Review by: Faith McAdams
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Running Time: 120 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Darker Than Black IS my new favorite color.
Like fellow reviewer Clive Owen, I found myself deeply interested and enthralled by Darker Than Black, an anime series that – to us – is yet another shining achievement in creator BONES already impressive list of credits. Volume 1 of the series set up some rather interesting events and characters that make up a Tokyo that is shrouded by a dark cloud of violence and super powered elements that make up this sci-fi action series.
The first five episodes that make up Volume 1 ends in a sort of cliffhanger that introduced a redheaded woman named Havoc who was wanted by several government agencies that include the American CIA, the UK’s MI6 and even Japan’s special task force called Division 4 that is lead by the always serious Section-Chief, Misaki Kirihara. Transporting Havoc to a safer facility, the Contractor known as the Black Reaper shows up to snatch the girl from the authorities only to find out that the MI6 agents in town aren’t your average charming secret agents. In fact, the three MI6 members have abilities and use them when they briefly confront the Black Reaper who manages whisk the girl away.
Volume 2 finds Hei, the young man behind the Black Reaper mask, interrogating Havoc rather coldly and violently. We knew from the first five episodes that Contractors are cold and emotionless and Hei – while somewhat different – also tends to fall in this category. He does show Havoc some kindness, though, and does try to save her by attempting to take her as far away from Hell’s Gate as possible. Of course, the MI6 agents close in on them and – as Clive said in his review of the first volume – there aren’t any happy endings in this series.
Then again, the next pair of episodes changes the pace and tone of the series to a less serious one. It’s a welcome change to the moody-yet-awesome feel of the first six episodes, actually. We are introduced to Gai Kurasawa, a private investigator that likes to chain-smoke, bask in his own bad body odor and drone on to himself like a terrible imitation of a Raymond Chandler character. He assistant, Kiko, is a perky young anime fan who constantly complains about everything he does and dresses up in cosplay outfits. An attractive woman comes into his office looking to hire Kurasawa to find her missing black cat. He accepts mainly because his client is attractive and bosomy. Kiko just thinks Gai is dumb enough to take the case.
Oh, but this isn’t just a simple case of finding a missing cat because an employee of a perfume company winds up dead by the hands of a Contractor that can hijack bodies. Mao, the talking cat who works with Hei, calls him a “body jumper” but what exactly does this have to do with a loopy private detective and a missing cat? Things turn interesting when Kurasawa actually encounters the body-jacking Contractor and Hei who mesmerizes the private eye when Hei finishes off bowl after bowl of ramen. I won’t spoil the surprises but the two episodes are actually hilarious, especially when the detective confuses Mao with the cat he was paid to find.
The last two episodes of the five-episode volume offers a deeper look into who Section-Chief Kirihara is as she becomes the center of an investigation concerning the Chinese triad mob. A member of the triad attempts to turn himself in to blow the whistle on the whole criminal organization when the bloodstains on his back turn into a gaping hole. We also find that Kirihara’s police chief father comes into the picture and when they go for dinner in the very place owned by the leader of the Chinese triad, Kirihara finds herself meeting up with an old school friend named Alice. As it turns out, Alice just so happens to be the daughter of said triad boss and invites Kirihara to the upstairs penthouse to celebrate her birthday.
Oh, but things turn sour quickly during the birthday party and Kirihara finds herself in a fight to stay alive when the Contractor that murdered her potential star witness against the triad boss shows up. On top of that problem, she unsuspectingly meets Hei who is using the cover of Chinese waiter to complete the mission he was sent for revolving a strange object that came from Hell’s Gate. The best part about the episode, apart from seeing Kirahara drop her guard a little and loosen up, are flashback scenes of her when she was in grade school.
As much as I loved the first volume, Volume 2 of Darker Than Black reveals a lot more about the characters that make up this stimulating series. It’s good to see a series that is filled with smart drama and solid action but it’s also great to see the series show its fun side too. Darker Than Black might not be one of those series you can easily jump into and understand right away but if you give it a chance you will certainly not be disappointed.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The fate of Havoc rests in the hands of the Black Reaper as they face off against powerful enemies. In another pair of episodes we find a private eye trying to solve a case that might just involve a body-snatching Contractor. Meanwhile, we learn about the type of person Misaki Kirihara is and look into her past. It’s great stuff.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
At times the character designs seem a tad generic and the series reuses the same backgrounds often but the action sequences and animation is fluid and quite dazzling.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting for both the English dub and Japanese voices really rock in this series and Yoko Kanno’s original score makes the action sequences even more exciting. I’ve got a major crush on the opening theme song but Rie Fu’s “TSUKIAKARI” is not only a beautiful song but it’s got my vote for Best Anime Ending Theme Ever.
It’s great to find audio commentary and Volume 2 has one for Episode 009. The production artwork extra is also nice and so is the textless songs for those that like to see the opening and closing sans the credits.
Darker Than Black is beginning to become one of those anime series you will kick yourself for missing. While the first volume did a great job of introducing the themes, character and action, it’s Volume 2 that fleshes out the characters in an amusing way. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up right away, anime fans.