Durarara!! ×2 The Third Arc
by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 28 of
Durarara!!×2 Ketsu ?
Following up on his surprise appearance last episode, we begin episode four with Rokujo Chikage venting his rage to Masaomi Kida. He's not angry about the infighting in Ikebukuro though. Like all the rest of us watching at home, poor Rokujo is just frustrated by how confusing this whole mess has become! At one point he moans "I've no idea what's going on at this point, so I thought I'd keep things simple." I practically shouted back "Welcome to my world!" (When will I learn? You can hear them, but they can't hear you, genius.)
So what simple truth has Rokujo settled on? He's decided that no matter how much he might not trust the Yellow Scarves, it's still worth it to form an alliance with them so he can take revenge on the Blue Blood Cells within The Dollars. (Despite his supposed confusion, he's even figured out that the Blue Square is to blame, which is why he sought out their old enemies for help.) First these Blue Dollars attacked his Toramaru guys, and then they took out their noblest member in his eyes, Dotachin. So now they've gotta pay. Still, Rokujo's got his pride to maintain. He knows Masaomi can't turn down his gang's help, so he's going to make that head scarf work for the privilege by surviving a fight with the ladykiller himself. Animation limitations aside, this battle between gang leaders is genuinely exciting, as Rokujo pits his raw fighting power against Masaomi's quick thinking. Every time Masaomi manages to turn Rokujo's sledgehammer force against him, it only makes the charging bull angrier, and the end result is a rooftop David and Goliath matchup with massive stakes behind it.
"Massive stakes" sums up this episode from top to bottom, for not only the boys locked in bloodshed, but also the ladies locked in parley. At an innocuous cafe, the three Saikas of Ikebukuro have gathered to talk shop. Kasane Kujiragi, Haruna Niekawa, and Anri Sonohara all discuss their relationships with the cursed blade over drinks, and their conclusions couldn't be more different. Haruna has been wholly consumed by Saika, making her the wild card in these negotiations. She's not able to take control of the situation at any point, but her unpredictable actions can definitely shake things up for the other two. On the flip side, Kasane has wholly consumed her Saika, choosing to see herself as a villain who swallows up the souls around her for her own aims. She exerts an unwavering feeling of dominance, making a very compelling case for Anri to give up her Saika to this "true master" before she ends up losing her humanity to it instead. Finally, Anri exerts her familiar quiet strength without committing in either direction. Her relationship with Saika is an impossibly precarious balancing act that she can't keep up forever, neither consuming nor being consumed. It's a tense and incredibly compelling teatime chitchat between three insane yet endearing femme fatales, and I couldn't get enough of it.
Kasane's real goal in this conversation is to get Anri to give up her Saika willingly. Villain or not, she seems awed by Anri's ability to control the power, but also concerned that it will destroy the poor girl. For all the terrible things she's done, Kasane's not a bad judge of character. (She's an information broker after all. Being a good judge of character is kind of a huge job requirement.) She knows that Anri is a good person who deserves a fulfilling life around people who love her, and she can never have that if she keeps her heart locked away forever to keep Saika in check. When Anri defends her life choices by saying that she's a parasite, Kasane calls her on the BS. Everyone's a parasite to some extent, and she's as kind as her friends are self-centered. (That's certainly true of Mika.) They clearly think they're getting something out of Anri or they wouldn't continue to spend time with her. If Anri was just taking from her friends and giving nothing back, they wouldn't be her friends, because all people are fundamentally selfish. It's a wicked observation, and it also bodes ill for Kasane's philosophy on "slashing" people.
When Anri says that she could never slash Mikado or Masaomi because it would mean revoking their free will, Kasane pulls out a greasy loophole. Saika's victims aren't really cursed if you don't activate its power. Theoretically, you could slash someone with Saika, choose not to control them, and no one would be the wiser. Of course, this is just pragmatic pedantry from a villain's lips. Infecting someone with the potential to be controlled at a snap of your fingers means that you've already decided that you can and will manipulate that person in your heart, while they had no choice in the matter. It's the Saika wielder's responsibility not to compromise someone's free will, and fortunately, Anri still understands that no matter how Kasane tries to deceive her. Unfortunately, that philosophy betrays the horrifying truth behind the way Kasane Kujiragi operates. She probably infects everyone she ever touches with Saika on principle. As if to confirm this, she returns a passing cafe customer's phone during her talk with Anri, and only a few scenes later, that guy gets himself arrested just to deliver a message from Kasane to Shizuo in jail. That's a terrible breach of free will, and all this poor guy did was drop a phone too close to an innocuous woman. How much of the city is already infected? Could Kasane turn thousands of civilians to her will if she felt like it? It's an unsettling thought.
