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Darker Than Black: Season One Tropes A-M
Non-character trope listings A through M for the first season of Darker than Black. Please ensure that new additions are added to the correct sub-page.

Tropes that are inherent spoilers should go in the Season One Spoilers article.


  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Either Hei's knives are these, or crappy concrete is more of a threat to Japan than the Hell's Gate and everything that came from it put together. Sure, he's strong, but unless they have a ludicrously sharp edge, throwing a knife into a concrete wall should just break the knife. It's probably best to just blame Imported Alien Phlebotinum or someone with reality-warping superpowers.
    • Subverted somewhat as he frequently breaks his knife mid-mission.
  • A-Cup Angst: Kurosawa frequently makes jibes about Kiko's lack of cleavage. Furthering the parody of private detective tropes, she threatens to sue him for sexual harassment, something which never happened to Sam Spade.
  • Addiction Powered: Inverted with April. The cost of her powers is to drink, and she likes alcohol a lot.
  • Adorkable: The defining characteristic of Hei's "Li" persona. Works pretty well, since nobody is likely to suspect that this guy (who has just tripped over his own feet), is able to kill you 27 different ways without really trying.
  • Affably Evil: Most contractors other than Hei.
  • Affectionate Parody: The episodes with the Clueless Detective are an amusing parody of your usual private eye plot, including the idea (particularly associated with Raymond Chandler) of the detective essentially stumbling into solving the crime after being hired for a completely different reason.
  • Alien Sky: On Earth, no less. The moon is gone, the night sky is purple when clear and green when overcast. The daytime sky is seen less often, but the sun behaves strangely.
    • Also, rockets launched into the upper atmosphere disappear without a trace. Somehow, NASA (and most space agencies) still manages to stay intact.
    • This comes up regularly because every star in the sky corresponds to a contractor. If a contractor uses his powers, his star shines brightly. When a contractor dies, his star falls from the sky. Government intelligence agencies have entire branches devoted to analysis of the Alien Sky.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Invoked — according to Kenji witnessing Hei in action the first time, all Chinese do.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: At one point, April tells someone to call the organization she works for the "Secret Intelligence Service," not "MI6." It sounds made-up, but that's the actual name of the organization.
    • Also, November 11's cigarettes. The brand he prefers comes in a black pack with a white skull and the word DEATH on the front. You might think the show's creators are trying to make an Anvilicious point about smokingnote , but that's an actual British brand of cigarettes.
  • Amplifier Artifact: Several organizations hunt for the damn thing, and not just because it's shiny.
  • Anime Chinese Girl: Alice, though she gives her qipao to a childhood friend instead of wearing it herself. She's also completely psycho.
  • Anime First
  • Anti-Hero (type IV)/ Anti-Villain: What with the Grey and Gray Morality, a huge number of characters, to the point where it can be tricky to say which is which.
  • Arc Number: 201, Hei's Messier Code. It crops up all over the place if you look hard enough.
  • Arc Words: "Hell's Gate" "BK-201" "PANDORA" "Evening Primrose" etc.
    • "A rational decision, befitting of a contractor" is an odd phrase. It can be equally insulting or complimentary in any situation.
  • Artificial Riverbank: In Tokyo. Hei does his Stealth Hi/Bye shtick with Kirihara there once.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Contractors tend to have these, in addition to astonishingly appropriate powers.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: When you hear the palm-muted guitar riff start going, get ready to see Hei do something balls-out AWESOME.
    • I believe that November 11 has his own signature music for when he's pulling something.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Guy Kurosawa isn't the real name of the detective; rather, he changed his name to something "cooler" sounding.
  • Badass: Lots of em, but Hei takes the cake. He kicks more ass in 26 episodes than most Anime badasses do in 100.
  • Badass Adorable: Amber, Deliberately Cute Child that she is.
  • Badass Biker: Hitotsubashi apparently was one, Kenji tries to be.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: November 11 (almost) always wears a very stylish suit.
  • Badass Longcoat: Hei's default mission garb consists of a long black coat that's only bullet proof when he wears it — because no one else is badass enough, apparently.
    • Thanks to the cold weather, practically everyone who lives in Russia.
  • Badass Normal: Most of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, especially Kirihara, especially considering that she's up against super powered people. Even more so, Huang, who helps out Hei himself on several occasions, even sniping other Contractors. Also, Hei, before he got his powers — fighting a Contractor head-on with choke wire is pretty badass.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Or in this case, all powers bad people. Havoc is probably the best fit though as her power is so great it kills tons of people when deployed and her Remuneration is drinking the blood of children — it's definitely an understatement to say there is no possible way in which she could use her powers for good.
    • Though implications at the end of the first season are that the Contractors as a group/race are growing out of their amorality.
  • Batman Cold Open: The series begins with the police chasing a rogue Contractor and Hei showing up out of nowhere to kick his ass. However, unlike most openings like this, it was actually plot-relevant.
  • Battle in the Rain: Several times, usually justified by it being April's doing. Plus, of course, it's just cooler when Hei can electrocute someone or November can freeze someone because the ground's wet.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: A contractor with teleportation powers tended to do this.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Invoked, when Amber deemed the scene of Hei watching his sleeping sister romantic-looking. Then again, for Amber he looks as romantic as possible in any situation.
  • Berserk Button: Anything involving mention of Amber or the whereabouts of his sister makes Hei a very dangerous person to be around.
  • Big Eater: Hei, with a Running Gag of onlookers commenting that he'll be fat when he's thirty. To a lesser extent Kirihara is known for eating very high fat foods, but she claims that she doesn't get fat because her job requires her to move around a lot.
    • How Hei eats so fast is a mystery. It was never shown how fast the food went down as the camera usually shifts into something else.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Hei used the cover identity of "Li Shenshun," an exchange student from China. Since "Shenshun" means student, he is essentially calling himself "Student Li," making this a rather obvious pseudonym as well.
