Review: Durarara!! (Vol 2)

(art by Suzuhito Yasuda)
(art by Suzuhito Yasuda)

For general information on this series: Durarara!! entry

This review is for the second volume of Durarara!! by Ryohgo Narita. The English edition was released by Yen Press in November 2015. By the end of this year, there will be five volumes out in English. The series is completed with thirteen volumes in Japan, but a sequel series titled Durarara!! SH is currently releasing there (with four volumes out so far).

Volume 2
Volume 2

The second volume of Durarara!! builds upon the things established in the first volume–namely that Ikebukuro is a part of Tokyo where anything can happen. The real-life issues of an urban metropolis are thus displayed through a lens of “what if some urban legends are true.” Most won’t notice since there’s so many people, and even the strangest-looking trees get lost in a forest. In the case of this volume, the anomaly at large is a slasher who attacks random bystanders in the night with a blade. Is there a wannabe serial killer on the loose? Is this mysterious assailant actually the work of a full-blown gang? Or is there some kind of supernatural force at play?

There are a couple things about Durarara!! that really make the series stand out. One is its large cast of memorable characters. Many of these people were introduced in the first volume, but the second book focuses on a few that didn’t have as much “screen time.” Though I had seen the anime adaptation’s first season before, I found the character arcs and back-stories for Shizuo and Anri to be much more engaging here in the novel. The action surrounding Shizuo is filled with a burning intensity, clearly displayed as a metaphor of his personal internal struggle. Meanwhile for Anri, because she is a quiet character who is trying to keep out of everyone’s way, it was really helpful to get her point of view and thoughts on the whirlwind of events that transpire around her. The theme of love and all its twisted forms meanwhile continues further along, the subplots of all the other characters interweaving with one another. Celty the dullahan is still working on the mystery of her missing head, and the information broker Izaya is still plotting some kind of high-grade ruckus.

The other thing that really stands out about Durarara!! is its prose, the text itself. Ryohgo Narita seems to have had fun experimenting with his writing style in this series, and the end result entails a text that is not only fun to read, but can be interesting to look at page-by-page. For the most obvious example, chapters are broken up with online chat sessions between various characters (all using pseudonyms), and this is all displayed like the text would be on a computer screen. It’s a clever way to keep the plot moving, and to get across information quickly from one character to another. Plus, it plays into that concept of “supernatural happenings in an urban setting” very nicely, thanks to modern-day myth-making having found a new home in the world wide web.

The English release of this volume felt like a particularly good translation–and to give credit where it’s due, I don’t think I ever noticed a single issue with spelling or grammar. All in all this was a great read, and something easy to recommend to anyone looking for a little more pizzazz from their light novels.

Cho's Rating: Strongly Recommended

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