Durarara!!, Volume 4 – Manga Review

Durarara, Vol4

Review by: Kylee Strutt

Publisher: Yen Press
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Artist: Akiyo Satorigi
Character Design: Suzuhito Yasuda, Masayuki Sato (Cover)
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $11.99 US
Rating: OT (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

AN Ed Choice Award1
I said it once and I’ll say it one more time: admittedly I am not an easy girl to please or surprise.

A magician would have to do more than pull a rabbit out of a hat to get a reaction from me and yes, Chris Angel, I have seen people levitate before. I can say the same thing about manga but, so far, I have found myself surprised by many works and even pleased by others that did not disappoint in spinning a yarn that had me hooked from the very start. Durarara!! is that kind of story … the kind that surprises and pleases as the fourth volume closes the chapter on a most unusual tale.

In Volume 3 of the series, we learn that the old saying about not judging a book by its cover is true as we discover that that is more to Mikado Ryuugamine than one would expect from a skittish and shy young boy. In fact, he turns out to have a secret that makes him seem like a young Japanese version of Tyler Durden from “Fight Club.”

As a matter fact, Volume 4 touches on a little social experiment that Mikado participated in with a group of school friends via their computers. Suddenly this little project came to life on its own as more people began to spread the word that a fake organization known as the Dollars is growing exponentially in Ikebukuro. When Mikado’s classmates leave the project that began as something of a joke, the young man realizes that somebody must take control of this group because a lack of leadership could be dangerous.

I will say no more but you can imagine the surprise when Mikado shows us he is more than capable of carrying out a plan to bring Namie Yagiri – head of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals – down on her knees. Along with the help of Celty Sturluson and Izaya Orihara, Mikado manages to learn a lot from Namie including revealing her sick love for her brother who Mikado connects to the disappearance of one Mika Harima.

With Namie Yagiri defeated and Celty taking down the rest of her thugs, we learn the fate of the mystery girl who is unhurt and brought to the scene in time for Celty to finally get a chance to talk to her. However, Seiji Yagiri also shows up and offers the girl his hand and together they walk off like soul mates that have finally found each another.

However, Mikado wants to know the truth about what had happened to Mika Harima … causing Seiji to reveal his dark and dangerous side as he attacks Mikado. The truth about the mystery girl is finally revealed and let’s just say that it’s an unexpected twist you will not see coming. I will say no more but the outcome of that event forces Celty to confront Shinra Kishitani about his role in all of this. The result is a memorable confrontation between these two characters.

Speaking of memorable confrontations, there’s one between Orihara and Namie Yagiri who comes to discover that Izaya Orihara, who playfully walks the line between good guy and villain, really leans towards the latter in a most disturbing manner. Meanwhile, Mikado returns to school as he witnesses the even more twisted sight of Seiji and his girl together … and happy?

Certainly, the final chapters of this volume end on a sort of happy note with characters like Celty and Mikado accepting who and what they are in this world. Ikebukuro is certainly an odd place but it fits both these characters perfectly. This is actually quite unexpected but, then again, this is a series that excelled in successfully springing surprises on their readers.

While the series ends here, those of us who know the story via the light novels know that this is but the first half of the series. Of course, whether or not Narita-sensei will bring the rest of the story in manga form remains to be seen but, as a fan, I would definitely love to see their interpretation. I, for one, would love to see Narita and Satorigi collaborate again by telling the rest of this story.

Volume 4 of Durarara!! reaches a most unusual yet satisfying finale as secrets are revealed and characters come to terms with their true nature. In short, it’s exactly the bizarre outcome you would expect from a story that includes a Dullahan, a cute stalker, twisted siblings and a character who turns out to be the leader of a gang that includes half the city. There was never a shortage of surprises in this series and that alone makes Durarara!! an interesting read you will want to check out.


MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Having confronted the head of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals, Mikado’s big secret is out as he closes the book the mystery behind the girl with the scar on her neck and Namie Yagiri’s role in protecting her twisted brother, Seiji. Meanwhile, Celty comes to terms with her own existence as well as discovering the identity of the person involved with the mystery girl.