    • Not quite. The pinyin for "student" (學生/学生) is xuéshēng, and his name (舜生) is shùnshēng, which means his name is actually a mispronunciation and a bit of Gratuitous Foreign Language. Nevertheless it still makes for an interesting Bilingual Bonus since the two characters in his name are the name of one of the mythological first kings of China and the character for life/birth respectively.
    • Another interpretation would be xiānshēng (先生), which is essentially "Mister", making his name "Mister Li". Li being such a common last name, his name becomes a "John Doe" equivalent.
  • Birds of a Feather: There's great similarity between Hei and Nick, they get along very well and apparently feel sort of kinship, but there's also some... unfortunate circumstances.
    • Another example is Hei and Kirihara, both of whom have stoic personalities and are big eaters. Too bad about that whole "cop/criminal" thing.
  • Bishōnen: The manga's art style sometimes turns Hei into one. He's always really good-looking, but generally in a more masculine way.
  • Black Box: A lot of strange magitek came from the gates, such as the method of memories wiping/implanting, flowers from which sort of recreation drug is derived in a weird way, a plant which can be used to temporarily suppress Contractor traits, and in the OVA a substance which cures human allergies but also causes extreme drowsiness and short-term memory loss.
  • Bland-Name Product: Somie, Liftranser, McDoness Burger.
    • Averted with a Pizza Hut neon lights logo, probably because the animé is sponsored by them or something.
  • Blind Seer: Yin, sort of. She was blind as a normal human, but has no trouble seeing as a doll, whether as a result of her powers as a medium or something else.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Kirihara
  • Blessed with Suck / Cursed with Awesome: The main curse of being a Contractor is losing one's emotions and moral constraints, but most of those encountered retain enough emotion to be fairly pleasant (if amoral), and have gained cool powers. Their obeisance is an important determinant of whether the Contractor has a Blessed with Suck or Cursed with Awesome. Some of the former include having to break one's fingers, needing to cut oneself, and drinking children's blood (although the Contractors with the last two were mass murderers). On the other hand, other obeisances include needing to drink beer or write poetry. Then again, the guy who merely had to arrange pebbles was annoyed by the fact it's apparently meaningless compulsion.
    • It is the compulsory nature that can make any obeisance Cursed with Awesome, as Contractors are forced to do it when their contract compels it and effectively helpless and powerless until they've completed it — As Hei proved when he interrupted said pebble guy in the middle of his relatively harmless obeisance and killed him easily.
    • Wei may actually be Cursed with Awesome. His power is exploding his blood, and his price is bleeding. Whereas most Contractors need to go out of their way to pay the price after using their power, Wei pays the price in the process of using his power. He might get light-headed if he overdoes it, but it's not like he'll need to run away in the middle of a violent altercation in order to find a safe place to arrange pebbles.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: About half of the Contractors are blond.
  • Bloody Murder: Wei's power.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Wei
  • Bodyguard Crush: Saito, to Kirihara.
  • Body Surf: A contractor was using this ability to make murders look like suicides. And Mao is a Contractor who can Body Surf between animals, but his real body was killed. He stays in a cat's body mostly out of convenience.
  • Book Ends: The first episode begins with the police trying and failing to catch Louis, who has "gravity cancellation" powers. The epilogue of the last episode shows a very similar chase, but when the Contractor uses the same gravity-based powers to fly, the police easily catch him with some sort of Grappling-Hook Pistol, suggesting that the rest of the world is getting used to the supernatural.
  • Breather Episode: Episode 23 is a lot less action-heavy than the Grand Finale that immediately followed it.
  • Building Swing: Hei does this regularly.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Some people apparently like to tell Contractors things to the effect of "you're less than humans and no more than killing robots". Of course, a Tin Man isn't supposed to give a damn about such prattle, but...
    • Particularly hilarious is Huang's habit of getting pissed off at Hei and picking him up by his shirt. Hei never reacts, but one has to wonder what would happen if someone pointed out to Huang that he's trying to intimidate someone who could kill him if he so much as touched him.
  • Captain Ersatz: Maki looks like a white haired version of Souseiseki from Rozen Maiden, Amber looks identical to C.C. of Code Geass, and the doll from episodes 17 and 18 strongly resembles fellow Emotionless Girl Eureka from Eureka Seven. November 11 is very James Bond-ish, although that might be simply National Stereotypes of what a British spy is like.
    • Also, kind of an odd one overlapping with Actor Allusion: April has a low level version of Storm's powers in X-Men and even looks slightly similar to her. The actress who voices her has also voiced many dubs of Halle Berry's movies, including her role as Storm in the X-Men films.
      • For that matter, November 11 is a blond ice-user, making him similar to another X-Men character.
      • Also possible as a white suit wearing cyropath with realistic limitations on his power November 11 might be based on Elijah Snow.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The card is "I'm an inherently heartless bastard and don't give a damn. No, really. Believe me. I can repeat." Most Contractors adopt such a secure convenient pose. Those who live on-screen long enough to fall out of "Bad Tin Man" role and turn out to be vengeful, cowardly, proud, affectionate, caring and so on, only more withdrawn than most. Huang turns out to be like that too, and manages to get along with Contractors better than either side would care to admit.
  • Cast from Lifespan: One Contractor's remuneration is that she ages every time she uses her power. Another inverts the trope by de-aging for every use of her powers; although limited use could have prolonged her life indefinitely, circumstances force her to overuse them until she de-ages herself out of existence.
  • Catapult Nightmare: In the Interquel manga. Particularly interesting given Hei's repeated assertion that contractors don't dream. Although it may be due to the fact that he isn't a true Contractor.
    • Huang, of all people, also does this at one point.
  • Catch Phrase: November 11, worst comedian ever. This catchphrase, "Just joking" (immediately after a somewhat disturbing comment) is sufficiently annoying to other characters that it gets several Ironic Echoes throughout the series.
    • There are also several occasions in which Hei's Berserk Button has been triggered and he gets angry enough to kill someone, leading Mao to cry out "Hei, no!" Significantly, Hei ignores this in the first episode but shows more restraint as the series progresses.
