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Episode 4

by Jacob Chapman,

Huh. That was over before it began! Just like that, the Hollywood murder case has ended, and all the threads running through it are either resolved (Celty's bounty) or left purposely open to lead into the next arc (Saika and Aoba.) No, we don't know Hollywood/Ruri's true backstory, but the same can be said of many characters in Durarara!!, and the truth behind her supernatural nature is probably meant to be pocketed until later, when it can be paid off in a more satisfying way. (I wouldn't have wanted the Celty's head or Saika payoffs any earlier than we got them, and this is definitely a similar situation.) Basically, this short arc wasn't really about anything on a greater plot or character level for the show, but simply meant to introduce us to a greatly inflated new cast and their intricate relationships with one another. I jumped the gun in assuming Shizuo and Izaya might be involved here, but nope, these episodes were all about the new faces. Maybe for the next arc, fingers crossed.

So for the new Ikebukuro of season two, we have Aoba, the Orihara twins, Ruri, Egor the 7th Most Dangerous Hitman in Russia, and another mysterious headless warrior(!) It's a lot of introductions to handle (with more on the way), but they've been laced together well with a necessary reinforcement of Durarara!!'s current status quo. The failed attempt at a Three Kingdoms War that ended season one may have been anticlimactic, but revealing (most of) the truth to all parties and removing Masaomi from the city has changed this world a lot, and episode 4 does the best job so far of grounding us in Durarara!!'s new reality. All friends of The Dollars are finding their place anew, Izaya is still scheming the days away, and unless I'm mistaken, a new theme has arisen from the ashes of season one: a theme of True Love.

Yes, it seems everybody is pairing up all lovey-dovey in DRRRx2! Celty and Shinra have strengthened their bond, Mikado and Anri are getting snugglier, Ruri and Kasuka want to press their expressionless lips together, and who knows what the weird Orihara-Aoba triangle is going to produce. This great big steaming love-fest is brought home through a hot-pot party instigated by Seiji&Mika (the very weirdest couple), along with the progressive expansion of The Dollars chatroom that becomes less and less anonymous with each new addition to the family. Notably, no one invites Izaya to the hot pot party, but at least he can be alone together with Namie as they scheme with/against each other between flirts/insults. Is everyone pairing off?

Well, maybe some of these lovebirds shouldn't, which leads us into the episode's tantalizing hooks for the rest of this season's story. We've known since season one that it's dangerous for Anri to fall in love, because she can only contain Saika by separating herself from its overwhelming desire for human affection. Now that her relationship with Mikado is growing stronger, Saika has started acting on its own, and Anri has more and more trouble shutting out its voice late at night when she's alone in bed. Then there's Aoba, whose evil plans are partially revealed to a giant forehead slap for all viewers not going into this show pre-spoiled. In hindsight, Aoba's identity as the leader of the Blue Square's remnants seems painfully obvious. Masaomi's hair is yellow. Aoba's hair is blue. The Blue Square has been foreshadowed in the story for a while but never given proper relevance until now. Frankly, we all should have known. The Hollywood arc went a long way to prove just how many terrible things the Orihara twins will do for the tiniest selfish reward, and it looks like Aoba thinks he can use that, and the twins' "love" for him, to his advantage. True Love can unite bad people as well as good, it seems.

The closure of the Hollywood arc paints a nice clear picture of this returning season's strengths and weaknesses so far. Its greatest weakness is that the show simply hasn't gotten its groove back yet. In its struggle to re-establish old relationships and plotlines while cramming in all the new ones waiting in the wings, the presentation becomes lopsided in pacing and dissonant in tone. It's hard to say how anyone's supposed to "feel" about this arc, because for the most part it's all just flattened information, told out of order in Narita's signature style, but without the grace and cleverness that made the first season shine. The good news is that this season's greatest strength stands out stronger. The giant pack of new characters being crammed into the show are all interesting, likable, add fresh dynamics to the established cast, and have quickly become welcome presences to the ensemble. That's a really tough trick to pull off in a show with such well-established characters and relationships, but Narita has made some excellent choices with these additions, and I'm already excited to see how they'll shake up the group and turn Ikebukuro upside-down all over again.

Rating: B

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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