This week we’re going with an anime review that’s considerably more recent then some of the last few anime that have gotten a review – having wrapped up at the tail-end of June. It’s also the first anime I’ve reviewed that (on this writing) is only available to legally watch streaming, through Crunchyroll.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Miyuki Sawashiro as Celty Sturluson
Toshiyuki Toyonaga as Mikado Ryūgamine
Akio Ohtsuka as Shingen Kishitani
Ayahi Takagaki as Erika Karisawa
Daisuke Ono as Shizuo Heiwajima
Hiroshi Kamiya as Izaya Orihara
Jun Fukuyama as Shinra Kishitani
Kana Hanazawa as Anri Sonohara
Kazuma Horie as Seiji Yagiri
Mamoru Miyano as Masaomi Kida
Mariya Ise as Mika Harima
Sanae Kobayashi as Namie Yagiri
Takaya Kuroda as Simon

Directed by Takahiro Omori
Written by Ai Ota (4 episodes), Aya Yoshinaga (eps 8-9, 16, 22), Noboru Takagi (7 episodes), Sadayuki Murai (eps 5, 15, 20), Saizo Nemoto (6 episodes)
Based on the Light Novels by Ryohgo Narita
Produced by Aniplex

Available for Streaming from Crunchyroll.com, and licensed for US DVD release by Aniplex of America (US Site) (which means that the release will probably be exclusive to Bandai’s web page).

The Premise

Mikado Ryūgamine is a student from rural Japan coming to Tokyo for the first time (and living on his own for the first time) to attend High School, with his old friend Masaomi Kida, in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, inhabited by people as Shizuo Heiwajima, a bodyguard who can demonstrate superhuman strength when angered; Simon, an Russian immigrant who is about as strong as Shizuo, but is a pacifist, and who works at a local sushi shop (run by an old friend of Simon’s who is an Russian immigrant); and Celty, aka The Black Rider, a Dullahan from Ireland who came to Japan looking for her missing head. All of these people will find themselves contending with a mysterious series of kidnappings, and a gang war engineered by a sociopathic information broker.

High Points

The series uses a narrative structure which I’m going to call “Rashomon Lite”, or maybe “Traffic Lite”. The series has a lot of stories interwoven together, and establishes it’s timetable by having the different stories intersect at varying times in different episodes, to set up a time table. It’s a concept which I’ve seen plenty of times before in Western film and, to a lesser extent, television, but something I don’t recall having seen in Anime.

Additionally, the series does manage to fit some good social commentary in as well, particularly related to immigrants to Japan, including illegal immigrants.

Finally, the reveal of the founder of the Dollars (as well as some of the other Dollars) was really impressive.

Low Points

Something of a spoiler for the end of the season. We get little resolution on the Celty’s Looking For Her Head front. To be fair, the novel series hasn’t ended yet, and there’s still plenty of untapped material, which means that we could get additional seasons of the series. Still, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more movement in that regard.

Content Notes

There is some brief nudity in a couple episodes, and some blood, but that’s pretty much it.

Scores

Originality: This is a pretty original series in my opinion. Yes, it’s an adaptation, but I haven’t quite seen a story like this before, told in this fashion. 5 out of 6

Animation: The animation in this series is gorgeous. This was the best looking show of this last season (the new season hasn’t started yet, so I can’t speak for it. 5 out of 6.

Story: As mentioned under the High Points, the show’s story is very well told, and kept me riveted. 5 out of 6.

Voice Acting: The acting is generally solid, though the voice for the member of Blue Square who usurps control of the Yellow Scarves from from Kida kind of spoils that he’s going to pull some sort of nasty shenanigans. Otherwise, it’s rock solid. 5 out of 6.

Emotional Response: The series did a splendid job of building empathy for Kida, Celty, Mikado, and Anri. 6 out of 6.

Production: Aside from the great animation quality, there’s some good sound engineering as well, particularly related to giving Celty’s “Motorcycle” (it’s her horse transformed into a Motorcycle so it blends in) distinct sounds to make her appearances immediately notable even if she’s not on camera yet. 5 out of 6.

Overall: I’m calling it – this is on my list for one of the best series of 2010, and unless we get something really good later in the year, it’s the best Genre anime of 2010. 6 out of 6.

In total, Durarara! gets 37 out of 42.