      • It's not just Mao who says that. Kirihara tries to stop Hei from killing her treacherous boss in the last episode. He listens. Awwww. If you need proof that he's not all bad, that's it.
  • Cat Scare: Played around with in the first episode. Louis clearly hears someone talking to him, and looks toward where the sound came from- and all he sees is a cat. Then he turns back around and Hei is right there. But, as we shortly find out, the cat actually was the culprit behind the suspicious noise. And it was intentional. And in the second season, Mao tried this again on April. He failed, got shot and hanged the rest of the season in the body of the squirrel. Or it could be an actual cat just passing by. It was never stated directly.
    • He does it again shortly afterward to help cover for Hei when he has to sneak out with police investigating in the next room.
  • Ceiling Cling: Sort of; when Hei was helping Kenji try to escape from Yakuza goons, he decided to help buy him some time. The method? Yin waits at the end of the hall. Mooks come to a screeching halt and ask where the guy they were chasing went. Yin just points up. Cue Hei dropping from overhead and hitting the nearest guy with a trash can, then kicking him into the rest of the group and knocking some shelves full of boxes over on them.
  • Character Filibuster: November 11's memorable speech on the dangers of second-hand smoke which gets an Ironic Echo later in the series when he's taken prisoner and needs a cigarette for his Remuneration.
    • It gets quoted again at the beginning of the second season, but the recipient just says it's useless trying to get a Russian to stop smoking.
  • The Charmer: November 11, in between being a Jerkass.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The first shot of the first episode, before the Batman Cold Open, is Hei's sister Bai. We have no clues explaining this until eleven episodes in.
  • The Chessmaster: Amber,
  • Chick Magnet: Hei's magnetism is so great, even Emotionless Girls crush on him.
    • And the Fair Cop trying to catch him.
    • And sociopaths.
    • And probably a few of the viewers.
    • And schoolgirls with plants growing out of their backs.
    • In fact, the only female character we see talk to him for any length of time who doesn't fall for him or decide to adopt him is Mina Hazuki.
      • And even she kissed him. Though it probably doesn't count.
    • Mao is no exception either. Spring-time means mating season for cats. Despite his best attempts to avoid getting pounced on by female cats, he ends up being a pussy magnet without wanting to be.
  • Child Soldiers: Kid gets Contractor powers? Well, will you look at that, we have a new operative. For instance, adolescent Mai immediately gets snapped up once her powers stabilize, Maki is acting as Amber's bodyguard, and one of the flashbacks shows that Hei can't have been much more than 16 when he and Bai joined the fighting in South America, and he was the older sibling. And in Ryusei no Gemini, two girls in middle school are picked up to be Contractor assassins after their powers manifest.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: this series has quite a few rare sympathetic examples.
  • Clasp Your Hands If You Deceive: Kirihara's boss and Nishijima both do this occasionally; they're both high-ranking Syndicate members.
  • Code Name: Widely used by Contractors and Dolls in lieu of their "human" names; interestingly, Amber's favored name matches the code naming theme of Hei's group, but formerly had the code name of February when working for British intelligence.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Hei is many things; "honorable" is not one of them.
  • The Corps Is Mother: Or, in this case, PANDORA, The Syndicate, MI6, the CIA, and pretty much everyone else who employs Contractors.
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Kiko
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: The "Who, me? Incredibly Bad Ass martial arts master?" sequence in episode 17. Hei is really quite bad at hiding his ninja skills.
  • Covert Pervert: Turns out that one of Kirihara's coworkers, Mayu, writes smutty fanfic for Yaoi anime... and Yin reads it. You can blame Kiko for that.
  • The Cowl: Other than the little issue that Hei tends to commit crimes rather than solve them and the closest he gets to superheroics is fighting superpowered people worse than himself, Hei fits this perfectly, what with the ninja-antics and sinister reputation.
  • Crack Fic: A glorious in-universe example - Mayu's human-on-elephant Slash Fic. Which she writes Hei into.
  • Creepy Child: Of the Emotionless Girl kind when it comes to dolls. (Provided the dolls are in a young person's body, otherwise the "child" part doesn't really work out.) This is essentially their premise, and dolls have no control over this aspect of the way they act.
    • For a straight example, Maki would be the prime source.
  • Cryonics Failure: November 11 does this intentionally.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Friends of the Gate is a bizarre mix of Catholicism and Jehovah's Witnesses, except they worship Hell's Gate. They even have confessionals!
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: First, Hei stomping all over Louis in the first episode. Somewhat later, he and Kenji took out eight or nine Yakuza goons, and Kenji's only contribution was distracting their leader enough to make his shot miss.
  • Deadly Hug: Attempted by Mai's father but failed.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Some of the acts that some of the contractors have done weighs heavily upon them. They may not be a Death Seeker, but some of them take solace during their dying moments because they can finally forgive themselves for what they've done. Bertha in particular, seems happy to die, because she can finally redeem herself for the death of her child, who choked to death when she carelessly left her cigarettes on a table.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: This series loves playing with tropes (usually for extra realism), especially those related to superpowers, and especially how dangerous they would actually be.
  • De-power: Havoc somehow lost her power; it's unknown whether it was a side effect of Heaven Gate's accident, as a result of Gates' chaotic nature, from a strain or whatever. Because she also somehow lost her memory in the process — again, it's unknown whether it was for the same reason or she was mind-wiped.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Hei and Chiaki, in episode 2, during the scene where they're shown lying side-by-side in his apartment. Also Hei and Yin in the OVAS.
  • Differently Powered Individuals: Contractors.
  • Disability Superpower: Yin was blind when human but her abilities as a Doll basically allow her to walk around without any problem.
  • Diving Save: Subverted Double-subverted Played with in the second episode.
