Hey, I've been struggling with Shizuo's characterisation for a very long time and I was wondering if you could possibly give me some advice as analyst and writer yourself on this issue?
Sure, I’ll do my best. I’m always happy to talk about Shizuo, I love him so much!
1. Don’t stereotype him
Because Shizuo is hard to understand, it’s tempting to stereotype him in order to understand him or to try to get a grasp of his character. However, don’t do this, as it simplifies his character, even inaccurately. For example, don’t write him as a ‘brute’ or a ‘tsundere’ just because he shows some characteristics of those two stereotypes. Because Shizuo is deeper than his characteristics. For example tsunderes have a hostile attitude towards the one they love, and then gradually warm up to them. It might be tempting to see Shizuo as tsundere, but he is really not. Because one core aspect of Shizuo is his honesty, and tsunderes…aren’t so honest.
2. Perceive him as a quiet individual
I find this helps a lot. Back when I didn’t know novel Shizuo, I wrote him as his loud self and didn’t give him many moments of reflection. His novel self is often mild and quiet, except when Izaya is involved. But if you want a more real moment between him and Izaya, while he may not be exactly quiet, he is blunt, honest and perceptive with Izaya. He confronts Izaya seriously. Try to access that part of his character instead of letting him shout and yell at Izaya all the time. In reality, he’s highly introverted. And has been socially isolated.
3. Acknowledge his intelligence
I cannot stress this enough. Please don’t see Shizuo as stupid or idiotic or a dumb brute as Izaya may call him just because he gets angry often. Shizuo is not only intelligent and perceptive, he’s also witty -
only I had a reason to believe that other 1%, we would’ve been on much better
terms…isn’t that right, Izaya-kun?”
“In other words…those chocolates you’re holding, they’re good ‘funeral offerings’ from girls, right…? Iiii-zaaaaa-yaaaa-kuuuuun!”
“Heh… for once we share the same sentiments. I have no interest in Christmas either. And that’s why I was just thinking of getting a head start with some massive cleaning. Great, before the year ends let’s settle this once and for all!”
I don’t know how he can joke while being angry at the same time lol! But yeah, Shizuo is not just smart, he’s intelligent, he just shows his intelligence in a different way from Izaya.
4. Treat him as you treat Izaya
Most people are Izaya fans, and Izaya is very different from Shizuo. He also seems ‘mysterious’ and complex compared to Shizuo. So, treat Shizuo the way you treat Izaya. Treat him, write him, analyze him as complex a character as Izaya. Question his every action like you do with Izaya. Look deeper into the meaning of his actions like you would analyze Izaya. Try to figure out the meaning of his words like you would Izaya. Because Shizuo (despite what Izaya may think) also considers himself an outcast like Izaya, and so he does have similarities with Izaya like isolating himself, observing people, etc. He just isn’t flamboyant about it due to his lack of self-confidence, like Izaya is.
5. Write him with his honesty
Shizuo is bluntly honest. One tip I would give would be when, writing Shizuo, to make him as honest as possible. Along with being quiet, I tend to write him as ‘quietly honest’, if that makes sense. Whether he’s being perceptive or angry or mellow, Shizuo is almost always honest. And when he isn’t, it’s likely that he isn’t being dishonest - he just doesn’t comprehend his thoughts and feelings (this can come in the figuring out the meaning of his words part - does he really mean what he says or is he still trying to figure his feelings out himself? This is something I take into account when I analyze him)
6. Recognize he has his own logic
While it may be hard to comprehend Shizuo’s logic, it’s helpful to consider his logic on a different level from yours and normal humans. So what may make sense to Shizuo may not make sense to you. I think a good start would be trying to see from his point of view, why did he say this? What did he mean? What could have caused him to say this? You might want to check out my mbti post on Shizuo for an example on how I deconstruct Shizuo’s logic. (I also found writing him as INTP helps, there was a shift in my characterization of him when I saw him as using intuition instead of sensing like the anime seems to portray. Though INTP is just a way for me to ‘categorize’ my perception and understanding of him, it doesn’t say anything the novels don’t say)
7. Observe his interaction with other characters
Because Shizuo is honest, a good way to learn more about him would be to look at how he interacts with people, not just Izaya. Celty, Kasuka, Akane, Tom, Vorona, Kadota, Shinra - Shizuo shows different sides of him in his different relationships. With Celty he shows how he’s surprisingly self-disclosing and loyal, with Tom and Kasuka his respect and gratitude, with Vorona his care over his first kouhai, with Akane his consideration for other people’s feelings, with Kadota a mutual respect, with Shinra his tolerance but also long-term acceptance of his first friend. Looking (and writing) how Shizuo acts in his different interactions with people will lead you to understand his character better.
