For general information on this series: Durarara!! entry
This review is for the first volume of Durarara!! by Ryohgo Narita. The English edition was released by Yen Press in July 2015. The second volume released in November 2015, and will be followed by the third in March 2016. The series is completed with thirteen volumes in Japan, but a sequel series titled Durarara!! SH is currently releasing there (with three volumes out so far).
Some years ago I watched the first season of the Durarara!! anime and thoroughly enjoyed it. And as luck would have it, the light novels are now releasing in English. This was a license I was hoping to see announced ever since Yen On was formed, and it seemed only a matter of time when considering the manga adaptation was already getting released by Yen Press. I think it is fun to go back and read the original source for stories you enjoy, and I am looking forward to later volumes that will include material that is new to me. (I have chosen to not watch the second season of the anime, which will be having its third cour this winter.)
Reading the first volume of Durarara!! is a bit like watching a number of criss-crossing roller coasters whoosh about at top speed, and wondering if/when some of the cars will crash into one another. Just looking at the colored illustration fold-out spread in the front of the book, there are fourteen significant characters introduced–and they are all surprisingly memorable, either in their unique quirks or in the mystery that surrounds them.
The story of Durarara!! would perhaps be better described as the stories of Durarara!!, as in there are a whole lot of unusual things going on in the wild Tokyo district of Ikebukuro, and half the fun is seeing how everything connects together. What is the truth behind the urban legend of the scythe-wielding motorcyclist? What is the aim of the mysterious gang known as the Dollars? What happened to the strange girl who was stalking that strange boy? And what exactly is the manipulative information broker scheming? Rather than dwell too long on any one plot point, the author Narita prefers to keep throwing new things at the reader. It’s certainly unorthodox, but somehow he makes it work.
The prose itself for this series is definitely a thing worth mentioning, as I found it quite unique for a novel in general. Narita likes to cut to the chase–in the scene late, and out of the scene early–and it all reads in a manner that is even more straightforward than I’ve found typical for light novels. There’s a bit of a rough and perhaps amateurish quality to it all, but I found it fitting considering the tone and pacing of the novel in general. I don’t think I’d recommend Durarara!! as an example of fine literary writing, but I feel the author’s primary goal here is to be something different, and something entertaining. I think he succeeded on both counts.
The first volume of Durarara!! is a wild one, but there is a lot to like here if its style clicks with you. Whether you are familiar with the franchise or not, I think this is a quirky yet approachable series that everyone should give a try.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended