Darker Than Black: Season One Tropes N To Z aka: Season One Tropes N-Z
Non-character trope listings N through Z 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.
Nice Guy: Hei's cover. Also, Nick. Of course, he's also actually a Contractor.
Noble Demon: November will cheerfully announce his own immorality and sociopathy, but is usually polite and charming despite his highly questionable sense of humor, has several Pet the Dog moments, and eventually pulls a Heroic Sacrifice.
No Name Given: The main Contractor/Doll characters are all known by code names. We do learn that Yin's name was Kirsi and November 11 introduces himself as Jack Simon (although this does sound suspiciously like a "John Smith" kind of alias). Hei is also a code name (Chinese for black), and Word of God is that his real name is...Li. Yes, the code name he used in his civilian cover.
Not So Different: There's a lot of moments that show the audience how the protagonists and some of their antagonists aren't really different. For instance, the episode explaining Bertha's past parallels it with flashbacks of Yin's past and shows a similarity between the two; November 11 is told by the Evening Primrose members that he should do what's logical and join them, and he recalls telling Hei the same thing- although, November 11 concludes they are very different, as Hei acts illogically, while November 11 thinks it's logical not to join Evening Primrose; Hei's advice to Kirihara in one of the last episodes to "trust no one and rely on her intuition" is pretty much word-for-word the same warning November 11 gave her, causing her to do a bit of a double-take.
Not So Stoic: Havock deliberately provokes Hei into this by badmouthinghis sister. But any other time a Contractor or Doll shows emotion also counts, such as when Yin starts crying in Ep. 14 or when Maki goes full-on Yandere.
Not What It Looks Like: The time when Kirihara ran into Hei in a department store- buying a wig and a bra. They were to help disguise a doll, you pervs.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Hei in his "Li Shengshun" persona. Not stupid, just so naive, clumsy, and Adorkable that no one thinks to look for the Black Reaper behind that smile.
Opaque Lenses: November 11 sometimes wears these and tends to act particularly insincere when doing so. Notably, there's a scene shortly before his Heroic Sacrifice, where November teases Kirihara while wearing the glasses, but then takes them off and acts in a more caring manner.
Our Souls Are Different: The subtitles of one episode indicate Hei describing Contractors as being soulless, which is intended to characterize the fact that they are in some sense shells of humanity.
Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Seriously, the amount of his own blood Wei spills would have made him faint at least. Once, he waves his hand at Hei and it makes a stain bigger than him.
The Paralyzer: Probably one reason Hei can get away with being less rampantly violent than most Contractor special agents is because he has pretty good control of his power, and can choose between killing, rendering unconscious, or stunning, depending on the circumstances.
Parrot Exposition: Parodied in "dumb-wrestling" between Kurosawa and Norio. One can almost see the shower of sparks from their mental brakes. - Case? - Contract? - Former wife?
The Penance: Bertha's remuneration doesn't actually have to be the Nausea Fuel it is; she just chooses to do so to punish herself for something she did in the past.
Pillar of Light: Side effect of CY-463's power is "pretty". And then even "prettier" when he turns out to be a greater bastard than one would expect. By orders of magnitude greater.
Playing Possum: In ep. 2 Hei puts on a pretty convincing "shot and not getting up" act until everyone is looking the other way. He was also "killed" by Wei, via blasting him off a building, who Never Found the Body and got kicked in the head a few minutes later for his trouble.
Portal Cut: This is technically what Wei's powers do: he teleports whatever's covered in his blood, leaving the rest intact.
Power at a Price: Arguably, the premise of the whole show. Superpower Lottery gives you a superpower but you must pay the price for using it. When it's something that you can do yourself, like breaking your fingers or smoking, it's compulsive. When it's aging forward or backward, it triggers after each use. Also, the show strongly implies that the main price which all Contractors must pay is losing your humanity and becoming an absolutely rational... being. There are at least two ways of using the power and not paying the price, though both aren't cheap either. Losing your body is really a price to pay. Or gradually turning into walking plant. Hei subverts this because he inherited his abilities from his sister, who effectively paid the price for him (and depending on how her merger with him works, she may still be paying the price for every time he uses the power as her sleeping probably wouldn't impact Hei all that much).
