Darker than Black – a Really Good Combination of Sci-Fi and Everyday Life REVIEW

(c) MBS, BONES, Tensai Okamura

Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha (黒の契約者) is one of the most popular and cherished anime of the last years. It is also very well thought and a real gem within those series that are the origin of a manga and not the vice-versa. Having started it and stopped watching several times before actually getting attached to it, I would have to say that this anime is one really good anime with a lot more to have given to the viewers than what we got in Darker than Black : Ryuusei no Gemini (流星の双子(ジェミニ)…

The story of Darker than Black is simple as one very long description of it…Everything revolves around two strange places that occur like black holes on the planet – Heaven’s and Hell’s Gates. The latter – a sudden wall that separates a specific area of Tokyo. With its appearance the real stars have disappeared as well as a lot of people. There are various mysteries that lie beneath the wall, but only a chosen few have the right to enter the facilities there. Together with the strange occurrences around Hells’ Gate, people also suffer changes. Many become contractors and have superhuman abilities that allow them to either cause harm or mayhem or fight the ones who do it. Hei is one of the latter. But why are they called contractors? Because they sign some type of a contract in order to have the super abilities they want. After or together with every use of the power, the contracted needs to perform a ritual which is often something they would hate like smoking, drinking or hurting their own bodies. Hei and his friend Yin are a part of a group, members of a secret organization that fights to show to the world what lies behind the Wall. They are both contractors, but not just any contractors – Hei is one of the most powerful of them and Yin is a detector-type – she might look blind at first, but in reality she can see a lot more than the ordinary person.

This anime television series isn’t as greatly thought of on the psychological side as Code Geass and it doesn’t have a better animation than Kara no Kyoukai. What it has is a great combination between animation and psychological development of the characters. And it was what we needed back in 2007 when Tensai Okamura-san’s anime first aired in Japan. It is no wonder his animation in Darker than Black was so eye-catching since he is without a doubt one of the best directors in the anime business being the man behind Wolf’s Rain and a key animator in Ghost in the Shell.

The story is strikingly awesome. I mean, contractors.. .even if there have been others before, who won’t think of Darker than Black when such individuals are mentioned but of the ones before? The idea to have such oddities as recompense for their abilities as using one’s own blood as weapon (feeling the pain too), smoking when you’ve hated cigarettes throughout your entire life, kissing the nearest person after using your powers and others… incredible imagination! And all those characters were developed so much that one could easily fall in and out of love with each of them throughout the series. They were not the main ones.

Hei, Yin and Mao… These can easily be called the main characters with Hei in the lead, of course. As a whole, we end up watching the characters live their everyday lives on one side and also experience the consequences f the Gate in Tokyo on another side. It is like watching a slice-of-life sci-fi anime that is actually not as fantasy as it should considering the genres. There is nothing more normal than suffering through the loss of your sibling or the pain of acting like you never would because of a simple ‘must’ or ‘need’. It proves to be the best combination of science-fiction and true life, if you can see behind the metaphors that is.

What can I say?! I cannot say much more than having Yin play the role as a typical me otaku in one of the filler episodes made my watching of this anime really pleasurable. She is young, has a dark secret and a lot of power. She and Hei both are something much deeper than they initially show and it is discovered through the anime. That is what I call character development. Mao… Mao is a true person of pride and honour, loyalty is not a stranger for him as we can see in the very end of the first Darker than Black series.

And I end up having to talk about the second one… Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini is one big mess. It looks like it has started with a great idea, but ends up being empty. Like a good anime that doesn’t come from a manga, but a long way worse than the original series. Having a chibi girl be in the centre of attention of the best contractor in the world takes the fun off the show, at least for me. Even if I do understand why would the authors make Darker than Black Gaiden, a side story about romance and the special involvement of Yin in Hei’s life… it was a project purely for the fans of this romantic pair and still a “Gaiden”. But Ryuusei no Gemini should’ve brought a lot more to us, the viewers, than what it showed. Sad but true. As usual, at least for me, the sequel was worse than the original, even if still watchable.

Darker than Black in The List

Darker than Black Official Website

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13 Comments on "Darker than Black – a Really Good Combination of Sci-Fi and Everyday Life REVIEW"

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Michelle
Guest

There’s a great post about Darker Than Black on the Manga UK blog at the moment. Have you read it?

http://www.mangauk.com/?p=it-takes-two

DevilMayCry
Guest

I’ve always been a fan of the secluded, dark characters with a deep secret, so I absolutely love Hei. I also love your review because you’re not scared to say something sucks… Keep up the good writing, Shinigami-sama. ;)

LazySamurai
Guest

Totally agreed on both points. ;)
I would just add that Contractors are not only a cool concept but also has the needed percent of humour, needed to make something awesome.
Too bad they don’t make them (anime) like this these days… :D

Lulubel
Guest

I thoroughly enjoyed your review. :) I didn’t really like the show – thought it was a bit boring and only found the first few episodes interesting. The rest of the series, at least for me, were not going anywhere. It was just a bunch of characters doing a bunch of stuff…

Not a bad anime, though. Just not my cup of tea ;)

BrutalMurder
Guest

Actually, I’ve always thought those series needed more action and less “inner suffering”, but that’s just me… :)

Shounen
Guest

Loved that anime! Thanks for the review!

InStyleAkuma
Guest

Great, fair and easy to read review. I personally loved all about this show – from the OP by Abingdon Boys School to the dark atmosphere, the character choice and design. I also believe that it’s good the anime ended, because stories like this (composed of repeated clashes) tend to wear out.

I personally haven’t seen the second instalment for the same reason I usually do this with anime. I just thought I’ve seen all I need to.

Thanks for the review and for reminding me one of the best series. :)

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