Durarara!!, Vol. 12

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

Around about the time that Shizuo is seen to punch a forklift out of the way, it struck me that he is one of the most beloved characters in DRRR!! solely because it is set in “reality”. Now, it’s an urban fantasy, but you know what I mean. If Shizuo were a NEET who died and was transported into the world of DRRR!!, it would be appalling. He’d be the most overpowered male power fantasy imaginable. Heck, he even got a love triangle (of a sort) devoted to him a few volumes ago. All we lack are monsters… oh wait. This whole volume explores one of the series’ main themes, which is what makes a monster and what makes a human. Celty spends almost the entire book in a state of pure emotional rage, not even remotely resembling a human being. Anri is still (always) thinking that she doesn’t think or feel the way “humans” do. And then there’s Izaya, who finds the idea of Shizuo offensive, but let’s face it, is the most monstrous of them all.

Getting back to Anri, the scenes with her and Saki are some of my favorites in the series, if only as the whole thing is so anticlimactic. Saki arrives trying to gauge if Anri is a threat. Why wouldn’t she? Masaomi talks about her constantly, she’s cute, and is literally defined in the DRRR!! universe by her large breasts. But of course Anri is a sweetie-pie with no self-esteem, and once Saki gets that everything gets more relaxing. Anri also takes a large step forward by being the first of the trio of friends to actually break their “agreement” – she asks Saki to tell her about Masaomi’s past. Given that said agreement has only hurt everyone involved, I have to approve. Of course, Anri is still hiding some things (Saika is not brought up in front of Saki), but it’s still a step forward, and might lead to her making a big emotional leap forward.

Narita confessed in the afterword that this was meant to be the final volume and it got too long, which is not a surprise – there’s no more setup in this book, and though there are strings of long conversations as always, they’re not there to drop hints for the future. Haruna’s teacher is trying his hardest to become the Big Bad of the series, using Saika to possess half of Ikebukuro and create a “zombie attack”, but I suspect his chances of making us respect him are nonexistent. We’re far more interested in the final fight between Izaya and Shizuo, triggered by Izaya’s attempt to kill Shizuo accidentally injuring Vorona. The fact that Izaya is finally going to try to kill Shizuo is mentioned several times in the book by various groups and people, and they all have the same reaction: Izaya is going to commit suicide. Given that the two rarely confront each other in the novels, I expect the fight to be epic.

Oh yes, and Mikado’s got a gun, so things ain’t never gonna be the same. I didn’t talk about Mikado at all this book, but given that I suspect the 13th and final volume will revolve around him, it’s best to save something for later. Till then, enjoy a very good DRRR!!, though I’d sort of like it if Anri’s breasts weren’t a separate character of their own (complete with the usual “lol, molestation is funny!” interior art).

Durarara!!, Vol. 11

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

If you enjoy scenes where one character tears down the motivations of another character, you’ll love this volume of DRRR!!, because that’s almost all it is. Yes, by the end of the book the plot guns are finally going off (or in some cases blowing up – nice cameo, Vorona), but most of this book is still buildup and dialogue. Izaya confronts Anri about her own nature, how she “uses” Saika, and her aggressive passiveness (yes, Anri can be very aggressive about not doing anything), to the point where she almost has a nervous breakdown. Izaya also confronts Mikado about what he’s trying to do with the Dollars – turns out Mikado is not ready for life entirely on the dark side either, and in order to maintain the excitement he craves, he needs to remain balanced on the edge between safety and danger. And Masaomi is forced, once again, to confront his past and the past of his gang, which looks to resolve itself in a series of beatings.

