Durarara!!, Vol. 8

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

At the start of the Baccano! anime, Carol is sorting through the various events and people that she and her boss are reporting on, and is asked who she thinks “the main character” is. She responds by picking Firo, saying he looks “Main character-ish”. The -ish being intentional. And so it is with Durarara!!, a series that may be beloved by its fandom for the hot sexual tension between Izaya and Shizuo (something pretty much absent from the actual novels), and whose ‘iconic’ character is probably Celty. That said, if I was to say who I thought the ‘main characters’ of the series were, it would be the trio of Mikado, Anri and Masaomi and their tortured relationship with each other. They’ve been separated for several books now, and give every appearance of reuniting in this book. But, while I think they’re being idiots in avoiding it, I do agree now is not the time, if only as I want to see more of the author making Mikado a semi-villain.

The Dollars have been Mikado’s pride and obsession with Book 1, and here we see him take the philosophy of “By Any Means Necessary” to heart, using the Blue Squares to viciously purge from the ranks of the “gang” any muggers or other lowlifes. Theoretically, he’s being manipulated by Aoba, but honestly, Aoba just seems to be sitting back and staring at Mikado more than anything else, as the boy is clearly descending into a sort of madness. Anri is worried sick, but unfortunately Celty regards Mikado’s secrets as more important and decides not to tell her what’s going on. (Celty is probably correct, to be fair.) Speaking of Anri, it was amazing to me to see the short scenes from Mika’s perspective this volume, especially following after the insanity-fest from last time. Here she shows genuine concern and worry for Anri, and it’s pointed out that Seiji is not everything to her, but merely the highest thing on her list. It almost feels like seeing canon change mid-page.

There are other things going on here, of course. Ruri Hirijibe returns, with her new boyfriend (Shizuo’s brother) trying to save her from a psychotic stalker. We see the stalker’s POV several times, and it once again reminds you how good Narita is at writing the truly cruel and hateful person. As for Ruri herself, it was interesting to me to see how much the book avoided using the word “vampire” unless it absolutely had to, and it’s still not clear how much of one Ruri is – though her grandmother seems to qualify. (An unlicensed Narita series, Vamp!, may be useful here, though as yet we can only speculate). And the message board explodes with new characters, as everyone seems to invite some new person to join in. So we see Saki (using her own name), Kid (Akabayashi, whose use of (lol) may be the funniest part of the book), and Chrome, whose identity is unsurprising but gives us a wonderful callback to previous books as we start the Hot Pot Party Of Evil!.

And then there’s Masaomi, who I left out of my talk earlier, who ran away from his problems 5 books ago and has returned to find they’ve gotten much worse. Can he really do anything to make amends and help his friends? In the meantime, this is another ‘setup for future books’ volume, meaning it’s low on action but still worth a read.

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