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mahius

  • Joined Jun 10, 2014
  • ? / M

Darker than Black – Gemini of the Meteor (AKA Ryuusei no Gemini) is 12 episode sequel to a great sci-fi action anime. The story continues after the events of the DTB: Gaiden, following Hei's escape from The Syndicate. Thus I recommend having watched the first series and the OVAs before this. Initially it seems more Japanese than the western comic-book style of the original, but it eventually goes into details the original doesn’t, like the transformation and change into a contractor. With superpower reminiscent of the likes of X-Men, the plot retains the unique and interesting atmosphere of the original and things mix up quite a bit. Once again, I must admit the possibility of bias since I loved the original so much and found very few flaws with it, so be wary of scores.

[Granted, overall score isn’t useful and doesn’t tell the reader anything about the anime, if I could I’d review without overall scores. It goes the same for other creative media and the serious journalists in those mediums tend to agree that overall scores aren’t useful. So please take it with a grain of salt, the conclusion is the real score if one doesn’t want to read the whole review.]

Animation

As before, the animation is great, I watched this in 720p. I’ll quote my review of the first season:

“The CGI is a bit questionable at times, but luckily there isn’t much of it. The animation style feels generic, the character designs seem familiar... However on closer inspection, the character design of Hei seems a bit unique, the eyes especially… Some of the designs look cheesy, but I can gather they were done that way on purpose, like Huang, Guy Kurasawa and Kiko. There is lot of action, explosions and the like and they seem to be done reasonably well. Nothing really stood out as being terrible.”

A mention on the usage of animation concerning things that might be seen as fan-service. As always I hate pointless fan-service, ecchi crap. But here, while there are a few designs of female characters that might be seen to be a bit suggestive, it’s all within reason, but boy is it close to failure. At times, the camera is on a characters feet as she puts on her underwear, in another scene a character is getting a back oil massage. It’s nothing horribly sleazy, but damn it’s close and for all intents, nothing bad, The exception is one of the male characters is a perv, trying to hit on every woman he sees. Otherwise there’s no nonsense involved and there’s nothing wrong with having sexy female characters, especially if they aren’t flirtatious sluts like in harem anime… Ahem. As in the previous series, things like nudity and sex are depicted with control, i.e. there’s nothing explicit. It’s done in the usual way that we see in most movies and TV, clever camera angles and the like to avoid explicit nudity. Some of it is relevant to the superpowers. One of the characters had the ability to teleport, but this was more a more ‘realistic’ form of teleportation, if that could be a thing. I.e. only bodies are teleported, without clothes. Otherwise there would be difficulty avoiding teleportation of the surface stood upon.

Sound

The awesome music returns and along with one of my most favourite bands doing the outro. Abingdon Boy’s School did the intro to the first season and they are back here! Of course I got the OST of the original (2 different versions), but I never found the OST for this season back then. Hearing the awesome soundtrack, my determination was renewed and I went and found the soundtrack for this season! Here’s another quote to explain why I like the sound here so much:

“The sound design is awesome, not just some cool rock and a lot of smooth jazz. There’s even a beautiful piano segment (one is played in the anime) and light-hearted comedic tunes when Kurasawa and Kiko are around.”

Like the first season, this anime is available in both English and Japanese, and once again I watched the English dub. It’s pretty damn good, especially given that the characters in the anime are from all over the world, the pronunciation of the Japanese names isn’t too bad, but they do the Western names perfectly. On the contrast the Japanese VAs have a hard time pronouncing the Western names. And once again, we’ve got British characters given a British accent, which makes better sense than everybody sounding like a normal Japanese person with the Japanese voices, haha!

