Durarara!! Episode 22 – Your Personal Army
I said in the last post that, when put to the test, Mikado does something to help Anri. And he does – he rallies the Dollars and enlists their aid to help them out. What follows is a sprawling chase scenes that lasts for over 10 minutes, as random passers-by assist Anri in escaping the pursuing Yellow Scarves. It’s got all the classics you’d expect: rapidly closing gates, boxes strewn everywhere to hamper pursuers—even Anri in a bunny suit. It’s all cut together with posts from the Dollars message board narrating the action.
This scene is perhaps the best testament to the excellent animation and direction of Brain’s Base. That they can manage to make a footrace stay interesting for ten minutes, and add to the tension by showing screenshots of message boards on the Internet is a feat few anime studios—or even live action TV shows—could pull off.
It is perhaps the Dollars’ finest hour. After all, it’s the first large-scale operation they’ve pulled off that’s been an unmitigated success. And yet, it only brings swifter and more brutal retaliation from the Yellow Scarves. Armed bands of Yellow Scarves prowl the streets, waylaying pedestrians. It’s utter chaos. And so, not wanting to continue the gang war, Mikado announces that the Dollars are going to disappear, and then closes the message boards.
Most TV and movie producers don’t really get the Internet. They know that it’s a big thing, and that a lot of people use it to do all kinds of unsavory things, but they don’t get the social experience at the heart of it. Despite it being a fairly common element of modern society for over 10 years now, I get the feeling that most people who try to portray it in most media have used it at all, and have no idea how it works.
I don’t get that same feeling from Durarara!! It’s pretty obvious from everything—from the design of the message boards to the content of the posts to the way people in the show interact with it—that both Ryohgo Narita and everyone at Brain’s Base gets the Internet. Since they write light novels and make serious, mature anime, respectively, I’m sure they’re all huge geeks who have spent more than their fair share of time on the Internet, but there are plenty of geeks in Hollywood. So why is Durarara!! the best exploration of Internet culture I’ve seen outside of the Internet?
I think the niche audience has something to do with it. There may be plenty of geeks in Hollywood, but they’re still mostly making shows that appeal to a broad, mainstream audience. Since Brain’s Base can be relatively certain their audience spends as much, if not more, time on boards like 2channel or 2chan as them, they can be assured that their audience also “gets it”—understands the nuances of interacting with other people on the Internet without having to be told—and will complain loudly if they don’t get it right.
Anyway, what Durarara!! gets so right is the sense of disassociated community that being a regular poster on a large message board conveys. Because there are so many users, you can’t hope to know everyone. So, while you might get to know a few people individually, most of your interaction is with the community as a whole. You’re not talking with one person, or a group of people, but with the whole body, simultaneously. A gigantic mass of people, who all have at least one thing in common—being on the board—sharing ideas, having arguments, never agreeing on anything. But, when everyone is roused for a common purpose, they can do amazing things, like secretly rescue girls from pursuing gangs.
And, since most people’s only point of connection is on that site itself, it makes these communities extremely fragile. One admin flipping one switch can take it all out, forever. Mikado does that here, although I’m not sure the Dollars are gone for good.
After spending the first half on the Internet, the rest of the episode deals with the close, personal relationships that have been forming for the latter half of the series: the common bond between Celty and Anri, and the increasingly strained relationship between Mikado, Anri and Masaomi.
After being rescued by the Dollars, Anri goes home with Celty, where she agrees to stay for a while in order to lay low. An earlier confrontation with Masaomi, who felt betrayed at discovering that she had become the Slasher, made her realize, seemingly too late, that she valued her relationship with Mikado and Masaomi more than anything else. After talking at length with Celty, she comes to the realization that she needs to come clean and reveal her secret.
As I’ve said many times before, Durarara!! is about the relationship between profoundly messed-up people at the fringe of society. Keeping secrets is a normal part of life, but it makes forming any kind of normal relationship extremely difficult. Anri knows this: she chose to avoid people, to keep herself from loving to prevent people from finding out about Saika, and to prevent Saika from slashing them.
That she seems willing to out herself, and her reaction to finding out that Celty is living with a man, seem to have made Anri yearn for a normal life, and normal relationships. But is it possible to have a genuine relationship with people as broken as Durarara!!’s cast? And how can you get along when your two best friends are unwittingly waging a reluctant gang war against each other? There’s only two episodes left, and things are heating up, both in terms of the action and the relationships at the heart of the show.
Watch this episode here.