Critic's Log - Earthdate: June 17, 2012. Review #9: Darker Than BLACK
A heart of Darkness is a heart full of Hatred and Deceit, A dark heart's lust for power can never fill his avarice to the fullest, he will continuously consume power because he resents people that have it. His wrath will eventually lead to his despair and his arrogance will give him a heart that is Darker Than Black. Is it possible to have a heart that is lighter than black or darker than white? I do not know myself because I still search, and then... The trials of a journey begin.
Okay... Enough with the poetic philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Here's Darker Than BLACK!
Ten Years ago, an unknown and abnormal area known as Hell's Gate appeared in Tokyo, altering the sky and wreaking havoc on the landscape. The real stars disappeared and are replaced by fake stars. During this time, people possessing various special powers have been appearing, each capable of different supernatural feats. These people are known as "Contractors". Each fake star has a corresponding Contractor which reacts to their activities. They are also kept secret from the masses. These contractors are known to murder in cold blood. They also kill their emotion with logic and rationale. Their abilities on the other hand at the cost of their humanity, Contractors are also named because of a involuntary compulsion to pay the price each time their power is used. Various nations and organizations around the world are training these contractors as assassins and spies resulting in aggressive battles for objects of value and information. After the Heaven's War, The United States have lost their position as a superpower to a mysterious organization named The Syndicate, The story is about a Chinese contractor named Hei as he undertakes various espionage and assassination missions in Tokyo under the direction of The Syndicate.
To be technical, this is a Studio Bones production and Studio Bones still has good animation quality. Darker than Black does not disappoint in the animation department. The animation looks really good even though computers may have been used as part of The Animation. The animation isn't perfect in this show, but it looks really nice. The action scenes are nice. Kudos to Studio Bones.
Even though the animation is great, there are some big problems with Darker than Black. The story may vary your mileage and I have many reasons why I say this... The pace in this show varies on speed and that might not be so bad. The big problem with the story is that the narrative tense does feel disorienting. Let me explain this, there are times when flashbacks are shown in the prologue of some episodes and then you see the present events occur after the opening. There's also a lot of things explained as the show progresses, this is an anime you need to pay attention to so you need to wake the fuck up while watching Darker than Black. I will give Tensai Okamura some credit that his direction in this anime is a bit different than some other anime out there.
One of the major flaws of Darker than Black is that it feels like the story isn't developing where it should be, Darker Than BLACK does develop a bit at the start of the second half in the show but it does take a while before the show gets somewhat interesting. The ending is rushed and at the time I am writing this review, I am a bit skeptical about the second season of Darker than BLACK.
Another major flaw is that the Minor characters seem to have the more interesting storylines than the main characters themselves and I did find some of these minor character's intriguing. The main casts of characters do get backstories but they are not as intriguing save for Yin's Backstory and Huang's backstory. Hei's backstory was a bit interesting but I don't have much to say about what intrigued me about it. The variety of the powers that the contractors have is nice too. The character development is a mixed bag for me and I was this close of calling the character development "Shoddy". There are some characters I find boring and I found some to be quite interesting. Hei is a bit complicated for me to enjoy watching. I admire the fact that when he assumes the alias "Li Shenshung" you wouldn't suspect that he's the infamous "BK201" or "Black Reaper", but when he is the Black Reaper, he's a badass (to some degree). Yin on the other hand does develop a bit but not too much, since she is a Doll, your expectations will vary. Huang is the only main character that is 100% human. I like the two part episode about him and Shihoko. Mao is okay. Again, the minor characters seem to have the more interesting storylines than the main characters and that can be considered a big problem. It may also feel a bit unoriginal at times.
The music for Darker Than BLACK is composed by Yoko Kanno who is well known for composing the music for animes such as The Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, and Ghost in The Shell. The music is okay in Darker than BLACK, but Kanno- san has done better, Also, I found it quite nice to hear Mai Yamane in a song or two. If you don't know who she is, I'll tell you... She's the singer that is well known for her work in Cowboy Bebop, if you know the song "The Real Folk Blues", she's the one singing it. But I will say that the first opening kicks ass, and the first closing theme is pretty good too. Last but not least, the moments where you hear some jazz in the show. I think it's a nice touch... Kind of reminds you of Cowboy Bebop a bit.
When it comes to voice acting. The subtitled version is excellent, however... so is most of the dub. I will admit the subtitled version is good, The dubbed version might be the most appropriate choice because of the settings and some of the character backgrounds. Even though Funimation is notorious for re-casting the same voice actors at their disposal, I did not mind the dub too much. Hidenobu Kiuchi is great as Hei and Jason Liebrecht isn't bad as Hei either. Misato Fukuen is pretty good as Yin while Brina Palencia was okay as Yin, Masaru Ikeda and John Swasey play Huang pretty well. Ikuya Sawaki and Kent Williams are pretty good as Mao. If there is one character that had a pretty good performance on both the dubbed and the subbed version, it was the late seiyu Tomoko Kawakami and Laura Bailey as Amber. You can't really go wrong with either version so whether you want to watch this dubbed or subbed is totally up to you, they are both pretty good. Zach Bolton (who worked on Shin-Chan) was repsonsible for the ADR direction and he did pretty good on the dub on this show.
Speaking about Amber, doesn't she look awfully familiar to C.C. (pronounced C2) from Code Geass?
Damn... She Does!
Darker than BLACK is available by Funimation, the OVA "Beneath Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom" is released with Season One and is a side story of the show. The Second season of Darker than BLACK called "Gemini of The Meteor" is also available by Funimation, there is also another OVA called "Darker than BLACK: Gaiden (Side Story)" it is also available from Funimation. A manga of Darker than BLACK is available from Yen Press and there is another Manga adaptation of Darker than BLACK but hasn't been licensed here yet at the time I am writing this review.
With that said, Darker than BLACK is a somewhat unique series that might have some unoriginal elements. You might find this show really cool if you can get past the mixed bag of character development, and the story's narrative tense. This is one of those animes that I think is not really bad but I think it's not really good either. Do I like this show? Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool. It's not really on my favorites list...
I give Darker Than BLACK a 7 out of 10. It is GOOD!
Feel free to comment below, and have a good evening