Of course, Haruna's philosophy on the subject is pretty straightforward: all love is love, and you should slash whoever you love or Saika loves or Saika's previous owners love to your heart's content until everyone is united in love forever. Naturally, she's ignored for most of the conversation until her wildcard presence gives Anri just the motivation she needs not to give up Saika yet. Motivated by pure greed for another Saika to swallow, she tries to persuade Anri to take revenge on Kasane for forging the sword that eventually took her parents' lives. Anri realizes that while Saika is responsible for her parents' deaths, it also gave her life. Without it, her father would have strangled her to death as a child, and in her efforts to control the sword's emotions, she's never been able to repay its accidental act of kindness. She decides that until she can find a way to reward the cursed item for giving her life, she has no right to go back to being human, and Kasane respectfully leaves her phone number behind in case Anri changes her mind.
When Erika comes to pick Anri up from the cafe, her reaction to Kasane makes me want to believe that she's a redeemable villain. Sure, anyone who calls themselves "a villain beyond hope, destined to be struck down" is bound to get along with Ikebukuro's resident chuunibyou-fujoshi anyway. But on top of that, I think there's a hopeful heart hiding under all that yellow polyester, and Erika taps into that right away by inviting her to cosplay with the other girls right away. I'm eager to learn more about Kasane Kujiragi's real motivations, but before things can get too mushy, the episode dives into a quintuple cliffhanger! This review is long enough as it is, so I'll break the twists down as simply as I can.
- Dotachin has woken up from his coma! Anri and Erika will be able to visit him the next day, but I can think of about a dozen other people who might be eager to see the big guy while he's down, and not all of them are friendly...
- Just when Masaomi and Rokujo's fight has reached its limit, Aoba's nasty charred-up brother Izumii shows up to take the Yellow Scarves out of the final battle. Is he still working for Izaya or just acting on his own whims? It doesn't really matter to Masaomi, who starts seething with rage when Izumii begins to cackle about breaking Saki's legs and starting the Scarves' leader down his road to hell in the events before the series. Oh, it's on now. The Yellow Scarves have just traded one battle for another, and it's anybody's guess what Rokujo and his bikers are going to do about it.
- Haruna runs into her hapless dad and tells him to am-scray with her Saika's powers, but things get ugly when he turns the tables on her. He's under the power of someone else's Saika now, and Haruna's sleazy teacher crush is behind it all. We don't know exactly what kind of devil's deal he made, but he wants Haruna's body again without the spirit underneath it putting up a fight this time. Yuck. To make matters worse, Haruna's teacher was in the car with Izumii when he put Dotachin in the hospital, which also makes him the mysterious party trying to get Shijima to betray Kasane at the end of the last episode. So who the hell is he working for? Is there yet another player in the Saika game?
- Shizuo spends just enough time in prison to get a job offer from the aforementioned inmate being controlled by Kasane Kujiragi. As soon as he gets out, he is to retrieve Celty's head from where it's being quarantined outside the police station. He will be handsomely rewarded for his efforts, but before Shizuo can consider taking the deal, Varona blazes in on her motorbike, unleashing a volley of explosives and snatching Celty's head for herself. Shizuo immediately assumes Izaya's behind this, but I'm not so sure yet. Why would Varona start working for Izaya? Does this have something to do with poor Sloan?
- Celty awakens from a nightmare where her consciousness is being torn in two between her body and her head. Shinra tries to reassure her that he and Walker have started spreading a narrative online that the head on the news is fake, but she's still freaked out. What will happen to her if it's destroyed? What will happen if she's forced to confront it? Before either of them can start processing any solutions to the problem, they get an unexpected visitor to their apartment. It's Kasane Kujiragi herself! Looks like she's not done making deals for that head...
For the first time in a long time, I was enthralled by a Durarara!! episode from start to finish. It feels like the climax is coming together like never before, incorporating every character and subplot in creative ways to seal Ikebukuro's last story. The animation's still wonky sometimes, all the plot threads are still insanely tangled together, and twenty minutes of talking with a couple shots of fighting spliced in isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. But for me, this was all character development and intrigue at its finest for the series, marrying powerful motivations and emotions in a cast of thousands with stakes that could level a city. If the show continues at this pace and quality, all the little hiccups along the way will have been worth it.
Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.
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