Darker than Black Gaiden is a 4 episode OVA bridging the gap between season 1 and season 2 of this sci-fi action anime series, which was unfortunately released after season 2. It’s set before season 2 and will explain a lot of the plot, in addition to following the main characters after the events of season 1. It is much like season 1, with a similar vibe to a gritty superhero show and almost combined with a spy movie, since there’s a lot of running around various locations. I made the error of watching the second season before having watched this. Which would have made more sense had I done so. This is not set after season 2, thus it doesn’t do anything to repair the slight sequel-bait ending in that season. Funny since season 1 just wrapped things up nicely. I will disclose my hate for harem/ecchi and pointless fan-service, as usual.
The animation is regular fare for the Darker than Black series, though it could have improved a bit more since it was made in 2010. I was almost not going to quote, but I think I will, so here’s what I’ve always thought about the animation of this anime:
“Animation quality is excellent for a 2007 anime, I watched it in blu-ray 720p quality. 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, especially the likes of PC Kirihara and Yin. However on closer inspection, the character design of Hei seems a bit unique, the eyes especially. Though honestly he reminds me of Mitobe from Kuroko’s Basketball, my favourite character in that anime. 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. There are a few big boobed chicks in low cut tops, but nothing to be regarded as fan service or ecchi. Scenes of a sexual nature are depicted in a surprisingly artistic and modest fashion.”
So how does it go in terms of fan-service? Season 2 got a bit too close for comfort, but just about managed to keep things relevant. It’s similar here but it seems to mess the acceptable style from season one and the contrived style of season 2. Much like there was nudity involved with one of the character’s powers of teleportation, (the clothes couldn’t teleport with them), there is a character in this OVA whose payment is to take off an item of clothing. They mention that they usually wear extra layers for situations where there power is required for extended period of time, but in a scene of this anime things get a bit heated. This is so close to being unacceptable, just like how the lesbian character’s payment was to kiss men in season 2. But, there’s a plot reason for it and they aren’t being overly pervy about it.
The music is as good as it usually is, though the intros and outros don’t stand out as much as the awesome ABS songs. Music is used well, the right genres for the perfect moments. Once again I leave readers with a quote since it’s very similar to that of season 1:
“The sound design is awesome, not just some cool rock and a lot of smooth jazz.”
This OVA is available in both English and Japanese, I’ve enjoyed the dub for this series and with this OVA I hear a familiar voice who I’ve not heard much of.
The cast is small, but now we have an interesting couple of new characters, one of whom sounds very familiar. 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-. 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. And of course, Claude was instantly recognised as the voice of Johnny Yong Bosch, most famed for the voice of Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass and Istuki Koizumi in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, having also voiced Ryuunosuke Uryuu in Fate Zero, Michael Garrett in Gun X Sword, Yu Narukami in Persona 4 Animation, Rossiu Adai in Gurren Lagann, Yuusaku Kitamura in Toradora (I’m currently reading the novels before watching the anime) and Haruto Sakaki in Witch Hunter Robin. Shephanie Sheh voices the unnamed contractor who possesses the dog, she has also voiced Kaguya Sumeragi/Anya Alstreim in Code Geass, Eureka in Eureka Seven, Illya(sveil) von Einzberg in the Fate Series, Wendy in GunXSword, Akira Kogami in Lucky Star (better than the Jap VA for that role) and Mikuru Asahina in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Various other VAs reprise their roles from the main seasons including Laura Bailey voicing Amber, Lindsay Seidel voicing Shion Pavlichenko, Tia Ballard voicing Yoko Sawasaki, Kara Edwards as Mina Hazuki and Travis Willingham as Amagiri.
There’s a small mix of characters from season 1 and season 2 of this anime and a few character’s exclusive to this OVA. Of course, the plot revolves around 2 main characters. Please refer to the reviews of the two main seasons of this anime for more info on these characters.
Hei AKA Lee Shengshun AKA the Black Reaper is still here and is still being a badass. During the events of season 1, we discover that Hei is not an ordinary contractor, he gained his sisters power’s when she died and because of this, he has no payment and may at times act less logical. For one thing, he shows more emotion, anger especially. This guy is still the badass Batman like guy, but now he’s almost like a spy on the run, from one country to another. He cares a lot for Yin and wants to protect her. We don’t exactly know why, perhaps he has feelings for this doll, after all, they were both once human.