Jason Liebricht voices Hei, having also voiced characters like Luck Gandor in Baccano, Syaoran in Tsubasa Chronicle, Natsu Tanimoto in History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi and Kouhei Morioka in Tsukuyomi -Moon Phase-. Suou Pavlichenko is voiced by Alison Viktorin, she has voiced a few characters in some anime I haven’t watched. Cherameigh Leigh is the voice of July, also having voiced Mary Beriam in Baccano, Pamela/Eva in Claymore, Elicia Hughes in FMA Brotherhood, Mai Taniyama in Ghost Hunt, Yuki Shimazaki in Mnemosyne, Patricia Thompson in Soul Eater, Naomi in Witchblade and Himawari Kunogi in XXXHOLiC. Yin is voiced by Brina Palencia, the voice of Ennis in Baccano, the Kinoshita twins in Baka to Test, Priscilla in Claymore, Rei Ayanami in the Evangelion remake, Nina Tucker in FMA, Teruki Maeno in Mnemosyne, Juliet in Romeo X Juliet, Holo in Spice and Wolf and Ahmey in Tower of Druaga. Mao voiced by Kent Williams, also as Nishimura in Baka to Test, Kozo Fuyutsuki in Evangelion, Sid in Soul Eater, Akisame in History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi and Utu in Tower of Druaga. Kate Oxley does the voice of Misaki Kirihara, the voice of Renka from History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, the frog girl from Soul Eater and more. Additionally, Genma Shizume is voiced by Newton Pittman, Mina Hazuki is voiced by Kara Edwards, Youko Sawasaki is voiced by Tia Ballard, Madame Orielle is voiced by Jennifer Green, Shion Pavlichenko is voiced by Lindsay Seidel and Tanya Akurou is voiced by Alexis Tipton (not according to AP). For details on returning characters I haven’t mentioned, please refer to the review of season 1.

Characters

I’ve had issues with space in previous reviews and the cast here is huge, with many additional new characters. I apologise for being brief and vague with existing characters, thus I’d recommend readers check out the review of season 1 for more in-depth analysis. Also, due to the fast progression of events in this anime (a lot happens in the first few episodes), certain details will be considered spoilers and I shall tag them as such: SPOILER< spoiler text here >SPOILER

The new main character here is Suon Pavlichenko, a Russian teenage girl who lives with her father and twin brother. Her mother is abroad in Japan, likely divorced from the father. Suon seems to love photography and is often seen with her camera taking pictures of things. Her pet squirrel accompanies her, but she also has friends from school, including Tanya and Nika, the boy she herself has a crush on. She hates death, destruction and the contractors who mindlessly take people’s lives. She is somewhat protective and close to her twin brother Shion. She always carries a meteor fragment around her neck and is a pleasant and ordinary person for the most part. SPOILER< following a freak accident in episode 2, the meteor fragment she carries turns her into a contractor. Her obeisance is to make origami cranes and her power is to make an anti-materiel rifle appear out of thin air, which she uses very effectively as a weapon, often with July as her spotter. The weird thing is, she isn’t as cold and logical as the other contractors. She vows revenge on contractors for destroying her life and killing those dear to her >SPOILER

Returning lead character Hei AKA Lee Shengshun AKA The Black Reaper is a contractor (BK201), who doesn’t have a price due to his powers being derived from those of his dead sister’s, the power of electrokinesis. He remains as cold and as remorseless as before, but now he seems a bit more aggressive and emotional. Makes sense since he isn’t an ordinary contractor. He drinks a lot of whiskey and alcohol, likely out of depression. His hair is grown out and he hasn’t shaved for a while. Gone is the neat life he once lived as a contractor under the Syndicate. He is in Russia looking for the meteor fragment on behalf of the CIA. SPOILER< The same accident that gives Suon her powers also took away Hei’s powers. His star simply disappears instead of falling like a normal dead contractor. Despite this, he is still quite capable in a fight. He also harbours sad memories and resentment towards Yin, who he claims betrayed him >SPOILER

July is a young British boy, dressed up in a Victorian-style clothing. Except he isn’t really a boy, he is one of the dolls and his surveillance spectre uses the medium of glass. He is a lot like Yin, he doesn’t have much in terms of emotions and free will since he is a doll. Yet, even in season 1 we saw he was doing things that shouldn’t be possible for a doll. He works for MI6 and used to be on a team along with the late November 11 and April. Since November died, August 7 has replaced him, this guy is a magician contractor and unfortunately for him, the price is to divulge how magic tricks are carried out. SPOILER< Of course April gets murdered, leaving July without any of his friends. Thus with nobody else to turn to, he joins Hei’s group >SPOILER

