Durarara!! is a popular anime from the last two decades, and not a single other show seems to be quite like it.
Durarara began as a light novel written by Ryohgo Narita in 2004, the same mind that influenced Baccano and more recent tales such as Fate/Strange Fake. The story then went to animation in 2015 and 2016, this time directed by Studio Shuka.
It's A Small World
There are a number of anime that have dramatically intertwined plot threads, but few that have as many people to work with as effectively as this show, which deserves praise for its casual and cool manner in weaving the tales together to the intended conclusion.
Durarara was as ripe a place to fall in love with the series as any other was in middle school and high school, and between the visuals and Makoto Yoshimori's dreamlike music, it felt like an urban fantasy as captivating as any shonen.
And all this was accomplished so efficiently by setting it in a real place, and a rather small and compact area in Toshima City, Tokyo. That size contributes to the largeness of the setting. Because, in such a small town with so many big personalities, they're bound to intersect.
There Is No Protagonist
There aren't any main characters, truly, and although Mikado or any of the most prominent poster fodder might be suitable candidates, in the grand calculus of the story's themes, no one character should be more important. Because Durarara is not a story, it is an amalgamation of stories.
Granted, there are characters whose own stories are more thematically linked to the aggregate thesis, and antagonists such as Izaya take center stage. Izaya is the plotter behind the story, pulling people's strings and setting in motion calamities that bring the city to the brink of ruin.
Shizuo may be the true protagonist, given that they are Izaya's direct adversary and a contradiction to their way of living. However, viewers are more likely to choose Mikado or the headless rider Celty as the main character based on their goals and journeys and how they intersect with Izaya.
Regardless, the show makes every named character a valuable addition to any cast or character. The sequel wasted no time introducing new people to Ikebukuro with interesting tales.
An Understated Masterwork
Durarara's legacy is even more impressive in that it's remembered so fondly, despite not always being the prettiest or most conventional by any stretch of imagination. As the series developed, it wasn't one rich with sakuga and sometimes the budget seemed to be wearing thin.
Durarara was a ludicrously well-written drama with striking and instantly recognizable artwork, a stellar voice cast, and a distinctive and memorable soundtrack.
This is due to the hard work of creative directors who remained most consistent throughout the change in studios, including Director Takahiro Omori and composer Makoto Yoshimori. A story this complex requires a good hand to lead it, and a world this cool requires a soundtrack to make it sing.
Durarara may very well be a "work that becomes a new genre in itself," the same way Bebop was. In this case, Durarara is a modern urban Rashomon of the 21st century, where the occult, the criminal, the mad, and the romantic collide. It is to the generation that became obsessed with it what Bebop was to generations earlier.
Durarara!! is now available for streaming on Funimation.