Reviews: Darkerthan Black

Great Show

There is only one bone I have to pick with DtB, and that is the ambiguity of the setting. After a certain point, it will become clear that the creators aren't just lazily inventing a world whose foundations they didn't bother to think up, but it is nonetheless jarring to have to infer so much based on so little, and still come away with a poor understanding of how the world of these characters works and why it came to work that way. However, the mechanism of the plot, the powers, and so on are secondary to the character development and the deconstruction of super-humanity and the show functions quite well without it.

The emotive depth of the story is amazing. The characters aren't, for the most part, very fleshed out, and it is actually a point of the DtB universe that contractors and dolls are flat and basic - but what this essentially does is it enables the viewer to sympathize with them not because of how human they are, but because they, in spite of their inhumanity, do not deserve to be used, mistreated, and killed - not by virtue of being equal to us, but by virtue of being alive, and having us respect that life.

The animation was a bit simplistic at times, especially the faces, but the fight scenes make up for it in spades. However, it makes one wonder whether the deeper issues tackled by the show were accidental. The series looks completely shonen, so it is almost incongruous that it would also bother to do anything in the vein of deconstruction, true pathos, or philosophic thought. There's a good bit of cliche, and a good bit of deus ex machina, and yet, the series persists in successfully examining and redefining the nature of superheroes and their treacherous place in the world.

Mature characters, confusing plot

One of the interesting things is that almost every character thinks that Contractors and Dolls have no feelings, when it is established early on that they DO have feelings. Huang's belief can be explained by his traumatic experience with a contractor earlier on in his life.

Throughout the series, the Gate is a puzzling aspect and most questions remain unanswered. Nobody even knows how the Gate appeared in the first place. The plot, however, is not the most important aspect. The characters are.

Hei is a ruthless assassin who earned himself the nickname of the Black Reaper because he was able to kill Contractors without any Contractor powers. In the first series he takes on various covers such as a university student, and he also works at a restaurant. It turns out that this job is selected for him to complete his missions from the Syndicate which is mysterious and never revealed. He is in the cell controlled by Huang alongside Yin who is a doll. He's true personality is ruthless and violent, but throughout the series he becomes more caring. Yin is uncommunicative at the start but gradually shows her love for Hei through various ways by the end of the series and more obviously in the OV As. Huang was dumped by a woman he loved (she was a contractor), possibly turning him into the bitter old man he was in Season 1, but towards the end he meets with her again and finds out the truth, and ends up sacrificing his life for the Contractors for whom he had expressed disdain earlier on in the series.

Season 1 develops the relationship between Hei and Yin, with them becoming closer to each other nearing the end and into the OV As, but unfortunately interrupted by the emergence of Izanami. Hei becomes a drunk after he loses Yin, showing what an impact it had on him.

The fight scenes are well animated and without the dialogue that plagues Shonen anime, they are fast-paced and exciting because the outcome of any battle is uncertain.

Kirihara is a policewoman who is intent on finding out the truth, her interaction with Hei in Season 2 reveals his fiercely protective character. Suou is a girl who comes into the hands of Hei in Season 2 and matures under his training. Unfortunately she is taken away along with July at the end of Season 2 into Earth 2.0.

All in all the characters in the series are mature and interesting. Plot could be better though.

One View On The Dark.

Darker Than Black is one of those works of art that fall under common classification but in fact belongs to the category of uncategoryzable.

DtB world has a depth — could even make a good RPG, which is more than can be said about settings built around some specific plot. Artwork and aestetics are fine, plot is less important than a tension or Character Development, but neatly binds everything together.

In DtB the Universe never bothers to explain what it does to mortals, or why exactly this way. Unknown forces just walk their own path and it's better not to stand where they tread. No reason to think Expo Speak is the final truth and not a handful of wild guesses and wide generalizations, especially as these characters don't know important facts about their own work.
Authors of DtB apparently know well what decision-making is about, as they place characters in such situations: no one provides them ready lists of one "right" and one or two "wrong" solutions. They have almost no information, and few scrap they have are certainly incomplete and unauthentic, while time flows like a water between fingers: "late" is "right now" and few seconds later it may be "too late".
DtB has a sensible approach to unusal powers: they may improve non-linearity of the plot, but not make and solve all problems, so the story does not turns in "supermen tale". Hei accomplishes missions and survives not as much due to his Contractor ability as his ninja skills, sound tactics and being in a good form.

Darker Than Black has no primitive "morals to the fable" or fairy tale -style "choices". There's no crossroads, no convenient road signs. Characters just stand amid some or other adorned ruins, hear unintelligible sounds and try to understand what's going on, who is their enemy and what to do.
It's not a fable about knights on white horses fighting "Forces Of Evil" scrambling from under beds at night, nor a fable about knights on black horses fighting encroaching "Forces Of Good" at day and each other at night. Maybe "why, they lucky they survived all this at all" attitude makes it "Dark Fantasy" or something, but it's not the point. It's not a fable at all. Just an interesting story about living people.

Wow, just wow.

OH MY GOD THIS WAS THE GREATEST SHOW I HAVE SEEN IN MY LIFE! -Ahem- This is the show that Heroes wanted to be. A good deconstruction of super powers and the people who have them. An intelligent look at philosophical, political, sociological, and psychological effects of super powers on the rest of the world. Amazing fight scenes. Cool powers. Characters who don't have an unnatural attraction to idiot balls. The ending managed to contain all that worked in the endings of both Evangelion and Watchmen (never thought I'd mention those in the same sentence) oddly enough the particular fansub I watched had a lot of dialog in the last episode ripped almost verbatim from Ozymandias quotes from Watchmen it being a fansub I can't say for certain that they were that obvious a reference originally. I was expecting a soundtrack as awesome as Cowboy Bebop's since they had the same composer but the music here was terribly lack luster.