Durarara!!SH, Vol. 4

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

Apologies to those wanting to know what this specific volume is like, but I need to briefly get a little meta. Ryohgo Narita, a ludicrously prolific writer from 2003-about 2015, has been dealing with a chronic illness. It’s made writing on a regular basis very difficult for him. What’s more, when he is well enough to write he has other projects that take precedence, because they’re owned by people other than him. The Bleach light novels. The as yet unlicensed Fate/Strange Fake novels. What does all this mean? It means that this volume of Durarara!!SH came out in 2016, and there has not been another one since. I will be writing the same thing about Baccano! in a few months time. As with Hunter x Hunter’s long hiatuses, it feels wrong to blame Narita for this extended absence. It does mean, though, that this volume was one where I hoped there might be, if not a definitive ending, at least a good stopping place. Alas, no. This is just another day in the life of these violent idiots.

Despite the presence of Anri on the cover of this volume, she’s mostly a supporting role in the book, and Mikado is mentioned but does not appear. Instead, once again, the lead role pretty much goes to Celty, who is grasping for a new purpose in life and wants to try going back to her old courier job, minus the complications that always hounded that job back when Izaya was around. Sadly for her, Izaya may be gone but complications remain. The drug that was going around two books ago is still around, despite the folks behind it having moved on. She’s being asked to locate the eldest son of a rich family, who is, as a lot of eldest sons do, getting involved with a bad crowd. And even though she’s a supporting player in this book, everything seems to revolve around Anri’s antique shop.

I admit that I was very amused about the subplot with the guy who was upset at Ikebukuro in general for treating him like a nameless character, not even someone important enough to be called a weak loser. I was amused because I had trouble remembering who he was as well. Honestly, in addition to the various references to Narita’s other series that litter this volume (Firo and Ennis, though unnamed, get a mention, and there’s a Vamp! subplot in here too), I feel as if I’m missing something in regards to the Natsugawaras, and would not be surprised if the backstory we hear about happened in an unlicensed side story. Other than that, this volume is a lot of fun. Narita calls it lighter than the others, and I agree. It also features the return of Kujiragi, who gets my favorite line in the whole book.

So yeah, good volume, and for now… that’s the end of Durarara!!. Unless Yen licenses the Izaya side novels. Which I highly doubt. Let’s hope that we eventually get some more and perhaps some closure.

Durarara!!SH, Vol. 3

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

Ryohgo Narita has always struck me as someone who pays closer attention to his fandom than most other authors. His books all interlink in ways that fans love, of course, but here we delve even more deeply into fandom culture. Sometimes you’re so into something that you lose all reason, and sometimes you hate the idea of something so much that you… well, lose all reason. Not so much two sides of the same coin as opposite edges of the same side. And then there’s our new main cast. Deliberately introducing three new high school students who fit very much into the exact same slots that Mikado, Masaomi and Anri did in the previous books, Narita shows us that Kuon has a long way to go in trying to be the next Izaya, mostly as he doesn’t understand how much of what Izaya did was off the cuff, dangerous, and unplanned. As for Yahiro, after praising him for being a nice guy in the previous book, I may have to walk that back a bit.

Remember the slasher plotline at the start of this series? It’s back, sort of, only with hammers. Someone is going around dressed as a character from popular franchise Owl of the Peeping Dead (not based on any real-life series, the author assures us) and hitting people with hammers. No one’s dying, but they’re getting hospitalized. Several people would like to see this stopped. Erika and Walker, who are offended that someone is destroying the reputation of a beloved series. Shizuo, who doesn’t really care until the attacker hits Tom, and then cares A WHOLE LOT. And Ran Izumii, who also hits guys he hates with a hammer, and is upset that someone is stealing his shtick. Hunting down this attacker… or, as it turns out, attackers… are Celty, as always, Yahiro, who’s nice and strong and also weird as hell, and Horada, who is comic relief.

So if Kuon is not Izaya, is he Masaomi? That fits him a little better, to be honest, especially the desire to have people hit him after they realize how involved he is in everything. Still, if you’re trying to be an expy of another character, perhaps don’t pick the only one of the trio so uninteresting he’s been written out? As for Yahiro, he overlays with Shizuo, of course. Certainly better than he does with Mikado, as Mikado is his polar opposite. That said, the last section of the book made me realize that Yahiro reminds me more than a little of Elmer from Baccano!. That’s that vague sense of ‘what the actual fuck?’ that comes across whenever you have to deal with Yahiro for a lengthy period, though it doesn’t help that Kuon’s actions are so contradictory to begin with. He’s certainly the most interesting of the new characters, especially since Himeka pretty much sits this book out.

Next volume promises the return of at least two of the original trio.. But till then let’s enjoy the chaos, and be relieved that DRRR!! can still inspire laughter and badass fighting.

Durarara!!SH, Vol. 2

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

I always love to start off a review by admitting I was wrong. So yes, sorry Izaya, it turns out you were NOT the one who told Yahiro to come to Tokyo after all, it was Shinra, who is also an agent of chaos, just with a bit less malice. Of course, that’s all very well and good, but his arrival, along with meeting Himeka and Kuon, seems to have started everyone back on to their usual mess again. Narita specializes in chains of unconnected events exploding outward till they all connect, and that’s what happens here, thanks to… well, some of it is indirectly thanks to Izaya. OK, most of it. But alas, he’s still not in these books. But Celty returns, and it’s refreshing to see that she is much the same as she was before. Albeit a lot more panicked, given that while she was having a hot springs tour, people kept disappearing and she got the blame. We also find out a lot more about Himeka and Kuon… who both have a lot of issues to deal with as well.

Given that both Yahiro and Himeka are actively looking for Celty, it’s rather surprising that their confrontation goes so well. Then again, Celty’s a sweetie pie, as anyone who spends time around her knows. This helps Himeka to let go of the rage and anger towards the headless rider… and also makes her realize what’s actually going on, which is not supernatural in nature but instead involves a broken family, the desperation of being a true believer, and a drug that does very bad things to you. As for Yahiro, well, his fight with Shizuo was not nearly as secret as he’d hoped, and now everyone knows there’s a new bad boy in town. What’s more, one of his new friends is trying to manipulate him. Can he manage to resolve what it means to be a human with the monster that everyone says he is?

The answer is no, but don’t worry, that’s a good answer – in fact, it’s the best part of the book. DRRR!! is a series where we see normal, non-powerful humans turning out to be the absolute scum of the earth, while one of the actual supernatural monsters is one of the nicest people in it. Ikebukuro is a place where being a monster may be cool, it may attract attention, it may force events to revolve around you… but it’s not really the terrible thing that Yahiro dealt with in his small town. As for the human part of the book… well, Horada, everyone’s least favorite minor villain, is out of jail and still just as pathetic, but I think we know by now he’s a running gag. More concerning is the Heaven’s Slave drug, which has not only made a big comeback but also brought back two somewhat more major villains, both of whom have decided to get revenge on the city rather than a person. No doubt that will spark the third volume.

All this and I didn’t even get into the use of cults and their use to get away from what ails you, which can be a problem when your cult leader suddenly disappears. In any case, if you love DRRR!!, Izaya or no, this is a very fun volume, greatly enjoyable.