There Hasn’t Quite Been Another Anime Like Durarara

Cowboy Bebop famously defined itself as “the work which becomes a new genre itself,” which could mean that it would inspire works that follow it to echo its storytelling, or that nothing else could compare. Looking back at the popular anime of the last two decades, Durarara!! feels like something equally undefined, and not a single other show feels quite like it.

Durarara started as a light novel written by Ryohgo Narita in 2004, the same mind behind Baccano and more recent tales like Fate/Strange Fake. The story was first adapted to animation in 2010 by studio Brain’s Base before getting a three-part sequel that aired from 2015-2016, this time animated by studio Shuka. The story begins with Mikado Ryuugamine’s arrival in the Ikebukuro, a small district of Tokyo, as he becomes engulfed in a sea of ​​rumors, legends, gangs, specters, and other assorted revelries. In just the first season alone, an absurd number of characters take the spotlight as everyone’s stories clash and coalesce in unexpected ways.


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It’s A Small World

There are plenty of anime with dramatically intertwined plot threads, but few with as many characters to work with and fewer that intersect so many plots with such ease. And for as often as this show’s tension swells to a crescendo to punctuate these stories clashing, it warrants praise for how casually and cool it goes about weaving the tales up to those points.

Gen Z anime fans may recall falling in love with the series in their youth during middle school and high school, as ripe a place to become enamored with Durarara as any other. There was so much to latch onto so quickly that it felt like there was something for everyone and between the visuals and Makoto Yoshimori’s dreamlike music, it felt like an urban fantasy as enticing as any world of magic offered by the most popular shonen.

And it accomplished all this so well by setting it in a real place, and a rather small and compact district in Toshima City, Tokyo. It is a district with lots of commercial history, and that size contributes to the large character of the setting. It’s a small city, and so of course there are so many characters, because, in such a small place with so many large personalities, they’re bound to intersect.

There Is No Protagonist

There aren’t any main characters, truly, and while Mikado or any of the most prominent poster fodder could be valid candidates, in the grand calculus of the story’s themes, no one character should be more important. Everyone is a protagonist, because Durarara is not a story but an aggregate of stories.

Granted, there are characters whose own stories are more thematically tied to the thesis behind this aggregate, and thus antagonists like Izaya take center stage. Izaya is the dusk behind the story, pulling people’s strings and setting in motion calamities to bring the city to the brink of destruction.

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In this way, perhaps Shizuo is the true protagonist, given that they are Izaya’s direct rival and a contradiction to their way of life. However, viewers are more likely to call Mikado or perhaps the headless rider Celty the main character based on their goals and journeys and how they intersect with Izaya. Plus, few characters are as Iconic as Celty with her black biker suit and yellow motorcycle helmet.

Regardless, the show makes every named character someone of great import who could justifiably be anyone’s favorite character. After the long hiatus between seasons 1 and 2, the prospect of new characters was tantalizing, and the sequel wasted no time introducing new denizens of Ikebukuro with some fascinating stories.

An Understated Masterwork

The legacy of Durarara is further impressive in that it’s remembered so fondly despite not always being the loudest or the prettiest or the most conventional by any stretch of the imagination. As the series continued, it wasn’t one rich with sakuga and sometimes the budget looked as if it was wearing thin.

However, few watchers of the series would feel a serious compulsion to point that out, much less notice it in the first place. By nature of the story it had to tell, Durarara succeeded because it was a ludicrously well-written drama with striking and instantly recognizable artwork, a stellar voice cast, and a unique and memorable soundtrack.

This is thanks to the work of creative leads that stayed mostly consistent through the shift in studios, namely Director Takahiro Omori and composer Makoto Yoshimori. A story this intricate needs a good hand to guide it and a world this cool needs a soundtrack to make it sing.

Durarara may very well be “a work that becomes a new genre in itself” the same way Bebop was. In this case, Durarara is a modern urban Rashomon of the 21st century, where the occult, the criminal, the mad, and the romantic collide. It is to the generation that became obsessed with it what the likes of Bebop was to the generations prior.

Durarara!! is available to stream through Funimation.

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