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
I find it ironic that even though Shizuo and Izaya are like equally obsessed with each other, when it comes down to it, Izaya is the one who is able to move on.
Izaya was jealous with Shizuo gaining friends and hurt he didn’t come to visit him in the hospital. But they had their death match and after he expresses everything he’s felt in that, Izaya leaves Ikebukuro and moves on.
He can’t truly move on because he’s physically scarred by Shizuo and scared of him, but he’s trying to move on. He’s attempting to move on, reflecting on his mistakes and how his love for humans was impure and how he wants to know more about humans. Izaya is still tied to Shizuo by his scar, but he looks to the future. He moves on to new humans, dealing with a new environment and new people. He has less difficulty moving on than one would expect from a man so physically and emotionally scarred. He gets people to interview Kadota, Shiki, Shizuo and Shinra but that’s about all the connection he allows to the past (excluding that of his physical disability)
On the other hand, two years have passed in SH and Shizuo hasn’t forgotten Izaya. Everyone else has forgotten Izaya, in idle talk of Ikebukuro’s residents people joke if there was an information broker like that. Shizuo even has to ask Celty if she remembers Izaya, and Celty deals with Izaya in business the most. It’s natural to forget Izaya who hasn’t shown a trace of himself in years.
But Shizuo can’t forget him. Shizuo has always wanted to live his life in peace and thinks it’s because of Izaya that he can’t have peace. But Izaya is gone and he still doesn’t have peace. He has all the capacity to live a peaceful life but his fuse is shorter, he’s more (seemingly) tamed but he’d even lay his hands on Kuon, a kid, because his anger outlet is gone. He even misses Izaya so much despite wanting him to disappear from his sight and leave him in peace that he asks Celty what it would have been like if Izaya and him had been on better terms.
Shizuo says it would have saved the city a lot of trouble, but is it really? He said he was looking at the building they destroyed the other day. That building of their death match. That’s only like one smidgen of what Izaya and him have done to Ikebukuro’s infrastructure. So why that particular building?
Because it was where he last saw Izaya. Because he probably regrets almost killing Izaya that day, because it caused him to leave Ikebukuro and him alone.
Because Shizuo is alone. Shizuo doesn’t have to be alone. He has friends. He has Celty, Shinra, Kasuka, Tom, he even knows the Raira kids somewhat, he has Yahiro now, someone who’s seen as a monster like him. He may be seen as a monster by most but when it comes to the people who really matter, he isn’t.
But Shizuo is alone, because Shizuo has isolated himself in his self-hatred propagated by society’s view of him as a monster. He doesn’t think he can be a normal human, he truly believes he must be a monster deep inside and should be away from humans. But Shizuo is human, and so he wants to make connections with humans, even if they’re shallow. While not realizing the connections he makes are not shallow at all.
And Izaya is the only one who has been able to deal with that. Because to Shizuo, Izaya is his only equal. Izaya is the only other monster. Because Izaya is the only one who can stand up to him without fear.
Whether he loves Izaya or not, that much is true. Shizuo misses his equal. He misses the person who could face him without fear and would even provoke him even though he’s a monster. He misses the man who would come back to him no matter how many times he pushed him away with his violence.
He misses the person who is just as bad, or worse person as him, and whom he doesn’t have to feel afraid of hurting.
Because Izaya is a flea. He’s a monster in a different way. Shizuo is a monster like a demon, one you want to never piss off and one you want to stay far away from. Izaya is a monster because he’s just not like normal people even though he’s an ordinary person, and Shizuo has given that monster the name, ‘the flea’.
And that’s why Izaya can’t be human. Because if he becomes human, Shizuo will be the only monster left.
And if he’s human, was human all along, then Shizuo would have done what he’s feared and tried to avoid all along -
So I started watching Durarara again and I had forgotten that Shizuo was voiced by Daisuke Ono, who also voices Erwin. But I also found out that Izaya was voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya, who also does Levi’s voice.