Need more excitement in your story? Set someone on fire.
Firstly, I apologise for all my infantile jokes. Secondly, I don’t actually have all that much to say about Durarara!!, actually, especially considering that it hasn’t really ended yet. Make no mistake; the x2 Ten edition of Durarara!! may have finished with this episode, but it’s simply a cliffhanger that is conjoined to x2 Ketsu (which will air in January). ‘Real’ endings tie up loose ends and resolve character conflicts, whereas this episode only introduces more. More importantly, Durarara isn’t really allowed to end anything without Shizuo around to play plot janitor. So, no, this is not really an end post, and more an interim evaluation post which, I suppose, has its own kind of value.
Durarara!! is a series that lives or dies by momentum. More than many other kinds of anime, it must keep moving forward, must keep the plot twisting, and can never let the viewer feel complacent. Sure, it can still manage this in cycles most of the time, easing tension in between story arcs, but it certainly cannot afford to let go of the peddle mid way. It is as the snowball rolling down the mountain; as long as it’s moving, it keeps getting bigger, but if it stops halfway down it just looks kind of awkward and lacking in clear purpose. Motion, or collision. Those are the two states of Durarara!!. I believe its binary existence is due to much of its entertainment value coming from drama as spectacle, and so to continually heighten the drama it must also continually heighten the spectacle. It’s like in a classic shounen series (like Naruto or Dragon Ball), where bosses must also get tougher and power levels must always get more ridiculous, but in the case of Durarara!! the entire plot must continuously escalate.
This reliance on momentum is why, I think, the cast of Durarara!! is always expanding. Simply adding more players is one of the easiest ways to make the game more interesting. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because while it’s true that new characters bring with them new angles to the stories and more convolutions that a writer can make use of, they also pull attention away from your existing characters. There’s only a finite amount of episode time, after all, and it may not be able to handle a bloated cast. And, if anything, it only exacerbates the need for momentum, because the moment you slow down viewers can easily get distracted, their minds wandering due to not being able to keep track who that guy was or why that gal’s important, or simply not having the patience to have to acclimate to new characters when there’s already a familiar batch that they care about. As long as the ball is rolling, as long as we’re provided spectacle, and characters enter and exit fairly quickly to keep interactions snappy, our focuses are maintained. If not, the narrative starts to feel bogged down.
So, how did this season of Durarara!! do? I think we can safely say that it managed its juggling act more adeptly than x2 Shou, relatively speaking. x2 Shou, I think, tried to introduce a few too many new characters and new plot lines, which ended up bogging things down (and we’ve just been through how well Durarara!! functions when slowed down). The alternative, though, was to skip a lot of development, so there’s no easy compromise here. The good news is that x2 Ten has been able to cash on a lot of that groundwork now. Sure, we still got new characters and stuff, but those were usually tied to what we already had and were used mainly to drive conflict (new antagonists are usually more active than protagonists, simply by virtue of their role). The various threads are starting to tie together tighter, and we’re finally plumbing them murky depths of Ryuugamine Mikado’s bildungsroman. I do have a bit of an issue with that one though; I think I’ve kind of lost track of their motivations, though. Mikado seems to want to purge the Dollars to get more agency in his life, and has kinda lost it (I think). Aoba seems to want to use Mikado to eventually control the Dollars for the sake of power (I think). Masaomi seems to think Mikado’s gone in too deep so he’s going to destroy the Dollars for Mikado’s own good (???). I don’t really know if I understand correctly, and I don’t know if it’s because Durarara!! hasn’t presented it very clearly or because I’m a moron. In any case, Celty seems to be the only voice of reason in the entire show, the only one who’s willing to solve problems by honestly talking with others—and she’s the one without a head and has to type everything. Mikado and Masaomi, after successfully avoiding meaningful dialogue with each other for an entire season in x2 Shou, have now somehow decided that they must fight. Once again, it’s a mess borne out of essentially poor communication. I suppose it’s not an entirely unrealistic conflict, just rather frustrating.
In contrast, the other plot, with Yodogiri Jinnai(s), has been relatively more straightforward, even though we’ve hardly pierced into the conspiracy. And it’s also fairly clear now how it’s going to tie with Mikado’s plot line, since Saika is now intimately involved, which will drag Anri in, which will drag Mikado in. And with Dotachin and Shizuo, two stabilising elements, temporarily out of the picture and Izaya captured (perhaps for real this time), things have been thoroughly shaken up. Hopefully Durarara!!x2 Ketsu is now free to make an unobstructed rush to the finish line. Taking a whole season off is already going to jilt our momentum, so when we come back I’m fully expecting Durarara!! to hold nothing back.