Power Glows: Contractors using their powers are surrounded by a cool-looking blue aura, and their eyes glow red. This is taken Up to Elevenwhen Hei gets a little... upset... near the Meteor Shard, which makes the entire neighborhood and everyone in it glow.
Power Incontinence: Contractors who enter "Moratorium" aren't forced to undergo Remuneration, but lose control and begin unconsciously using their powers while slipping into trances. If the power involved is setting stuff on fire, this can be very bad. The odds of regaining control are slim.
This series plays up on the theory that only the mass that is part of the object being teleported would be. Anything else would stay behind. Clothes are not part of a person's body mass, thus cannot be teleported.
Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Not a prominent feature, as the style is more realistic than "Calling Your Attacks", but Hei once said something like "Wipe that smile off your face" to a Contractor just before zapping him to death.
Although he doesn't succeed in killing him at that point, when he first confronts the body-stealing Contractor, Hei says something like, "So you kill people and make it look like suicide; how about I try the same thing with you?"
In his first appearance, November 11 has one. A gangster tried to double cross him, and ends up frozen in the middle of a street. After begging November 11 not to kill him, the gangster reveals the location of the package November had intended to pay for. November 11 pats him on the shoulder and says something like "I knew we'd work well together". As November walks away, the guy freezes into a Human Popsicle and smashes on the street.
This was also an Ironic Echo, since the guy had said the same thing to him at the beginning of their meeting.
Primal Scene: Played seriously, with Yin when human, where she was blind and her music teacher was having an affair with her mother that they hid from her, but she discovered evidence of it anyway. Besides her connection to her True Companions, this may be one more reason why she doesn't go with the music teacher when he comes looking for her.
Private Eye Monologue: One of many tropes parodied by Kurosawa. He starts in on one when he's first introduced... only for Kiko to march in, open the blinds, empty his ashtray out the window, and yell at him for his poor hygiene and the fact that he's just sitting around when he should be working.
Psychic-Assisted Suicide: A possessor-type Contractor early in the series had been killing people by taking control of their bodies, positioning them on the edge of a building, then snapping back to his own body, leaving them to fall to their deaths, which would appear to be suicides.
Punchclock Villain: Hei, Mao, and Yin, since pretty much every episode consists of them receiving (sometimes morally dubious) assignments from The Syndicate via their handler, Huang... who might also be counted as he doesn't like it much either and joined The Syndicate not of his own volition. Given the whole The Man Behind the Man thing going on, even Kirihara and her colleagues are involuntary punch clock villains. November 11, April, and July also have this dynamic, being a rather friendly group protective of each other. Then there's Bertha and Itzhak...heck, this seems to be the default state for Contractors.
Punny Name: While it may or may not be accidental, this is a series that has a cat who is very nearly named "Meow." Of course, it might just be because it's Chinese for "cat."
Red Right Hand: Arguably Wei's pointed ears and Maki's heterochromia. Although they aren't acknowledged as odd in-series, they are certainly a sign that the characters are up-to-no-good.
Kirihara's boss, who turns out to be part of The Syndicate, wears black gloves to cover up his prosthetic hands.
Replacement Goldfish: One cannot help but notice the physical similarities between Yin and Bai, Hei's dead little sister. Given that Hei is a bit of a loner and seems generally uninterested in making friends with people, this trope may explain his exceptional protectiveness towards Yin.
Required Secondary Powers: At least, Contractors are mostly immune to the effects of their powers. Mai walks Out of the Inferno intact (and her clothes too), and when Hei and Nick electrocute each other they aren't even knocked out. Lampshaded in the second example when Nick wonders why the hell that didn't work.
Actually, the second example was due to the two characters unknowingly making an electrical circuit by touching each other.
Revealing Hug: The second episode; the cut between "Li's" blatant flirting and his ice-cold expression a few seconds later is probably about where someone who didn't watch the Spoiler Opening would start to wonder about him.
Shoot Your Mate: At one point the Syndicate leaders ordered Huang to kill Shihoko to test his loyalty, with secret instructions to the rest of the team to kill him if he didn't comply. None of them were willing to, and she killed herself rather than let them be put in danger on her behalf.
Shown Their Work: The series is painstakingly researched in most imaginable aspects, down to copying a foreign language graffiti in distant locations and accurately representing various obscure guns.
Then again, they couldn't even translate the title properly.
And there's a reason we always refer to PANDORA by the acronym; their English needs some work.