8. Look into his perception of Izaya
Just like Izaya has mixed perceptions of Shizuo, sometimes seeing him as a monster and other times as a superhuman, Shizuo too has mixed perceptions of Izaya. While Izaya is always a flea, Shizuo has expressed acknowledgement of Izaya being alone like him when he gets into trouble. He also confronted Izaya about the Slasher instead of attacking him immediately, showing calmness and perceptiveness, letting him go when Celty arrived and showed him the Saika messages. He said he wouldn’t kill Izaya if Izaya would leave him alone and stay out of Ikebukuro, meaning he doesn’t necessarily want Izaya dead, contrary to what he tells Izaya and how he acts. Look for what is novel in his perception of Izaya, what he says about Izaya, and you should be able to learn more about his character, both individually and in relation with Izaya.
9. Read (or reread) his scenes in the novels
The anime left out a lot about Shizuo in the novels, especially in the first season. In the novels such as when he’s escaping from the Awakusu-kai, you get to read his thoughts and see how he thinks. In the Saika arc, you learn about his background, his self-deprecation and how he’s afraid to love. In the reporter part, you get to see how he’s really normally mild (even while trying to control his temper) and how fast he can blow up but also how fast he can cool down. All this contributes to a huge part of Shizuo’s dyanmic characterization.
10. Analyze and write him with acceptance
I write Shizuo with love, but I think acceptance is enough haha. Simply put, just take Shizuo as he is. Don’t try to change him, don’t try to make him do something he wouldn’t do for the plot, don’t try to make up your own interpretation of him and force a square peg into a round hole. Just accept him and try your best to understand him as the complex character he is, and the result will be worth it.
Durarara is so weird because it’s like, do you want to see a bunch of middle schoolers beat the shit out of each other on the street? Do you want to watch an ancient mythical Irish fairy face off against the mafia and Russian assassins?? A man hurling parked cars at another grown ass man who spends most of his time apparently skipping down the street and cackling???boy have I got the show for you
Hey, I'm curious. Is there anything psychologically different between Novel-Izaya and Anime-Izaya, and is there any difference between Novel-Shizuo and Anime-Shizuo?
Oh my, where do I even begin?
There are definitely things psychologically different from Novel-Izaya and Anime Izaya.
(Fun fact - Anime is an anagram of Namie, I just mispelled it lol)
I talked about it in this post some time ago. Generally, anime Izaya is made to seem invincible especially in the first season. And because they left out important novel scenes, there’s inconsistency in his character. For example, how did he get knocked out so easily by Slon while talking to Kujiragi when he had the advantage before? It was actually because Kujiragi mentioned Shizuo and Izaya ‘fell silent’. She spoke about Shizuo being a hindrance and thanked Izaya for landing him in jail.
Whether he was worried about Shizuo or not, Izaya’s moment of silence and the description of his bad feeling shows that he’s not invincible even though he suddenly seemed to gain the upper hand. He was affected by his human feelings and emotions when Kujiragi mentioned Shizuo, for whatever reason.
I took that as a Shizaya moment because it was very unusual for Izaya. But the point is, Izaya has human feelings and emotions that can render him vulnerable to unexpected consequences and is definitely not invincible, even though he may seem like it.
This link was something the anime left out, the novels expands on this further with his conversations with other characters and the telephone pole scene where he punched a telephone pole as he thought of betraying Shinra.
In retrospect Shinra, who lived confidently above this world, did invoke some jealousy in him.
Yet he was attempting to betray even a friend like that. Not a friend by Izaya’s standards, but a “friend” as defined by most people in the world.
He’ll probably be mad at me if he finds out that I went to meet Celty taking the head with me.
Izaya couldn’t help but laugh slightly as he pictured his only “friend” by the world’s standards getting mad at him.
There is nothing to be afraid of.
This is the way I have lived my life all along, he laughed as he thought –
Laughed – Laughed –
He clenched his right fist and slammed it hard into the telephone pole next to him.
- Durarara Volume 9
This was a very important scene in Izaya’s character development especially after they showed his past with Shinra, his only friend. It shows Izaya’s conflict over his own desires which has governed the way he has lived all along and one of his only two relationships - the friendship he has with his only friend. Izaya was affected by a human relationship, and it really shows he isn’t some villain but just an abnormal human who is eternally true to his own desires (but is still affected by relationships like everyone else)
I’m working on a theory for Izaya’s attachment to humanity. It’s taking much longer than I thought since I lack the time to sit down and finish it. But I intend on showing how Izaya is actually very human. It will of course include reference to the Shinra stabbing incident as Izaya said himself it was probably the only thing that affected the formation of his personality in a significant way. I’ll also refer to the interviews about Izaya in his novel. So I’m currently integrating all the information together, both old and new about Izaya to formulate a theory that may explain Izaya’s attachment to humanity. You might want to look out for that if you’re interested in the psychology of novel Izaya.
