Durarara and the connections in storytelling

Spoiler alert!

The theme of connection is one that has been used a lot in works of fiction. Whether it is a tv-series or a movie, I can think of countless stories that use it to tell its narrative. The now airing Sarazanmai, My Roommate is a cat, Darling in the Franxx and Your Name are examples of it (Themes are of course all subjective, so you might not agree with me). That’s not to say that it’s a tiring subject. It’s a very open-ended one meaning that you can do almost anything with it. An emotional connection like in Sarazanmai or My Roommate is a Cat, a literal one like in Your Name (Arguably of course), among many more. So it’s not to say that these shows and movies are bad because they use this theme and that the theme is in itself an unoriginal one, far from it, just that I can tell that its one that many creators are interested in. But very rarely do I see a story that truly takes advantage of the theme by making it affect how the story is told. I guess you could say that Your Names story is affected by the connections between the two main characters. But aside from that, we usually don’t see that. And it is a shame since storytelling in this medium and in fiction in general can use themes to really change how the story is told. And so when I heard that Durarara!! would be creative with how the story was told, I was intrigued. Still, similar promises had been told to me with shows I was disappointed by, so I didn’t want to take it as fact. But as I started watching the first season, I quickly realized how it was all true.

Durarara!!, adapted from Ryōgo Narita’s book series and directed by Takahiro Omori, is set in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, where Mikado Ryuugamine has just moved in. As he goes to school and hangs out with his best friend who he has been separated from a long time ago, he is thrust into a world of urban legends, gang fights and flying vending machines. We see how the citizens of Ikebukuro and their connections are transformed by the mysterious happenings in the city, for the better or worse. How the seemingly friendly people are shown from their own point of view, making for some really good character development where we learn about characters past and how it affects their needs and motivations. We see how the connections of the characters change throughout the series, but in the end, don’t change at all. Like what Mikados says at the beginning of episode 1, “Anyway, it would change my life, but in a way, nothing changed at all”. And the way that the story is told feels similar to this. Where it all feels connected, but in a way, it was completely unconnected.

After the characters and story has been set up, most episodes have different main characters. Meaning that we get a new perspective for almost every episode. And these often take place under the same time, meaning that the timeline goes back and forth over and over again to show how one event leads to another. There is no real timeline since they wrap around each other so much. There are no coincidences.
Details like how a vending machine is briefly shown to be thrown in the air might be in an episode later where we see the same day but from another perspective. This is what I meant with the story being told through the theme of connections. That all the events are connected to one another.
But in another way, the story is completely unconnected. We never see events in a direct way. It can go from one day to another in just a few scenes. Nothing is connected so you have to connect it yourself, like a puzzle. And that is what I love about non-linear storytelling since it gives the audience the respect that we deserve by making us build the story with the creators. Like how you can see with visual cues in Your Name when a certain scene takes place, which was one of my favorite things to do while rewatching the film. Same with Pulp Fiction and other movies/shows like it.
So in some ways, it’s very connected, and in some, it isn’t connected at all.
Like it’s both and none at the same time.

Pulp Fiction

Still, I can’t say that I understand the story completely, which I’m sad to say. I’m usually very scared that I won’t be able to write about a show or movie because I won’t be able to analyze the characters and themes that are in the show. But for the most time, I’m proven wrong. Not this time though. I had to watch a lot of analysis videos to even have an idea of what, for example, Izaya, the main antagonist of the story, was supposed to be and what his ideals were. But this time I had an excuse at least. That being visual inconsistencies (or another smart-sounding word).

While I think the show was very visually interesting, with really expressive animation which is something you don’t usually see in anime, I had a lot of smaller problems that kept distracting me. And for the most part, it was the writing. Not the writing as in how the story was written, but how people wrote in the story.
A large part of the story is shown through a chatroom. And while there was most certainly a lot of interesting dialogue and themes expressed through this chat, I was always distracted by how fast everyone wrote. To the point where it often felt unnatural and confusing. In the real world, chat rooms are very slow. You write over each other, you’ll take 5 minutes to perfect two sentences so that no one misunderstands it and it all just takes so much time. At least from my experience. But here, it feels exactly like a normal conversation, where the texts come right after each other making it very easy to follow along. That might sound fine, and I might be the only person who found this annoying. But for a story that is so realistic (aside from all the urban legends), it felt very unrealistic. That and Celty’s confusing phone-writing, where it often wouldn’t make sense for a character to understand her, often made me distracted.

I don’t know, I have a hard time with this show. I can tell that it has some great writing in there, I really do. But for every interesting line or theme being brought up, there was another background character that would distract me or a really long text message being written in seconds.
I know my problems might sound too small to really care about. But I can’t say that I could really appreciate what the series had. At least to the extent that I thought I would.

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