Contractor's Renumerations are pretty much exactly true to how OCD sufferers function in real life. The few times we see a Contractor try to put it off, they become increasingly erratic and can't focus.
Single-Stroke Battle: This aesthetic was subverted/mocked when Hei fought Wei in episode 10. It had most of the usual traits: the two characters charge at each other, it goes to Bullet Time as they pass each other, and they both stop in one place and look dramatic before the results become clear. However, those results were actually faked; neither of them managed to hit the other one, and the blood on Hei's mask was actually his own, put there to fool Wei into writing him off as dead. As a result, the supposed loser crashed in through a window a few minutes later and beat the crap out of the supposed winner.
Slow Motion Pass By: Always done in real time, but the same idea. Usually, it's someone chasing Hei who goes straight past "Li" without noticing him, but at least once someone misses Amber instead.
Smoke Out: A couple of times when Hei is in an otherwise inescapable position (November 11 gluing his feet to the floor, Kirihara and a squad of her heavily-armed subordinates aiming machine guns at him from ten feet away), Huang drops a bomb that gives him a chance to disappear. In the first example, it also melted the ice holding him in place.
Actually if I rembember correctly, he melted the Ice with his electricity in the first example.
Smoking Is Cool: Interestingly subverted. Contractor November 11 has to smoke after every time he uses his powers... which wouldn't be so bad if he didn't hate smoking and smokers. It's somewhat jarring watching someone freeze some guys in the most Bad Ass manner possible, nonchalantly light up a cigarette, then start coughing like a child. In his first appearance, he also gives a very long and very specific address on the dangers of second-hand smoke.
A more straightforward subversion is Clueless Detective Guy Kurasawa, who smokes because he thinks it looks cool, and is yelled at by his Sassy Secretary because she says it makes him smell even worse than he already did.
Subverted again, more subtly. Before Huang decides to go out in one of the most Bad Ass ways possible, he asks Hei to light his cigarette. Hei initially seems to comply but destroys the cigarette, admonishing Huang on his bad habit and forcing him to be a Bad Ass without relying on smoking.
Maki states this philosophy and specifically states that it isn't something Amber taught him. Amber's plan was to give Hei the chance to choose the path that He'd be happiest with, very little opinion on the superiority or inferiority of either race.
Spiritual Successor: It has the same premise as Roadside Picnic: "exclusion zone just dropped on us - weird artifacts - contraband" — and is close in spirit. Show "Hell's Gate First Reconnaissance" or other scenes inside the Gate without main characters to someone knowing Picnic but not DtB and ask where they came from. That's not counting an alleged wish power of the Golden Ball and the Gate. Though the circumstances, scale and focus are different.
If you want more squicky, there's "I-Weapon", sorry, "D-Weapon" project in manga. Based on the Dolls' ability to cope with the degree of cyborgization normal people couldn't take (easy brainwashing is a bonus, of course). And yes, when that guy was plugged into his wall socket, his legs clearly weren't there.
Spy Versus Spy: A serious version with numerous intelligence agencies battling one another for control. However, they were all being manipulated by The Man Behind the Man in order to keep the contractors distracted fighting each other.
Stalker with a Crush: Maki has an obsessive affection for Amber and tries to kill Hei because of this and likely would have tried the same against Amber's other followers.
Stealth Hi/Bye: One reason Hei is known as Chinese Electric Batman. He has a distinct tendency to vanish if he's out of someone's sight for even a second. Arguably the most impressive was when he disappeared from right in front of Kirihara during the time it took her to put on her glasses, while sporting a bullet wound that had him limping so badly he was having trouble walking.
Super Weight: Ranging from -1 to 0 for normals and dolls all the way up through 4 for Amber, Hei/Bai in the Gate, and possibly Izanami. Most Contractors are about a 2, with some (Havoc, Gravity Masters, and Hei by virtue of being absurdly badass anyway) coming in at 3.
Superpower Lottery: Some Contractors have rather useless powers with a high price to pay, while others are very powerful with a small Remuneration (like drinking beer) apparently as a result of the unpredictability of the Gate and possibly twisted Personality Powers. The cake taker though is Hei himself, who has the ability of manipulating matter on a quantum level (though he's only aware of the electrical attack his sister used it as) and a remuneration of sleeping, which he doesn't even have to fulfill due to the unusual means by which he acquired his powers.
