Durarara!!, Vol. 4

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

Narita’s books, be it Baccano!, DRRR!!, or what have you, all enjoy being endlessly re-readable. Not only do you get the single-volume habit of various disparate and seemingly unconnected plots all crashing together at the end, which certainly happens here, but you also see this as part of a series whole, as he also teases out future major plot and characters that don’t pay off here but will several books down the line. I’ve called DRRR!! a nerd series, and it’s not just because Erika and Walker talk a lot about anime and manga types (their discussion of whether Celty is a tsundere or not is one of the highlights of the book). It’s because his series cry out for Tumblr analysis and bullet points explaining what’s going on and how it affects things down the road.


As an example, this volume is very good about taking the metatext and making it textual. In addition to the analysis of Celty’s character and how it applies to a seemingly ‘real life’ person, we meet Izaya’s twin younger sisters, Mairu and Kururi, who are not as loathsome as him but do seem to be just as difficult to stop. They’re polar opposite twins, as per the TV Tropes article, but Izaya helpfully tells us they deliberately engineer this in order to balance each other out, the better to be one person in two bodies (which is what they think they are). This isn’t the sort of exposition you expect to be casually laid out in the book itself. Things get even weirder when, at the end of the volume, Izaya has to meet with an even higher level of manipulator to find out about events he wasn’t around for (most of them, in fact). We don’t learn all that much about him, but what we do get seems to imply that Izaya is literally meeting the book’s omniscient narrator.

This is not to say the book does not function as a normal book as well. There’s a lot going on, as always, but if you pay enough attention it’s easy to follow and have fun (indeed, the narrative helpfully spells out the difficult bits, like the fact that all the money Celty lost ends up returning to her by the end of the volume). There’s car chases and fights, Shizuo throws people across the city and hits them so hard they need reconstructive surgery. We meet Aoba Kuronuma, who is a new high school student who is clearly there to manipulate Mikado for evil ends, but at the same time he himself is thrown off by the higher-levels weirdness of the Orihara Twins. (Speaking of the Twins, those who disliked Namie’s creepy incest subtext in previous books won’t be happy to see Mairu and Kururi making out here – again, they deliberately invoke tropes, even distasteful ones.) My favorite subplot was probably that of Shizuo’s brother, who runs into the cutest serial killer you’ll ever see, and helps her redefine what it means to be a monster.

Speaking of said killer, I mentioned how DRRR’s novels tie into each other and reward re-reading, and the same can be said for “The Naritaverse” as a whole. Nebula, the evil corporation we’ll see in Baccano!, is still the evil corporation 70 years later in DRRR!!. We hear about a couple of thieves who liked to dress in costumes, clearly Isaac and Miria. And while Ruri’s ‘monstrous’ nature is kept deliberately vague, anyone who reads Narita’s unlicensed series Vamp! will have figured it out already. DRRR!! is a nerd series that rewards overanalysis, and also a lot of fun and action packed. It ends with everyone in the cast having food with friends and loved ones, except Izaya, who is alone and unloved. Needless to say, this pisses him off and he will no doubt be far more active in future books. Can’t wait.

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.