I've tried to watch the anime version of Durarara!! two or three times and have yet to make it all the way through. While I love looking through fan creations based on this series, the series itself doesn't seem to do anything for me. I was hoping things would be different with the manga, but that wasn't really the case. It didn't help that these volumes only briefly touched on the characters that most interested me in the anime.
Once again, a warning: my synopses are riddled with spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
Durarara!! (manga, vol. 1) creator Ryohgo Narita, art by Akiyo Satorigi, character designs by Suzuhito Yasuda, translated by Stephen Paul – Mikado is a naive high school student who just moved to Ikebukuro hoping for adventure. His friend Kida shows him around and tells him about people to avoid. Mikado sees an urban legend, the possibly headless motorcyclist, and meets Izaya, a scary guy who had planned on shaking down a couple suicidal young women for money.
I'm kind of glad I saw a bit of the anime first, even though it's already apparent that the two differ. All the scene changes would have been much more jarring, otherwise. I at least knew in advance that the series flits between a large number of characters, each with their own larger-than-life stories.
At this point, all I can say is that Izaya is scary-crazy, Mikado is a naive idiot, and Celty is looking for her head and may or may not be in a relationship with Shinra, the doctor. There are a lot of characters to follow.
The art style seems a little odd – kind of skewed. Or maybe the proportions are odd? Anyway, it's nothing I can't get used to. Visually, I prefer the anime, though.
Durarara!! (manga, vol. 2) creator Ryohgo Narita, art by Akiyo Satorigi, character designs by Suzuhito Yasuda, translated by Stephen Paul – Celty, the headless motorcyclist, is looking for her head and feels that it's in Ikebukuro. She may be in love with Shinra, who's...a bit creepy. The manga geeks are revealed to be new members of Dollars. They threaten a guy with manga-themed torture (don't knock it – after all, things like Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan exist) while looking for someone. Mikado sees Izaya and Shizuo together for the first time – they fight, because Shizuo hates Izaya's guts. And also, we learn that Seiji is in love with Celty's head.
The cast list in this volume includes 15 characters. That's a lot of characters to follow. While I found this volume to be a bit more interesting than the first one, it was still confusing and kind of screwed up. For example, we have Shinra. Given a choice between a declaration of love from Celty and a chance to vivisect her, I honestly don't know which option he'd go for. Then there's Seiji's sister, whose love for her younger brother has a definite incestuous bent. Seiji's got his own issues – the person he currently loves the most isn't a person at all, but rather just a head.
There's a bit of stalker humor in this volume. Anri, the girl Mikado likes, had a friend who tended to fixate on guys and stalk them. Seiji was one of her victims. On the plus side, I don't think it was presented positively. Everyone seemed to recognize that Stalker Girl's behavior wasn't healthy. On the minus side, no one tried to stop her.
Durarara!! (manga, vol. 3) creator Ryohgo Narita, art by Akiyo Satorigi, character designs by Suzuhito Yasuda, translated by Stephen Paul – The Head Girl escapes Celty with Mikado's help. This unfortunately puts Mikado in Celty (and Izaya's!) line of sight. Celty still wants her head, even though she and Shinra have now admitted to loving each other and having her head back may ruin that. She explains things to Mikado and shows what's under her helmet. He reacts with joy. Then he realizes what Yagiri Pharmaceuticals is doing, and that Anri's friend is the body half of Head Girl. It turns out that Mikado may be the head of Dollars. With one call, he teleports (? - that's what it looked like in this volume, but the next volume just shows them all gathering) all the Dollars into the area.
This volume is craziness. It also turns Mikado, the naive country boy, into some kind of powerful and intelligent mastermind. How does Izaya fit into this, and what does he want from Mikado?
I enjoyed Shizuo's appearance in this volume, and that, in the midst of all this general craziness, he was at least sane enough to realize that a guy who says he loves a girl (er, girl's head) but doesn't know her name is probably cracked.
This was the volume when I realized that the series might end up skipping over many of the characters that the anime had covered in more depth. I was disappointed, because, quite frankly, I have zero interest in Mikado. I'd prefer to see more Shizuo and Izaya doing battle, or even more Celty and Shinra.
Durarara!! (manga, vol. 4) creator Ryohgo Narita, art by Akiyo Satorigi, character designs by Suzuhito Yasuda, translated by Stephen Paul – It's revealed that Mikado started Dollars as a joke and Izaya knew it. Izaya tells Mikado that he'll need to keep evolving in order to keep from becoming bored. Celty's true self (her headlessness) is revealed to everyone, and Celty learns that what she thought was her head is actually a fake – it's just Anri's friend, the Stalker Girl. Seiji had thought he'd killed her, but she'd only been knocked unconscious. She was modified to look more like Celty's head. Mikado pairs Stalker Girl up with Seiji, because they are both messed up in similar ways – neither one of them seems to be capable of healthy romantic feelings. Meanwhile, Izaya takes the real head and plans to use it to start a war in Ikebukuro. Once Celty finds out that Shinra knew where her head was all along, she confronts him. The two talk and have a sweet (I guess?) moment
To be honest, the plot so far is kind of boring, and I'm pretty sure I dislike Mikado. What's he going to do if he starts feeling bored and has no outlet? He may have started Dollars as a joke, but I'm not sure it would have gone viral so fast without the occasional boost from Izaya. Part of me wonders if Mikado wouldn't secretly like to be just like Izaya, able to direct things from the sidelines and amuse himself by messing with everyone's heads.
I wasn't a fan of Mikado's efforts to overlook Anri's friend's stalking behavior. Just because she risked her life for Seiji's sake doesn't mean her past actions weren't stalking. Also, dang but Seiji and Stalker Girl were creepy. At some point, Seiji's going to try to kill Stalker Girl again in order go back to his beloved head. Stalker Girl is no better. Here's what she was fantasizing about: “I'll find that head, grind it into a pulp right in front of [Seiji], pour the remains into my mouth, and make it part of my flesh and blood.” These two make my skin crawl. And Mikado paired them up, OMG.
Anyway, I might continue with this series, just to see more of Izaya bringing on some chaos, but I'm only mildly interested in what's going to happen. I can't seem to connect with any of these characters...which is probably a good thing, since they're nearly all insane.