Other than novel Izaya not being invincible (both psychologically and outwardly), I guess another psychological difference would be that Izaya is actually a very private person. The impression I got from the first season was that Izaya was a very open person (not open-mindedness, as in socially open).
But Izaya behind all his talk and interaction is actually very private. You don’t see it in the anime, but in the novel he thinks to himself a lot, reflects quite a bit, and generally is…very confident in his own identity internally. For example, Mikado’s first impression of Izaya was not that he was a weird person, but that he looked like an ‘intellectual that gave tuition in some remote district’. It speaks to the demeanor novel Izaya has that Mikado would form such an impression of him.
Even though he might seem open with humans, Izaya actually keeps to himself a lot. Shinra said himself in his interview that Izaya’s not the type to stand in front of people. You can see that in both the novel and anime version of middle school Izaya. While he was portrayed like a rebel in the anime, in the novel he was just distant and enjoying observing humans. He was actually a model student, not a rebel, so that’s another difference in portrayal there.
What a strange guy.
I’ll just keep observing him in the future.
But I have to watch out. Getting too close to him might be dangerous.
So this is just a small scene when Izaya thinks as he watched Shinra leave to go home to Celty (though he didn’t know that yet). But even with Shinra Izaya is already distancing himself. He tells himself he can’t get too close to Shinra, can’t let himself be too affected and involved in their friendship. Perhaps he’s apprehensive Shinra wouldn’t satisfy his expectations, perhaps he just doesn’t want to become like everyone else - whatever the reason is, Izaya has, since young, kept a distance between himself and humans. So much that he has to be ‘wary’ when he feels himself getting closer to Shinra than necessary.
At first sight, he looked like a gentle-natured man of slender build, but his features had a relative sharpness in them, making him the perfect exemplification of the word “handsome”. He was smiling as if willing to accept anything in the world as part of him; yet at the same time his eyes shone without mercy as if he held contempt for everything except himself. The way he dressed was idiosyncratic, but it was hard to point at why. Overall, he gave an elusive and mercurial vibe.
- Durarara Volume 5
What are the implications of this? Well, it just shows how distant Izaya is from humans. And how he keeps to himself. Even though he’s handsome, it doesn’t matter to him, and he may only use his good looks for human observation and not any socialization. He has a stable internal perception of his love for humans, so he’s willing to accept anything, but at the same time he’s the only one who understands his love for humans so he holds a contempt for everything except himself.
One reason why could be his tendency to keep things to himself and how he’s a private person. Like, he says he loves humans and declares love for humans but except with Shinra (and a reluctant Shizuo), doesn’t try to form any sort of relationship with them. He doesn’t try to connect to them in a way they can understand (maybe because he can’t because of his upbringing) and so they can’t understand him. And so he’s left with him only understanding himself and being shunned and outcast from society, which will naturally breed contempt.
That might be why Izaya seems mysterious and ‘elusive’ - because he’s such a private person. He’s more introverted in the novels, in that it seems natural for him to be alone with his thoughts. I guess you can kind of see this in Volume 5 where he’s shown to have stayed at an internet cafe alone while working on his plans for the city, left alone and walked away alone, he basically just does things alone.
Novel Izaya is also not in control of everything. Well you can see that in the anime as well when he got knocked out twice. But I mean, he’d move the piece that will give him the most advantage, but generally he’s open to any result. He just seems like he’s in control all the time because he accepts everything that happens (except with Shizuo). Because he loves humans unilaterally and doesn’t have any personal feelings or relationships with them (except Shinra and Shizuo) So again, he’s not invincible in his predictions. He does have some idea of how things will go and what he wants to see, but he’s less of a ‘mastermind’ in that sense. He’s still a mastermind, but has less of the ‘mastermind mindset’? In that he doesn’t expect everything to go according to plan.
And I suppose novel Izaya is more sensitive. You don’t see it in the anime, but when he was left out of hotpot, it was mentioned he ‘felt more lonely than usual’. Tsukumoya said that he’s lonely but accepts that loneliness. And he was not happy at being left out of the events of Volume 4, which is part of the reason why he wanted the ‘city’s holiday’ to be over. He’s more human in that sense. Like, he’s a logical minded man, but he actually acts on his feelings quite a bit. He is affected by his feelings, sometimes even driven by them (like in the death match with Shizuo) and is definitely human.
Also, novel Izaya is more like a child. As in, there are various times in which he’s described like a kid having fun. So in that sense he really doesn’t have any malice. He just wants to see, like a kid discovering more about the world. Shiki agrees with this, in both the novels and his interview for Izaya’s novel. I’ll be expanding on this with my Izaya attachment theory in the future.