Preferred Version: Japanese
I have to say, I never gave the English dub of this show a chance. This was for a few reasons. First of all, the dialogue in episode 1 is rather awkward, and is noticeably worse in English. That said, the performance of Bryce Papenbrook (Masaomi Kida) picks up considerably in the next episode, and stays consistent throughout. My other reason being that the Japanese Shizuo is completely unmatched in enthusiasm and ability. He is truly amazing in the role. Crispin Freeman, his English counterpart, makes a valiant effort, but ultimately falls somewhat short. Also of note is Simon. Its a shame that there aren’t as many actors of color that are prominent in the voice business, at least in anime. While Patrick Seitz does alright, it’s simply not very convincing.
This time around, i gave the dub a chance, and was pleasantly surprised. The whole series is available to view in English on Crunchyroll (in 480p unfortunately), and i highly recommend it. Johnny Yong Bosh is a particular stand-out as the menacing Izaya Orihara, and seems to really have fun in the role. Bosch, while known for his lead roles as the hero, is even better playing villains in my opinion, as evidenced here.
After seeing Durarara!! for the first time, i felt the pacing was too slow in comparison to Baccano!, the previous story by Ryohgo Narita. I preferred Baccano! for its superior dub, faster pacing, and great action. I also disliked how none of the slasher’s victims died in Durarara!!, while in Baccano!, many people die. It seemed like the writers were playing it too safe. This was my first impression, and i no longer find this to be accurate, at least the latter. I still prefer the Baccano! dubbing.
As of right now, I’ve re-watched the first 17 episodes in English, and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. On the second watch, I’ve noticed foreshadowing, as well as short little easter eggs of Isaac and Miria (characters from Baccano!) on screen. I now see that while Baccano! specializes in pure action, Durarara!! deeply explores characterization and very fucked up romance. Mika Harima for example, (spoilers) …
… undergoes surgery and plays the role of Celty, in order to be with Seiji. After the truth is revealed, they accept their fake love and keep playing along. According to Harima, “its better than the real thing”. Fascinating.
This is the kind of originality that makes Narita such a captivating storyteller, as well as the “Pulp Fiction-esque” timeline observed in each episode. Narita has truly created a mystical universe, and I’m very excited for Durarara x2 as well!