Anime I’ve Seen: Darker than Black
Posted by travizzt on January 30, 2011
It’s time for another “Anime I’ve Seen: Extended Cut”! For those of you who are just joining us, “Anime I’ve Seen: Extended Cut” is a longer version of my “Animes I’ve Seen” list. The ‘original’ article is up on Clan of the Fanboys. Also, this is not a review of the anime I’m checking out. Instead it’s just my thoughts and opinions on the show and to get those who aren’t interested in anime to let them know if it’s worth it or not. Sit back and enjoy a look at Darker than Black.
Darker than Black is set ten years ago when an area of abnormal behavior and dangers opened up in Tokyo. The area was dubbed “Hell’s Gate”. After the appearance of “Hell’s Gate”, the world changed. The stars disappeared and were replaced with new, unreal ones. A few people started developing special powers and abilities, and when these abilities manifest, a new star is born. These people are known as Contractors. Thankfully, the world at large do not know about the existence of these Contractors, due in part to organizations removing memories of those who have seen the Contractors powers. Well, those who are not a target of the Contractor. These Contractors aren’t human. They are logic based beings that do not base decisions on emotions. However, Contractors are not overpowered super-beings. Every time that a Contractor uses their powers, they must pay a price involuntarily. Various governments and organizations train and uses Contractors to gain information, recover various things, or to kill targets. During a conflicted called Heaven’s War, Contractors were hired to deal with the situation. This lead to the United States falling from a world power, and an organization called the Syndicate taking its place.
The story follows a young man named Hei who works with a team for the Syndicate. Hei is a Contractor and is given various jobs to perform. But it soon becomes clear that Hei isn’t a normal Contractor. All Hei is after is information regarding his missing sister. Along the way, he and his team grow closer, even going as far as risking their lives for each other.
There are two words I can use to describe Darker than Black, exciting and dark. This isn’t a happy-go-lucky show, but even so, I really enjoyed it. The blend of science-fiction and fantasy elements had me interested and the characters kept me coming back. This series was dark, but still surprisingly fun. Then again, I’m a sucker for a dark story-line.
The basic story is kind of generic. It’s still good, but there isn’t anything really earth-shattering awesome. Well, except for the dark turns it takes. The story seems to be played out in little episodes that sort of do tie into the overall story-arc. What I mean is that two episodes focus on one story and then change into another story for two episodes. Basically, each couple of episodes focused more on minor characters for a time, which was an interesting way to tell the story. However, it feels like the overall story is something that I’ve seen elsewhere.
The biggest highlight of this show are the fantastic characters. There are two main characters in this series. The first is Hei and the other is Misaki, the section-chief for Foreign Affairs. Hei is Darker than Black‘s main focus. There was a lot of depth and mystery with his character and that made him all the more interesting. There isn’t a lot known about him when we first meet him. Overtime, we learn more about who he is and how different he is compared to other Contractors. This makes him interesting. At first, I never thought that he was any different, but there are subtle hints of who he really is. With Misaki, she’s driven and you quickly respect her. She’s in charge of a small team to take down Contractors. She doesn’t have that big of an overall impact except for a few episodes which really develop her character. One of my favorite episodes was when the focus was on her and her relationship to a long-time friend. It was just shocking to see what happened, and because of what happened, you learn that there is something more to her. The main characters were good, but the best is yet to come.
The main characters pale in comparison to the supporting and minor characters. The rest of Hei’s Syndicate team were great, except for the fact that they seemed to take a long time to become interesting. They are still great characters, but for most of the series, everyone except for Hei doesn’t really start as much. That said, they still stole the show at the end. My favorite reoccurring character of this series is Yin. Yin is a Doll, which also appeared after “Hell’s Gate” came into existence. Dolls are emotionless beings who are like mediums. Their powers consist of a kind of spying, however they have to be in contact with a certain substance and the target has to be near such a substance. In order to use her power, Yin has to be in contact with water. Going back to why she’s my favorite character, she seems to be the most developed character in this show. She goes into a gradual, yet totally unexpected change during the show. It just surprised me and really touched me. The two episodes that focus on her back-story were my absolute favorite episodes. It added a lot to her character and really brought her into the spotlight. The groups human handler, Huang, took a while to start to like. He’s unlikable to the point of almost being unbearable. Thankfully, the couple of episodes that Huang was the focus of were great and really made me like him after that point. It was surprising to see him as such a deep character, deeper than I suspected at least. The last character in the main group is Mao, a Contractor who is stuck in the body of a black cat. He’s a decent character who does bring some levity to the show, but doesn’t have that big of an impact. These three have a bigger focus, however, there are others who are as good.
