Genre: Science Fiction, Supernatural, Mystery
Writer: Tensai Okamura
Studio: Bones, Aniplex
Present day Japan is stranger, and as the title suggest, much darker than it seems. Due to an incident 10 years ago, unknown areas of space have appeared out of nowhere, surrounding the boundaries of the city of Tokyo.
Due to the unexplained abnormalities caused by the unprecedented areas, the sky of Tokyo has been replaced by a fake sky, complete with fake stars which glitter in the night sky. These stars however are indicated to the existence of special powered humans called contractors, who had gained their supernatural abilities from the appearance of the spaces themselves. Each star is assigned their own contractors, and the rise/fall of a star means the birth/death of a contractor. The stars, and their respective contractors, are given code numbers to signify one from another, courtesy of the Astronomic Research Team. The Japanese police tries their best to keep these usually criminal contractors in check by their code numbers, hunting them down if need arises. These contractors, though yielding some sort of supernatural powers, have a slight weakness. Each time they use their power, they have to ‘pay a price’, which usually involves performing some kind of ridiculous activities to keep their sanity balanced within themselves. Contractors are apparently not considered humans, but rather as cold blooded killing machines, with their willpower only suggesting rational thoughts in order to save their own lives. The government tries their best constantly to keep the existence of contractors and the abnormal spaces away from public ears; there fore they surround the space around Tokyo with a wall named ‘The Hell’s Gate’, and always keep news about contractors available only to the police or any higher up organization.
The protagonist, Hei, is a contractor as well, with the power to control the flow of electricity. As a protagonist of such a dark anime, he has a troubled past, which involves him and his sister being a part of the extermination of a space similar to the Hell’s Gate in Tokyo, named the Heaven’s Gate, situated in Brazil. The main extermination team involved him, his sister and another girl named Amber; and the three of them successfully takes down the area covered behind the Heaven’s Gate, at the expense of Hei’s sister’s life and the backstabbing of Amber due to certain reasons. Events transpire, as Hei comes to Tokyo and joins the mastermind organization behind the extermination of the Heaven’s Gate, the Syndicate. The anime slowly advances as Hei takes up missions from the Syndicate, revealing more characters and adding more plots to the entire storyline.
The season 2 of the anime is, well, a lot less dark than the 1st season. A new main character by the name of Shou is added, and the plot begins with her discovering the existence of contractors, who then on becomes responsible for turning her totally normal life upside down. She does meet a rather ‘changed’ Hei later on, but I won’t discuss further, for the risk of spoilers.
Wow. That was tough to write. Darker than Black is one of those shows where things are vaguely described. I doubt anyone could watch and understand each and every details of the show without paying 101% attention. It took me a lot of time to come up with the right words to explain the main plot of the anime, so please accept apologies if I failed to do it properly.
Anyways, on with the rating!
The idea was ‘so-so’, while fluctuating between ‘average’ and ‘I don’t understand the main concept at all’. As I have said, this anime is prone to unclear descriptions. It has never even been explicitly stated as to exactly how the areas behind the gates appeared or how these abnormal spaces give one superpowers. I guess the main concept here was the showcasing of a gruesome, cruel and blood-filled criminal underworld with a variety of secret organizations and its agents hiding behind every rook and crannies. Give it a watch, and in about 10 minutes, you will find yourself pretty damn serious for one reason or another. No happy-go-lucky attitude, no kidding around. If you want to be stern and a fan of the dark-type shows; then it is a must watch. Another concept I guess was the fact that with all great powers, comes a price. This show has given very vivid details on this fact. Then again, it’s a rather different meaning of the word ‘price’ then you would expect.
The concept on the 2nd season stays more or less the same. However, I believe it adds another concept of ‘finding your true self’, as Shou discovers a lot of things in her life to be untrue after her discovery of contractors. The entire anime focuses on her going through emotional mood swings and dealing with them in her/Hei’s own way.
While the concept might be shaky, I definitely give a thumb up to the plot. The advancement of the plot might seem very slow and dull at first, but give it a few episodes and you will see that it is going in just the right amount of steadiness to make you understand exactly what is going on with the characters. Also, another interesting fact I might add: In my opinion, this anime has given significance to the other characters more than, if not, equaled to, the main character. Almost every episode the backgrounds of supportive characters are revealed, adding a bit of fan love for even the one time minor characters. Plus point for the stories being more or less depressing and touching.
When talking about the plot of the 2nd season, I would say a roller coaster ride. No, make that a bumper car ride. Just like how a bumper car ride is shorter than a roller coaster ride and leaves you with a lot of frequent bumps, the episodes are very short in amount, yet, almost the entire plot changes after the end of each episode. It certainly doesn’t have the steadiness of the 1st season, yet, delivers an understandable plot nonetheless.
One thing I really loved about this show except the generic seriousness is the vividness of the characters. As I have explained above, the characters are given considerable screen time and portrays each of them as someone worth remembering, instead of being ignorable mooks. The main character, especially, I found to be of an excellent trait. Even though he is supposed to be a ‘cold blooded killing machine’, he never kills more than he is asked to, and most of the times, he doesn’t even kill his target at all, keeping him in a rather shaky position with the Syndicate. Even if he gives the aura of being a ‘bad guy’, he isn’t one at all. To explain him clearer, just imagine Batman. Chinese Electric Batman with a badass cloak, but similar to Batman none the less.
Chief Kirihara, the police officer who is always in pursuit to capture BK 201 (who is Hei, named after his star number) is another fabulous character that caught my eyes. She definitely defines the word ‘vigilant’ to a great extent, and is a strong female character in almost all aspects.
Eh, I guess some might like Shou from the 2nd season, but personally, I didn’t grow quite fond of her. Her characterization was wonderfully done; however, her frequently altering personalities were hard to deal with. Then again, that’s my point of view.
OVERALL RATING 4/5
3.8 if you do the math.
I have seen a lot of people choosing Darker than Black as one of their top 5 favorite anime. While I won’t comment on others choices, I have to say that to some extent, Darker than Black is awesome enough to be in anyone’s top 5. If you are focused while watching it, and after watching it, go to Wikipedia or other anime sites to understand the vaguely described parts, you would do what I had done: Exclaim to yourself, “Wow. That was awesome.” Just keep an interest on following the show, and in no time, you will turn out to be a fan. Then again, that interest won’t be easy to lose anyways.
Lastly saying, this was a very hard review to write. Again, accept apologies if I messed up somewhere.
Thank you for reading. Good night.