Durarara!!, Vol. 1

Story by Ryohgo Narita, Art by Akiyo Satorigi, Character Design by Suzuhito Yasuda | Published by Yen Press

Here is the sum total of my Durarara!! knowledge prior to reading volume one of the manga:

1. It is based on light novels.
2. There is an anime.
3. People were really excited about the license.

It turns out that those light novels are by the creator of Baccano!, another exclamatory property with an anime that I’ve never seen, but which has been praised by various reputable sources. So, even though I knew nothing about Durarara!! itself, I was definitely curious.

In the space of six pages, three concepts and one narrative conceit are efficiently introduced. Time for another list!

1. Inside a pharmaceutical laboratory, a speaker (presumably male) promises a girl in a tank that he will “get us out of here.”
2. A trio of anonymous hands chat about the Tokyo neighborhood of Ikebukuro and the twenty-year-old urban legend of the Black Rider.
3. Timid fifteen-year-old Mikado Ryuugamine moves to Ikebukuro to reconnect with a childhood friend and attend high school.

Each of these threads will be developed and expanded upon in the volume to come, with some slight overlap but so far not much. Because of that, I’ll address them separately.

1. We learn the least about this subplot in this volume, but it appears to have something to do with Seiji, a boy in Mikado’s class, who lives with his possibly evil sister. Seiji briefly has a stalker who sees something she shouldn’t, and I wonder if that doesn’t tie in with the next item on our list.

2. We see the anonymous chatters a few times throughout the volume and it soon becomes clear that Mikado is one of them and I’m pretty sure the Black Rider is another. Seriously, the Black Rider is the most awesome thing about the volume. A competent fighter with a body seemingly comprised of shadows, the Black Rider takes courier jobs around Ikebukuro, dispatches thugs efficently, and lives with a “shut-in doctor” who would not be averse to a romantic relationship even though the Black Rider has no head.

3. Mikado, alas, is not so interesting, though the fact that he came to town because he wanted something strange and exciting to happen to him is at least somewhat encouraging. He reconnects with his friend, Kida, meets some of Kida’s otaku friends, and is warned against associating with various unsavory people, including someone named Shizuo, who hasn’t really appeared yet but looks kind of awesome, and Izaya, an informant with bleak ideas about the afterlife who extorts money from those who intend to kill themselves.

There are some series that bombard one with so much information that one ends up frustrated. If I were more astute, I might be able to pinpoint how, exactly, the creators of Durarara!! manage to avoid this pitfall, but they do. Granted, there is a lot going on, but the exposition is sure-handed, leaving one with the expectation that all will eventually make sense. Perhaps it’s the light-novel foundation that inspires this confidence, though that is certainly no guarantee of quality.

“Weird but intriguing” is my ultimate verdict for this volume, and I look forward to the second volume very much. It’s a stylish title, one that’s more cool than profound at this stage, and I realize that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it pushed the right buttons for me so I’ll definitely be back for more.

Durarara!! is published in English by Yen Press. The series is complete in Japan with four volumes.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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Comments

  1. I loved the anime. A lot. I don’t usually watch a lot of anime so I was surprised at enjoying DRRR so much. I wasn’t going to try the manga at first, since I prefer to keep as close to the source material as possible. I thought that the manga was based on the anime which was based on the novels. But apparently the manga was created independently of the anime. At least that’s what someone told me. So I guess I’ll give it a try after all. I wonder how much I’ll enjoy it since I already know all the secrets. It’s interesting hearing the opinion of someone who doesn’t know anything. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I definitely have theories now, but I didn’t want to elaborate too much in case there’s someone else out there like me who is unspoiled.

      I admit I’m tempted to watch the anime now, too. I’ve seen it on Netflix, I think, but I am assuming it’s dubbed, since that is the case with the Fullmetal Alchemist I saw on there. :(

  2. I’m another who loves the anime. It’s an incredible series. I was a little hesitant about the manga (though definitely going to buy it anyway), because how likely is it that the novels inspired not one, but TWO great adaptations? It’s heartening to see that you’re enjoying it so far, and if it’s anything like the anime, you’ll find that it just gets better as all the pieces start coming together.

    Now, I’m just going to sit here and hope that the manga really is ridiculously awesome, sells like gangbusters, and convinces Yen Press to also license the light novels, so I can own all three versions. :)

    • I would love for the original light novels to be licensed! And Baccano! as well. And it’s definitely looking like I’ll have to watch the anime, but I think I’ll save that for after I’ve encountered all of the various revelations in manga form.

  3. Yes, the light novels should be licensed as well.
    Anime only covered the first 3 volumes and manga adaptation is still ongoing, where there is first series with 4 volumes that cover the first half of the anime (I don’t remember it well, but I think it’s like that.). There is a continuation named Saika Arc and its first volume will be out in February (according to amazon.jp) – basically this Arc should be about the Cursed blade if I’m not mistaken. (obviously, the name says everything).

    This is a series that is like a single strawberry on a top of a shortcake for people who like unusual things and unusual people – that to be said – “out of ordinary.”
    As I’m one of that sort, I can say that when I was watching the anime I was drooling from the deliciousness of the weirdness.

    The author of this series – Ryohgo Narita – likes to play with his characters. There isn’t a main hero or heroine in his series, but every character has its own purpose (just like how every human is his/her own story’s main role). And they act whimsically. Intewined fates, chance meeting, usual everyday – they are things that happen in a real life – we act according to the situation in from of us. Because it’s like that, it feels like “Aah~ I wouldn’t be surprised even if I met ‘character_name’ on the street/while having a walk/in a restaurant/etc.”
    To say – the characters in this story are ‘alive’. And the story isn’t even the point – normally a human life doesn’t happen like in a story – its just that the small things and happenings connected together and became something big.
    Therefore, DRRR!! is like a description of ‘LIFE’.


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