ART: A-
Visually, the series has been handled more than decently enough with recognizable characters and, of course, the city of Ikebukuro itself that manages to stand out as well. Akiyo Satorigi is good at what he does and it shows in every panel of this series.

OVERALL: A+
A worthy final chapter to this series, Volume 4 closes on a strangely positive note with a beginning that only gets more interesting as the story progresses. Narita and Satorigi-sensei has managed to surprise us every step of the way and this last volume is no different as secrets are revealed and the fate of each character becomes known.

COMPLETE SERIES GRADE: A+
An acquired taste to be sure, Durarara!! is not only an offbeat series but also a brilliant one that does not disappoint when it comes to the twists and turns the story offers. Filled with complex and mysterious characters, Ikebukuro is an interesting place because of it and the result is a tale well worth reading even if you already know the story. Here’s hoping we get to see the other half of this story straight out of the other chapters from the light novels.

Review copy provided by Yen Press

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Durarara!!, Volume 3 – Manga Review

Durarara, Vol3

Review by: Kylee Strutt

Publisher: Yen Press
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Artist: Akiyo Satorigi
Character Design: Suzuhito Yasuda, Masayuki Sato (Cover)
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $11.99 US
Rating: OT (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

AN Ed Choice Award1

Durarara!! is the type of series that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to surprises as the story slowly, yet deliciously, unravels right before you until you find yourself impressed with Narita-sensei’s brilliance. So far in this manga version of his work, he introduced us to a real city that is home to a cast of twisted and interesting resident but now, with Volume 3, Ikebukuro gets even more fascinating … and dangerous.

In the second volume, the seemingly meek Mikado Ryuugamine encounters a strange girl with a hideous scar on her neck who pleads for his help. You see, she is being chased by the Black Rider but the reason was unknown … until now. You see, in the opening chapter of Volume 3 we find the this mythical headless being who calls herself Celty Sturluson tracking the location of her missing head that she feels is somewhere in Ikebukuro.

On one of her rides around town she runs into Shizuo Heiwajima who wonders why his nemesis, Izaya Orihara, is hanging around his city. It’s clear that both men hate each another but that’s not important to Celty who suddenly encounters the girl with the scar on her neck. You see, the girl’s face is very familiar to Celty who identifies it as hers. Thus, the chase for the girl begins but then the mystery girl runs into Mikado who grabs the girl by the hand and flees from Celty.

Meanwhile, Seiji Yagiri is a witness to the events. He recognizes the girl’s face again as the very thing he has fallen in love with as he tries to stop Celty. Of course, Shizuo grabs a hold of the young man and discovers that Seiji is a little more twisted than we had all expected as he attacks Shizuo for getting in the way of the one he loves.

So now Mikado ends up with a pretty girl in his room and, while his good friend Masaomi Kida makes wild speculation of who she might be, this girl is still the biggest mystery that has made Mikado’s life a lot more interesting. Meanwhile, Celty consults with Shinra Kishitani who is still very much in love with the Irish Dullahan. Not too far away, Shinji is still hurting from his encounter with Shizuo and the fact that his “soul mate” escaped with fellow classmate Mikado. Once again, his sister – Namie Yagiri is willing to do anything for her beloved. She promises to get the girl back … but she has her own twisted agenda.

With no choice but the leave the mystery girl in his apartment, Mikado goes to school only to encounter both Izaya Orihara and the Black Rider waiting for him near the school gates. Orihara has taken a keen interest in the younger boy but it is Celty who wants a word with him. In a comical scene, a very nervous Mikado tries to sneak away from this little encounter only to find them following close behind so he has no choice but to confront them.

It is then that everything will change for Mikado as we discover something about the boy that we could not see coming. At last, Mikado has a “conversation” with Celty who reveals the truth about herself to him and the reason she was chasing the girl. While he still doesn’t trust Orihara, he turns to him for help when they discover that the girl in his apartment is missing and men who rush out and getaway in a Yagiri Pharmaceuticals van.