Yin is the other main character, on the run with Hei. As a doll, she is unique and continues to evolve beyond that which a doll should be. She appears to have some free will, she talks back and makes decisions/acts on her own. Most strange of all, she appears to be able to have feelings, she can cry and feels attached towards Hei. There is something nagging at her though, for one thing her doll spectre is in the shape of a human, which has never happened before for any doll. And she also seems to be communicating with some sort of strange sentience. This only seems possible when she is close to Hei.
A new character exclusive to this OVA is Claude, a mysterious young contractor who has the ability to both change his appearance and control people’s minds. The former likely involving complicated use of the latter. His payment is to eat the petals of a flower and he is one of those after Yin, for reasons unknown. He has ties to the Chinese mafia ho took him in, when he was an orphan. His partner is an unnamed female contractor who is able to possess bodies like Mao, but she can do this to both humans and animals. In the first few episodes, she is most commonly seen possessing a dog and she has distinctive blue eyes. It seems she is supposed to be the senior and brains of the duo, but Claude appears to do whatever he wants.
The only significant human in this OVA is a Chinese man named Chen. He first appears in episode 2 and is supposed to give Hei passports to aid in his escape. This guy smokes and is kinda cowardly for a human, he is the closest thing to a comic relief character and one of few individuals Hei can trust, helping Hei out, even though it puts himself in danger. He works at a restaurant and ends up doing a small, but significant favour for Hei (and some other folks) by the end.
Among the interesting extra characters is the contractor Xiao Jie, her powers allow her to control gravity and her obeisance is stripping. She works with her two brothers who are twins and is also after Yin.
The plot here follows Hei as he continues to be on the run from the remnants of the Syndicate along with Yin. These enemies want to especially kill Yin, who seems to have changed from being a mere doll. She is more expressive and seems to be able to express emotion and act on her own, which is very unusual for a doll. What is most unusual is that her doll spectre is in the shape of a human (i.e. herself). We saw from season 1 that Yin was once a normal human girl. Well in this season we are notified that contractors are humans who have failed to become dolls. It makes sense given how cold, calculating and stoic both of these are.
In each episode, the two come across various contractors after Yin. In episode 3 they come across Amagiri, scarred from the battle of Hell’s gate, he and other contractors have chosen to stop fighting and try to live normal peaceful lives. He claims that this was Amber’s desire all along, to give contractors a long term purpose, they never intended to replace humans. This makes sense given how Amber assisted Hei at the end of season 1.
The interesting thing here is contractors and dolls acting out of the ordinary. Hei being very protective of Yin, even though it serves no logical purpose, then again Hei is no ordinary contractor. And Yin also being very attached to Hei, despite being a doll. There’s almost a romantic element and the common disguise for the two, as they travel, is to be a couple. Of course Hei is often haunted by memories of Amber especially in the first episode of this OVA.
While the plot here is very fast-paced and progressive, after all they only have 4 episodes to explain a lot, this OVA still manages to leave an open ending, in a sequel bait sort of way. Given that this is a small OVA meant to bridge the gap between two seasons it can be forgiven. But at least we never got anything that would never be explained, like the sequel-bait ending to season 2. The thing that is a double-edged sword here, is that this was released after season 2, hence why I ended up watching it after season 2. This meant that original viewers of season 2 and those like me who think this is set after season 2 are left in the dark concerning many of the plot points in that season. It also means that the open conclusion of this OVA is meant to bridge the gap between the two seasons, there is no ‘sequel-bait’ when the sequel came before it. They should have made this before season 2. Alas I can only hope that folks watch this before season 2. There are no flaws with the narrative here, it does everything it needed to do considering at what point in the canon this is set.
This is a must watch for anyone who had watched the either seasons and if one has not yet watched season 2, this must be watched before season for some of it to make sense. It’s so very silly how this was released afterwards and while it does bridge the gap between the two seasons, it does nothing to help some issues of season 2’s plot. This OVA appears to take the best bits from both seasons and combine them into a short, action-packed few episodes. Watch this is you like action and constant plot progression, even if you want something that is reminiscent of western superhero cartoons, with a bit of spy/espionage style mixed in. It helps that this is original work, there’s no manga nonsense for them to adapt form, which also might explain the mistake in the ordering of release and the lack of a solid and satisfactory conclusion to the whole series. The single major flaw of season 2 still hurts fresh, but at least this alleviates some of that pain.
Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 Mature themes (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 10/10 (higher is better)
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