By Ryohgo Narita, Suzuhito Yasuda, and Akiyo Satorigi. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine GFantasy. Released in North America by Yen Press.
You’ll note in my header that I said ‘serialization ongoing’, even though this particular arc has ended in Japan. Square Enix and the author have decided to sell this series in self-contained arcs, each one taking in one of the light novels it’s adapting, rather that putting it all under one umbrella of volumes. Technically this is the 8th volume of Durarara!!, and it’s time to sit back and take stock of where we are. The first arc served to introduce one of our teen protagonists, Mikado, and show why he wasn’t quite what he seemed. The Saika arc did the same for Anri, and now here’s Masaomi on the cover of the Yellow Scarves arc, so it must be his turn.
In some ways, Masaomi’s past is the least surprising of the three kids. He’s always seemed like his over the top happy, perverse guy side has been a front for something, and here we see what it is. The Yellow Scarves are his gang, and though he may not have had intentions of it becoming what it is today, what matters is that his people were hurt by the slasher. As such, he’s pulled back in in order to give the gang a figurehead and leader, and to get revenge. The irony here being that in the end, the person he may need to seek revenge on is also the girl he’s been hitting on this entire time.
Naturally his past is also tied up in Izaya’s, who appears here not just in his monomaniacal ranting phase of the present day, but also as a manipulative bastard in Masaomi’s past. I will say this for DRRR!!, it is not afraid to paint Izaya as an utter asshole. He confidently manipulates those he knows into doing what he wants; he spouts cod-philosophy that even makes Namie, a girl who has justified murder and her own incestual feelings, retch; and if it happens that someone who is equally broken latches onto Izaya and treats him almost like a savior, well, that’s fine too. Everyone in Ikebukuro is a game piece to Izaya, and since he mashes games together at will, the more pieces the better the chaos.
This leads me to Saki, who is introduced here. I had been spoiled a bit on who she was and the internet backdraft she was hit with when the anime came out. She is Masaomi’s old girlfriend, who suffered a crippling injury that has kept her hospitalized for an extended period, and she’s also utterly devoted to Izaya. Thus we have fans who hate her for being manipulative towards Masaomi (which she would be the first to admit, I suspect – I’m not pretending she’s a nice, innocent girl) and those who hate her for pairing reasons. Frequently I find myself drawn to characters who get this sort of backlash, and I find myself liking Saki, and wanting to see more of what makes her tick. Does she really love Masaomi? Is she merely a sleeper agent of Izaya’s? Both?
I suspect that this arc will lead up to a confrontation between the three kids – the cliffhanger here, showing Masaomi almost catching Anri spying on the gang, suggests it. This is a good thing. You can only sustain a buildup so much, sooner or later you have to have a payoff. We’ve had two smaller ones in the first two arcs, and I want a big one here. It should also be a lot of fun.