Durarara!!SH, Vol. 1

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

It’s been a year and a half since the final volume of Durarara!! dropped in English, and coincidentally that’s also how much time has passed between that book and this sequel. That said, it does not really feel that all THAT much has changed. Some folks have left the city for various reasons, some others have graduated, and we have three new “main characters” to take the place of Mikado, Masaomi and Anri. Of course, “main character” in a Narita work is always a fluid title, and one could argue that this book stars Ikebukuro, in which case nothing has changed. That said, it’s definitely more story than can fit into this book, and the author apologizes for making this a multi-parter right off the bat. There’s a lot of stuff going on. A young man treated as a monster comes to the city to learn how to be human. Another young man is trying his best to be the next Izaya. And a young woman is searching for her missing sisters, both supposedly done away with … by the Headless Rider.

The first three books in the DRRR!! series proper each focused on one of the three high school students, and there’s a sign this sequel may do the same, as Yahiro is definitely the protagonist of this particular book. A young man from Akiba who has spent his life getting attacked and desperately fighting back, to the point where most people consider him to be a complete monster. He hears about Ikebukuro, a place which not only has the Headless Rider but also Shizuo (whose backstory is very similar to Yahiro’s, deliberately so) and decides to go to high school in Tokyo. But finding the Headless Rider is not recommended given the string of disappearances involved with everyone who looks for her. As for Shizuo, well, Yahiro has spent his entire life accidentally beating the crap out of people, so there may be no avoiding it. But who’s gonna win?

As noted, a lot of the “main cast” of the earlier series isn’t here or only shows up later. Shinra and Celty are on a long vacation, Izaya is still AWOL (though he does get a cameo, setting things in motion towards chaos as always), Kadota, Erika and Walker are only mentioned, etc. That said, the new characters blend seamlessly into the cast herd, and there’s so many minor characters in this series that it doesn’t feel like there’s a gaping hole missing. Yahiro is highly likeable in just the sort of way that Mikado never quite managed to be, and Kuon and Himeka also look to have promising, if twisted, stories in the future. It’s clear the city has been in stasis since Izaya left. We see Akane has grown older and is in middle school now, but Shizuo and Tom are still doing the same old thing, as is Simon, as are the Orihara twins and Aoba (he’s still not dating them, mostly as he’s just not into Mairu). Peace is good, but makes for dull storylines. In that sense, I’m grateful to Izaya for siccing Yahiro on the place.

This is a typical DRRR!! multi-parter, in that the cliffhanger ending is fairly mild, but also definitely makes you want to read more. Good news! There are three more books in the series to date. And the next one should be out soon. DRRR!! fans will definitely want to pick this up: it’s like welcoming an old friend back into your life (and then having them destroy your house again).

Durarara!!, Vol. 13

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

And so, in the end, so much of DRRR!! turns out to be about love. First and foremost we have the love of Shinra and Celty, which is twisted (as Shinra cheerfully admits, saying he values his love for Celty over her own happiness) but also romantic, with Celty continuing to be the most tsundere Dullahan ever. She also saves the day about ten times over here, making sure that Mikado doesn’t kill himself, stopping the zombie Saika outbreak for a bit, etc. There’s also the love Anri has for Mikado, which is still in its nascent form but at least she can now admit to herself that love is what it is. Mikado’s feelings are a bit more vague, but he did save her from being stabbed (and was apparently in a coma for a month afterwards!), so that counts for something. There’s Seiji and Mika, who have Celty’s head keeping them together, even if their motives are totally in opposition. And then there’s Haruna and her teacher, who get one of the more horrifying but also satisfying twisted ends. Love is everywhere.

And yes, let’s also talk about Shizuo and Izaya. I think if you told canonical Izaya that he was in love with Shizuo he’d have something nasty to say to you, but it is striking how dedicated he is to proving that Shizuo is a “monster”. Izaya, who loves humanity as an abstract whole but can’t be attached in any way to individuals, pales in comparison to Shizuo, who gets TOO emotional when confr4onted with individuals, and needs to learn restraint, something Vorona helps teach him a bit. (Basically, he needs people to be a good example for.) I would not say Izaya is jealous of this per se, but I think he does not want Shizuo, whose body is almost indestructible and who can throw vending machines with one hand, to be a normal human. Moreover, while Izaya needs to have Shizuo as his nemesis, Hark a Vagrant style, I’m, pretty sure Shizuo would be happy to never see Izaya again. They’re both dark mirrors of each other.

This was one of the few LNs where I’d watched the anime before I read the book, and I was surprised that the epilogue made a few changes. Aoba sitting himself down in front of Anri and Masaomi at the hospital and being smug reads oddly, and you wonder why Masaomi doesn’t slug him. I think the anime wondered this as well, adding in a scene with Akabayashi threatening him to replace it and make it clear that this isn’t Aoba’s win. That said, the epilogue does seem to wrap everything up, at least as far as the current plot points are. The afterword mentions the sequel LN Durarara!! SH, but it’s not clear if that will be licensed here, and Narita’s current erratic writing schedule means it’s somewhat stalled at the moment. Fortunately, DRRR!! works as a contained unit here. Celty comes to terms with herself, Mikado realizes that being a villain is not what he wants to be, and they all live happily ever after. Except Izaya.

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).