Tanya Akurou is hot blonde Russian teenager and Suon’s friend. She’s a bit shy and very gentle. She seems to have a crush Nika, the same boy the Suon has a crush on and at the start, he asks her out and they become a couple. And then the story catches up… SPOILER< Through causes unknown, Tanya becomes a contractor, her powers allow her to control a swarm of insects and her price is to rip off a few strands of her hair. Her personality and priorites change, she no longer deems friends and her relationship necessary, easily discarding all who cared for her. She is recruited as an agent of the Russian government and has no qualms killing her own (ex)boyfriend. Femme fatale indeed >SPOILER

Misaki Kirihara is another returning character. This woman was the police chief in the first season, but has since been demoted to another role after the battle of Hell’s gate. Due to her departure from the police department, she is no longer allowed to be notified about contractors, but her old subordinate Saito keeps her informed and will always think of her as the chief. She developed feelings towards Hei in the first season and desires to find him. That’s when section 3 gets in contact and gives her the opportunity of chasing him down, against Saito’s warnings that section 3 are bad folk.

Here’s where it gets iffy… Mao was a contractor working with Hei for the Syndicate. His power was to body swap with animals, but his original body was destroyed during an excursion. He inhabited a cat and had to upload and download his thoughts and personality into a cloud network to prevent the animal brain from taking over. Unfortunately he died in the battle of Hell’s Gate. So why would I be describing a dead character from season 1? We find out a bit about Mao’s origin and his past, how he lost his body. Sure there are flashbacks, but why else… SPOILER< I know I said this section would be spoilers, but all I’ll say for this is that Mao is still alive and around. Now what animal could he be in this time…? >SPOILER

A new group of standalone characters working together in a team separate for section 3, includes two contractors and a human. This closely follows the template team we’ve seen before with 2 contractors and a doll. Misaki joins this team, but isn’t fully integrated, they won’t tell her everything.

The first contractor is a somewhat frisky and jovial, perverted guy called Genma Shizume whose power is the ability to form offensive/defensive augmentations to his body, by transforming into an armour by touching materials like metal and concrete. His payment is moxibustion, incense is laid on his back and must be lit. He’s kinda like the Thing from Fantastic 4 or Marvel’s the Hulk. He’s perverted attitude has him often arguing with Mina, but Youko doesn’t seem to mind.

Mina Hazuki is the second contractor in section 3’s small team. This moody woman has long black hair and seems to be of the cold moody samurai girl stereotype. To further support this, her powers let her turn anything she touches into an energy-based weapon and her preference is a Japanese wooden sword, thus the powers effectively turn it into a lightsabre. While it can cut through anything, the one thing it can’t cut is Hei’s electrified knife. But that isn’t just it, she can energise herself and effectively teleport. With such badass powers, what is the cost? Kissing guys. Strange cost, but it gets even stranger considering that this character is lesbian and aggressively so. She’s very direct with it, but she doesn’t care if her advances offend another woman. She hates how perverted Genma is, maybe because the two are competing for chicks? Despite all this, she is as stoic and cold as a contractor should be.

The final member of this trio is the jovial woman Youko Sawasaki. She’s the human support for the team, like Huang was for Hei’s old team. But she isn’t just an extra pair of hands, this spectacle-toting woman has brains. She’s good with tech and can build crazy stuff, such as the strange trap device at the start of the series. She doesn’t mind the quirks of her contractor buddies’ personalities, she’s fine getting hit on by Mina.

Shion Pavlichenko is Suon’s twin brother, of course not an identical twin since gender is only determined during conception, no amount of messing around can change the gender of a fertilised egg. That said… anything can happen in fiction, but it does annoy me when this one piece of science is ignored for some reason. Enough of the twin nonsense, Shion becomes a contractor from the very start. He is kept hidden away by his father and is disallowed contact with people. His price for his powers is to lose the ability to walk, but the power itself remains a mystery. He has gone to Japan for some reason and Suon’s goal is to reunite with her brother and protect him, as she once promised.

I can’t speak too much about the other characters, Yin especially since it’s spoilers. Old characters return, like the dumb detective Guy Kurasawa and his equally idiotic sidekick Kiko Kayanuma. Misaki’s old cop buddies are also still around. There’s a mysterious blonde woman who hangs out with two stoic twins (likely dolls), who seems to know a lot about everything, but especially about Mao.

