LN Reading Program — August 17

(pictured: Durarara!!)

(pictured: Durarara!!)

(Apologies for getting this post up a day late. I will try to make sure the final post next week is on time.)

For the second week of this month’s summer reading program, we will discuss the second act of Durarara!! (volume 1) and The Witch’s House: Diary of Ellen. For Durarara, you need to have read chapters 5 through 9 (ending at page 149). Meanwhile for Witch’s House, you need to have read chapters 3 and 4.

If you have read further ahead, please refrain from spoiling anything past the points in the stories mentioned above.

Durarara!!

This week a lot of ground was covered, and we got to see things from the point of view of quite a few characters. A chapter for Izaya, one for Namie, another for the Dollars underlings, some scenes for Seiji, and then things go back to Mikado and Celty. The fan favorite Shizuo has also been introduced, so I think all the major players of the series are now accounted for.

Discussion Points

This is a twisted, twisted tale. A tale of twisted love.

This is the declaration Durarara started off with, and at this point I think there’s enough established material to begin analyzing what constitutes love in the world of Durarara, and the ways people are affected by their personal understandings of the concept. Shinra is in love with a headless dullahan. Namie is described to have a romantic attraction to her brother, Seiji, who in turn is smitten by a disembodied head. Meanwhile, Mika had taken a stalker-level fascination with Seiji. Are the feelings of these characters genuine? Is it acceptable for them to act on those feelings? To what degree does society dictate what constitutes love between two individuals? Does “love conquer all,” and if so, is that a good thing?

“I can’t help but live here where all the people are! I love people! I just love human beings! I love ’em! Which is why people should love me back.”

Izaya is one of the more curious characters of the Durarara franchise, and I feel that a lot of the story’s themes ultimately tie back to his unusual viewpoint and day-to-day life. Does Izaya actually love human beings as he claims? Do you feel there is an ultimate goal behind his efforts as an information broker? What is the purpose of his “hobby” with those contemplating suicide? And why do you think he has taken an interest in Mikado?

“No, no, no. Let’s make this clear for the benefit of our delinquent friend here–there’s nothing wrong with manga or novels. They cannot speak for themselves, and the blame for a crime always falls upon the silent, you know? …. If there were no manga or novels, we’d base this on a historical play, and if not for that, we’d use some classic old Natsume Soseki novel or something else approved by the Ministry of Education. And what would the politicians say about us then?”

Not really a major point of discussion (though I suppose it could be!), but I just found this whole “Dengeki Bunko light novels as a source for torture methods” sequence to be absolutely hilarious. I like to imagine the author Ryohgo Narita writing the chapter about the Dollars underlings, and wondering if everyone would find it all completely random and off-topic.

(Durarara!! art)

(Durarara!! art by Suzuhito Yasuda)

The Witch’s House: Diary of Ellen

Chapter three dealt with Ellen’s day-to-day life in the magical and deadly house over the years (over the centuries?), while chapter four finally introduced Viola (who players of the game The Witch’s House will be well-familiar with). I thought it was great to get Viola’s point of view before things wind down to a close.

Discussion Points

Any predictions on how this story will conclude? It is probably cheating for someone like me to say anything, having played the game this book acts as a prequel for–but I am still curious to see how things play out in detail for the final chapter.

The concept of immortality is one I find interesting in fantasy fiction. Ellen makes the deal with the black cat in the first place because she does not want to die, but her time in the magical house has caused her to live far longer than an individual is supposed to live for. Why does she feel such reassurance when she is given the bottle of fatal poison?

Have Ellen’s goals remained the same over the years? In what ways have her hopes and dreams shifted over the course of the story? (If they have shifted at all?)

Yes, I was evil. I had killed innocent people, thus evil. I had killed many, thus evil. So I had to be killed…. But in my eyes, you are evil. Because you’re impeding upon my wish. You won’t allow it to come true. Evil, because I kill innocent people? Aren’t you trying to kill me? Then how are you not evil? Hm? God told you so? …What a pain.

This segment stuck out to me as a continuation of some of the points I brought up last week. Is Ellen still sympathetic as a character, despite her life as a mass murderer? Is it better for one person to allow herself to die, for the sake of others to live?

How do you feel Ellen views Viola? Is Viola a friend to Ellen, or is Ellen too far removed from humanity at this point to form such a relationship? And in turn, is Viola a genuine friend to Ellen, or is there merit to all the things the black cat tells her?

———

As mentioned before, feel free to discuss any point you would like to bring up about either (or both) of these two books. General impressions, predictions for how the stories will play out, some compare/contrast between the two books, or any random observations and things you’d like to analyze are all fair game.

2 responses to “LN Reading Program — August 17

  1. Doing this book club has helped me understand this book more. I have a big case of ADHD so books with a lot of new characters to learn about quickly make me speed through the book without concern for who’s who. But sitting down to type this I had to go back and read more than just what I highlighted, search for character names (eBooks FTW) and now I have a bigger (though certainly not complete) understanding going into the final chapter.

    This part of the volume went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, with Izaya’s “hobby” and the love interests. It does seem like love conquers all. People in this book, many other works, in real homes and in politics are moved by acts of love but it isn’t always a good thing as it breaks up other relationships, causes politicians to step down, and invokes acts like stalking. We are seeing in society today more and more that the traditional ideas of love are being broken down and this may be taking that idea way to the extremes with the disembodied heads. It feels like their feelings are genuine, but I don’t believe anyone should act on their feelings without explicit consent.

    Izaya is a mystery to me, but an interesting character. He seems more like he’s fascinated with people than someone who loves people. “When Izaya no longer needed to know a person, his lack of interest was absolute.” Which must mean he needs Mikado for something. Maybe he wants him to be a part of the Dollars? Mikado doesn’t seem like the gang type but maybe Izaya sees something in him.

    • There’s definitely a lot to keep track of here. Sometimes I like to use an index card for a bookmark, and write down the character names and note who is who for reference. (In this case I know the characters from the anime though, so I’m handling it all right.)
      You note some good things regarding love that I think Durarara is definitely covering–namely that love isn’t just sunshine and flowers… it can also lead to a wide variety of problems. (Like poor Shizuo getting stabbed with ballpoint pens!)
      At this point it appears it’s more accurate to say Izaya simply loves being entertained by people, rather than actually loving people in any kind of traditional sense. And as we’re quickly seeing, Durarara’s Tokyo has no lack of entertaining people for him to toy with.

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