    • Also dramatically executed by Yin's mother, in episode 14.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A white man tells a black man that his kind are less then human, not fit to live, etc. He's talking about the fact that the man is a Contractor. May count as Lampshade Hanging.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening
  • Driven by Envy: Maki hates the fact that Amber wants to recruit anyone who isn't him, and is even more incensed by the fact that she's in love with Hei. He responds by trying to kill his "rival," against direct orders and despite the fact that if he'd succeeded, Amber's plan would have been rendered impossible.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Weird variation: Amber takes advantage of stopped time to kiss Hei without him objecting.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Episodes 17/18 revolve partly around this.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Hei, perpetually. You can see the pupils of his eyes in maybe three shots in the entire series, one of which is due to weird lighting, and even then light never reflects off them.
  • Dynamic Entry: An incredibly Bad Ass one — after convincing Wei that he was dead, Hei took this opportunity to crash in through a window and kick him in the face, saving Kirihara and Saito in the process. Then he zapped the hell out of him through the blood Wei had gotten all over the floor.
  • Eagleland: Kirihara and November 11 are shown struggling against CIA agents who are presented as obstructive jerks.
    • Probably the winners in the Obstructive Bureaucrat category are the guys at the American embassy. When the police are dead sure they're going to get bombed, they refuse to let them help with security because they increased patrols, and obviously that's all that's necessary to cope with a supremely pissed-off superpowered ninja who's already bombed several other important buildings. Their suggestion for letting the police into their embassy is to tell Washington and hope that they work out an answer first. Then, once the attack has already started, we have frigging brilliant moments like saying that an explosion right in front of their building doesn't matter because it's on Japanese territory.
  • Ear Cleaning: Played with in an Innocent Innuendo situation.
  • Easily Forgiven: Towards the end of the series, Hei encounters Wei again (now a follower of Amber), who is under orders not to harm Hei. Despite the fact that the first time they met, Wei was gleefully murdering tons of people and Hei recently saw him doing more of the same in his new allegiance, Hei and friends join him in a car with relatively little hesitation (granted, they were being hunted at the time by The Syndicate and needed his help to get into the Gate). During the ride, Wei is surprisingly affable, even getting along well with Huang. He then takes Hei to the desired location and immediately starts attacking him out of a very un-Contractorish personal vendetta.
  • Easter Egg: In his Li identity, Hei (who has the Contractor designation BK-201) lives in Apartment 201. Also, in his documents: No 018-00201, AR201.
  • Eats Babies: Havoc's Remuneration is one step away from this.
  • Eldritch Location: Hell's Gate, and presumably Heaven's Gate as well.
  • Elemental Baggage: Averted with November 11. He's not much use if he can't get close enough to touch someone and there's no liquid around. However, he's very resourceful about getting around it, and his partnership with April helps a lot as well.
  • Emotionless Girl: All Dolls are like this.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: The only thing left behind after a certain Contractor teleports herself or others.
  • Empty Shell: Dolls effectively have to be programmed to perform functions as basic as sleeping or dressing themselves.
    • On the one end of the scale are Dolls who were "programmed" to act human, spent enough time without mindwipes having human experiences, little shocks included, and began to show free will and act more human-like — like Yin, July, pseudo-Chiaki, or Champ. On the other — human vegetables in jars.
    • Hitotsubashi transported Kenji's No Name Given girl sitting in a car next to him. She sat quietly, saw where they are moving... and immediately communicated this to another party using her observer apparition. It didn't even occur to him he creates a security hole the size of a whole Titanic. It's just a Doll!
    • In Shikkoku no Hana Meena Khandar Swami heard Yin dropping a phrase that in normal circumstances would be an expected common courtesy. Cue a speechless, shaken, "maybe I'm still at the Gate and hallucinating?" face, then stuttering out that it's the first time she saw even this much of free will from a Doll. Mina was a scientist in PANDORA whom her chief considers more brilliant than himself, so... yes, it's that bad.
  • Engrish: In episode 15, when Hei meets Huang to get a mission briefing, Huang hands him a short dossier on April who had been involved in what looks like a car bombing, but was really Maki's doing. The writing is in English—rather, it would be, if not for the fact that April apparently has a 'Cordname' and she's from 'rondon.' And 'obeisance' was mistranslated as 'value.'
    • Also the Evening Primrose's ultimatum- "Acknowledge existence of we contractor", indeed.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Hei and, to a much lesser degree, November 11.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: November 11, worst comedian ever.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Not really evil per se, but Hei's voice drops quite a bit when he switches out of his Li act.
    • In the actually evil department, we have Wei's very deep voice in the dub.
  • Explaining Your Power to the Enemy: Wei uses his own blood as a medium to destroy his opponents. Despite him having every reason to suspect that Hei is also a very dangerous contractor, the contractor quickly explains how his powers work before getting into a fight.
  • Expospeak: A good part of Episodes 1 and 2. Should be taken with a grain of salt, though.
  • Extreme Doormat: Dolls. Even ones that grow beyond their Empty Shell persona have elements of this.
  • Extreme Omnivore: One Contractor has to chew up and spit out something as her Remuneration. It's not food. (though it could be if they wanted.)
  • Eye Always Shut: Amigiri is usually shown with his left eye closed. He is shown with both eyes open, but most of the time his left eye is closed.
  • Eye Take: Often when "Li" is making some innocuous comment, the camera will cut to his eyes to show that it's Hei talking, not Li.
  • Face Palm of Doom: Hei does this a lot, usually before some poor schmuck gets their brain fried.
  • Fair Cop: Kirihara.
  • Fake Memories: Not completely fake, but "M.E." works both ways. At least with Dolls.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Episode 1. It's part of a subverted Meet Cute.
  • Fan Disservice: The show has a very unsettling use of the Sex Bot idea in showing a Doll purchased by Yakuza to be reselled to Amber's group. There is nothing erotic at all about the way the boss examines her naked, treating her more like a piece of furniture than anything.
  • Fangirl: Kiko and Mayu, both of whom are anime fangirls, Yaoi Fangirls, and Hei fangirls.
  • Fan Nickname: Chinese Electric Batman has become one for both Hei and the series itself, for obvious reasons.
