Durarara!! Episode 21 – Stuck in a Rut
In anything you do in life, there typically comes a time when you get frustrated and start to question why you’re doing it at all. Some problem arises, or you just get worn down by the sheer repetition of it all.
Let’s say, for example, that you have a site where you write about anime regularly. The first month or so you really enjoyed it: you were working your tail off everyday, writing for 6 hours after working a full day of work, but you got to write about shows you cared about and slag off on the shows you hated. Life was good.
Then, as the season wore on, you noticed that you were writing the same things a lot, over and over again. Your well of insights dried up; writing something new and original for every episode that came along became harder and harder. Where before you were looking forward to writing about some new and fresh show, now you had to carry on the long work of writing something interesting for every single episode of a series.
And, because you held yourself to such a high standard, you had to keep banging your head against the wall even though you weren’t sure there was even anything else to cover, but you didn’t want to just cop out and offer up some summary of events and a weak opinion, and Mayoi Neko Overrun just kept being SO FREAKING AWFUL.
Err, this has gotten uncomfortably personal, hasn’t it?
Anyway, Ryugamine Mikado is at a similar crossroads with the Dollars. What he began as a way to live vicariously in Tokyo and escape his boring rural life, then gradually became a way to help his friends and other Ikebukuroans out is now on the verge of an all-out gang war. Members of the Dollars are getting beat up in the streets. Everyone in the group is looking to him, calling out to their leader to do something to make things better. But what is he supposed to do?
So he runs away. He tries to just give it up; to live an ordinary life, free of the complications that come from being a denizen of Ikebukuro’s underbelly. It might be dull, but at least it’s peaceful.
But he’s not the kind of person that can recede into an ordinary life so easily. Izaya told him as much at the end of the first arc. He also let Mikado know, as a kindred spirit, the only way to avoid such a malaise: “you have to be constantly evolving.”
I need to be constantly evolving, too. I get bored easily, so I want to try new things as much as possible. Life’s too short to spend trying to writing some pithy point out of every half hour of pop entertainment you come across. Even if you love the show to death, there are still going to be times when there isn’t 800 words of material there in an episode.
But even if you try to shut life out, the world still moves on. Anri is out using her influence over the Saika-infected members of the Yellow Bandanas to thwart their attempts to stomp out the Dollars and terrorize the rest of the population. But the Yellow Bandanas begin to realize what she’s up to, and go out to stop her. Masaomi’s attempts to stop his gang are fruitless: the Yellow Bandanas are in an all-out manhunt.
There are just so many other shows out there to talk about. Every season, there are more shows airing than 3HM and I could individually watch, much less write about for every episode. Sure, most of them are unwatchable garbage, but if you’re willing to look into the past of the medium, there’s so much out there that’s worth watching.
I didn’t get into anime because of all the puerile shows about catgirls running around in swimsuits; I’ve watched as much as I have because there’s a ton of good stuff out there. And there’s more coming out every year, that we miss because we can’t watch everything, can’t know when everything comes out, can’t find English translations.
Eventually, the Yellow Bandanas find her. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe, given that all they know about her is her school uniform, that she wears glasses and has big breasts. Then again, if you’re looking for a plot free of narrative coincidence, you probably shouldn’t be watching Durarara!! in the first place.
By then Mikado, curious to see what’s going on at the Dollars message board, has logged on to find a lot of people saying they’re quitting the Dollars, and news of a girl being attacked on the street. Raira uniform, glasses, big breasts—there’s no other alternative, it has to be Anri.
So now Mikado has a choice to make: he can either continue his self-imposed exile, or he can step up and remember why he started the Dollars in the first place—to live in the city by proxy. Okay, why he started the Dollars in the second place—to help people. Because he loves Anri more than anyone else in the city, and if there’s anything he can do in his power to save her, he will. He’s not as bold as Masaomi, and he doesn’t delusions of being a hero, but when the girl he loves is in trouble, he’s going to step up and do something. This episode ends with Anri’s capture as a cliffhanger, so you don’t actually see here what he does, but I’ve already seen the next episode, so you’re just going to have to trust me that he does do something.
I still love anime, and I still want to do what I’ve tried to do from the start: explain to the people who aren’t fans why I’ve spent so much time watching it. But if I’m going to do that, then I need to focus on what has actually affected me, and that means I have to work in the past, with shows that I’ve already seen. Because, to me, the best measure of a show’s quality is in its staying power: it’s ability to stick into your mind long after you’ve seen it.
And even if you’re always looking for something new, always trying to evolve into something else, you still have to focus on the important things, the things that ground you, and make you who you are.
(I should stress that I am the only one who’s going to be doing something different, and that after these two shows end. 3HM seems to enjoy his current format, and will be sticking to it next season)