Mikado Ryūgamine is a young man who longs for the exciting life of the big city. At the invitation of his childhood friend Kida Masaomi, he transfers to a school in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
Masaomi warns him about people he doesn't want to cross in the city: a violent man dressed like a bartender, an information merchant, and a mysterious gang called "Dollars." And to top it off, Mikado witnesses an urban legend on his first day in the city: the "Black Rider," the supposedly headless rider of a black motorcycle.
The narrative follows all of the characters equally, showing how their lives intersect, creating a greater plotline from what each character knows about a common incident.