The cover implies hot Saika-on-Saika-on-Saika action, and to be fair, that is what we get, though the action is somewhat limited. Having been released from her “guard Celty’s head” duty, Haruna is free to try to find her true love, the creepy high school teacher, and also confront Anri, who dared to be loved and rejected by him. Midway through this battle, Kujiragi shows up, seemingly to try to get Anri to “sell” her Saika to her, but in reality we know why she’s really there – she’s angry they scared off the cats. Kujiragi’s stoic love of cat stuff (and later, as we discover, cosplay) is a charm point, but like so many, many others in Narita’s universes, she’s a villain who knows it and is content to be villainous even as she tries to escape. Anri, to be honest, spends most of this confrontation staring in confusion – she’s already mentally exhausted from Izaya tearing her apart, and how she has Kujiragi saying she’s far too nice to be wielding someone like Saika – which is true, but just taking Saika and leaving Anri normal won’t solve her issues. Anri doesn’t even get to go home and have a nice sleep, as Masaomi’s girlfriend is lying in wait outside her apartment.

Anri is the “main character” of this volume, but there’s other things going on, not least of which is Celty’s head being used to set everything in motion. Izaya is delighted and somewhat appalled by this turn of events. Meanwhile, Shizuo is out of prison, but after seeing Vorona stealing the head, he thinks she’s working for Izaya, and finally seems to be snapping. Unlike the anime, Shizuo and Izaya have rarely personally confronted each other in the novels – they just want to never see each other. I suspect, though, that the climax of these books will finally feature what fans want to see. No, not that. What non-BL fans want to see – Izaya getting the shit beaten out of him. As for Celty, she, like Anri, is having trouble coping with everything around her at the moment, and the cliffhanger ending (there’s about four cliffhangers at the end of the book) shows her about to snap as well. Is everyone going to get angry and snap at the start of the next book? And will Erika get Kujiragi to cosplay for her?

Fans may be familiar with these events from the anime, but I still urge them to get the books as well, as the examination of everyone’s psyches works better in prose format than spoken aloud.

Durarara!!, Vol. 10

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

I had assumed that this would be another of those “all the plot guns fire off at once” volumes, but I was wrong. Indeed, Narita suggests he’s saving everything for the endgame, which is coming up soon. That is not to say that what’s in this volume is without interest. For one thing, we’re introduced to a new Big Bad, who not only lets all the Yodogiri Jinnais (yes, multiple) get crushed, but also gets to crush Izaya as well, something that always pleases me. What’s more, she seems to have a Saika’s power. This makes THREE independently running Saikas who can control people, as we have Anri, Haruna Niekawa (whose absence from her family life is a large plot point here as well), and now Kujiragi, the cliched “secretary secretly running everything behind the scenes”, who is also apparently older than she seems. She also has a fondness for cat puns. She’s a cool new character.

Thought Erika and Walker are hamming it up, Kadota’s presence on the cover is no accident, though it’s his absence that drives most of the plot. What’s been happening in Ikebukuro lately has been like a grenade about to go off, and the two things that stop it going off are Shizuo (because of sheer physical strength) and Kadota (because he’s the Only Sane Man in this entire series). So when Kadota is hospitalized by a passing mystery car, and Shizuo is arrested by cops for… well, they’ll think of some crime or another… all hell is ready to break loose. That said, it’s made clear in their scenes together that Erika is on a more even keel whenever she’s with Anri. She may be a fangirl of Anri’s supernatural powers, but she also knows that Anri needs a big sister, and when she fulfills that role she can avoid running around town threatening everyone with a car and a motive, the way Walker and Togusa do.

It’s been a while since we checked in on the three ‘main’ cast members (though, as always, Narita insists the star of Durarara!! is Celty). Mikado continues his downward slide, though at least we see he hasn’t gone full villain when he gets totally terrified on meeting Akabayashi. It’s hard to sympathize with Mikado, and I get the feeling that if he admits that he’s doing this so that he can feel excitement and be “special”, he’ll have lost. So he blunders on, not really caring that Aoba is just using him. Masaomi seems to be thinking that the best way to get through to Mikado is to kick the crap out of him till he’s a sweet boy again, and has mobilized the Yellow Squares to do this. As for Anri, all she wants is for things to go back to where they were so the three of them can have their talk. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen, and I suspect the presence of two other Saikas will goad her into more definitive action next time.

So the pot is still simmering, but the stew inside it is smelling even more delicious. DRRR!! proper ends with the 13th book (please don’t ask about SH yet, I beg of you), so we’ll see how much more setup can be forced in before Narita simply has to serve it all up.