I won’t say the fifth episode of Durarara!!X2 was a revelation, but it was definitely the best of the season as far as I’m concerned. This was really the first time I felt some of the spark I did in watching the first series (especially the first cour), though we’re a long way from closing the deal yet. There was no one element of this week’s ep that elevated it above the others – it was more a case of the various elements that make DRRR appealing being present in better balance than they have been.
For starters, you certainly can’t go wrong with a healthy dose of Shizuo – and we got one for the first time, even featuring a visit from his old pal and sometimes boss Tom Tanaka. But nice as that was, it was more the way everything fell together: a sadistic experiment by Izaya. A brewing gang war on the streets, with Mikado potentially caught up in it and Masaomi worried for him. A couple of interesting new faces, and lots of street life in Ikebukuro. In short, it really felt like Durarara at last.
Shizuo is a big part of it, though. I think he’s probably the best character in DRRR, in terms of combining larger-than-life presence, comic appeal and genuine relatability. He’s ridiculously strong and the situations he finds himself in are invariably very silly, but his tortured and futile attempts at getting through life without making a fuss are both hilarious and somehow rather sad. This time around his run-in is with Rokujo Chikage (Ono Yuuki – once again, the Onos invariably appear in the same show) the trilby-wearing ladies man and head of a biker gang from Saitama (which Edoites usually call “Dasaitama” as an insult) called “Toramaru” (Circle of Tigers). He’s upset that Shizuo laid waste to a bunch of his ruffians, and seeks to get his own back – but with predictable results. But since Rokujo was so straight-up about picking the fight, Shizuo takes him to Shinya-sensei afterwards.
Shizuo’s path also intersects with another new character, a loli named Akane (Kuno Misaki) who spots him having coffee with Tom as “Lottaria”, recognizes him from a photo she’s carrying, and proceeds to try and knock him out with a taser. Yeah, that’s not happening. If we’re to take her at her word Akane is an assassin, unlikely as it sounds – and she certainly seems to be a legitimately important character, as she’s also the key to the job that Shiki has hired Celty for (and in the pursuit of which she’s been led into a trap by a blonde biker (Ichimichi Mao) who clearly doesn’t know who – or what – she’s dealing with). I’m a bit uneasy about where this character is going, in part because I’m not a fan of Kuno’s usual baby-doll delivery, and in part because I fear this could be one of those cases where DRRR is doing something that might have been OK when it was written, but anime has beaten into the ground since.
The key to Durarara, of course, is the way Narita-sensei is able to connect all these seemingly disparate plots with one long thread – just as the EDs invariably highlight – and this arc has the makings one of that does that with the elegance the first series often showed. The reason that Toramaru is in town, it seems, is to pick a fight with Dollars – which is why Masaomi finally reaches out to Mikado online. Those two have been underutilized so far this season, but hopefully that too is going to change in this arc. So far, so good – I won’t say we’re all the way back, but I’m feeling better about Durarara!!X2 about that episode than at any time after the first four.