Amber may have done even better. She can manipulate time, stopping or rewinding it as suits her wishes. Her remuneration is getting younger- she could have theoretically used this to make herself immortal.
Superpower Russian Roulette: Contractors can have powers all over the place on the Super Weight scale, but it's also possible to get turned into a Doll or Moratorium or have a remuneration that can kill you.
Taking the Bullet: Subverted in the second episode, but played straight when Saitou gets in the way of a blood splatter from Wei to protect Kirihara. Or maybe not so straight, since Hei shows up and zaps the hell out of Wei before he can actually detonate it.
November 11 gets an impressive one as well, killing several of his treacherous superiors, all members of The Syndicate, but dying in the process. Extra points for killing of his boss with his own glass of bourbon.
Theme Naming: Most of the Syndicate agents are codenamed based on colors, such as Hei (black), Bai (white), Yin (silver), Huang (yellow), and Amber. MI6 agents are named after months and days, such as November 11, April, July, and February.
They Would Cut You Up: There are references to PANDORA practicing human experimentation on Contractors. In fact, it's mentioned that initially, various countries did this, until a U.N. treaty intervened. You might think that the U.N. would stop this, but instead, all they did was demand that countries would share their research. The sociopaths aren't the only bastards in this setting...
Those Two Bad Guys: The third episode has a Caucasian assassin paired with a black Contractor and the two are a good fit for the trope and definitely call to mind Pulp Fiction. More sympathetically, Bertha and her partner have philosophical discussions establishing them as Punch Clock Villains, in between trying to kill Hei.
Too Dumb to Fool: The incompetent detective notices how Hei (in his Li identity) is always there when something odd is going on, and is suspicious of him. Notably, Kirihara, who is much smarter and more competent doesn't pick up on this. Well, not until the last episode, at least.
Torture Always Works: On Contractors, it does. Since they place their own interests first, they have no reason not to spill their guts at the first opportunity if the alternative is pain.
Touch of Death: Several Contractors have abilities that do this. Hei has a habit of leaving behind corpses for the police with no visible cause of death, November can freeze someone solid, and the main villain of the interquel manga, Harvest... well, his ability dissolves matter. The results aren't pretty.
Trademark Favorite Food: Most of the time Hei is shown eating, he favors bowls of noodles; also, April generally drinks Guinness.
Trenchcoat Switcheroo: Kurosawa accidentally takes the identical trenchcoat of a Contractor involved in industrial theft and murder. The Contractor discovers the switch when he goes to pay for a meal and discovers nothing but a phone sex advertisement in the pocket.
Tranquil Fury: Being The Stoic, when Hei is angry, he gets furious in a very cold and brutal way. On the other hand, the norm for Contractors is more like Dissonant Serenity, killing in horrible ways with an attitude of boredom and/or amusement.
Trapped In Villainy: Any contractor who doesn't want to be an assassin or spy is pretty much forced to do so, on pain of death.
Trippy Finale Syndrome: The last episodes mostly happen in and around Hell's Gate. This would have been enough to qualify them for this trope by itself (travelling in there involves, among other things, stepping into a rift in empty air that can leave you standing sideways on a skyscraper with gravity at a 90 degree angle to the ground), but then Amber went and triggered the Tokyo Explosion and things got really weird.
Trojan Prisoner: Accidental one. Yakuza guys thought a Doll was just one more sort of illegal goods and didn't even blindfold her. Hei, Mao, and viewers learned something new about Dolls, and Yakuza were surprised by a superpowered ninja "somehow" homing right in on their hideaway.
The Public Security Bureau's Foreign Affairs Division, 4th Section, dedicated to arresting/hunting down Contractors also counts as True Companions, as they are quite close and affectionate with one another, and Kirihara refuses a promotion at least partially because she doesn't want to leave her team.
Tuck and Cover: At one point November tackles Kirihara to get her out of the way of Maki's explosions.
Understatement: In the second episode (though exactly how ridiculous an understatement it is is only clear later): "I'm a complicated guy." Yes. Yes, you are.
Unreliable Expositor: We get a healthy dose of Expo Speak early on, from a scientist who studies things that are under The Masquerade, no less. The next thing we see? Our expo-speaker does not even know who she herself is. Given her purpose, she presumably got no really sensitive information at all. So, have a happy dish of common oversimplifications and tampered memories. You're on your own.
