By Ryohgo Narita and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Stephen Paul.
I may have mentioned in previous books that I don’t like Orihara Izaya, who is as close as DRRR!! gets to a main antagonist. At this point, I should be writing “Admittedly, he’s not meant to be likeable”, but this is the 9th DRRR!! novel, the first anime had already aired, and Narita is well aware that his fanbase consists of a whooooooooole lot of Shizaya fans. As such, this book is an attempt to give Izaya the closest thing he can get to a sympathetic backstory, as well as flesh out his relationship with Shinra. It’s more successful in the second than the first, in my opinion. Izaya at one point thinks of himself as Shinra as complete opposites, and I can see why. Izaya proclaims he loves all humanity (except Shizuo), but this all-encompassing love does not extend itself to individual humans per se. As for Shinra, he only loves one non-human, and has no use for anyone else. If you like deeply broken twisted viewpoints, Narita is here for you.
The cover features a heaping help of Oriharas, as we also see Izaya’s twin sisters, who provide fanservice for the cover (well, Kururi does), and also have the largest role they’ve had in the books since their debut. We get their origin, so to speak, which (unsurprisingly) turns out to be related to Izaya making a cruel and nasty comment. That said, I was far more amused seeing the two of them flirt with Aoba. Aoba’s function in the story so far has been to sort of be an Izaya-lite, leading Mikado into a path towards darkness. But, as he finds, he’s rather crap at being Izaya (who he dislikes anyway), and Mikado is able to walk the dark path without any help from him. As such, it’s much more fun seeing him as an average high school freshman dealing with two girls coming on far too strong for him. He’s living every teenage boy’s dream, but somehow is more unnerved than anything else.
Mikado is actually absent from this book for the most part, though the ending suggests that this will change for Book 10. The main plot is Izaya supposedly getting kidnapped and worked over by an underground gambling ring led by a sadistic woman named Earthworm. If you read that sentence and thought “yeah right, like Izaya would be kidnapped and worked over”, you’re wrong and yet correct, in that he proves to be in total control the entire time. His hot pot partygoers have also turned into his own personal goon squad, either beating people with martial arts, breaking their digits with hammers, or just using Saika to take possession of them – no, not Anri, but another Saika user we’ve seen before. Add in a group fronting illegal drugs, and you’ve got the usual recipe for DRRR!! chaos.
That said, for all that Izaya fans will love this, this volume felt like one of those that is marking time. This is not at all uncommon with DRRR!!, and frustrated anime fans as well, as it can sometimes take a while for all the plot hammers to fire. Still, I’m sure we’re introduced to some nice payoffs down the road here. As for me? It was a good book, but needed less Izaya being Izaya.