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.