Durarara!! Episode 14 – Falling in Love with Shadows
Watching American television show Chuck descend into mediocrity is making me inclined to go easy on anime tonight. Sure, all most anime have to offer are formulaic plots and genre cliches mashed together into a dull paste of tedium, but that also describes 90% of TV everywhere.
You have to love the gems where you can find them, no matter the country and that is our mission here at antiotaku.
One thing American TV tends to be better about than anime is romantic relationships. Sure, most shows fall apart when the unresolved sexual tension between the male and female leads is finally resolved, but at least they try. And, while other relationships tend to be fleeting and poorly explored, at least they exist.
By contrast, I can think of at best a handful of anime that even involves one of the main characters in a romantic relationship. And that’s mostly high schoolers, having the kinds of painfully embarrassing relationships that high schoolers have. The number of shows with mature, adult relationships is a fraction of that.
In a way, that’s one of the problems with watching a medium written for high schoolers and young adults by geeks who can’t get dates: you get a lot of shows about unrequited love, and not many about actual relationships.
Durarara!! is one of the shows on that short list. By this point, Shinra has conned his way into Celty’s heart, and the two are basically in a relationship. It’s not a normal relationship by any stretch of the imagination, since she’s a headless Celtic fairy spirit that rides a motorcycle that’s really a shadow horse, and they’ve been living together for several years already.
But I’ve been interested to see how the show handles their relationship. Fortunately for me, the episode opens with Shinra arriving home, trying to sneak into the shower with Celty. He opens the door and finds…
…his father has come home.
Right, I forgot every scene Shingen is in turns into slapstick comedy. The whole thing is one series of bizarre gags, even after Shingen reveals to Celty and Shinra that he’s the one who stole Celty’s head!
No matter how seriously it takes itself at times, Durarara!! still has this cartoonish tone that can vault back into joking in half a second. It’s one of the things that endeared me to the show, but as the very embodiment of it, Shingen has gotten on my nerves. Sometimes it’s okay to play pathos straight.
Shingen does redeem himself, because after he’s pulled a comical bait and switch on Celty to scamper out of their apartment, he heads over to Izaya’s place, looking for Celty’s head. Well, technically he threatens Namie with a toy gun to break into Izaya’s place, but I’m trying to forgive him, so I’ll forgive that old gag. There, the two hash out their plans for the rest of the series.
Shingen is still his jokey self, but there’s a seriousness to him, and a perverseness. He’s less the comic relief, and more the person who forced his son to dissect an immortal girl while she was still alive. It’s a tone that suits him better, and better suits the grim tone of the show. Shizuo had to take a few turns as comic relief through over the top silliness before he got an episode explaining his backstory that turned him into a more serious character. We still don’t really know who Shingen is, or who he’s working for, and I like that mystery in a show that’s rapidly losing its sense of the unknown as it digs deeper into its characters. I just hope that show’s creators can make him a more serious character with spoiling the mystery.
Anyway, Izaya’s plan is pretty clever: to test his hypothesis that dullahans are related to Norse valkyries by bringing Celty to a place of strife. Except, instead of moving her, he’s going to cause some strife in Ikebukuro, between the tight circle of people who make up the show’s cast.
While I don’t get the valkyrie/dullahan connection, I do have to admit that it’s a pretty clever idea and a great concept for the second chapter of a story. The idea of mythological experimentation is just plain great, and a conflict between the cast of characters that have been built up over the last 13 episodes is just what the show has been begging for.
In fact, something already seems to be happening. Shinra is obviously hiding something from Celty, and she’s getting upset. Upset enough to pay Izaya a visit, who asks her what she’d do if Shinra fell for another Dullahan and tells her about Saika, a demon-possessed sword that he believes was used in the recent slashings. This makes Shinra even more evasive, until he finally fesses up that Shingen used Saika to sever Celty’s head from her body.
Now, you have to understand that Shinra has been doing his best to con his way into Celty’s heart since the first episode. He’s been lying and misleading for so long that to see him pressed to tell the truth is odd. Being forced to be honest, to not take the easy way out very obviously makes him out of his element, and the animation does a good job of showing that. His schemes may have worked, but now Shinra has to deal with the fact that the very thing he used to bring them together is also likely to drive them apart. To make a relationship with Celty work, he’s going to have to deny his own nature.
Another conflict is building up with the slasher storyline. Mikado is no closer to expressing his love for Anri than he was six months ago, although Anri is attracting attention from a teacher with an unsavory past with regards to female students. Masaoki is smooth enough to get her a brief reprieve, before he explains that he’s not interested in her, but trying to help Mikado, his best friend, break out of his shell with women.
Except later on, when she’s walking home alone, we see Anri is being tailed by none other than Saika. As Celty’s voiceover tells us the demon has fallen in love with her, just as Shinra fell in love for her, it brings up its knife as if to strike.
This is another setup episode, merely laying the groundwork for the rest of the series to follow. But what an interesting groundwork. The idea of throwing Ikebukuro into war, even metaphorical war is pretty interesting, and the kind of broad conflict that has been brewing for the last 12 episodes. It’s a chance to once again tie the small interconnected community of the cast to the broader area of Ikebukuro it’s been developing. Plus, it’s a chance to delve deeper into the relationships that are forming between the characters: Celty’s romance with Shinra, and the rapid effect it’s having on her humanity, her friendship with Shizuo and the attachment that he seems to be developing for her, Mikado’s unrequited love with Anri and her own relationship to the stalkers she is rapidly accumulating.
I wish I could trust Durarara!! to handle these relationships well. After all, it’s anime, and if there’s one thing anime does poorly, it’s serious and nuanced relationships. Still, I watch Shinra sheepishly tell Celty the truth he’s been hiding, drawn as uncomfortable as any actor could look at that moment, and I have hope. I see Mikado, flailing to describe his own inner feelings in words, or Anri struggling to find something more in life than empty loneliness, and I know that if any anime can make it work, it’s Durarara!!
You can watch this episode here.