Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 100
Genre: Sci-Fi/ Action
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Heartbreak and heartbreakers.
Having heard a lot of good things about Darker Than Black around the office and by other anime enthusiasts, I sweet talked my way (yay, I still got it) into reviewing the fourth volume of this intriguing sci-fi action series. As it turned out, all the good things I heard about the series are true and – in the end – BONES once again finds a way to draw me in to yet another futuristic tale well worth viewing.
Little by little, we are revealed a bit more about the Contractor various agencies call the Black Reaper and who we know as Hei. He’s a different kind of Contractor who doesn’t seem to be playing by the rules of the very people he works for and – despite the fact that Contractors are suppose to be heartless – he shows us that he’s capable of showing compassion. In other words, he’s different and that makes him interesting to the point of being likeable.
In Volume 4, we are revealed a little more about Hei … most specifically his mysterious past and his involvement in a unnatural event concerning Hell’s Gate that caused quite a commotion within the scientific community and government agencies. The first episode of this four-episode volume finds April (a sexy MI6 agent we met in Volume 1) the target of a bombing. While she survives the blast, MI6 – particularly April’s partners that include November 11 – suspect that the bombing might be connected to their case or maybe its retaliation by the CIA over the whole Havoc incident seen in Volume 1 and 2.
As it turns out, MI6 was looking into young girl and a boy with different colored eyes and the very last thing April saw before the explosion was their targets. The girl is codenamed February and it’s clear that MI6 as well as Division 9 know her background very well. It is the boy, however, that is an enigma to them. Oh, but the strangeness doesn’t stop there. Back in the Astronomics Lab of Division 9, one of the Empaths known as the Stargazer awakens and speaks … and when she does that it’s not a good sign. This kind of occurrence hasn’t happened since an incident a few years back caused an event that caused Hell’s Gate to vanish and reappear.
When a bombing in Japan’s local CIA headquarters sends MI6 and the CIA into conflict, Hei runs into the boy with the different colored eyes. The boy is baffled by Hei’s kindness while Hei himself senses that this girl named February is really a girl named Amber who he had known long ago. In fact, their relationship is a lot deeper than being mere acquaintances. I won’t go into too much detail but it becomes clear that Hei wants to see her so badly and Amber wants to see Hei again as well.
Of course, taking November 11 hostage, Amber and her young partner find themselves not only confronting Kirihara who is tracking them down but also being tracked by Hei to the point that the organization’s Huang gets into a tussle with Hei. In the end, we find out their reunion isn’t a sweet one despite affectionate feelings being voiced by one of them. It’s sad that the other no longer has similar feelings. Kirihara also comes close to catching a glimpse of the Black Reaper but fails.
In the last two episodes of the volume, we find that Hei’s life in his apartment is a lonely one despite the fact that his rowdy neighbors try to include him in their beer drinking. At work in the restaurant, Hei keeps to himself as well until a young yakuza foot soldier named Kenji Sakurai needs some help tossing out a deadbeat in the restaurant. Hei and Kenji quickly become friends, which is uncharacteristic of Contractors. It isn’t until Kenji’s boss puts Kenji in charge of taking care of a Doll that the young man turns to Hei for help. It also leads to an interesting scene between Hei and Kirihara in a department store and, later, a chase in a train station as the young Contractor tries to help his friend who has fallen in love with the Doll.
One thing that can be said about Darker Than Black is that it consistently features strong writing, exciting action scenes and that feeling that things could go sour for Hei and the others around him. The clash between Hei and Huang, for instance, reveals that even though they’re playing on the same team Huang’s loyalties are to the organization.
Volume 4 is certainly a very lively and interesting four episodes of this unique and agreeable series that continues to surprise and delight. I, for one, am now completely hooked on this series and can’t wait to see what will become of Hei and Amber. In the meantime, it’s a blast enjoying the series so far.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In the wake of a number of bombing against two intelligence agencies, both MI6 and the CIA are tossed deeper into turmoil. Meanwhile, Misaki Kirihara and the rest of Division 9 lend a hand in the investigation that points to a young girl that Hei must find before Kirihara or November 11 finds her. In another story, Hei befriends a young yakuza thug who falls for the most unlikely person … a Doll.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
One of the more attractive-looking anime series out there, Darker Than Black sports some great visual scenery and exciting fights.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English dub voice acting is top notch thanks to some really talented voice actors the continue to do a great job with the wonderfully written dialogue. I love Yoko Kanno but her jazzy score sometimes feels out of place. The new opening (“Without A Name” performed by Au Café) and closing theme song (“Dreams” performed by High and Mighty Color) are good but I will miss Rie Fu’s closing theme song.
The extras are limited to some trailers, clean opening and closing theme songs and an Ok audio commentary track for Episode 16 with Laura Bailey and Troy Baker. The Production Sketches are also a great addition.
While revealing a little more about Hei, Volume 4 of Darker Than Black tells a two connected and engaging stories that continue to expose this anime series for what it really is … a delightfully addictive series that will continue to pull you into its sci-fi action. If you haven’t checked this series out, you really have to drop what you’re doing and check it out right away.