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Japanator Recommends: Durarara!! Part 1

12:00 PM on 01.23.2011 // Ben Huber
  @benhuber

In January 2010, when Durarara!! first began airing, I was both excited and worried. After the rough time Brain's Base's previous Narita adaption, Baccano!, had, I was concerned the same fate would befall DRRR!!. Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. The first couple episodes were a blast, overall it was an excellent show and it sold gangbusters in Japan. Here in the west DRRR!! has enjoyed a fair share of popularity, leading Aniplex to bring it over and also complete their first dub in cooperation with Bang Zoom.

I've already seen the entire series via Crunchyroll, who streamed it as the show aired in Japan, but this is the first time I had a chance to experience the series dubbed and on DVD. Aniplex provided me with a screener of the first five episodes which are the basis of this review.

Click through for my full thoughts on Durarara!! Part 1.

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Durarara!! Part 1 - DVD
Studio: Brain's Base
Licensed by: Aniplex
Release Date: January 25th, 2011
MSRP: $49.98 ($39.98 at RightStuf)

The first DVD set contains episodes 1 through 9, along with a set of postcards (which were the cover illustrations for the many DVD releases in Japan). New art was done for the box as well, which is a nice touch. If you were one of the many people who pre-ordered, you'll be getting a Celty keychain as well. It seems like much of the same care Aniplex put into its other Stateside releases, like the Gurren Lagann movies, is present in the DRRR!! release as well.

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If you're not up on Durarara!!, I'll give you a little background. The anime is based off of a light novel series of the same name by Ryohgo Narita, the author of other popular series like Vamp! and Baccano!. Brain's Base produced the affair and it was directed by Takahiro Omori (who has since directed the excellent Kuragehime). The story follows a huge mass of characters. No single one could really be called the "main character" really, but at the very least much of the story revolves around a mysterious woman named Celty. In the city of Ikebukuro, Celty is merely a legend: The Black Bike. Racing around the streets at night on her motorcycle, she seems to appear and disappear as she pleases. In actuality, she's a headless Irish fairy who has lost her head and her search so far has brought her to Japan.

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She resides with an underground doctor named Shinra (who has the hots for her) and takes jobs from the criminal underbelly transporting goods. Some of other folks who populate the city and often cross paths with her are Izaya, the devious information broker, Shizuo, the strongest man in the city wearing a bartender's suit, Kadota and his gang (Walker, Erika, and Togusa) and the trio of students that introduce us to them all: Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri.

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If that sounds like way too many characters, get ready, because even more show up as the story goes on. And while it might seem like a tough ordeal to watch a story with that many characters, quite the opposite is true. Brain's Base did a great job keeping everything orderly within the chaos. In this city, everyone has their own agenda, and the fun is watching each person's goals clashing, unifying, or perhaps dropped altogether. 

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This DVD release of DRRR!! is notable in that it's Aniplex's first dub for American audiences. Initially (if you listen to Japanator AM) you might have heard me complain a bit about the dub. I felt like the characters were very wooden and stiff in their lines, especially the trio of students (Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri). While this is true for the first episode, they begin to loosen up a bit and do better as the show progresses – but never get near the other actors in the show. They're the weakest link here, sadly.

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Patrick Seitz as Simon steals the show, though, in the first episode. While everyone else seems to still be in "high school play" mode, Simon bursts in with an abundance of flavor and fun. Crispin Freeman, while still sounding the same as ever, does a good job as Shizuo – you can tell he was enjoying himself in this role. Johnny Yong Bosch as Izaya turned me off at first, but his monologue in episode two turned out pretty well, so I can't fault him too much. Still, he doesn't come off as devious and smug as he should, so instead of being an insufferable troll he simply sounds like a slimy salesman. Steve Blum is Steve Blum as Kadota. Nothing really new there, but I feel perhaps a different role would have better suited him.

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Another great choice is Kari Wahlgren as Celty – subdued but solid. She's given more room to flex than the other voice actors, given that all her lines are voiceovers to her typing, thus letting her do a much better job in general since worrying about mouth flaps isn't a problem. Sometimes she drops into a monotonous state that makes me wonder what happened in the recording booth, but for the most part she does a good job. The rest of the cast does adequately, but nothing I would put at the level of "good." You can see a sampler of many of the voices in a recently released video from Aniplex. And if you're still a dub hater, the original Japanese dialogue is always there as well, which was an excellent cast in the first place.

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Durarara!! is one of my favorite shows in a while. Heck, most of us here at Japanator liked it – enough for us to put it at number one for our top shows of 2010. I'm not going to get into the somewhat luckluster second half right now (I'll save that for when part 3 shows up), but I still feel perfectly fine in recommending Durarara!! Part 1. It's a very strong show driven by fantastic characters and deserves the money of fans. Plus, why not make that second season a "very definite" thing instead of a "fairly likely" thing?

Durarara!! has a great start in this first set, so be sure to check it out. Or I'll beat you up, Izaaaayyaaa-kuuuunnn.

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Ben Huber, Contributor
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I'm the managing editor of Japanator by day, and a roving freelance graphic designer by night! / /  more   |   staff directory



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