Review by: Eduardo Zacarias
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $64.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD)
Running Time: 400 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
The Black Reaper is back and he is not very a happy man.
When the first season of Darker Than Black was introduced to us, it personally became one of those series that I still watch and appreciate just as much as, say, Ghost in the Shell. It’s complex yet thrilling and dark yet lets in enough light to make us smile at its light comedic touches. It’s a fan favorite for a reason so it is no surprise we find ourselves looking at a second season. Season Two of Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is everything we can ask for in a second helping of a satisfying series.
Sounds like high praise for a series that pushes new characters into the spotlight? Not at all considering the fact that all the familiar elements are back and this time returning characters are in a very dark place. You see, we are introduced two young Russian twins Suo and Shion Pavlichenko whose lives are suddenly changed by two major events one of which is the introduction of Heaven’s Gate and Hell’s Gate to the world. As a result, Shion becomes a Contractor while his sister, Suo, finds herself living out her life like a normal girl.
However, all of this is interrupted when Contractors and an armed unit pays an unfriendly visit to Suo and Shion’s home they share with her scientist father and his beautiful lab assistant. In the chaos, Shion goes missing and their father is killed. Suo even finds out that his father’s assistant – who is familiar to Darker Than Black fans – isn’t who she seems. Things start looking bad when Suo is saved by a tall, dark and dangerous man that is known as the Black Reaper or BK-201 or, well, Hei.
As it turns out, Hei has come to protect Suo who holds the key to unlocking a secret that involves a meteor’s core as well as a prophecy that will have groups fighting to stop it from happening. Meanwhile, everyone around Suo changes as well such as her friend Tanya who turns into a deadly Contractor who turns on Suo and the boy they both love. So she has no choice but to follow Hei despite the fact that she believes he is the one that murdered her father. Tagging along is Mao, who is no longer in the body of a black cat but rather a domesticated flying squirrel.
Unfortunately for Suo, after a vicious attack from her once friend Tanya, a tragic event awakens her Contractor abilities that has her summoning a Denel-Mecham NTW-like sniper rifle. Escaping with Hei and the boy doll called July (from the first season); we realize that a lot has changed about Hei. He’s no longer the friendly and peaceful young man we knew but rather an older and more battle hardened person who spends his free time drinking. He trains Suo to defend herself but does so in a shockingly abusive manner that it seems so unlike him.
Meanwhile, another familiar face comes into the picture as Misaki Kirihara is visited by Chief Goro Kobayashi who offers her a job in a secretive division known as Section 3 that is tasked with eliminating the remaining members of the Syndicate and that means BK-201. Eager to see him again, Kirihara joins a team that includes the skilled Contractors – Genma and Mina – and a talented operative named Yoko Sawasaki.
As Hei continues Suo’s training and moves closer to Japan, the girl develops a love-hate relationship with Hei. She puts up with his cruelty in hopes that he will lead her to her brother, Shion, and finds herself questioning many things about herself. For starters, if she’s really a Contractor now why does she still exhibit emotion? Why does she hate yet have feelings for Hei?
The answers to these questions are revealed as Suo gets closer to finding her brother by way of her long lost mother she finally confronts after obtaining the services of our favorite private eye, Kurosawa, and his otaku assistant Kiko. There are some interesting twists towards the end as Suo and Hei discover the truth. I will say no more since the series does a great job setting up the surprising twists.
As complex as the story is, Season Two doesn’t lose the elements we loved about the first season. There’s still plenty of action and comedic elements that still add to the excitement. Some memorable characters from the first season turn up but the new ones that are just as charming such as Norio … a young punk who instantly falls for Suo. Even the Contractor Mina, who recharges her power by kissing her companions, is a delightfully deep and appealing character.
For those worried that Hei and Yin have been swept under the rug to make room for the new characters should feel at ease since this second season collection comes with a four-part OVA. The events seen in the OVA lead up to the events in the second season as we find Hei and Yin trying to escape pursuing Contractors. Sadly, something is happening to Yin and Hei feels helpless since he has strong feelings for the doll who actually feels something for him as well.
Meanwhile, a group of Contractors want to eliminate Hei as payback for killing Amber in the first season as well as looking to sell Yin to the highest bidder. The result is an action-packed and tragic confrontation that leads up to Hei and Yin parting company. Believe me when I say that, although on the short side, the OVA do not lack substance and will move you. It’s just that good.
On a personal level, I do have one small gripe concerning the Blu-ray version. The ability to select subtitles for the English dub is not available. It’s no big deal but if you’re like me – who occasionally watches anime with a large group of anime fans – subtitles is much appreciated.
Season Two of Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor delivers a package that still has the power to keep fans on the edge of their seats while loving every second of it. Yes, there are new characters who take center stage but it continues the tradition of bringing us a complex story with enough action, intrigue and humor to make Darker Than Black one of those truly deserving of fan worship. This is one hell of a season for one hell of a great show so do not miss this one.
BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A single event changes the lives of Russian twins Suo and Shion as they are thrown into the world of the Contractors. With her brother missing and her father dead, Suo finds protection in the form of BK-201 or, as he’s better known, the Black Reaper. Unfortunately, this Hei is different from the first season and – with the mysterious Section 3 after them – they are in for the fight of their lives. Meanwhile, the OVA episodes cover what happened to Hei and Yin before the events of the second season.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation for this series is what we can come to expect from Aniplex and that is a very good thing while FUNimation handles the series flawlessly on both Blu-ray and the accompanying DVD. Obviously, the Blu-ray version definitely the way to watch this series and you’ll see why if you have a high-def setup.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting in the series has always been strong as we can see from the first season and this second season (plus the OVAs) is no different. The Japanese cast is strong but the English dub cast is flawless thanks to the likes of Jason Liebrecht (voice of Hei), Alison Vicktorin (voice of Suo), Kent Williams (voice of Mao) and Johnny Yong Bosch (who voices a character in the OVA).
On top of that, the score is beautifully cinematic and the opening and closing theme songs are unforgettable whether you like Stereopony’s opening theme or the closing theme song “From Dusk Till Dawn” by abingdon boys school.
We are so loving the Blu-ray plus DVD combo packs FUNimation is putting out lately and having both options is simply awesome. The series comes complete with clean opening and closing tracks as well as some FUNimation trailers. The best stuff comes in the form of the Episode 4 commentary with ADR Director Zack Bolton as well as Alison Vicktorin and Kate Oxley (Kirihara).
There’s even an audio commentary track for the Part 1 episode of the four-part OVA episodes that include Jason Liebrecht and Brina Palencia (Yin) as they touch on the relationship between both characters that makes the ending all the more heartbreaking.
Darker Than Black fans, you have reason to rejoice because Season Two of Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is a compelling, beautifully executed and slightly darker chapter in this series. While a lot changes in this second season, the series never loses sight of what drew us to it in the first place and delivers a smart, action-filled and unforgettable chapter you need to see.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment