Durarara!!, Vol. 6

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

When you write a book that creates a series of events that spiral into chaos, as Narita specialized in, particularly in this series, it can be many things to many people. For every character that’s involved in wacky hijinks, there’s another who’s undergoing a traumatic life-changing event. The skill is to keep those balls up in the air, and more importantly, to make everyone distinctive and memorable. As the books go on, we introduce more and more new cast members, and you need to be able to care about everyone without consulting the wiki to remember who they are (A Certain Magical Index suffers from this quite a bit). Luckily, Narita is quite good at this, so we can empathize not only with our heroes, but even the passing villains who get curbstomped by yakuza, and said yakuza, who are finding all of these gangs and Russian assassins simply exasperating. It’s all things to all people.

And so Durarara!! can be a comedy. There’s lots of great humor here, even if some of it is pretty twisted. Shinra’s diary of Celty fetish outfits, and her reaction to same. Chikage’s absolutely ridiculous chivalry, with equal measures of “knight in shining armor” and dumb sexism. Speaking of sexism, Erika gets to play the depraved bisexual in this one, groping Anri for no reason other than she wants to and to give the illustrator some fanservice to draw. Not OK, Erika. There’s also her and Walker namechecking Index and Shana in the middle of a pitched fight. And Mairu and Kururi’s chatroom gabbling is always worth a smile.

But Durarara!! is also ridiculously heartwarming. The fact that Shizuo has grown and changed as a person is a literal plot point here, as that very growth is what spoils Izaya’s plans. I loved the way that he bonded with Akane at the end, after saving her from Vorona and Slon. Celty might be weirded out by all the talk of Akane killing him, but it’s sweet in a Ryohgo Narita way. Anri may not be able to admit how close Mikado is to her, but her attempts to protect him are wonderful to see, as are Mikado’s absolutely pathetic attempts to protect her and also stop the Dollars gang from kidnapping Rio and her friends. For all that I like to say that Durarara!! is about terrible, twisted people, a lot of them have a good heart. Oh yes, and who doesn’t get a warm feeling in their heart when they see Izaya get what he deserved at the end of the book? I know I smiled. Well, cackled, really.

But I’m avoiding the elephant in the room, and that’s the fact that Durarara!! Book 6 is also a tragedy. We see a bit of it in miniature with Akane, a genuinely sweet little girl who is broken by events (and helped along by Izaya) to the point where both Celty and Shiki are disturbed by her but can’t quite put their finger on why. Vorona is shown that she’s nowhere near strong enough to take on Ikebukuro (don’t worry, she’ll be back). And then there’s Mikado, who is being used as a pawn by both Izaya and Aoba, and who finally makes a decision to go to a very dark place. Several times in the book we see people seemingly know Mikado better than he knows himself, and he’s given several opportunities to back off, to do the right thing, to become a good person. And he absolutely rejects all of them, agreeing to become the Blue Squares leader so that he can “fix” the Dollars. The most chilling moment in the book isn’t when he stabs Aoba in the hand with a ballpoint pen (though that is the most famous moment). As Aoba also realizes, it’s right after, when he switches back to innocent, kindhearted Mikado like flipping a switch. Mikado has chosen to embrace the darkness, and I appreciate that the narrative shows us how much of a terrible tragedy that truly is.

So we’re at the end of another arc, and that means next time we’ll see a lot of wandering around and setting up future plotlines. Still, books like that are what lead us to books like this, which is a highlight of the series.

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