Before I can write a proper review, I have to get something off of my chest; I abused my computer. As soon as I finished watching episode four of Kuro no Keigakusha Gaiden, I slammed the top of my laptop down in a pointless fit of rage. I demanded to know why Studio BONES could not deliver a proper sequel to Darker Than Black, and why they had resorted to, "it's written in a book somewhere," to explain plot points. Then I took a deep breath and calmed myself. I asked myself why I had gotten so mad, and I realized that the reasons I thought I hated Kuro no Keigakusha Gaiden's (henceforth known as KKG) story are the very reasons I adored the story of Darker Than Black. Instantly, I calmed down, apologized to my computer, and decided to write this review.
Since this is a DVD special and anyone who attempts to watch this before Darker Than Black won't understand anything that happens, there's no reason to read this review unless you have done that already. KKG's story begins immediately after the end of Darker Than Black. Yin and Hei are on the run from the remnants of the syndicate, and everyone they meet wants to get their hands on Yin. The franchise finally delves into one of Darker Than Black's most interesting components: that which makes a doll so desirable. Yin shows signs of becoming aware, which makes everyone want her. As a doll with the fragments of a forming personality, she has the potential to become anything.
Despite a great concept, the story still has quite a few flaws. For a short, four-part special, the writers spend an awful lot of time mucking about to get to the point. Most of the time, I expected this show to show me nothing I couldn't infer from watching Ryusei no Gemini, the sequel to KKG, and I was only proven wrong at the very end of the third episode. What started out as a DVD special became somewhat essential to the series, but it took a while to get there. The other problem someone might have with KKG is that it, like Darker Than Black, fails to explain anything about The Gate and only introduces new foreign concepts, but to be honest, I think this is one of the franchise's greatest assets: the interpretable nature of large plot points. It allows the viewer to feel a kinship with Hei and Yin and to realize that, in the end, we have to come up with our own answers.
Believe me when I say that this is the best animated piece I've seen in a while. Some of the scenery is so gorgeous and, at times, realisitc that I sometimes forgot to blink. There's a grittiness to this world that perfectly matches Hei's desperation in clinging to Yin. The fight scenes come off smoothly. Explosions are as flashy as ever, and environments interact properly with the characters that inhabit them. My only complaint about the animation continues to be the cheesy blue glow of contractors when they execute their abilities which throws me off enough to take an entire point off the score.
If there's a soundtrack I love, it's Darker Than Black's. This almost matches the original. The background music woven throughout the episodes is brilliant, haunting, and emotional. The special opening and closing themes for this DVD special make it stand out to such an extent that Ryusei no Gemini, the official sequel to Darker Than Black, can't compare. The voice acting is equally impressive. The sound effects, as in the feet shuffling and the rain drops, are unfortunately, pretty lackluster and muffled, but if I want perfection, I shouldn't watch DVD specials.
I have said surprisingly good things about the story, but there's exemplary characterization here as well. In four episodes, KKG reveals three important characters not present anywhere else in the franchise. Though the focus rests mainly on the evolution of a doll, there are still cool contractors and contractor abilities. Claude, one of the new contractors, almost carries the entire four episode special, both for the complicated nature of his ability and his character arc. Without giving too much away, let's just say that Hei isn't the only imperfectly rational contractor in town anymore.
Where the characterization department is lacking, however, is in the development of Hei and Yin, arguably the leads. While Hei always makes for an interesting study, and I could argue nothing against the heart-breaking insistence with which he clings to Yin, the only thing remaining from the catastrophe at the end of Darker Than Black, his development is simply predictable. Yin, though she becomes something more, is still fundamentally a personality-less doll. Without incredibly compelling leads, this category's score must take a large hit.
Under no circumstances can I call Darker Than Black: KKG a mind-blowing DVD special, but I can at least take offense to it not being categorized as a proper OVA on this site. Further, I will never claim that KKG is as good as the original Darker Than Black series, but I can call it, unlike Ryusei no Gemini, an especially worthy sequel.
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