Durarara! is my Anti-Baccano! (And That Ain’t a Good Thing)
It pains me to say this, since there’s so much about Durarara! that I enjoyed to some extent:
In the end, Durarara! just isn’t all that great of a series.
Much has been said about the similarities and differences between Baccano! and Durarara! It makes sense, what with both being written by the same author. The only way in which the two series come close to being similar is the characters. Both series utilize over-the-top, larger-than-life characters to draw in readers/viewers. Baccano! is all about immortal mafistos and serial killers and goofball criminal “masterminds” while Durarara! has trickster gods, Herculean bartenders, and headless grim reapers. At the same time you have “normals” thrown into the mix, and a good deal of whatever conflict arises comes from the clashing of the normal with the surreal and supernatural.
The similarities between the series ends there, though. In fact, the two series are all but polar opposites of one another in every other feasible facet. And this includes the over quality of the series in question.
Baccano! was a fast-paced, action-packed pulp adventure. While there were multiple storylines running parallel to one another, for the most part we were focused upon two central conflicts: The Flying Pussyfoot massacre and gang warfare on the streets of New York. Despite the chronological discord, chaotic events, and ridiculously sized cast, Baccano! was pretty damn focused and deliberate in its actions. There was an end point towards which it was working, and all of the events worked their way towards resolving this ending. Stuff went down on the Pussyfoot and was resolved. Gangs fought in New York and a clear outcome came about.
Essentially, stuff happened, stuff was resolved, and any dangling plotlines were of the “TO BE CONTINUED but you don’t really NEED to see their outcome” variety. We didn’t need to see the three OAV episodes that resolved Chane and Claire’s relationship, since nothing vital was hinging on that resolution. It was just a little extra tidbit of development that made things all the more interesting.
None of that can be said of Durarara! Where Baccano! was fast-paced and worked its way towards a definite ending, Durarara! moves at a more leisurely pace and meanders around the plot. This in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different. The catch is that in the end Durarara! didn’t pull this off very well.
The problem is that there’s absolutely no conflict in Durarara! Yeah, you heard me right. There was absolutely no tension and no sense of struggle at any point in the series. The series worked its way towards various “climaxes,” going at its own pace, but once it reached these moments absolutely nothing happened. Mikado is forced to call upon the Dollars when he’s about to be kidnapped by evil pharmaceutical henchmen. People’s phones ring… and he’s safe. That’s it. A few phone ringing resolves what little danger Mikado was in at that moment. And this was supposed to be the big midway point climax.
I could buy into that if the rest of the series made up for that anti-climatic moment. I figured that the first half was meant to be build-up. Things were going on to establish characters, establish the stakes, and lead us into a second half that would get down and dirty with Izaya’s grand scheme.
Nope. Instead we got another 12 or so episodes of establishing boundaries. We got more characters, we got into the heads of the high school kids, and we found out that no one is really “normal” in this town.
And then the series ended.
I didn’t expect Izaya’s scheme to blossom completely by the end of the series, but I expected something to happen. Maybe he comes close but the characters band together to halt his progress. Something like that. Instead we got a few gang members beating up some people, we get Kida getting hit in the face with a crowbar, and then we get some more gang member beating each other up.
Everything was working towards a big throw down between Mikado’s Dollars, Kida’s Yellow Scarves, and Anri’s Sword Zombies. Two rival gangs at each other’s throats with a third “secret” gang within the ranks of both groups waiting to strike unseen. We got none of that. We got a brawl at the end of the series that none of the main characters participated in. Mikado and Shizuo and Celty and everyone else was just standing on the sidelines barely doing anything while the closest the series had come to genuine conflict took place. All Shizuo did was throw a road sign at that pathetic “villain” who led the Yellow Scarves for all of ten seconds while everyone else did absolutely nothing.
Why are we following these characters, and why should we care about them, when they barely have anything to do with anything that’s taking place. For leaders of gangs, Mikado, Kida, and Anri have little to do with their action. They just stand around not telling each other their secrets, and when the do find out the truth one of them runs away and we don’t really get anything out of the revelation. Why are we introduced to Izaya’s scheme if nothing is going to come of it in the end? Why do we have all of this stuff about Celty’s head and Shinra and Shingen hiding it from her and the pharmaceutical company if the only thing that’s going to come out of it is some sicko couple who have nothing to do with anything else after their little lover’s tiff is over? Why do we have Shizuo and Simon floating around when the only reason why they’re even involved in what little story is taking place is due largely to proximity and not any sort of relevance to the ongoing story?
Why is it that you can have 24 episodes of an anime series where things seem to happen, but in the end nothing really happened? How can 24 episodes be a whole lot of nothing? Sure, we got a bunch of cool characters with cool backstories, but nothing came of these characters that were so carefully constructed. In the end, Durarara! ended up being nothing more than a prolonged introduction to a cast of characters that may, at some point in the future, do something genuinely interesting. Plotlines were alluded to, but nothing came of it. Things were teased about, but nothing got resolved. You can have thousands of awesome characters running around, but if those awesome characters are given nothing to do you still have a lame series in the end.
Durarara! was one giant 24 episode cocktease with no feeling of satisfaction at the end (Other than seeing Simon finally do something by punching Izaya in the final moments, but that was too little too late.). Baccano! was a 16 episode orgy with one climax after another, leading to a thoroughly satisfactory ending leaving me wanting for more.
Durarara! is truly the Anti-Baccano! in every way imaginable.