Durarara!! X2 Review
Durarara!! is a series I really like. It has memorable characters, cartoonish and hilarious action scenes, and it does a good of balancing multiple stories over the course of its previous season. Unfortunately the series also has a number of issues that can make it extremely inaccessible to new viewers, and the first episode of Durarara!! X2 encapsulates most of these problems. I really like this series, and I don’t think this is a bad episode, but it is completely inaccessible to anyone who hasn’t seen Durarara!! yet.
Discussing the plot of this series and this first episode of X2 is somewhat hazardous because it’s so scattershot. The first season is roughly speaking split into two halves. The first serves to introduce most of the major characters and their dynamics, and the second half involves the more or less villain of the story, information broker Izaya, engineering a situation that forces the three major gangs in the story’s setting, Ikebukuro, to combat each other by manipulating the three leaders, Mikado, Anri, and Masaomi, who happen to be best friends. Along with that you introduce Celty, the Headless Rider, Shizuo the stupidly strong guy, the black Russian sushi chef Simon, the black market doctor Shinra who is obsessed with Celty, and plenty of other characters. In addition to all of these characters, X2 starts by introducing more characters, like Izaya’s sisters, Mikado’s underclassmen, Shizuo’s brother and his production crew, and the nurse who married Shinra’s father and wants to experiment on Celty. Are you starting to see why I said this new season was inaccessible to new audiences?
The cast of Durarara!! was already massive in season 1, and X2 starts by adding new characters and plot threads to follow. That doesn’t mean that the characters and plot threads from season 1 have been abandoned either, as several scenes are meant to show the consequences of season 1’s plot threads as well as set up their continuations. X2′s OP rather perfectly captures the problems Durarara!! has in narrative and character structure. The style is reminiscent of the first season’s OP, which is basically a screen scrolling down through all of the major characters set to some nice music. In X2, the scrolling occurs twice as fast because they have twice as many characters to show because of the new ones. That basically sums up the first episode: a rapid fire introduction of new characters and storylines as well as a reintroduction of old characters and storylines.
It is a good thing then that so many of the characters in Durarara!! are distinctive and likeable. Despite being several years since the last series aired, there is absolutely no feeling of awkwardness or contrivance as I’m dropped back into this world and these stories feeling like I never left. Izaya is still a wonderfully unpredictable asshole who enjoys manipulating the world around to see what interesting things will occur. Shizuo is still the violent, sincere, serious guy who hates Izaya but is filled with too much anger and frustration to avoid a fight when one is picked (or when Izaya is around). Celty is still strangely one of the more grounded and relatable characters despite being a headless Irish spirit. You will still feel bad that Masaomi isn’t hanging out with Mikado and Anri anymore because of the events of the first season. It is amazing how easy it is as a Durarara!! fan to jump back into this crazy cluttered world and not feel lost at all. That in and of itself is a real achievement, considering how easy it is with a cast this big and this many storylines that things will become stale, tonally dissonant, and poorly characterized (looking at you Gotham).
On the production side of things, Durarara!! X2 does not appear to have had a particular change in production quality. The animation looks pretty identical and there are no radical up or downswings in quality either in design or rendering. The soundtrack of the series is a mixture of pop rock and comedic jazz stings that fit the tone of the first season perfectly and seems to be working as well for X2 so far. The characters are still the heart of the show, and from the looks of things all of the old voice actors are back and there doesn’t appear to be any drop in quality. So to sum up, you can’t watch this without watching season 1, but if you like Durarara!!, you will enjoy X2 at this point.
With all of these stories and so many characters with their own plot lines happening simultaneously, Durarara!! X2 is completely inaccessible to new audiences. The plot threads from season 1 come back in force and there are several new plot threads with new characters added to the mix. Without season 1 as context, you will be completely lost. If you’re curious about Durarara, seek out season 1. Otherwise, if you like Durarara!!, it’s more of what you like; just a very clunky and cluttered reintroduction to what you like. It will probably improve in a few episodes.
Durarara!! X2 is more of the same: quirky characters, crazy storylines, and hilarious action and comedy. However, its huge cast of characters and numerous storylines basically makes watching season 1 a requirement for viewing first. If you like Durarara!!, you probably won't be disappointed with X2.