On the streets of Ikebukuro anything can happen, so goes the adage of Brain’s Base’s “Durarara!!”. Adapted from the light novel series by Ryohgo Narita, “Durarara!!” explores a seedy underworld inhabited with two bit street thugs, Irish folklore and bartenders with rage issues, in a story that’s equal parts Yakuza fiction and Grimm Fairytale. Taking a multi-faceted approach to narrative previously seen in Narita’s widely publicised “Baccano!!” series, “Durarara!!” applies an almost Altmanesque approach to its fairy tale logic, weaving multiple character stories into incomprehensible knots of character exposition and happenstance. Whilst not as erratic as the gangster opus of “Baccano!!”, “Durarara!!” takes an almost perverse pleasure in letting the viewer piece together the jigsaw puzzle of its narrative framework.
Having moved from the safe rural town of Saitama to the bright lights of Tokyo, Mikado Ryugamimi, has a lot to learn about city living. Luckily for him, his childhood friend Masaomi Kida is willing to show him the ropes as they tour the streets of Ikebukuro. Throughout his whistle stop tour of the town Mikado meets some of the colourful characters that inhabit the city he now calls home. Characters like Izaya Orihara the lanky snake oils salesman that’s equal parts informant and shit stirrer. Or Simon the Russian sushi chef on the lam from authorities, who has since found his true calling in life serving up a weird fusion of east, meets west delicacies. Then of course, there is the Black Rider, possibly the most enigmatic of them all. I’ve yet to even mention the group known only as the Dollars, or Shizuo the bar tender with the strength of ten men. Suffice it to say “Durarara!!” is packed to the brim with the kind of characters that would often be the focal point of a competitors show.
Boasting a slick production with beautifully realised character designs “Durarara!!” is a show that offers the kind of background art that makes me cautious to visit the real locales for fear of it not living up to my expectations. It is fair to say that the Brain’s Base’s attention to detail has really paid off. This is a world crafted by a team that really understands the minutia of Ryohgo Narita light novels. The cherry on top of this wonderful production comes from Makoto Yoshimori frankly bonkers score. Blending a mixture of Acid Jazz with Eastern European Accordions and Baroque orchestrations, Makoto Yoshimori presents a sound-scape that’s as eccentric as its characters; quite how any of this manages to actually stay coherent is a mystery unto itself.
So what are we left with? This is a show that’s as equally convoluted as it is marvellous. A show that for whatever reason seems to lack a coherent ending, yet at the same time provides a journey that dazzles the viewer with heart pumping action and some fantastic dialogue. I could probably write an entire thesis on the shows use of historical influences or its deep seated sexual angst bubbling beneath each any every one of the characters. It’s a show that can be surmised in a thousand words or simply in two. So what are you waiting for? Watch it.