Creator: Ryohgo Narita
Producer: Brain's Base
Runtime: 2010
Episodes: 24 (+ 2 specials)
Rating: PG-13

Durarara!! is a breath of fresh air in the art of storytelling. Mystery and the supernatural weave together effortlessly with everyday city life to create a story that will have you often in suspense and always eager to put together the pieces of the puzzle that is this diligently planned-out, superb anime.

Having spent his childhood in a dull small town, Mikado Ryugamine decides to attend high school in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Upon reuniting with his childhood friend, Kida Masaomi, he discovers that the city is not only everything that he imagined but even that which he had never thought possible. Rumors abound of a headless grim reaper, a slasher who never kills its victims, and rising gang tensions. It is in this vibrant world that Mikado and others will find friends, themselves, and maybe even the truth.

Durarara!! is, simply put, exceptional. The story is completely original, highly coherent, and addictive. The characters are deep and life-like and whatever you think you can predict about them will most likely be wrong. The series addresses real-life problems such as teenage suicide, gang involvement, anonymity in online communication, and love, so there are moral dimensions and potential lessons to be learned. While the show could be described as suspenseful, more than anything it is mysterious. Because you have never seen a plot like this, your understanding of the story hinges on every clue that is given along the way. As more pieces of the puzzle are revealed, you will see not only the truth but also how previous events, scenes, and episodes fit together beautifully with later ones. Each moment of revelation is carefully planned and executed.

Some viewers (myself included) may feel slight disappointment with the final quarter of the show and with the ending. Tensions do not erupt in the way that one might expect, and a primary question of the plot is given less than optimal attention and resolution.

But the unexpected way in which the show ends reveals the true focus of the story. This is the philosophy of "Baccano!" refined and filtered through a better anime. A good story, so the philosophy goes, is one that does not end and that does not have a sole main character; it is one where the viewer imagines the continuation. That is, a good story is infinite. Thus, Durarara!! is not a plot of good vs. evil, but rather a moment in the lives of the various inhabitants of Ikebukuro. This is a story about "real" people in a real city; it is not really a story of majestic proportions, and if you try to make it into that, then you'll probably be unhappy with it in the end. Still, this philosophy of story-telling has its limits. Perhaps in response, an epilogue providing extra closure will be released in January 2011.

On sound, Durarara!! again takes a novel approach by choosing to incorporate various musical styles. The city quickly becomes metropolitan as the musical tracks shift from jazz-influenced to French cafe-like piano and Russian-inspired accordion pieces. Other tracks capture a sense of magic or eerie suspense perfectly; see Binzume no tenshi and Koe no nai sakebi, respectively. The voice cast is very well done (only Japanese is available at this point), with each voice actor matching well with the personality of the character, be it shy Anri or jovial Kida. An English dub is to be released soon and Johnny Yong Bosch will be voicing Izaya. This is a professionally done anime, through and through.

The show's animation is beautiful. It is crisp, clean, and vivid. The richness of the show's color and texture really comes through in the city night scenes, and the animation takes a marked turn from most anime in providing not only distinguishable character dress but also significantly distinguishable facial designs. While a couple of characters still suffer (for instance, Rio Kamichika and Mika Harima are too similar looking), the show has made an effort to bring greater life to the characters through these more realistic physical distinctions.

Durarara!! is, in my opinion, an innovator. This novel way of telling a story, of shifting the focus from plot to characters without harming the plot, and of simply creating an unheard of story, will hopefully inspire future writers and producers to step away from the tried-and-true methods and to be original once again. This show is not everything an anime should be, but it's pretty damn close.

Story: 9.5
Animation: 9.2
Sound: 9.2

Overall Score: 9.4 (Phenomenal)

Japanese Audio-English Subtitle Episode Downloads

1 - Exit 1
2 - Highly Unpredictable
3 - Rampant Evil
4 - Utterly Alone
5 - False Advertising
6 - Active Interest
7 - Bad-Ass Dude
8 - Ephemeral Dream
9 - Love and Cherish
10 - Never Before Seen
11 - Storm and Stress
12 - Everything is Interconnected
13 - A Sudden Turn
14 - Public Unrest
15 - A Fool May Give Good Counsel
16 - Mutual Love
17 - Perpetual Shifts and Changes
18 - Life and Death are up to Fate
19 - The Blue Sky Perishes
20 - The Yellow Sky Rises
21 - At a Total Loss
22 - Declaration of Disbandment
23 - Complicated and Confused
24 - Selfless Devotion

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