For example, the MI6 Contractors. These three characters show up early in the series and reappear throughout its course. That said, they are probably the most memorable characters in the show. Let’s start with the most memorable character, November 11. He is just fantastically awesome. There is no other way to say it. He seriously steals every scene he’s in. Think of James Bond, but make him thirty-times more awesome with the power to freeze water by touch along with having a twisted sense of humor. He’s just awesome, there is no other way to say it. The other two MI6 Contractors were good, but didn’t really say much. April, who has the power to create rainstorms, was interesting, but she wasn’t around long enough to really make a huge impact. Rounding their group is a boy named July. He had an impact, but it was so subtle that you may miss it. July is a Doll who uses glass to observe things. He’s the first real indication that Dolls could be more than they appear, aside from what happens to Yin. These three were good, but still the pale in comparison to the minor characters in the series.
If I were to talk about all the minor character in Darker than Black, I would be here for hours and days just typing about them. They were fantastic and really made this show awesome to watch. For the most part, these characters only show up for two episodes, but they leave a lasting impact for a long time. From the woman we meet in the first two episodes, to the schoolgirl in the next two, and so on, they just made this story that much better. They added so much that it’s unbelievable that such minor characters can stick with you for a long time. They also gave the story emotional impact, which left a lasting mark until the end. I do have a few favorites, but a certain duo somehow always made me smile, Gai Kurasawa and Kiko Kayanuma. Gai is a private detective and Kiko is his partner. What I really liked about them is that they brought humor into an otherwise humorless story. Gai may have been a bumbling fool and Kiko an extremely nerdy Okatu, but there was just something about them that made the series much more enjoyable.
I have to mention that I like the idea of Contractors. The most basic way to explain a Contractor is that they are a kind of superhero, due to the powers they have. However, emotions don’t play into who they are and don’t affect what they do. They can show emotions, but don’t react to them. Also that have to perform rituals every time they use their powers and abilities. That is what I liked about them. Basically, Contractors are this powerful beings that can’t be that overpowering. After using their powers, Contractors have to pay a price. The price is different for each Contractor. Some prices may be rather tame, for example smoking a cigarette (November 11) or downing a beer (April). Others are more sever, for example drinking the blood of children (Havoc) or regressing (Amber) or progressing (Alma) in age. Paying a price on using these ‘superpowers’ really made this series and the concept very interesting and intriguing. It also brought up a lot of questions about how today’s superheroes would be under these restrictions.
Unfortunately, there were things that can turn you off to Darker than Black. The main problem with this series is that if a new character is introduced in an episode, you can bet that they are going to die by the end of their two episodes. It’s a shame that there are so many episodes that end like this. It should have been a surprise when a character dies and not something that is to be expected. The other issue with Darker than Black is the CGI scenes. They just look awful and distracting. CGI is used for car scenes, the show’s second intro, and here and there throughout the series. The car scenes aren’t terrible, but feel unnecessary. However, everything else just looks out of place and silly. Thankfully, this isn’t something that could turn the average viewer away.
Overall, I really liked Darker than Black. I do think it is a show that could get you into anime. However, I do have to say that you have to like darker tones in order to really enjoy this. Also, there is supposed to be a second season titled Darker than Black: Twins of the Meteor is going to be released and dubbed sometime this year! I can’t wait to check it out!
This entry was posted on January 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Anime I've Seen. Tagged: Amber, Anime, Anime I've Seen, Aniplex, Bones, Contractors, dark story, Darker than Black, Doll, FUNimation, Heaven's War, Hei, Hell's Gate, Huang, Mao, MI6, Misaki Kirihara, powers, Toyko, Yin. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.