In general, 90% of what is said in the first couple of episodes is either misleading or an outright lie.
Unreliable Voiceover: Mao, at the beginning of Episode 22, gives a dramatic speech about keeping his cool and doing the rational thing while the actual video shows him acting both terrified and mortified. It's funny as hell.
Villainy Discretion Shot: In the time prior to the series, Hei killed tons of people, probably mostly rogue Contractors, and this is very much downplayed. Also, it's clear that Havoc was a horrific mass murderer prior to losing her powers and regaining her morality and personality, but because she is presented sympathetically, it makes sense the audience isn't shown her "in action".
Warrior Poet: Literal. Itzhak's remuneraton is writing poetry.
Itzhak probably bears special mention, though, since he's about the only Contractor we see who can't do much of anything in a fight.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Both Contractors and Dolls are considered no-longer human and may actually think of themselves this way but frequently show hidden depths. Dolls are quite passive at best and catatonic at worst, and Contractors' typical self-centered attitude and "When All You Have Is a Hammer" style don't show that people who treat them as a sort of killing robots are too wrong either.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Contractors appear to be utterly lacking in conscience (as poor Mai put it — "Why?"). And/or have some quirk wired to the Berserk Button (Hei:sister, Wei:victory, Nick:sky Maki:crush, November 11:smoking). The few "how I became Contractor" stories we've seen suggest that it could be the other way around and people who are already about to go crazy may contract some unusual power.
A further aspect of the "great insanity" involves the reaction of several people once they become Contractors. They seem to have a great desire to erase ties to their human past, which they will sometimes try to achieve by killing their closest friends. This is fairly explicit in the interquel and sequel, but can also be seen with Wei in the first season as an explanation for why he decided to kill pretty much everyone in the Tong he belonged to.
Worthy Opponent: Wei. Almost as good martial artist as Hei. Sheds blood easily, but after all starts with his own and is not masochistic. He wants a "return match" with Hei knowing that Hei will survive out of pride, but otherwise is polite and helpful to the end, even though he does not fall into Defeat Means Friendship or Friendly Enemy.
Kurosawa is a chain smoker as part of his attempt to ape private eye tropes, but Kiko breaks his Private Eye Monologue by complaining about the smell, and it's clear that it doesn't improve his already poor hygiene and body odor.
Before going off to perform his Heroic Sacrifice, Huang asks Hei to light his cigarette with his powers. Hei blows it up instead, and tells Huang he should stop smoking.
Bertha's baby choked to death on her cigarette butts, and to punish herself she chews them whole as her price.
And, of course, November 11's cigarette packs are all black with "DEATH" written on them in big letters.
Yandere: Maki would be good friends with Rollo of Code Geass — he is similarly a cute boy whose affection for another character makes him act in a violently sociopathic way towards potential "rivals".
Before that we have Mafia Princess Alice, a childhood friend of Misaki's that became a wee bit too dependent on her. She did not like the idea of Misaki becoming a cop (and therefore leaving her), so she decided that she needed to die.
Yaoi Fangirl: Kiko only tolerates her work environment because she gets to watch Boys Love series on the job. Mayu is just as obsessive, if not worse.
You Are Number Six: Messier codes: Hei is BK-201, Itzhak is CY-463, Wei is VI-952, and so on.
You Bastard: Kurasawa's comments about anime in the dub of Episode 7.
You Can See Me?: There's no way to tell a Contractor or Doll from normal human without their help, and two ways with it. First is a telltale sight of eyes glowing red and a cool aura of blue light. Second (also applied to Dolls) is a suspect ogling an observer apparition, that is, obviously empty place. Granted, only other Contractors, Dolls and people controlling this specific Doll can know it's there, but one Contractor's cover was blown by this mistake on-screen.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: A number of characters, usually Contractors and Dolls, have improbable hair colors like green, pink and white.
You Have Failed Me: The Syndicate, transmitted through Hei's handler Huang, often threatens to kill its members should they fail to complete a mission. Not surprisingly, since their ultimate goal is to kill all Contractors.
You Watch Too Much X: When his assistant mentions in episode 14 that their latest client was acting like parts of his memory had been erased, Kurasawa responds appropriately by claiming she's been watching too much anime.