Durarara!! is a Japanese light novel written by Ryohgo Narita, with artwork by Suzuhito Yasuda. There are thirteen novels in total, and the fifth one will be released in English on November 15th, 2016.
Synopsis (courtesy of yenpress.com):
At the invitation of an old school friend, introverted high school student Mikado Ryuugamine, yearning for a life less ordinary, makes his way to Tokyo. His destination: Ikebukuro, a hotbed of madmen living most unusual lives. On his first day there, Mikado encounters a cast of characters so colorful, the rich hues of his rural hometown pale in comparison! And as if the naive stalker chick, the high school senior obsessed with the rather creepy object of his affections, the hikikomori genius doctor, the hedonistic information dealer, the strongest man in all of Ikebukuro weren’t enough…Mikado also chances upon a sight that leaves him rubbing his eyes and scratching his head — the Black Biker, who is black as night from bodysuit to license plate, soundlessly weaving through the streets like a figure out of an urban legend. Who is this “Headless Rider” on the jet-black metal steed!? And why does it seem like Mikado’s already gotten himself neck-deep in the insanity that is the norm in his new home!?
I’m going to start right off with this: Durarara!! is a fantastic light novel, but is not for everyone. I must also say that while it has numerous strong points, there are definitely a few weak one as well.
- The characters are all unique in a way that makes them interesting, but not difficult to connect with. Mikado is a boy tired of his ordinary life, who seeks something extraordinary. His friend Anri is a girl who cannot find where she fits into the world. Izaya Orihara, an information broker, is despicable, yet readers can still find his fear of ceasing to exist after death sympathetic.
- The story itself is told through a series of intertwining viewpoints of characters who at first glance seem to have nothing to do with each other. Upon treading deeper into the light novel, however, it is revealed that all of these characters all have one thing in common: they are a part of or know someone who is a member of a group named the Dollars, a color gang without any color.
- The overall theme of Durarara!! is “twisted love.” Each character has some sort of twisted love story with another character or a concept. Mikado is obsessed with the extraordinary. Izaya claims to love all of humanity, while manipulating his fellow humans into awful situations in order to observe their reactions. Two other characters Erika Karisawa and Walker Yumasaki are obsessed with fantasy manga and books. The main target of this theme, however, lies in the mysterious “Black Rider” and her companions.
- The POV’s can be difficult to follow sometimes. Some of the characters just have personalities that make them difficult to read from, and I found myself having to read particular parts over a few times in order to figure out what was going on. Mikado is the main viewpoint character, but his observations were extremely tedious to me, and I could not wait to jump to the Black Rider’s or Kadota’s POV.
- Some of the character development going on was a bit of a jump. I won’t elaborate, for it will be a spoiler, but there is a certain scene between Mikado and two other characters that just drove me crazy as a writer. The majority of the light novel was fine in this aspect, but every so often there would be a moment or two that I couldn’t quite believe. (However, I will admit that this improved immensely in volume 2).
- Some of the writing style was distracting. The prose was not… beautiful. I will say that I feel like a lot of it had to do with the way the book was translated. The second volume’s prose improved a lot from the first one’s, and so it is something that I can maybe overlook, especially as this was the first book in the series. Nevertheless, it could be a bit annoying to read at some points.
Overall, Durarara!! Volume One is a pleasing and entertaining read. Izaya Orihara, while not the outright villain, is one of the more antagonistic characters, as is one of the most fascinating people that I have ever read about.