Durarara!! 15 – The Measure of Strength
Shuji Niekawa’s search for strength in Ikebukuro is interesting. He wants to write a magazine article about the strongest person in the city, but right from the start he seems to get it wrong because his approach is all out of whack.
For one thing, the word “strength” itself is so vague. There are so many different kinds of strength — can one really be placed on top of another so easily? Shuji narrows his search to focus on physical strength and determines (through his own observation and through interviews) that Shizuo is the strongest person in Ikebukuro. Certainly seems like a good choice at first glance. When Shizuo lets loose, which is often, he is capable of unleashing holy hell upon anyone in his way. Being on the opposite side of a pissed-off Shizuo is a frightening experience. Outside of, perhaps, Simon, nobody in Ikebukuro seems to be a match for Shizuo from a physical standpoint.
But is he the strongest around?
Simon is dismissed early because he is described as a pacifist, and Celty removes herself from the running by saying that Shizuo is much stronger than her. However, one conversation Shuji has in the middle of the episode shows that Izaya is in fact the strongest person in the city, at least by mortal standards. This shouldn’t be — and probably isn’t — a surprise to viewers of the series, but to Shuji the thought never crosses his mind for even a moment.
Why is that? Because Shuji is looking for outward signs of strength, possibly because readers/editors are going to be impressed by a man who is such a physical beast, and possibly because Shuji is searching for strength not just outside of himself but within himself as well. He doesn’t want to be the pathetic man who lives paycheck to paycheck by writing cheap articles, and whose wife ran away from him and whose daughter won’t have anything to do with him, despite the fact that they live together. Instead, he wants to be the kind of man he writes about: The man whose strength is such that he won’t let anyone or anything stand in his way (just listen to him recall Shizuo’s attack on him; the only one more turned on by Shizuo’s strength is Celty, which is a whole different post, haha).
Meanwhile, Izaya’s strength blows by Shuji because it is all subtle, even though Izaya lets Shuji know exactly how strong he is through the course of their conversation. There are so many little things that would escape the grasp on an outsider: The breadth of the information Izaya possesses (he even knows a lot about a seemingly inconsequential guy like Shuji, although doubtless he combed his sources for as much info as possible), the way he directs Shuji away from himself but not in a way that destroys Shuji’s curiosity about Shizuo (which might end up being useful for Izaya) and even reducing Namie, an influential figure in the Ikebukuro underworld, to his personal tea girl.
All minor things; all inconsequential and meaningless at their face (although the information about his daughter certainly put a brief scare into Shuji). But none of them are at all random, even if they may not be recognized as such by the person they are directed toward. In a way, Izaya is playing a game with Shuji, having a secret laugh about how misguided his search for strength in Ikebukuro really is.
Sure, if you look at the surface, Shizuo is obviously the strongest in Ikebukuro. But look at the people who matter in the underworld: The yakuza dude mentions that physical strength alone doesn’t really cut it these days. Intimidation and fighting is good for keeping a reputation, but for actually building that reputation, it is the mind that is important. Information and manipulation is what garners power — and whom do we know who is especially adept at those two things?
So Shuji is bumbling along with a misguided idea of what exactly entails “strength” in modern times. And to top it off, as he gets deeper into the question of just exactly who the strongest in Ikebukuro is, Shuji is apparently attacked by the Slasher (looking suspiciously like his daughter, wink wink). Shuji then comes under the Slasher’s influence and discovers that the question of strength is beyond his understanding. He tries to make sense of this phenomenon in Ikebukuro but instead falls victim to one of the strong that a person would never see in a magazine article.
There are so many different kinds of strength — there is physical strength, there is mental strength and then there is the strength that just makes you go mad. That is the kind of strength Shuji just cannot beat. How do you defeat something that is inherently beyond human understanding? And something that is, unlike Celty, apparently utterly callous and without feeling. Haruna Niekawa could be the Slasher, but wouldn’t it be more fun if she were just one of many, a tool to make a certain man more miserable than he already is? Anri could be the Slasher, as some suspect, but she is obviously not the origin. That is an evil more sinister and unfathomable than the pages of an article could express.
Couple of random thoughts to close out the post . . .
– Kuzuhara is a lot less intimidating without the motorcycle cop getup, isn’t he? Looks like he should be conducting the train in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
– On the other hand, Shizuo looks HILARIOUS with a motorcycle helmet. No wonder he takes it off later.
– I like the food for thought in this episode, but the show is still dancing around everything right now instead of moving forward. Can’t be too critical because the sinister tone of the episode is nice, but it also doesn’t give a view of Ikebukuro that is terribly different than it was before.