izaya touches, we’re automatically leery of her. Her constant smile is also not helping. It’s only towards the end of the book that we see the other side of her, the one that genuinely did fall in love with Masaomi, and see her crying and showing emotions. Honestly, it’s easier to blame Izaya here, who loves emotionally manipulating people just to see what happens and because it amuses him. He remains the most punchable person in the entire cast, and given this cast also has Namie, Seiji and Mika that’s saying something. Except wait, there’s someone more punchable.

Yes, this is the volume where we meet Shingen, Shinra’s even-more-eccentric-than-the-son father, who immediately establishes himself as an impulsive freak designed to give Celty migraines (except, of course, she does not have a head, but I suspect Shingen gives them to her anyway). As with Shinra, it’s never really clear when he’s decided to turn serious or not – or how much of his goofing was done to deliberately throw Celty off her game. In any case, a word to the wise, he can be teeth-grindingly annoying, and I know a few people who skip past him in the anime.

This is the longest book in the series to date, and the extra words work well. We get someone of the other minor characters fleshed out a bit, such as Kadota, Erika and Walker. The translation is smooth, only faltering a bit when it has to deal with the Japanese prose habit of never identifying who is speaking, so you have to make more contextual judgments than is strictly necessary. And the art is finally starting to mature a bit and be less flat-faced, with a bold, striking cover. If you enjoy DRRR!!, and can put up with Shingen, then this is definitely an excellent purchase.

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