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Watch & Learn: SPEED GRAPHER #1 + DURARARA!! #1

Double the urban danger! Twice the mature fantasy!

I get it. Her hair's so bright, she's his living bounce board, isn't she?
I get it. Her hair's so bright, she's his living bounce board, isn't she?

For the record, the New York Comic Con/Anime Festival has the toughest foot traffic of any convention I’ve gone to. Hands down. I attend about eight conventions a year and I’ll never, ever complain about the crowds - - I just love to soak up the chaos - - but every one of this show’s aisles felt like a gauntlet. It’ll take you a good twenty minutes just to leave the con from any given point and there are no estimates for how long it’ll take to get to a booth or a panel. As such, while I had high hopes of doing coverage of the show in addition to my signing obligations and comics-related business, the double duty proved utterly impossible. I wasn’t even able to get through half of my “to-do list” - - so now you lunatics know why the updates haven’t been coming as regularly over the past few days

These are both urban fantasies about the seedy, supernatural underbellies of the big city, but they don’t actually share any other apparent links. I’m committed to getting through every title in the recent batch of suggestions, though, so that’s why I’m covering such seemingly-unrelated shows as SPEED GRAPHER and DURARARA!! together in one post. Think of it as a double-feature.

I actually watched the pilot episode of DURARARA!! already in the earliest incarnation of this column but, hey, it’s been more than a year. It might even be close to two, now. That’s enough time to warrant another look. I’d like to think my perspective has changed significantly since then.

Certainly, the introduction of the supernatural element with the headless rider feels a lot less jarring this time around. The portions about the small-town kid marveling at the fast pace of big city living do still like they’ve been edited in from a CW show, of course. And I still don’t have much inkling of how these two threads are going to tie together outside of the (obvious?) possibility that the masked biker is going to rescue the kid from a mugging or some such at some point.

Nobody knows what lurks behind that mask.
Nobody knows what lurks behind that mask.

Actually, while we’re talking about how my associations have changed, I do think it’s worth saying that I can’t separate the headless rider from a cosplayer I saw at AX. "She" looked like a curvy, well-endowed chick in skin-tight leather until “she” took off her kitty helmet and showed the world the face of a balding, mustached dude. I don’t even want to speculate on how those “breasts” got there.

As for SPEED GRAPHER, I was getting ready to bash the show for being disjointed because, good lord, the dance master with the gimp suit and Plastic Man powers doesn’t fit anywhere in this world. For once, though, I don’t feel like dismissing a show for not totally grabbing me with its first episode. If there’s an identifiable taste to the different flavors of mature, urban fantasy, this definitely felt like something that would come out of Vertigo Comics’ stable. There’s intrigue and satire here that doesn’t necessarily need to grab you by the throat just as it’s pouncing out of the gate and - - at the risk of contradicting myself - - I am intrigued to see how things unfold without necessarily being jazzed about what I’ve seen already.

As a small nitpick, though, I’ve got to say that our grim and cynical photographer has a lapse in judgment that tests credibility. He breaks his big camera out right in the middle of the secret society’s ceremonial chamber? If the guy’s really so worldly, you’d figure he might sneak off to a more hidden vantage point, or maybe even grab a snapshot with something a little less conspicuous (like a camera phone.) Then again, it’s been rather blatantly established that he gets at least some sexual gratification out of his work, so maybe he just couldn’t resist the ol’ pleasure principle.

See? When we start talking about the psycho-fetishistic drives, that’s when you know we’re dealing with something just a tad more sophisticated than usual.

Watch these episodes “Depravity City” and “Exit 1/First Words” below and decide for yourself.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here. Follow him on Twitter: @tompinchuk

Dream moderator is online on Oct. 18, 2011 at 4:10 p.m.

Let's see: one has quite a bit of sexual depravity and the other has enough over-the-top characters where any sane person would be wise not to cross them less you want to get treated to a home run from Shizuo via slamming you outta the city with a lamppost.

Masako_Hihashion Oct. 18, 2011 at 4:23 p.m.

DRRR is awesome, I hope they make a 2nd season soon

Marshal Victoryon Oct. 18, 2011 at 5:10 p.m.

DURARARA!! is so dense in plot that it may be what your was not looking for.Not that i dont highly recomend it .But from your past watch an learns the long big over arching story wasnt what you was looking for i thought.Tho this is http://www.animevice.com/baccano/11-2382/ on steroids .It gets intertwined ,overlays of character progression,sub plots an its own fetishes.