  • Fanservice: see Innocent Fanservice Girl and Go-Go Enslavement. And "...girls need it too" (yeah, it's November 11).
  • Fantastic Drug: Alice shoots up with BEEEEEES!. Granted, they are bees that have drunk the nectar of flowers from the Gate, but that just makes them all the more fantastical.
  • Fantastic Racism: As mentioned above, humans do not consider Contractors to be human, with one noticeable discussion between a white man and a black Contractor that has certain... implications. Which might count as lampshading, given the strong anti-racism message (especially present in the last few episodes).
  • Fatal Attraction: Kirihara to Hei. Given that she first connected "Li" to BK-201 in episode 18 and had, in fact, been hanging out with him not eight hours before she revealed that she'd figured it out, it's likely that she'd subconsciously known for a while and just didn't want to admit it.
  • Femme Fatale: Amber. Subverted. While Hei clearly thinks of her this way, she actually still loves him and wants him to be happy. Awwww.
  • Fictional Counterpart: "McDoness Burger"; November 11 flies into Japan on a "Lufanser" plane
  • Finger-Lickin' Evil: Wei has been spotted licking blood off his hand.
  • Fingore: Twice, for different reasons.
  • First Episode Spoiler: Actually, second. Li is a contractor assassin and the cat can talk. In a similar vein, exactly what Hei can do isn't really clear until November 11 figures it out, counteracts it, and explains it to us.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: November 11, alternating with The Charmer.
  • Frozen Face: Yin. The extent of which is uncertain (as she is an Emotionless Girl), but she has shown extreme difficulty in the physical act of smiling. She got around it in episode 14 by using her fingers.
    • July, who is also a doll and has the same problem complains in the second season when Hei forcibly tries to make him smile that smiling "isn't in my programming."
  • Funny Answering Machine: November's, naturally. We don't get to hear the joke, but according to April, it sucked.
  • Gangsta Style: A Yakuza goon thinks this is good for impressing people. He shouldn't have bothered.
  • Gas Leak Coverup: Not a Contractor who lost control. And this even aggravates the real problem when attempts to evacuate cause the real person responsible to panic.
  • Genki Girl: Kiko.
  • Gilligan Cut: Variation: when Saito is telling Kirihara that they're keeping watch on the MI6 agents in a hotel, November 11 comes up and interrupts him. Then Kirihara gets a call from Kano informing her that they lost track of them. No kidding?
    • And towards the end of the first season, when Mao, narrating, says that anyone could see it's much smarter to abandon him in Amber's headquarters than to try to rescue him. Cut to Hei breaking in to rescue him. Though it wasn't quite as dumb as it seemed; he knew Amber had given orders that no one was allowed to kill him.
  • Girl in a Box: Poor, poor Havoc. Also, the smuggled Doll in ep. 17 - being a Doll, she was treated more like a packed thing than a concealed girl.
  • Glamour Failure: Namely, Glowing Eyes of Doom.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: In more fanservicey scenes with Kirihara. She looks good in any suit, but let's face it — in uniform and glasses she resembles a hungry female mantis a bit too much. Subverted in that she spends most of her glasses-free time squinting like crazy because, like most glasses-wearers outside of fiction, she actually needs them.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: It's generally a good idea to start running if you see this. Of course, it probably won't help you if the Contractor who just activated their powers is after you, but you might at least not end up as collateral damage.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: When Alice persuades Kirihara to come to her birthday party, she makes Kirihara wear a qipao which exposes a lot of flesh. Alice then reveals she's crazy and tries to kill Kirihara, who spends the episode escaping in the outfit.
  • Gonk: Huang's lack of prettiness is acknowledged in-universe.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: As Li, Hei's eyes are either closed or very, very wide. They're narrower when he isn't acting, although, in a subversion, this is the case even when he's still being a Nice Guy.
  • Grand Theft Me: Mao is a possessor who eventually lost his own body and ended up in cat's. In ep. 7 they met another contractor with a similar power, and he had lost his original body too.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Used by Hei in both the usual way and as a weapon - its cable gives a circuit to his electric powers. However, usually Hei either throws a knife or it's clearly visible snap hook, not a grapple. When he fired some or other sort of grapple very far (embassy, EPR hideout) he used a crossbow.
  • Gratuitous English: "Hell's Gate" "BK-201" etc. And don't get us started on the written English. Regarding the BK-201 example, November 11 always speaks Japanese, both when it makes sense (talking to Japanese characters) and when it's just Translation Convention. However, he always pronounces BK-201 in (Japanese accented) English.
    • And the Memetic Mutation-tastic first opening. "NOW I'VE LOST IT. I KNOW I CAN KILL."
    • Quite a few background documents and suchlike are... well, supposedly in English. Don't look at them too hard if you actually speak the language.
    • Kurosawa spends two whole episodes under the mistaken impression that dropping dreadful English into his conversations will make him easier for a Scandinavian to understand. Kiko can be seen scowling or wincing behind him for most of it. He probably lost his license to speak English ever again after the painful pun he made on the last name "Kostinen."
  • Grave Marking Scene: April, July, and Kirihara leave things at the place where November 11 died.
  • Gravity Master: At least two different kinds: one who could cancel the effects of gravity to float up into the air and one that could increase its force to immobilize or crush people.
    • One particular user has the ability to envelop a spherical area and condense everything inside it into a softball sized ball of dense matter.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: From the first episode to the last, thanks to punchclock villainy.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: November 11 does a variation on this. When cornered by Syndicate agents employed by his boss, he picks up a bottle of an alcoholic beverage and freezes it. When the aftermath of the fight is shown, there is a room full of corpses pierced by these spikes.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Played straight for most of the season, and even gets directly invoked, then gets subverted during last few episodes, starting with November 11's death.
    • Similarly, Hei is generally totally unconcerned with mere bullets- except that when Huang shot him when he wasn't wearing his bulletproof Badass Longcoat, he spent the rest of the episode limping along, barely able to walk.