Suddenly, it is Mikado who continues to prove himself as a character who is stronger than he seems as he shows us his true colors. It is Mikado who organizes and executes a plan to meet with the head of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals who just so happens to be Namie who accepts Mikado’s invitation. Hatching a plan to take the boy down, Mikado quickly turns the tables in the most surprising way.

No, I’m not going to reveal what he does because you really should read it for yourself. Just trust me when I say that you will not see it coming. Again, Narita-sensei proves that he is capable pushing his talents to the limit and producing results that will not fail to impress as he does with this volume. That said, Ikebukuro continues to be a very interesting place with characters who can be twisted yet fascinating while other characters show us there’s more to them than what’s on the surface. This is what makes Durarara!! such an enjoyable read.

Volume 3 of Durarara not only pushes the story forward in the most fascinating of ways but it just keeps getting better with each chapter as we learn more about the residents of this unusual city. The Yagiri sibling’s twisted love lives aside, it is Mikado who proves to be one of the most interesting characters as he shows us who he really is in these chapters. You will not be disappointed by this volume, manga fans.


MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
While he manages to escape with the mysterious girl with the face that interests the Black Rider, Mikado’s life changes in a flash to the point that he shows us his true colors … and something else as well. Meanwhile, Celty decides to come clean to Mikado in hopes that he will understand his plight as they – along with the help of Orihara – decides to take on Namie Yagiri who is desperate to get the girl back.

ART: A-
Visually speaking, the final pages of the last chapter of this volume are nothing short of impressive and even more so since Mikado is involved. Other than that, the artwork continues to be a delight.

OVERALL: A+
One of the more powerful and impressively astonishing volumes of this series, Volume 3 will leave you on the edge of your seat and realizing how brilliant this story is as a main character shows us he is more than just a scared kid. As things get even more twisted and dangerous, it is clear that the story can only get even better making Durarara!! a manga worth reading.

Review copy provided by Yen Press

Kingyo Used Books, Volume 2 – Manga Review

Kingyo Used Books, Vol2

Review by: Eden Zacarias

Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Seimu Yoshizaki
Genre: Graphic Novel (VIZ Signature/Ikki Comix)
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

A brilliant (and very famous) manga-ka once told me that art contains a power that is far more intense than any weapon of mass destruction and that power is the ability to invoke emotions. She pointed to a favorite classic manga series of hers that she still turns to every now and then because the series brings forth precious memories and even finds inspiration in the actions of key characters. I don’t have to tell you, our readers, that manga contains this power as well because we all have favorites that have touched us in some way and – maybe – even inspired you.

This fact is what made me pick up the first volume of Kingyo Used Books, a manga series about the emotions manga can evoke. Through its characters that are introduced in each short story, we witness how manga (Kingyo uses real manga series as examples) has the ability to inspire through its pages and stories.

Once again, the Kingyo Used Books store is the focal point of eight short stories as Volume 2 introduces more characters whose lives are about to be touched by the power of manga. In the first story, we meet Sekiguchi, a high school student who is not only the Student Council’s Vice President but also a meek young man who cannot stand up against the President who is a jerk who takes what he wants from others. It isn’t until Sekiguchi discovers a manga series by manga legend, Osamu Tezuka, called “Adolph ni Tsugu.” As it turns out, the characters in that particular manga series (each called Adolph, including Hitler himself) inspire Sekiguchi to finally take a stand against the abusive President once and for all.

In another story, a familiar character from Volume 1 named Okadome shows up again as he – as a Sedori – is contracted by a mega book store called Manga Empire to find a genius bookseller named Naoaki Shiba and bring him to their main office. To sweeten the deal, Okadome is offered the rare classic, “Bara to Yubiwa” in exchange. Well, as it turns out, Okadome finds Shiba who is the same offbeat young manga fanatic who is sleeping in the cellar of Kingyo Used Books. We discover that both these characters have a lot more in common than they both think.