SPEED GRAPHER is more stylish ,yet less filling.Good intro music to.But its much lighter plot wise than DURARA!! Dur needs 3 episodes to wrap your head around all the characters an its movemnt of time an myth.Where as SG needs only 2 .By the second episode if you dont like SG you will not later on.As Sg goes on you could wish for a deeper story .Where as DUR you could drown the story.Both are above average .

SPEED GRAPHER also imho feels very comic book-y like tom said. It would fit well in a vetrigo series. DURARARA!! would best be described as a anime novel .

LifeByDegreeson Oct. 18, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.

Durarara!! is definitely more of a build up show- but i'd also say each episode is rather good in general.

Its a dark sitcom with a lot of interesting themes about social media and- though it handles in a more absurd manner- relationship management.

I'd watch three episodes before making any solid call.

The first episode is very much the New Kid on the Block concept- but the second episode twists things hard for the dark side- and then shifts it along- deeper and deeper.

A very good series. The overall is amazing- I only dock it for some of the plot weight loss moments placed at strange moments.

Kapwanon Oct. 18, 2011 at 5:55 p.m.

I was at AX and saw that cosplayer too. I never saw him without the helmet but I was at a panel and when he spoke on the mic the entire audience groaned with confusion and shame from getting trapped.

christopherwalkenon Oct. 18, 2011 at 6:15 p.m.

Hmmmm...

SoldierG654342on Oct. 18, 2011 at 6:24 p.m.

I just recently finished watching Durarara!! It was pretty good, though I might have just been beguiled by the vibraphones. Certainly the most well produced anime I've ever seen. That show does kind of vomit all over itself in the second arc, though.

krabbosson Oct. 18, 2011 at 6:27 p.m.

I just finished up Durarara!! about a week ago in the hopes it would turn into something as great as Baccano!

It didn't. It was very mediocre and perhaps the worst series I've ever actually completed (since I'll usually drop something if I don't like it that much).

thekokapellion Oct. 18, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.

Compared to Baccano, Durarara (it always confuses me when I write that b/c I never know when to stop) is very uneven in quality. It starts off as solid entertainment, gets much better, then proceeds to shoot itself in the foot at the end. It's also a bit more mature as a story than Baccano, which is a fantastic show but of course to call it deep would be to miss the point entirely. Durarara isn't deep either, but there's some interesting subtext about Ikebukuro itself. (I won't go into detail, but as a hint think of Hugo's Dotre Dame of Paris.) I still like Baccano better though, partially b/c it actually ends properly. I don't really like Speed Grapher that much, although it does have an awesome villain and it does get a bit better. The storyline is ridiculous. It kind of reminded me of Code Geass, oddly enough, except that Speed Grapher is obviously aimed at mostly adults instead of teenagers. I also find the characters kind of repulsive. It's pretty entertaining, though. Of course Baccano's characters aren't exactly good people either, but they're so diverse and captivating it's hard not to like them. The same goes from MOST of Durarara's cast.

WarlordPayneon Oct. 18, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.

I didn't like Speed Grapher at all, it seemed very stupid and gratuitous to me. Durarara, however, I loved. It's failry similar in structure to Baccano but I enjoyed it much more.

sotyfan16on Oct. 18, 2011 at 11:05 p.m.

Speed Grapher is an interesting series. The implications of society portrayed in the show bring a good depth and realism to it. And then you have plenty of action to go with it. Not a bad dub, either. I recommend it, Tom.

ComicMan24on Oct. 19, 2011 at 12:15 a.m.

Durarara was a very nice show, I recommend it. But this is the first time I hear about Speed Grapher.

Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamotoon Oct. 20, 2011 at 9:10 p.m.

Durarara actually looks like it's worth checking out... but Speed Grapher, I've already made up my mind on that after three episodes seen EONS ago- not doing that again. And this is coming from a guy familiar with 4chan.

Catolfon Oct. 23, 2011 at 11:31 a.m.

I say you should watch DRRR!! I'm really really enjoying it and i'm about 14 or so episodes in and I'm hooked, all the characters are likeable and I like that the -no name- characters are shown quite often as reoccurring characters.

@Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamoto: Check out DRRR!! It has not let me down yet, though i was ready to quit with the first episode considering how slow it happened to be but i'm willing to rewatch now that i know the characters so i can get a better understanding. This is the first show since Code Geass that had me wanting to rewatch.

Speaking of... TOM YOU SHOULD WATCH CODE GEASS...XD

Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamotoon Oct. 23, 2011 at 11:51 a.m.

@Catolf: You're a little late to the game w/ the Geass recommendation- Tom did the first season a little bit back.

Dig Deeper into Durarara!!

Anime adaptation of Ryohgo Narita's light novel series, Durarara!!

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