by Jacob Chapman,
The Saitama gang's attacks on random Dollars have escalated, and the outed Dollar Dotachin and Saitama leader Rokuro's brawl has gone viral all across The Dollars' network. Izaya is more than ready to take advantage of the whole situation, sending out an all-members alert laced with cruel intentions. "Here's the name, picture, and current location of Rokuro's girlfriend. Someone should kidnap her (along with her little friends) and show those bikers what happens when you push The Dollars too far!" Wow, what a monster!
Mikado races to the spot, trying to stop the scummiest members of his unmoderated, colorless gang from kidnapping an innocent teenage girl and her friends. Unfortunately, he quickly realizes that he has no power over the group that he created, and in fact they've mistakenly assumed that Dotachin is the Dollars' leader. It's a surprisingly believable rumor that's sure to spread, and Mikado only ends up in a bruised heap on the floor. Anri steps in to save him at the last second, and they follow the kidnapping Dollars to Rokuro and Dotachin's continuing battle, only to run into a bloodthirsty Varona in the process.
From there, it's all-out chaos as both groups tear into each other: friend on foe on foe on friend. The Blue Square gang watches over it all with intense curiosity, and Aoba realizes that Anri is not-quite-human as she fights off the Russian assassin to protect Mikado. Shizuo's on his way too, and that unfortunately means that the Awakusu syndicate can't be far behind. Even Masaomi has finally gotten off his useless blonde butt and hopped a train back to 'Bukuro! If the confusion isn't cleared up soon, someone we care about is going to get hurt, either on the outside or on a much deeper level.
This has "massive climax" written all over it and yet, somehow, some way, I don't think they could have made any of this less exciting if they tried. I'm reminded of the many behind-the-scenes featurettes I've seen for various anime productions, where staff members talk about changing a shot or a scene in some small way to increase "impact" (specifically the English word, co-opted.) It's the vague but frequent usage of the word "impact" in Japanese that always made me wonder if it has a specific connotation for those artists, but whatever implications it carries, I want to hammer them through the souls of the production staff on DRRR's revival season, because it is sorely, sadly, painfully missing that impact factor that I expect from even mediocre anime productions. Even at its highest point of narrative climax yet, this show's pulse is just flatlining.
It's one thing to have troublesome animation constraints holding a series back. Durarara definitely has those, but this is a different problem altogether. There are plenty of anime, many of them considered unimpeachable classics, with half the animation competency of even this shaky series. No, this is a problem of direction, where all the action and dialogue are staged in the blandest dead-on angles possible, the score seems pasted into the background like a DRRR's Greatest Hits album has been left on someone's car stereo, and even a story highlight that looks enthralling on paper has been turned into paste that my eyes instinctively slide away from. The best parts of Durarara's first season had my heart rattling in my chest. Its worst parts at very least kept me engaged and were largely poor because the narrative had drifted over to characters I didn't care about spending episodes on end chasing their own angst-riddled tails. That's not the case here. There is something wrong with the execution here that is putting this series to sleep more and more with each passing episode.
The effect this episode's sleepwalking direction had on me was pretty shocking, now that I think about it. When I first sat down to write this review, the only thought on my mind was that "nothing happened" in this episode. It honestly felt like I had just watched Dotachin and Rokuro punch away at each other impactlessly for twenty minutes, intercut with different conversations between principal characters about stuff we already knew. Upon breaking down what I had actually witnessed beat-for-beat in my head, I realized the show had clearly entered the beginning of its third-act confrontation, and in fact quite a lot had happened, because the information that was shared between various parties could have an immense impact on the future of the story. It's just sad that none of it really worked on an emotional level, making it feel like none of it mattered.
We're close to the end of the season now, and if Mikado doesn't snap soon (as the show has been foreshadowing), or something otherwise happens to re-kindle my excitement to where it was three episodes ago, I'm just going to be floating in a stasis of disappointment for the season to be over. I don't know how you take material this apocalyptic and make it this drab, but DRRR x2 found a way, and it's a real bummer.
Durarara!!×2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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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