  • Half-Arc Season: Most of the two-episode arcs are only tangentially related to the conflict of the season finale.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Wei tells Kirihara she's to blame for Alice's Ax-Crazy freakout and subsequent death by Wei's hand. Thankfully, Saito was paying enough attention to tackle her when Wei tried to take advantage of her brief Heroic BSOD.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl:
    • British agent April has a Remuneration of drinking beer, and has apparently decided she might as well enjoy it.
    • Perhaps the Contractor Shihoko who while in a relationship with Huang was able to match some pretty hard core drinking.
  • Harmless Freezing: Averted with November 11 who either cannot do this or chooses not to.
    • Unless freezing their shoes to the ground counts. Maki established that this did not directly damage them.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The smarter Contractors tend to figure this out. For instance, November manages to use "freeze stuff" to immobilize people, make ranged weapons, shield himself, kill from a distance, or for a Touch of Death over the course of the series, with no Elemental Baggage involved, and the second season showed that April's fairly lame "make it rain" power can be plenty dangerous all by itself.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Hei is wanted by the police, and one episode has Kurosawa looking for Yin (in her human identity), and getting the impression that Hei is involved in child-trafficking.
    • In the police's defense, Hei isn't exactly the most upstanding citizen. At his most heroic he's committing murder, breaking into maximum-security areas, and blowing up the American embassy.
  • Hollywood Evolution: The show doesn't practice this trope, but some of the crazier Contractors believe in it, referring to themselves as the next step in evolutionary progress.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Played with. Some Contractors combine "When All You Have Is a Hammer" approach with power-drunk individualism into shining tactical idiocy up to just standing in the open field or behind weak cover and randomly hurling damaging effects at heavily-armed troops. Martial artists and experienced operatives are immune to such failures. Lampshaded by Wei, who mocks a gravity-controller for paying no attention to his surroundings once he has Hei down.
    • For a really good point of comparison, November 11 was the top British agent, and he had powers that were fairly weak when lacking a convenient source of water. On the other hand, second-season character August 7th has the power to do pretty much anything. November 11 lasts almost the entire first season and goes out in a pretty awesome way; August 7th lasts about 5 minutes.
    • Averted with PANDORA's security forces, who know that when there's somebody hiding behind a barrier that appears to be unpenetrable, you do not continue hammering away at the barrier, you flank them and blow their brains out. Unnamed force-field generator, I'm looking at you for not moving.
  • Hot Springs Episode: Invoked by Kiko (she's a Cosplay Otaku Girl, after all). And promptly averted by her own indulgence.
    • The interquel manga contains an omake chapter set during the events of the first season. A hot spring has a rock supposedly from the Gate, so most of the cast goes to investigate. Thus, you have male-geared fanservice from the female cast as well as female-geared fanservice as a naked November 11 flirts with Hei.
  • How Do You Like Them Apples?: Amber declares they are her favorite fruit and is shown eating one before beginning her plan to use the Gate to wipe out the human residents of Japan as opposed to all Contractors.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Amber and her minion, Amagiri.
  • Human Weapon: The Contractors.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Where does Hei keep all those knives, anyway? He also somehow fits his Badass Longcoat into his pocket.
  • An Ice Person: November 11 is a more lethal version, and his powers are complemented by April, who can create mini-hurricanes leading to rain.
  • Iconic Item: Hei's mask, coat, and knives.
  • Immune to Bullets: Explained in the 2nd episode, Hei's Badass Longcoat is quite handy.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: A tear shed for Havok. Also Maki, except offscreen and without the tear shedding.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Lots. Mostly of a Black Box nature.
    • Luke managed to shatter an incoming knife-and-cable, but at least he swept it with a force whip.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Committed by Kurosawa, in Gratuitous English, no less. Quoth Kiko, "That wasn't even funny."
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Kid!Hei in the Instrumentality-esque Gainax Ending.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Kenji may be a Yakuza member, but his attempts to be badass lead to him getting beaten up or forced to fix the door he kicked down. Oh, and he gets picked for a mission specifically because the boss thinks he doesn't have the brains or guts to screw it up.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: The sexy secretary contractor referenced below has the power to teleport (clothing not included) and walks around naked without any suggestion of shame. November 11 acts in the same way when she phases him out of his clothing (although another male contractor is weirded out by her behavior and tells her to Please Put Some Clothes On). In both cases, this is less innocence than just not caring.
    • Dolls should also count. Many of them have been naked in public, and they certainly don't mind it, all of them being emotionless people by definition. Though it may be more Fan Disservice in practice...
  • Innocent Innuendo: Ear Cleaning.
  • Instant Knots: The worst is averted for good, but Hei's snap-hooks are ridiculously well-balanced and efficient, always properly looping and locking on the cable.
  • Intellectual Animal: Mao, a talking cat. Justified in that he used to be a human with the ability to possess animals who ended up losing his original body.
  • Interquel: The manga Darker Than Black - Shikkoku no Hana, which is set between the end of the 1st anime and the beginning of the second season. Also, the four special episodes going to be included on the Blue Ray releases of the second season.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Mai's dad gives her a Cooldown Hug in the Tear Jerker that is episode 4... but he was planning to use the opportunity to kill her to prevent her from killing anyone else with her Power Incontinence. Then someone attacks him, and all hell breaks loose.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: Averted. Almost all the contractors have purely offensive powers, and are employed accordingly as assassins or special operatives. They don't hold back on them, either. Justified, as Contractors don't flaunt their status. Those who got on screen participated in some action or other and there wasn't much place for anything less dangerous than teleportation or Doppelgänger power.
    • Still applies occasionally, though; while Hei can use cool zappy powers to pick electronic locks and fix broken TVs, there's no way in heaven or hell that Havok could possibly use her powers for anything nonviolent. Especially when you consider her remuneration.
  • Invisible to Normals: Observer apparitions are visible only to Contractors and Mediums.
    • This once blew a contractor's cover, when Alma noticed her staring at what to her should have been empty space.
