Review for Durarara!! X2 Ten Collector's Edition
Remember when the UK Blu-ray debut of the first Durarara!! series was so flawed that Anime Limited had to start from scratch and author their own discs instead of using Siren Visual’s?
We’ve had to wait eighteen months for the second part of Durarara!! x2. I’ve actually just finished watching the series on Crunchyroll. That’s a big deal when you consider that I started watching it the same week as it debuted back in 2015, only my free time is such that I just don’t have the time to stream anime any more. When Durarara!! x2 Sho was released here by All the Anime in June 2016, I had only made it as far as the middle of the second arc, Ten. With the home video debut, I opined that I’ll have watched it all on disc before watching it online, what with subsequent instalments then scheduled at two month intervals. But this series has been delayed so often that even at my achingly slow pace of around one episode a month, I’ve managed to beat Durarara!! x2 Ten to release. The final arc, Durarara!! x2 Ketsu is scheduled for the start of next year, but I wouldn’t place any money on it. And remember, we don’t get the OVA episodes, those are Aniplex US exclusives. After this much time, it’s less a question of whether you recall what happened in Durarara!! x2 Sho than it is a question of whether you still care...
“How do you even begin to describe a show like Durarara!!? Various lives collide in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro, and all kinds of bizarre stuff happens. That isn’t exactly the most clear of series descriptions, but Durarara!! isn't a show which predicates clarity. It’s a complex interweaving of narrative, various characters’ lives are explored, often presenting visions of events from different perspectives with different meanings. The stories mix, intermingle, switch back on themselves, and jump all over the place. And in Durarara!! this is a good thing.”
That’s how I described the first season of Durarara!!, and it’s just as applicable to Durarara!! x2, as it catches up with events six months after the end of the first season. Ikebukuro seems to have quieted down, following the mayhem that erupted around Saika/Dollars/Yellow Scarves six months previously. Mikado Ryugamine and Anri Sonohara are back at school, while Masaomi Kida is on an extended sabbatical. Shizuo Heiwajima still wants to pummel Izaya Orihara, and Izaya still revels in needling Shizuo. And the headless rider Celty Sturluson has become something of a celebrity around town, with even a reward posted for her true identity. But things are about to get hectic again. A new school year has started, and Izaya’s twin sisters Mairu and Kururi are starting high school, and they seem to share their big brother’s playful insanity, if not his Machiavellian traits. A new kid called Aoba Kuronuma desperately wants to be Mikado’s best friend, and he wants in to the Dollars as well. A little girl called Akane Awakusu wants to kill Shizuo Heiwajima, and she’s in the middle of a gang war too. There’s a serial killer named Hollywood in town who falls into movie star Yuhei Hanejima’s (Shizuo Heiwajima’s younger brother) lap. There are a couple of Russian assassins mixing things up too. Ikebukuro is going to get crazy again!
When last we left Durarara!!, Izaya Orihara had just been stabbed, and some other stuff probably happened which I can’t for the life of me remember at this point. I hope that I’ll be reminded by the second set of twelve episodes of Durarara!! x 2 Ten, comprising its second arc, which are presented here across 2 discs from All the Anime.
13. Love Thy Enemy
14. Life is But a Dream
15. Marriages are Made in Heaven
16. A Rumor Only Lasts Seventy-Five Days
17. Asleep or Awake
18. Roses Have Thorns
19. A Cat Has Nine Lives
20. Mouth of Honey, A Needle in the Heart
21. Eloquent and Competent
22. Blessed are the Foolish
23. Bird of a Feather
24. It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief
Durarara!! x2 Part 1 gets a fine transfer from All the Anime. It’s not the Aniplex release (fewer discs, no OVA), but the image quality is excellent, the 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer coming across without incident. There’s no compression, no banding, at least to my eye, just a faithful presentation of the original source material. The problem is with the source material. For the second season of Durarara!!, anime production switched from Studio Brains Base to Studio Shuka and it does tell in the overall quality of the animation. The character designs are nigh on identical to the first season as you would expect, but the richness in the backgrounds is comparatively lacking. On top of that, the animation standards are quite variable, with some excellent action sequences to be sure, but also sequences where the quality just drops off a cliff.
The images in this review were taken from the DVD version of the release.
Siren Visual have authored these discs, and they’ve messed up. The first arc released eighteen months ago had PCM 2.0 Stereo audio, but for the second part, they’ve gone and stuck the DVD audio on here. Just Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese encoded at approximately 200kbps (My Blu-ray player isn’t as precise as my DVD player). Actually it’s less than the DVD experience, as the Durarara X2 Ten DVDs also authored by Siren, have their stereo tracks encoded at 384kbps.
