I personally like those series who manage to make their setting come alive, and Durarara turned out to be quite a fine attempt in this. In the middle of Ikeburkuro, it intertwines the stories of all kinds of interesting people as they live their daily lives. From seemingly average teenagers to invincible fighting machines to Russian waiters at a sushi restaurant.
It’s at its best when it can really intertwine these stories with its a-linear pacing. Especially the first half of the series manages to bring a lot of colour to the combination of different characters that parade the screen. It’s fairly episodic, but that format really allows the creators to show a lot of different things about its setting.
A lot of character-development can be found in the second half, which for better and for worse, is completely different to these colourful first parts. The story becomes a lot more linear, it becomes a lot darker and a lot more straightforward. Personally I’m a big fan of character-development when used right, but it felt to me that in this part, the creators sacrificed a bit too much for the sake of this character-development. Be prepared for a number of characters who tend to act rather illogical, refusing to solve problems that can simply be solved by talking to each other. Personally, for me it just wasn’t as good as this first half: it lacked energy, and it tried to look a bit too much like Baccano, which it most definitely wasn’t.
The animation varies throughout the series. It really starts off excellent, and especially the background art is gorgeous, though you can see that the budget becomes a little tighter as the series goes on, and more shortcuts show up. The music is also pretty good, and it has some excellent tracks for both the lighter parts and the darker ones.
Overall, this series has been created by the creators of Baccano, and the director had done a ton of other stuff including Jigoku Shoujo, Fancy Lala, Natsume Yuujinchou and Koi Kaze. Durarara isn’t among the best of them, and in that way it turned into a bit of a disappointment. From most other directors however, this series would have been gold. It suffers a bit with its characters (quite a few of them have their unlikable moments), it has a bit of a wonky pacing in the second half, but it has a pretty inventive plot, a ton of nice ideas and while not the best, it’s definitely worth your time.
|Storytelling:||8/10 – The disjointed format in the first half has a great effect, so much that it feels empty when it’s not there in the second half. Tries to give too much pointless hints to Baccano.|
|Characters:||8/10 – Some characters are well developed, but the show ends too fast to actually use this, and others remain rather stereotypes. The teenagers aren’t really that likable throughout large parts of the series.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – Some great stuff, some standard stuff.|
|Setting:||9/10 – Ikebukuro (a neighbourhood in Tokyo) is well fleshed out and especially comes to life in the first half, but also gets well fleshed out in the second half with a number of pretty interesting ideas and concepts.|