  • Ironic Echo: November 11 seems to be on the receiving end of this a lot. For instance, his "Smoking kills" speech gets parroted back at him when he's tied up and needs a cigarette for his remuneration, his "I Was Just Joking" non-jokes are made right back at him, and Hei, completely on accident, repeated his last advice to Kirihara to her almost word-for-word.
    • Also common with Bond One Liners. For instance, November 11's "I knew we'd work well together" echoes what his victim said to him at the beginning of their meeting and was immediately followed by him freezing the guy to death. And when Hei fought Wei, Wei's response to the Single-Stroke Battle was, "Looks like I'm faster than you." Guess what Hei said after proving him wrong?note 
    • November 11 has an EPR agent telling him what he told to Hei before. He laughed and reminisced Hei's answer.
    • "But why not?" said by Mai as a child when first using her contract powers to burn a beetle and then again as a teenager when burning her kidnapper alive.
  • It's Personal: Wei bears a grudge against Hei for defeating him in a fight; on the more heroic side, November 11 and July act contrary to their supposedly emotionless personalities and seek revenge on Maki for injuring April.
    • Hei's grudge against Amber is also personal, if rather misplaced.
  • It Was with You All Along: A Soul Fragment, sort of.
  • I Was Just Joking: November 11, worst comedian ever.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: One of the first scenes. Also, when Hei encounters Havoc (and assumes her to be just as monstrous as she was previously), he slaps her and then breaks her fingers to elicit information on his sister. He does feel remorseful when he realizes that she is no longer a monster, but it's still pretty disturbing behavior on his part.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: The reason for some of Hei's jobs.
  • Jerk Justifications: Usually along the lines of: "How could you murder in cold blood, you monster?!" "I'm a contractor."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Huang
  • Kitchen Chase: An early episode has Hei and Chiaki escaping from two hostile Contractors through the kitchen of the restaurant they were just eating at.
  • Knife Nut: Hei
  • Knocking on Heathens' Door: The Friends of the Gate.
  • Kuudere: Hei may be a stoic Badass Longcoat who acts like a Jerk Ass sometimes, but he's actually a lot more fragile than he lets on, and if you mess with his True Companions, you're dead. Misaki Kirihara generally prefers to act distant and professional, but she's cheerful and even makes jokes when she relaxes a bit. Yin might qualify as well, as the resident not-so-emotionless Emotionless Girl.
  • Lack of Empathy: Combined with Tin Man, this pretty much sums up the contractor mindset.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Memory erasing is rather widely used to maintain the Masquerade. Moreover, part of stolen memories can be "uploaded" (at least in a Doll's empty mind) to counterfeit an original person.
    • It seems the ME actually USES Lasers (or another sort of red light Beam) for this.
  • Left for Dead: Bertha thought she'd managed to stop the heart of Hei, who restarted it immediately using his electrical discharge. Hei almost fatally electrocuted Wei, just after Faking the Dead, but he didn't need to kill him, just get him out of the way. Still, everyone fell for it, including the police.
  • Left Hanging: How the Gates came into Earth, whether they are done due to aliens or due to man's work...
  • Lethal Harmless Powers: Freeze liquids. Temporarily cancel the effects of gravity. Teleport things. Summon bugs. Make things resonate with your voice. Make it rain. Every one of those can and has been used to kill someone on-screen; Just Hit Him is not a problem in this show.
  • Licking the Blade: Wei
  • Lighter and Softer: The first manga, up to and including its art style.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Mostly averted, with two exceptions: since Hei's electricity powers are actually just a manifestation of an ability to manipulate reality on a quantum level, he can actually give humans Contractor powers, if Dr. Schroeder is to be believed. He also uses it to change the makeup of a particle beam. When his abilities are combined with the Meteor Shard and the Gate, he becomes an out-and-out Reality Warper.
  • Lightning Gun: Notably averted; this is one of the rare cases where a Shock and Awe character can't throw lightning bolts and usually follows electricity physics, needing direct contact or conductive material like metal and water.
    • Played straight with Pai at least once in a flashback in Black Flower manga. She electrocuted two guys that were in the air a couple of meters away from her.
  • Likes Older Women: Referenced:
    Kiko: Li-kun! I never would have guessed you liked middle-aged women!
    Kirihara: Middle-aged?
  • Look Behind You: "The stars are pretty." "What? It's overcast." * has vanished*
  • Loony Fan: Also a Crowning Moment of Funny. If you want to know how it feels when yer brain implodes, imagine the "pairing" of the all-stealthy Black Angel of Death and loudmouthed Kiko. And she tried. Enthusiastically.
  • Loose Canon: The OVA happens somewhere in the middle of the first season, but thanks to the Reset Button, could fit in just about anywhere and doesn't really affect the plot.
  • Lovable Traitor: Technically, in his infiltrations Hei worked against Yakuza, PANDORA and (secondary to the target, but still) police. Now look at his interaction with Kenji, Nick and Kirihara in his undercover identity. He didn't even play with them, he's really like that. Much the same for Chiaki's doll replacement.
    • Lampshaded in an omake to the first manga, where the heroine, who's mostly interacted with his "real" personality, sees him switch over to "Li" and start cheerfully chatting with Saitou, with great big labels on the scene reading "Police" and "Culprit."
  • MacGuffin: A number of Hei's missions involve him stealing crystals or other things which came from the gate and not only is that goal not revealed until he completes it, the significance of the products isn't either.
  • Mafia Princess: A psychotic one who was the childhood friend of Kirihara and tries to kill her with the help of Wei, her "pet Contractor".
  • Magic by Any Other Name
  • Magic Prerequisite: The basis of a Contractor's powers.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: It's never directly stated, but there is arguably an implication that Contractors are fairly resistant to injury. Wei is always cutting himself and is never weakened by blood loss; November 11 pulls Hei's dagger out of his arm, and despite needing a bandage, doesn't have any permanent damage; April is caught in an explosion, and while covered in bandages afterward has no injuries or scars in her next appearance; Hei suffers some pretty serious damage in the course of the series, even having his heart stopped at least once, but is able to shrug it off and keep fighting.
