I'm going to sound like an old geezer, but I'll say it here first:
I've watched a lot of anime in my time. Dating back from when everything was VHS, legit companies put they're tapes in large plastic cases and you were one lucky person if the tape you bought had more than one episode on it or was less than $30. And if you were buying VHS fan-subs…well, let's just say that there's a special ring in hell for those tapes.
Those were the glory days when I started watching anime and thankfully things have changed. Animation quality has gotten better (more or less), transfer quality has gone up, and storage capacity has gone way up. Which brings me to my review of soon-to-be released Durarara!! by Aniplex.
I was given the press pre-screener DVD of Durarara!! by Aniplex which contained the first 5 episodes dubbed in English. The episodes were in standard definition, 720x480, and wide screen with slight black bars on my TV.
Since I've only seen the first 5 episodes, my thought on the plot aren't final. From what I gathered, there are 2 main characters, Mikado Ryugamine, and Celty Sturluson. Ryugamine is a young kid that just moved to the Ikebukuro district in Tokyo to find adventure and new things while going to school. Celty is a dullahan, or what western audiences would call a headless horseman. It's explained in the show that dullahans are Celtic fairies that ride around in the night with their head sitting next to them. Apparently, Celty's head is gone and she's been looking for it for at least 20 years.
On top of the 2 characters I just mentioned, there are a slew of other characters that get about as much face time as Ryugamine and Celty. The only way I was able to discern those two as the main characters was that they had motives to their actions. My favorite other characters include Simon, the black Russian sushi chef, and Shizuo Heiwajima, a local bartender who is described as the embodiment of violence in the show. Trust me, when he shows up, beatings get handed out like fliers on a street corner.
The dub is nothing to get excited about. I really wish there was a subtitle version, as Ryugamine's voice was irritating. I thought it would've gotten better as the show went on, but I was proved wrong. Most of the other characters were at least tolerable. There were two interesting things I noticed about the voice acting. First was that there is a huge amount of American slang used and there were smaller characters that spoke completely in slang that sounded fairly natural. The second and more interesting note is that every episode is narrated by a different character. I think episode 3 is narrated by Simon, the black Russian sushi chef. He always speaks with a stereotypical Russian accent, like you would expect a James Bond villain to do, except when narrating. For the entire episode he has no accent while narrating except for maybe 2 lines, which I thought was weird.
Also of interesting note, during the opening sequence (OP & ED for the credits from here on out) they play a recap of the previous episodes thus far. This is normal to have before the show properly starts, but with Durarara!!, it literally goes in the middle of the OP with music cutting off for it and resuming when it's done. The music for the OP & ED is pretty good and catchy. The OP is very up beat pop rock inspired. It's not overly hard, but at the same time it not too pop. The ED is pop through and through, but ridiculously catchy. These are probably the first OP AND ED that I've looked forward to sitting through in a long time.
The animation and character design are good and likeable respectively. There was no real innovation or heavy stylization going on (unlike something like Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. I did not make that title up either). Everything works well together, but nothing stands out as awesome in the visual department.
Durarara!! seems like it'll be a great show and probably a must see as this comes out. Like I've said earlier, I only have the first 5 episodes, so instead of a TOV star rating, I'm giving this a green light and I'll be getting this when it comes out.