Story

Here’s a quick recap on the lore. Contractors a special people with (unique) superpowers, which they must pay a price (obeisance) for. They lose mostly their humanity as they no longer are capable compassion or strong feelings. They are cold, cynical and logical beings, having no remorse when deceiving other’s to reach their goals. Each contractor is represented by a star in the sky, which shines brighter when the contractor is using their powers and falls as a meteor when the contractor dies. In recent history, the real stars disappeared along with the appearance of hell’s gate, heaven’s gate and the contractors. The gates are large areas where the laws of physics have broken down and survival is difficult. Heaven’s gate was in Brazil and 7 years ago, a disaster occurred where the gate and an area of land around it were destroyed and became completely inaccessible.

Then, 2 years ago during the events of season 1, Hell’s gate in Japan almost did the same, but Hei managed to stop it. This was the battle of Hell’s gate where many contractors lost their lives and many stars fell from the sky. This season stars as a flashback to back then, where one of the meteors impacts during a hunting trip for the Pavlichenko family.

The plot runs fast here, unlike the first season there are no episodic stories showing off contractors and this world. I can’t really describe the first few episodes without spoilers, but Suon is on a mission to find her brother, who said he’d be waiting for her in Japan. As I mention in the intro, this season shows off the transformation into a contractor and viewers can see the difference before and after. It goes without saying, there is no way to predict the future events of the plot, besides the inevitable, ‘getting to Japan.’ There are some crazy revelations, one of which I jokingly guessed and then got right (not a prediction). Things get complicated. The major flaw of the story is the very end, a lot of things just don’t make sense or aren’t explained. It suggests a possible sequel.

This anime deals with quite few different topics, including the human state, death, murder, betrayal, torture, revenge and quite a few more. There’s some upsetting things, like a mother leaving a family, a transvestite father raising his son (yeah… they explain that he tried to be normal and gave up when his wife life), the absolute bullshit ‘love at first sight’ (I’ve ranted elsewhere about this, check the Romeo X Juliet review) with a girl too young for him (pedophile!), so much loss of life, physical abuse… the story has evolved from the simple superhero plot from before. Heck… the whole superhero protagonist thing is effectively gone (check the character spoilers to see what I’m referring to), though theirs is some of Hei’s Batman style interrogation… “Where is she?!?”. Some folks may see this as a bad thing, that aspect was a unique charm of the original. This feels a bit too different without it. Oh, and there kinda is some legit romance here, it’s a triangle perhaps, though a lot of one-sided or vague affections. But don’t expect it to come to the fore in the plot, this angle is played very cautiously here, with occasional jabs (Mina being to the point).

Some aspects of the story I felt were dumb, like the lesbian character. While it is nice to see a homosexual character for a change, the character is still forced to kiss men and is overly flirtatious, in a very unrealistic way. It’s like they are taking the mick here, I wouldn’t be surprised if real folks were offended at this depiction. It’s like they couldn’t be bothered to come up with an excuse to make her bi-sexual. I hate tsundere, so that wouldn’t be a solution. The good thing is, it doesn’t have much of an impact on the overall experience so *it can be forgiven*. But it must be mentioned.

Conclusion

This sequel does manage to evolve and stand up on its own, to the point where one can watch this anime without having watched the first season, with no issues. That said, I do recommend watching the first season anyway, providing a lot of backstory to things that are referenced here. Who is this for? No longer for the comic-book superhero fans perhaps, the superpowers are still there, but I no longer had that vibe from this season. Folks who liked the story of the original and want to know more about the contractors may enjoy this. I also recommend this to folks who prefer a shorter and more meaningful story, the overall plotline of the last season wasn’t clear until the very end. That also made it completely unpredictable, but even if this sequel has an objective from the start, it’s still a meaningful and interesting journey of a story. And even me, who is able to predict a good many plots could predict this one. Of course I enjoyed this, even without the Batman-like ambiance. I tend to give unrealistic scores, so I’ll be realistic, it does have its small niggles after all. At least season 1 didn't sequel-bait. Heck, it holds strong compared to this season.

Family-friendliness Rating: 4/5 Troubling themes and mature content (lower is better)

Overall Rating: 9/10 (higher is better)

8/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
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