This time I stuck with the Japanese throughout, although my experience with the first series, and given that there is a continuity of voice cast here, suggests that the English will be a strong offering again. The dialogue was clear throughout, the show’s action represented well, and despite shifting studios, the show’s quirky music soundtrack returns. As per usual for new seasons, you get new theme songs as well. You get optional subtitles and signs with the episodes, and they are timed accurately and free of typos.
You get static menus, and disc 2 offers the textless credit sequences.
I feel as if I can trot out my review for Part 1 of Durarara!! x2, as my complaints are just as valid, maybe even more so. Season 1 of Durarara!! was nigh on perfect for me, a collection of colourful and interesting characters, and what seemed like a scattershot narrative actually a finely honed and addictive storytelling machine. By the time you get to the end of season 1, you wind up feeling blown away at just how precisely everything fits together, how what seemed random at first was micrometred and precision engineered to give you a narrative crescendo. It’s writing flair that is just as thrilling as the story it tells. It’s creative audacity that challenges the conventional and makes you re-evaluate just what anime is capable of.
Season 2 comes along, with the same characters, continuing the same story arcs and expanding on them, and adding a whole bunch of other characters to boot, broadening the story world until it’s almost too large to comprehend. But it has none of that narrative panache that the first season had. This is narrative that seems like someone randomly throwing clods of mud at the wall, not only hoping that it will stick, but also with the fevered dream of it all turning into a work of art by some freak of magic. That isn’t going to happen. Durarara!! Season 2 is dull, it’s tedious, and it’s bloated. I somehow made it through the Crunchyroll streams, but for this second time round, I actually fell asleep on occasion.
In Season 1, things happened, people did things, and they had conversations, normal human conversations. In season 2, stuff happens, and people stand around talking about what has happened. That was bad enough in the opening arc, and having recently finished watching Ketsu, it’s not much of a spoiler to say that it doesn’t improve. But in the middle arc, which comprises the twelve episodes in this collection, Durarara!! really just spins its wheels. About the only development that really resonates with me is Kida’s return to Ikebukuro, and his decision to get Ryugamine out of the mess that he’s created with the Dollars group.
Here’s the thing. Durarara was always skating on the verge of character overload to begin with. You have the trio of Anri, Masaomi, and Mikado, representing Saika, Yellow Scarves, and the Dollars respectively. You have the otaku quartet in their van, Shinra and Celty, Shizuo Heiwajima and Simon (the Russian sushi guy), you have Shinra’s gas mask wearing dad, you have Namie, Seiji and Mika, and the crazy story that evolved around them. Season 2 comes along and really over-eggs the pudding, adding serial killer Ruri Hijiribe, Russian assassins Sloan and Varona, Aoba Kuronuma and his gang, the Awakusa yakuza group and Mizuka Akayabashi, the Yodogiri Jinnai group and Kujiragi, and more on top. I just can’t keep track of it all. The story ceases making sense, or having any ongoing relevance. There’s no incentive to invest in any of the characters as there just isn’t enough screen time to satisfactorily develop them. Even with the clod throwing narrative style, as long as you get across enough of a story to hook the viewer, you have reason to stick with the show, but Durarara!! x2 doesn’t even manage that.
There are individual episodes in this collection that held my attention, and even entertained me. Namie confronting Mika over her brother Seiji was a fun watch, while Shizuo’s relationship with Varona that develops here is certainly interesting, following their destructive confrontation in part 1. Izaya Orihara gets a good episode where he infiltrates an underground nightclub as a favour to the Awakusa group, an instance where the strength of the character outweighs my personal disconnect with the story at this point, but the episode that follows is even better, looking at Izaya and Shinra’s shared past. But as a whole, this collection doesn’t work all that well. Even those wall-of-text online chatroom scenes that were so important in the first season, now feel like a gimmicky afterthought with no relevance to the plot, just a means to pad out the runtime.
Watching one episode a week isn’t any good with Durarara!! x2, as you really need to keep the story threads in mind to get the most out of it. Binge-watching it is no solution either, as it quickly blurs into a mass of tedium. You need to find a happy medium, say an episode a day, taking notes of the significant events as you go, and hope that by the end of the run it will all sort out into some legible picture. I’m really getting Haruhi Suzumiya déjà vu with Durarara!! Season 1 of Haruhi was brilliant, and season 2 was an experimental mess and character assassination rolled into one. I’m beginning to get the same vibe here. At least at this point I know what is yet to come, and Durarara!! x2 Ten is the nadir of the second season. It gets better for Durarara!! x2 Ketsu, but the question is whether you’ll care after watching this, and if you’ll care if there is a delay on the same level as the wait for this release.
Technically the discs are disappointing too, with low bitrate Dolby Digital stereo tracks where uncompressed PCM Stereo should be.