Durarara!!, Vol. 3

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

Anyone who reads any of Narita’s two main series, Baccano! and Durarara!!, knows how much he likes his gangs and gangsters. Be it yakuza, mafia, camorra, or just kids wearing colors and yelling about territory, it’s a huge theme in his books. And with the teenage gangs he does a very good job showing off how much the desire for control and power is motivated by simple fear, and how easy it can be to let situations spiral out of control. We learned at the end of the last volume about who Masaomi Kida really is, but this third volume shows us that, of the three teens who have been our protagonists so far, he may be the weakest… which of course makes his comeback and true strength just that much more satisfying.


I think Narita’s habit of creating a bunch of divergent situations and then arranging them so that they all crash into each other at the end is something that might work better in a novel than in an anime – a lot of people have complained about the episodes of DRRR!! where nothing happens, but of course it’s all just required setup. the book doesn’t really have this problem, and so you enjoy seeing more and more information get revealed as time goes on. Both to the reader AND to the characters – the reader has been aware of the true identities of Mikado, Anri and Masaomi for some time, but it’s not till the climactic battle that each of them sees the truth.

We also meet Saki, Masaomi’s not-quite-girlfriend and the target of much hatred among the fan pairing community, mostly for existing. I like her, while acknowledging that we aren’t supposed to at first. She’s almost Izaya’s thrall, and as with everything Izaya touches, we’re automatically leery of her. Her constant smile is also not helping. It’s only towards the end of the book that we see the other side of her, the one that genuinely did fall in love with Masaomi, and see her crying and showing emotions. Honestly, it’s easier to blame Izaya here, who loves emotionally manipulating people just to see what happens and because it amuses him. He remains the most punchable person in the entire cast, and given this cast also has Namie, Seiji and Mika that’s saying something. Except wait, there’s someone more punchable.

Yes, this is the volume where we meet Shingen, Shinra’s even-more-eccentric-than-the-son father, who immediately establishes himself as an impulsive freak designed to give Celty migraines (except, of course, she does not have a head, but I suspect Shingen gives them to her anyway). As with Shinra, it’s never really clear when he’s decided to turn serious or not – or how much of his goofing was done to deliberately throw Celty off her game. In any case, a word to the wise, he can be teeth-grindingly annoying, and I know a few people who skip past him in the anime.

This is the longest book in the series to date, and the extra words work well. We get someone of the other minor characters fleshed out a bit, such as Kadota, Erika and Walker. The translation is smooth, only faltering a bit when it has to deal with the Japanese prose habit of never identifying who is speaking, so you have to make more contextual judgments than is strictly necessary. And the art is finally starting to mature a bit and be less flat-faced, with a bold, striking cover. If you enjoy DRRR!!, and can put up with Shingen, then this is definitely an excellent purchase.

Durarara!!, Vol. 2

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

It can sometimes be difficult to review a light novel that is part of a long-running franchise whose fans have already seen variations on it – anime, manga, etc. In Japan, of course, the light novel came first, and thus the manga and anime give artistic attention to plot twists and character beats that the audience knows about through the book. In North America, it’s usually the opposite – we get the anime first, then an associated manga (though that’s switching around lately), and finally if it’s popular we see the light novels it was based on. And honestly, while I’m sure there will be some casual readers of DRRR!!, the primary audience for this 2nd book are people who already knows what’s happened in it. It’s thus more than a little amusing that the primary twist in this book is Anri’s identity, and the book goes to great lengths to keep it a secret from the reader for as long as possible.


Just as Mikado and Izaya shared the ‘main character’ stage with Celty in the first novel, so Anri and Shizuo do with her here in the 2nd. The two are not dissimilar, though you wouldn’t guess that at first. Due to past parental abuse and then emotional trauma of their death (oh, and being possessed by a katana with a mind of its own), Anri is naturally repressed emotionally, and usually has no idea whether she should be happy, sad, or angry in any given situation. This is why she became best friends with Mika, and later on with Mikado and Masaomi – she sort of leeches onto their emotions and thus feels a semblance of normality. As for Shizuo, he simply has no limited, and has to repress his own naturally strong rage through sheer force of will – something he’s very bad at. The final fight he gets into is very cathartic, as he goes all out in his violent fury but doesn’t kill anyone, as he delightfully crows at the end. Shizuo is probably the most popular character in the series – Izaya is his equal, but has just as many people who hate him. You see why here.

