It’s certainly never a bad thing for an anime to finish with your best stuff, even if’s only a season break. And Durarara did that here, concluding “Shou” with what might have been the best episode of the season, or certainly no worse than the top three. There have been several times during this cour where my attachment to this series has wavered pretty close to the edge, and I’ve wondered whether the magic was gone for good. But each time it’s managed to rebound, and this episode is another example.
From where I approach DRRR as a viewer, this ep had pretty much everything once could ask for. Lots of Shizuo being cool and GAR, psycho Mikado, breakneck pacing, and even rare bonuses like someone (Yodogiri, in this case) getting the jump on Izaya. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the trademarks of Narita Ryohgo’s writing is the way he’s able to spin a dizzying array of threads that will eventually be tied together. This means arc conclusions have a kind of head-start, because that’s when Narita really gets to show off his sleight of hand. This arc was certainly no exception.
You can start with Shizuo, who was finally unleashed in all his glory this week. Starting from the moment that knife bounced off his chest (loved the way Omori-sensei nonchalanted that) you knew things were going to get really good. Shizuo was everywhere in the first half of the episode – waltzing into the aftermath of the Dollars-Toramaru rumble with Vorona’s bike slung over his shoulder, calmly handing in his resignation to Mikado because he didn’t like what the Dollars had become, and finally chasing down Vorona and Slon’s truck by kicking a hatchback along in front of him to protect himself from machine gun fire while he rescued the moeblob. Vorona may think she’s tough, but she’s no match for Ikebukuro.
As for this whole Akane kidnapping and Shizuo-framing business, despite Izaya’s involvement it was basically a routine Yakuza turf war, with both sides looking to gain an edge on the other. That makes the schoolboy scuffling Aoba has been stirring up seem pretty piddling by comparison, but hey – Mikado is a schoolboy, so for him it’s a pretty big deal. This was really the first time this season where we’ve really delved into the dark psychological territory Mikado’s arc dabbled in during the original DRRR run, and why Dollars is such a symbolically crucial nexus point in his life. And that makes the conclusion of this arc a nexus point for the character for sure.
In the end, Masaomi never really does get involved – he watches Mikado from a distance, but once it becomes clear Mikado isn’t going to heed his advice he makes himself scarce without his former friend ever knowing he was there. It’s very possible that Mikado might have chosen the “normal life” that Rokujou urged him to pursue had Rokujou not urged him to do so – I think Mikado was pretty close to putting Dollars behind him but ironically, Rokujou’s advice had the exact opposite effect. It reminded Mikado just how much he dislikes the idea of being “normal”, and reinforces his fear that Dollars is his only lifeline to a world he longs to be a part of and the person he thinks he wants to be.
Mikado’s re-entry into that world is certainly one that Aoba will never forget – Mikado made quite an impression on him to say the least. Also making quite an impression is Yodogiri’s certainly non-fatal by design hit on Izaya – it’s pretty rare to see Izaya so much as look surprised (as he did during their phone conversation) never mind be caught out by events as badly as he was here. As nice as it is to see that rat suffer a little, it’s probably even more important to be reminded that for all his preternatural cleverness Izaya isn’t perfect – he’s beatable, just like everyone else. But he’ll surely live to fight another day. Will Slon? I’m not too sure of that – things are looking pretty grim for him after the Awakusu call in their big-time fixers, Akabayashi (a well-disguised Yamaguchi Kappei) and Aozaki (Yanada Kiyoyuki). They dispatch Slon and Vorona with each, and while she merely takes a nap, he takes a bullet, and seems to be headed for a nasty end.
Fortunately, X2‘s “Shou” doesn’t have a nasty end – it’s quite a good one, and leaves me in a more positive frame of mind heading into the next two cours. The next will come in Summer (which from this great distance looks as if it might be halfway decent), and the final one in Winter 2016. I’ll make blogging decisions then, based on what those seasons look like and which Durarara shows up. But I can with complete honesty that I really want to get back to where I was five years ago with DRRR – it was a tremendous amount of fun, and episodes like this one give tantalizing hints that it still can be.