Title: Durarara!! SH
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Publisher: Yen Press
The Durarara series is one that many have grown up with. However, I feel the best part about this world that author Ryohgo Narita has created is that you can tell multiple stories from various perspectives and still create a cast as likable as the original.
Durarara SH attempts this by introducing three new characters, each with their own motivations for chasing or avoiding the rumors of the headless rider. It’s true from the first chapter that neither of them has main protagonist sensibilities, but together, they might have a chance of reaching all fans and more of this growing series.
Durarara SH revolves around three students of Raira Academy, Yahiro Mizuchi, Kuon Kotonami, and Himeka Tatsugami. Mizuchi has just arrived at the academy after transferring from a rural town. He’s cursed with the strange ability of unnatural strength and reflexes to the point where he’s known as a monster, even though others are the ones who pick fights with him.
In retrospect, he might be the main character, but he’s only one piece of this first volume. He learns about the headless rider and Shizuo Heiwajima, a man with crazy strength who throws vending machines, so he needs to be confident that he isn’t the monster people say he is. This creates moments of conflict in his character as he struggles not to become those who attacked and ridiculed him in the past.
Kuon is a totally different beast who you have to keep a close eye on. Everyone is wary of him, and his actions and sensibilities are well-thought-out and almost rehearsed. He’s Mizuchi’s only friend and has much more to do with the progression of the story than he leads on. Himeka is probably the only character who could use a bit more development. However, you learn a lot about her family, and she has a strong connection to the events and rumors around the headless rider.
The premise of this story is that Celty is being accused of kidnapping and hasn’t been seen for a while. She is constantly brought up throughout the story to the point where characters repeat facts about her that make these moments of dialogue feel like padding. It hurts the pacing tremendously as each chapter is split and takes on the narrative of a specific character. Hence, you see different angles of Ikebukuro and the characters who live in it.
The jumps of character perspective become confusing at times, and it’s mostly used to make the final chapters more impactful. You are already so invested in the story that it’s hard to imagine how complicated things will get next with all the information gained. The elements you’d expect the story to hide from you are on full display, and you’re forced to hold onto secrets that you wished you could reveal to the other characters. Nevertheless, it’s a unique way to tell a story and only briefly becomes confusing when the narrative decides not to fill you in on something.
There are many characters from the previous series, but the story tried to make this largely self-contained. I think this only hurts long-time fans because they’ll encounter moments of retelling character backstories. That said, it’s cool to see where these characters are a few years after the events of the original light novel series. Unfortunately, the conclusion is dragged on a bit too long to set up the next volume, and I feel like it could have ended much sooner, but at least we’re left with some craziness to look forward to.
Durarara SH is an excellent read for long-time fans to catch up with the strange and brutal world of Ikebukuro. It’s just as crazy as it ever was, but the three new characters are tough to get a grasp on. You are constantly left hating, loving, or caring about them, even if they don’t fully deserve it. I was never on their side, yet I felt they significantly impacted this already fantastic series. The pacing hurts the narrative in some spots as it takes roundabout ways to feed the reader information, but it all comes together in the end.
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