It’s actually almost one year after the events of the first book, which comes as a bit of a surprise. There won’t be as much of a wait between the second and third, though – if the first book teased hints of future plots to come, the second is blatant about it, leading up to a cliffhanger where we finally see what the amassing Yellow Scarves are trying to do, and who they’re trying to pull in to lead them once again. It’s not all that much of a surprise – given that Mikado turned out to be the creator of the Dollars, and Anri (or at least Saika) being responsible for all the slashings, the identity of the leader of the third major force in this triangle is obvious in a literary way. It’s a nice way to bring in new readers to a third book, though, and as for those who’ve already seen the anime, hey, don’t hate on Saki too much, OK?

A good solid book for DRRR!! fans, who will enjoy the extra depth the narrative gives to the characters, particularly Celty, Shizuo, and Anri. And also for anime fans, Erika loves Shizaya, but it makes everyone around her, including Celty, want to throw up when they hear about it. Hee.

Durarara!!, Vol. 1

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

As you may have noticed from the ugly 2 at the end of the URL, I’ve reviewed a DRRR!! Vol. 1 before, when the manga first came out in 2012. And now we have the novels, something I was not expecting. Those familiar with the anime and manga won’t find any major changes to what they already know, though there was a character building scene that was deleted from the anime (which actually came back to bite them recently when a girl from said character building scene showed up again). For the most part, though, reading this novel if you’ve already seen the anime or manga gives you greater depth of characterization, as we get inner monologues and narrations that help to flesh out Mikado, Celty, Izaya, and the rest of the cast.


I will warn you in advance: don’t buy this novel for the illustrations. Yasuda-san has improved in the ten years since this was released, as readers of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? can see. But this first volume of DRRR features some very ugly characters with flat, dead faces staring at you from the front cover. The cover, however, does illustrate one of the main draws of this series (and Narita’s series in general): there is a huge cast of characters, all of whom play some part in the narrative and there is no one ‘main character’, though in this first book I’d argue Mikado comes close. Mikado benefits most from the light novel perspective, as you realize just from watching and listening to him just how much he desperately wants excitement in his life, and what he is willing to go through to achieve it.

As for the rest of the cast who have large roles in this first book, DRRR!! is also known for having no ‘normal’ people in its cast, as everyone ranges from mildly eccentric to flat-out crazy. This is best illustrated by our antagonist for this book, Namie Yagiri, her brother Seiji, and Seiji’s stalker Mika. The three compete to see who can be more messed up and make you want to put the book down in disgust. Namie is incestually attracted to her brother, her brother is in love with a severed head, and Mika wants to eat said severed head so that she can then gain Seiji’s attention. They truly deserve each other, as Mikado says, and give the book a nice frisson of creepy.

Compared to them, folks like Celty, who may be a supernatural headless Dullahan but is possibly the nicest, most normal person in the series, or Izaya, who tries to be a villain but mostly ends up just being an asshole, are more relaxing and easier to take in. It actually may surprise folks how much of the cast don’t get much focus in this first book – Shizuo barely shows up, Anri mostly functions in terms of her relationship with Mika, and Masaomi turns out to be mostly irrelevant except to contrast with Mikado. Of course, this will change – despite Narita hoping the book goes beyond one volume, I’m fairly sure this was commissioned as a 3-volume series to start, and the next book will definitely be focusing on Anri.

Fans of the DRRR!! anime and manga will definitely want to check this out. If you watched it for the Shizaya, there’s a nice fight here for you. If you avoided it because of the Shizaya, they barely interact except for that fight. Something for everyone! Stephen Paul’s translation is also smooth and non-obtrusive, with the narrative being wordy as Narita usually is but lacking that ‘light novel’ feel some other series have had (hi, Index). And the art will improve in a few books time. And it’s out digitally as well, for folks who’ve watched me hammer on about that on Twitter!

Oh yes, sorry, Baccano! fans, Isaac and Miria’s cameo was anime-only. You will see the Nebula Corporation here, though.