Durarara!! Side Stories?!

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

Even more than the Index SS volumes, I’m surprised that this is coming out over here at all. With Index, at least, you can argue that the SS books genuinely affect the plot of future novels. This one is a collection mostly of stories that ran in one or more of Dengeki’s 87 million tie-in magazines, and half the book is a tie-in to either a Japanese video service or a Narita series that has not been licensed over here and likely will never be unless it gets an anime. That said… it’s still a fun volume, because this is Durarara!!, and it’s ridiculous, and I’m just happy to spend more time with these idiots. There are no short stories in here that made me annoyed, though I will note that two of them do accidentally feature the same sort of thing. As for Vamp!… yeah, can’t do anything about that. Hope that Vamp! gets an anime.

The stories: 1) While eating the hot pot as seen in the main novels, we get “what were Mikado and Masaomi like as kids?”, “how did Anri and Mika become twisted friends?”, and “how did Shizuo and Tom meet?”. 2) A goon decides to impersonate Shizuo, a decision so hilariously awful that the rest of the story coasts by on “watch him suffer”. 3) Some quick hit short-shorts starring Celty. 4) We hear about the coming-of-age ceremony of Shizuo, Izaya, Kadota and Shinra. You can imagine how well it goes. 5) A desperate Erika tries to get Celty to become a Niconico streaming star, as Erika is in a war with a rival streamer. The identity of this rival may surprise you. Or not. 6) In a crossover with Vamp!, an unnamed succubus comes to Japan to feed off the desires of victims, but quickly realizes that everyone in this series is dangerously unhinged.

There are, honestly, two short stories here that are head and shoulders above the others, and unsurprisingly they’re the two that feature information that we really should have gotten in the main series. Mika and Anri’s meeting and subsequent friendship is not only driven by Mika’s supposed “need to have someone around to make her look better”, but also the culture of high school bullying in Japan, and she’s fantastic in it. (Speaking of Mika, the succubus chapter points out that while she’s obsessed with Seiji, there is zero sexual desire involved.) The other really good story is Shizuo meeting Tom, who right away is absolutely the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Elsewhere, the fake Shizuo story was very silly and dumb, though I liked seeing Vorona again. The succubus story (I don’t think she’s a cast regular in Vamp!) mostly serves to show off how bonkers Walker is. And there’s honestly too much Erika here. Finally, the book’s surrounding interstitial material is basically “Shinra and Celty are adorable”, which we already know.

DRRR!! fans should feel happy reading this, and are now doubt asking Yen about Vamp! as we speak. It’s a nice look back.

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.