  • Male Gaze: Kurosawa is quite prone to this.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Hei, from most characters' perspectives. He's a scary guy.
  • Man in White: November 11's snazzy white suit.
  • Mask Power: Hei.
  • Masquerade: Very few people know the truth about the Contractors, and one organization's goal is to reveal their existence to the public. It works.
  • Mass Super-Empowering Event: The appearance of the Gates.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I guess you can't help who you fall in love with," was touching enough when Kenji said it, but coming from grumpy Huang about a Contractor he was supposed to kill it's even more powerful.
  • Meaningful Name: The writers really did a number on this one. Hei, of course, has electric-based abilities, which he acquired as a result of whatever transpired in South America when he was with Amber. The word "electric" is derived from a Latin term which roughly translates to "produce from amber by friction," as it was believed then that lightning was a product of amber. In reality amber is a conductor of static electricity, so it's only fitting that Amber rubs Hei the wrong way, inevitably resulting in sparks flying. In addition to that, amber is fossilized resin, something kept in its natural state by time, which fits perfectly with Amber's ability.
    • Also, the various Code Names used by members of The Syndicate are words for colors in foreign languages, mostly Chinese and English, and a lot of them are clearly based on the person's appearance. Besides Amber and her gold eyes , there's Hei ("black" in Chinese, and black-haired, black-eyed, and prone to wearing black), Yin ("silver" in Chinese and has white hair), and red-headed Havoc's Syndicate codename "Carmine." Bai ("white") is probably meant to contrast with her brother. Huang is "yellow". Oh, and "Mao" means "cat."
    • The codenames of the British agents: April's power is to summon rain ("April showers"); November 11th is the birthday of a certain other British Spy
  • Meet Cute: Deeply subverted with Hei and Chiaki. It's no coincidence they are neighbors or that he keeps bumping into her and saves her life. He is following her as part of a mission. His befriending and flirting is also to an extent just acting and it turns out it wasn't the real Chiaki anyway, so no relationship actually occurs. With real Chiaki, anyway.
    • Closer to normal with Hei and Kirihara. Their meetings are (mostly) coincidental, and setting aside certain impediments, they seem to get along really, really well. Sort of lampshaded when Kirihara comments during their first actual conversation (while hiding from an Ax-Crazy yandere) that "this is the first time I've introduced myself in a toilet stall."
  • Meganekko: Mina and Kirihara in season 1, and season 2 gives us Youko.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The Syndicate, PANDORA, MI6, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's Public Security Bureau, and Evening Primrose, for starters. The second season takes this to headache-inducing levels.
  • Merlin Sickness: Amber's remuneration is growing younger.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Dolls have these.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Mao needs Applied Phlebotinum to compensate for a cat brain. When his link to PANDORA's database is cut, he rapidly reverts to acting like a cat.
  • Mind Rape: Hell's Gate can cause hallucinations, and it seems to go out of its way to dredge up Hei's lingering insecurities. This leaves our stoic badass staring off into space with a tortured and/or terrified expression on his face three or four times in the two episodes he spends in a research facility there.
    • Dolls have basically been mind raped into nearly Empty Shells by the Gate.
    • One Contractor in the Interquel manga has the ability to interfere with people's perceptions and thoughts to a frightening degree, and can pretty much completely incapacitate anyone she's focussing on.
  • Mind Screw: This series is extraordinarily complicated and can be difficult to follow. Fortunately, the episodes are split into 2-episode mini arcs that all each help build up one aspect of a much greater storyline, making it easier to follow along.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Meteor Fragment.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: Hei's landlady and the Mad Scientist from the later episodes.
  • Mission Control: Huang and Yin
  • Mood Whiplash: Often present, as an arc will start off with some humor, but become grim by the end.
  • Mook Horror Show: Considering the cat scares and Hei's Stealth Hi/Bye abilities bordering on Offscreen Teleportation (Not to mention his rather brutal information-gathering tactics), one could be forgiven for thinking he was the villain up until the end of the second episode.
  • Morality Pet: Never, ever mess with Yin. The blind, moe Emotionless Girl comes with a very protective badass ninja who will want to have a word with you if you so much as touch her. Overlaps with Morality Chain as well.
  • Motherly Scientist: Kanami cared a lot about catatonic Dolls in jars in her observatory and learned their individual quirks, which became evident when CY-463 trapped them. They are more tools than subjects, but it's not like she could do for them any more even if she had any real power.
  • Motive Rant: The Director delivers one of these to Kirihara in the last episode; combined with Villainous Breakdown, since he starts strangling her in the middle of his rant. Then Hei shows up and pwns him in a matter of about 3 seconds.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kirihara, who has fairly regular scenes where she's just gotten out of the pool.
    • Don't forget Brita! She has to teleport naked, since she can't take any clothes or items with her. The same goes for any person she takes with her. Her remuneration? She just has to kiss someone, and it can be just a peck on the cheek.
  • Mugging the Monster: November 11's first appearance in Episode 5.
  • Multinational Team: Hei is Chinese, Huang is Japanese, and Yin is Finnish. Who knows where Mao is from.
    • Season 2 reveals that Mao used to be called Ricardo, a name of Spanish/Portugese origin.
  • Mundane Utility: Electricity-based power can be used to fry someone, crack an electrical lock, defibrillate a heart — or to repair a TV. A telekinetic whip helps to slice people and concrete alike into bouillon cubes — or remove caps from bottles (along with half the neck).
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Most Contractors seem to think so.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Shihoko's remuneration, oddly enough. After she uses her powers, her feelings and morals return to normal and she has a complete breakdown. Havoc is in this state pretty much permanently.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Contractors are said to be cold-hearted, rational killers who don't dream, by characters who find them aberrant/abhorrent for these qualities. But there's always at least one who behaves in contradiction to these traits, and then there are normal humans who demonstrate their capacity for them.
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