Reviewby Theron Martin, May 16th 2011
DVD Part 3
Masaomi Kida laments that he has been drawn back into the world of the Yellow Scarves and still regrets the girlfriend who was badly injured because of him a year earlier (which convinced him to drop out), but that does not entirely overwhelm his concerns about the Dollars or his desire to see the Slasher dealt with for the harm inflicted on Anri, and an incident involving Celty and the Slasher appearing together only further convinces his Yellow Scarves that there is a connection between the Dollars and the Slasher. With Izuya pulling the strings, the situation gradually spirals out of control despite the best efforts of Masaomi (as Yellow Scarves leader), Mikado (as Dollars leader), and Anri (as the “Mother” figure of the Slashers) to stop it, leading to widespread gang violence in Ikebukero. The misunderstandings and deceptions amongst the three friends muddy the situation further, but when push comes to shove they also realize where their priorities really lie and that they have some of the most powerful individuals in Ikebukero on their side, ones that not even Izuya's scheming can fully control.
In the ironically-named bonus episode “World at Peace,” Shizuo's actor brother Kasuka Heiwajima comes to Ikebukero to film a live-action special, only to have its nature change decidedly when an all-out battle between Shizuo and Izuya erupts.
Aniplex's third and final release for this eccentric early 2010 series includes broadcast episodes 18-24, which cover essentially all of what could be called the Gang War arc, and a bonus episode 25 which takes place afterward and was only originally available on the Japanese DVD releases. While the latter is merely a frivolous, fun-loving epilogue which gives several key characters one final chance to strut their stuff, the former is the culmination – but not necessarily resolution – of everything that the series spent is first 17 episodes setting up.
The previous set ended with the revelation that Masaomi is the founder and former leader of the Yellow Scarves, so early on in this volume the obligatory backstory episode pops up to explain his past, including the identity of the young woman in the hospital bed whom he has difficulty going up to visit, why that would be so, and how he knows Kodota's gang. Once that is out of the way, the backstories on all of the principal players are now complete, so the series focuses more on plot for the rest of its run. That is not necessarily to the series' advantage, though, as it has so diligently built itself on its quirky characters and their eccentricities that things like plot and relationship developments can actually become more a hindrance than a help. The series uses a format and style more conducive to anecdotes and short story arcs and only really needs a shell plot to house it all, so bringing everything together into one cohesive plot may actually be contributing to the widespread fan perception that the series deteriorates in its later stages.
But is it really that much of a problem? It isn't like the plot developments building to the gang war have come from nowhere, as the series has been steadily building towards such a conflict almost from the beginning and what happens in the final few episodes is just a logical progression of what has been set in motion by both Izaya's manipulations and the lack of candidness amongst the three friends who have been caught at the core of the conflict. The tone and style of the series have not significantly changed, either, and all of the favorites – Shizuo, Izaya, the Kodota gang, Simon, Celty, even the motorcycle cops – still make their appearances and do their things, whether it be throwing signs, carrying on inane conversations about anime, advertising for sushi, or trying to maneuver everyone into one big brawl. The violence gets more serious (a couple of scenes are pretty disturbing, in fact, though nowhere near Baccano! level), the mood is a little darker overall, and the content does, at times, dwell a little too much on the three central characters feeling bad about keeping their secrets, but the high spirits and frivolity are never too far away and the fun factor does not disappoint. The regular anime and manga references continue, too.
The artistic merits may have gone downhill a bit, though, as rough edges to the character designs and rendering which have previously been passed off as stylistic choices are now starting to look simply sloppy. The strength of the artistry is still the wealth of background detail, while the strengths of the animation are still Celty's body language and her bike/horse transformations. Giving characters attractive appearances is definitely not a strength, though it does much better in portraying hoodlums. Prurient fan service is limited to one scene with Celty in a sexy outfit and another scene where Izaya's twin sisters act like twins shouldn't, but sharp-eyed viewers will catch additional visual references to anime titles like Toradora!, Baccano! (multiple times), and The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka.
The musical score remains as strong as ever, with its quirky, eclectic choices regularly hitting exactly the right note. The second set of openers and closers continue to be disappointments compared to the first ones.
The big news on the dub front is that Kasuka Heiwajima, who gets a lot of lines in the bonus episode, is voiced by Blake Lewis, the runner-up in the sixth season of American Idol. His is not a demanding role, which allows him to turn in an unexceptional but perfectly acceptable performance; in fact, those unaware of his extra star status probably will not notice anything special beyond him sounding a little like Spike Spencer. Casting and performances in ongoing significant roles uniformly hit their marks and the dub script does not tinker with the translation too much, making this the series to beat for Dub of the Year honors in 2011.
On the production end, Aniplex continues to entertain the silly notion that English credits count as an Extra; why even bother to have a Special Features tab on the main menu if it will contain nothing more than that? The second of two disks does also have clean versions of the second half opener and closer, while the case includes several more series postcards and comes tucked in the same kind of see-through, police tape-marked plastic cover seen on the earlier two parts. The subtitles are not entirely free of minor grammatical errors but they do at least do a good job of subtitling signs and other on-screen text.
While the last few episodes of Durarara!! do resolve its Gang War arc satisfactorily and reveal big developments on a couple of personal fronts, they do not resolve anywhere near everything, especially not the business with Celty's head. Even so, they deliver enough of the series' potential, and stay true enough to the series' core style points, to remain entertaining to the end.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Plenty more of what has made the series fun to watch so far, Izaya eventually gets a black eye.
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