In another story, a young hostess named Anzu who works at a local hostess club discovers a little girl in the backroom where she often goes to take a nap. A bratty girl who comically insults Anzu, the child demands her to read an Osamu Tezuka children’s tale to her. As Anzu tries to unravel the mystery that is the little girl, she comes to discover the joys of the child’s favorite stories from the classic. Perhaps a trip to Kingyo will have a manga that will appeal to the little girl.

Natsuki takes center stage in this volume as we find that the beautiful young employee of Kingyo Used Books decides to participate in a shopping center’s big event by setting up a booth that will represent Kingyo. The task is not as easy as she thought but she gets help from a few returning characters, one of which is Shiba who is still head over heels for the attractive shopkeeper. Meanwhile, Natsuki’s father makes another appearance as he is hiding out from a gorgeous woman who happens to be connected to Natsuki.

We learn a lot more about Natsuki from these two short stories, mainly her relationship with her father and the fact that she’s not as crazy about manga as her grandfather or her cousin Billy.

In another story we meet Captain Ikaruga of Nishi High who is, by appearances, a huge manly student who is respected by all the members of his yelling squad but also the entire school. Despite his tough guy exterior, however, the young man is a closet fan of the shoujo manga classic, “Chiisana Koi no Monogatari.” Unfortunately for him, Ikaruga can’t even bring himself to even ask a bookstore vendor if the latest volume came out.

However, when he hears an older salary man ask for the same manga, a friendship blossoms between the big guy and the older man who inspires Ikaruga to not be embarrassed about his love for a manga about romance. After all, since when does manga have to be solely for one specific gender when it is meant to be enjoyed by everyone?

In the final story, Kawai, the son of the crowned “Manga King” is asked to bring manga from his father’s collection. When asked what kind of manga to bring, a fellow classmate named Tokizane asks for a manga series that will take him far away. So Kawai’s father recommends the classic, “Galaxy Express 999” (great choice, by the way). It inspires the kid to take a train ride someplace far and Kawai, sensing something wrong with his friend, decides to go with him.

As it turns out, the journey on the train turns out to be a personal quest for Tokizane as Kawai comes to realize things about this classmate’s life that he never realized. An unexpected turn of events makes Tokizane come to realize a painful truth that leads to an emotional moment between the boy and a man in his life that he sees as something of a villain.

Finally, we get a short chapter involving Billy and Grandpa who discover the truth behind the spade mark on the spine of a particular manga publishing house. As Grandpa imagines a far more romantic reason for the placement of the symbol, Billy does some research that uncovers the real reason.

With the exception of the story involving a tough guy with a soft spot for a shoujo manga as well as the first introductory tale, Volume 2 just doesn’t make the same impact as the first volume. The first volume contained stories that served as true reminders of why we love manga so much. The majority of the stories here aren’t even inspirational and although we learn more about Natsuki she still isn’t an interesting character.

Failing to capture the emotional resonance that the first volume managed to display so easily in its storytelling and characters, Volume 2 of Kingyo Used Books feels more like an afterthought that misses the mark completely. This is too bad, really, since this manga is about real manga titles that serve to inspire the characters. Still, there are some interesting moments that make this volume worth a glance but if this is the direction the series is going you will find yourself wanting to skip this particular book store.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN


STORY: C-

The collection of stories includes a young host club waitress who turns to the manga version of a well-known children’s story to connect with a little girl that shows up in the club and, in another story, a manga series involving three characters named Adolph inspires a high school student to stand up against the class jerk. There are even stories involving returning cast of characters like Natsuki, Naoaki Shiba and the sedori characters.

ART: A
Yoshizaki-sensei’s artwork is topnotch and one of the highlights of this series to be sure. Personally, I’m not all that crazy about the covers for this series but this is just a minor gripe considering the fact that the characters look good and the backgrounds are striking.

OVERALL: C-
Volume 2 of Kingyo Used Books is a disappointing read that just falls flat in its storytelling or its main theme that manga has the power to inspire. Two of the stories do just that but the rest is just not endearing enough to make this a volume I would gladly recommend. Here’s hoping the next volume will remedy the flaws this volume introduces.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media