Day 7 – Durarara’s Accurate Portrayal of Subculture

Wow, I really didn’t talk much about my friendship progress in the last video, did I? Well, things were going pretty good. Post-Hidamari, I was beginning to allow people to grow close to me again as I entered the start of 2014. However, I still had one primary element that prevented me from truly creating any intimate friendships: a fear of oppression. Now, it might sound absurd to think that I was scared that people would shun me for being an otaku, given how overwhelmingly popular anime is. Hell, many of my friends were still hyped up on the Attack on Titan train in my freshman year. Still, the shame of liking Pokemon in certain parts of elementary and middle school continued to haunt me. I was part of what I saw as an oppressed subculture, an image only supported by the time I spent on 4chan, and it would take an active force to change that.

Said force ended up being Durarara. The show focuses so intently on various subcultures, from color gangs to otaku to the yakuza, that it was impossible for me to come away with anything other than an open pride for the community I was a part of. In Durarara, everyone is powerful, and everyone has a voice as part of the group they’re in. Take, for instance, the scene in episode 11 where the many members of the Dollars go from the ordinary grayscale background characters to active players on this scene, gaining power in numbers. This moment had a big impact on me at the time. The idea of gaining power from the group you’re a part of carries some degree of currency to nearly everyone of course, but at the time it served to assure me that I could display my otakudom to the world without fear, because I was a part of an important community with real power, not a lone individual as we’re so often taught in American society. This imagined community may have been a silly one to associate with so strongly, far different from traditional political alignments, and today I laugh at the idea of a community united through interests alone, with worldview playing no part in things. But it let me be more open to my friends, so I am thankful for that.

Of course, I could’ve immediately been pushed back into my hole had the reaction been bullying, which would’ve been very possible had I accidentally fallen into the wrong friend circles as I had done in the past. Instead, however, I got the greatest possible reaction: one of my closest friends among those I had made in the last 6 months or so was a massive fan of Durarara, in spite of his relatively lacking interest in anime as a whole; for the entire time I’ve known him, I tried my best to get him to watch anime, though he never made any progress on that front until leaving for college, where I couldn’t influence him.

This was magnificent. Not only could I talk about being an otaku and anime fan without fear now — something I did widely, going so far as to watch an average of two episodes a day on my phone while I had time — I could actively share my love for this series with another. Ever since moving past the point where all my friends loved Pokemon and Yugioh, I had never been able to do this with anyone in real life. Unfortunately, this may have been the slow but sure beginning of the end for the Orange chat, as the ability to talk anime with people other than them reduced their necessity to my life, but the trade-offs were more than worth it.

As a result of our shared love for Durarara, we began doing what any ordinary high school freshmen would do: we acted chuuni as shit. And certainly, it wasn’t hard. The Dollars exist as a “colorless color gang” who do nothing to bar entry, easily accessible online. While they contain supernatural members, as an organization they’re nothing of the sort. So to a couple of LARPing high schoolers, it’s easy to imagine yourself as one of them. The real Dollars fansite was a place we went with some level of frequency, because holy shit it’s so cool. Even today, I find this amazing. A jokey fansite made by a middle schooler in an anime spiralled into a much larger organization, to the point that the Dollars became a real group in the real world, no matter how juvenile and farcical in action.

My friends both online and in-person became gradually closer due to all of this. Nothing other than Durarara could have convinced me more clearly: everyone belongs to a subculture somehow, noone is a true normie in any way. Perhaps not everyone was an otaku, but they certainly were interesting. I grew away from my fear of interpersonal relationships: people could, in fact, be good. Today, this effect of Durarara remains. The show continues to excellently present the subcultures it portrays, capturing the richness of the town its set in better than almost any other work can do. It’s not easy to build such a large ensemble cast without leaving anyone underdeveloped, yet the show masterfully succeeds at it anyway. I’m so happy that this project allowed me to rewatch it, as the somewhat less fond memories I have of the second season may have maintained dominance had I not gotten the chance to do so.

While Baccano was huge in the Orange chat, Durarara wasn’t. After Nanoha, this was yet another instance of me watching anime on my own, without their guiding me. Again, this marked another step towards the dissolution of the group, but at the same it came with my developing a further sense of taste. And hell, I remember other members of the group mocking me for only watching shows on their suggestion, so I can’t say that it wasn’t an inevitable step in a necessarily coming fall. Had I not gotten the chance to express my views openly like Durarara gave me the chance to, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow the way I did in the future. For whatever I lost in doing so, it was more than worth it.

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