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11 February 2010 @ 05:46 pm
"Darker Than Black" Review  
Why? Because I had so much fun just watching this motherfucking anime. I didn't even have expectations for it in the beginning. Just like when I watched Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei, I simply found it while I was rummaging through boxes filled with anime DVDs in the market. I picked it up only because black is my favorite color and the title itself was already interesting to me. While I was holding DTB, I was like, "Surprise me," and immediately bought it. It was the same reaction I had for SZS, and I guess my instincts were never wrong when it comes to anime selection for some reason (as well as with manga). I'm now aware that there's been a hype surrounding this anime, but that never influenced my penchant for it. So I'm gonna do a special review for it because I'm just dying to. I'll try to sound as objective as possible (but I might insert some fangirlism once I'm done, 'kay?).



Plot

I'm not that well-versed with anime genre to know exactly what the hell I was watching while DTB is on my TV screen one night. The first time I tried watching it, I wasn't in the mood. After I'm halfway through D-Gray Man, I finally decided to stop for a while (not because DGM was bad; it was quite good too) because I was feeling whimsical and I remember I have DTB and haven't watched it for almost two weeks after I bought it. I wasn't able to finish the first episode because I wasn't really paying attention. I was fanpopping and shit. So last week, during the weekends, I finally decided to give it a try because I was already in the right mood. It was during the exam week, and I don't usually study.

The plot was fluid so far in the first five episodes. I'm not really sure of the consistency itself, but the storyline proved to be fascinating and worth looking forward to each time an episode ends. The opening song was captivating! "Howling" by Abingdon boys school was stuck to my head (Sun will rise, close your eyes, down falling, fallen, falling. Hold inside---just howling in the shadows!~). I didn't really have a problem with the story itself until I got to the climax and conclusion, two of the series' weakest points, actually.



* One of the most important things to me in watching any series (either anime or Western) is the right kind of sequence. It has to be perfect in a way that it eludes the viewer without giving away everything. DTB has done an excellent job on it so far. I was hooked instantly because there's a balance in what this anime gives away and what it withholds from the audience. I've also noticed that the approach is quite Westernized. DTB uses the two-part episode format, giving more volume to the story. Suffice to say, I think I've only continued watching it because the sequence was great; it didn't leave me mystified and disgruntled.

* The most common critic about this anime (and is also what I agree with) is the weak backstory. The summary is this:

"Ten years ago, an inscrutable and abnormal territory known as Hell's Gate appeared in Tokyo, altering the sky and wreaking havoc on the landscape. The heavenly bodies disappeared, replaced by false stars. During this time, people possessing various special abilities emerged, each capable of different supernatural feats - these are known as Contractors. Each fake star has a corresponding Contractor, which reacts to their activities. As such, Contractors are usually identified by their star's Messier catalogue number. Kept secret from the masses, these individuals are known to murder in cold blood, smothering unnecessary emotions with logic and rationale. Their incredible abilities, however, are gained at the cost of their humanity - Contractors are thus named because of an involuntary compulsion to "pay the price" each time their power is used, which can range from eating particular foods and completing meaningless tasks, to self-harm and having their bodies change in peculiar ways. Various nations and organizations around the world train and utilize Contractors as spies and assassins, resulting in violent battles for valuable objects and information." [Haha, Wikipedia whore]

The story has sci-fi/supernatural elements to it. The ingredients are rich as the universe the story revolves around in is immersive. However, the suspension of belief DTB tries to maintain has a tendency to seem shallow at certain points. In a distance, if you don't think about it much, the whole concept of two gates appearing in the opposite directions of the globe, people receiving special powers because of these gates, contractors who are killing machines for the syndicates or governments agents, passive mediums known as dolls were people who were just dehumanized---is all delectable and clever. But after a few more episodes, particularly in the middle part, the viewer would feel like his/her questions will never get to be answered. And I still don't understand where the hell did those two gates come from, how do the gates select which of the people will be contractors or dolls, etc. Since the anime's format is westernized, and this is supposed to be season 1 composed of 25 episodes, I was actually hoping for a resolution that would at least remove some obstacles that complicate the story, but it never got to that point by the last episode.

* DTB has a setting that has immersed in the most ordinary layers. I get the idea that it's futuristic, not because of the technology, or the clothes or the mode of transportation. It still looks like our modern world, really---but it's not just the appearance of the two Gates that made it futuristic; it's the way the people are in Tokyo and how they respond to the phenomena happening around them. They were hopeful with their bittersweet nostalgia of seeing the real stars again (one episode focuses on the ordinary folk looking up at the sky, as if really searching for something to make their lives go back to how it used be). Their murky dispositions are there but the viewer never gets to notice it unless something alters the events in their lives and you'll be introduced to the pain and grief underneath. The atmosphere of the places is always damped and rarely sunny; provided by great animation styles of dim lights and subtle falling leaves during night time and dry, almost crispy effect during daytime. I like how the colors blend just right when an emotional scene comes up; or when a very unemotional scene is there, the colors still find a way to liven it up. The humor is not really dark in DTB despite that one could be misled there. The people are cheerful unless when the moment doesn't call for it. The action scenes have the touch of gore that doesn't have to seem like it's only there for shock value for its viewers, making the violence and threat of mayhem incorporated in the story to be believable and dimensional. The symbolism of the stars, both the fake ones and the real ones that had disappeared, has a resounding and even heartbreaking poetry to it if you go deeper.




* Ah, yes. Bones has definitely adapted the Cowboy Bebop feel when it comes to the characters.  The four main characters are dynamic and well-written. There's Hei, the lead guy, who adapts his cover as the kind-hearted foreign exchange student, Li Shun Sheng, as if it truly is a second skin he can just peel off whenever he's in his Contractor mode. He is known as the "Black Reaper" (or BK-201, if you use his catalogue number). He also has a Batman angle to him sometimes; the dreaded masked fighter whose motivations are inscrutable and not always for noble reasons. Hei appears cold-blooded at first when he is dealing with the assignments given to him by the Syndicate; but that apathetic face begins to take a new form as we slowly get to know him. The viewers can see that he's actually sad about something (perhaps because of the disappearance of his sister?) or maybe he contemplates the simple lack of humanity in his gruesome, yet necessary, acts.

I've never gotten into Yin, the passive medium doll, at all. I just found her cute and appropriate for the group. She was a useful character indeed, but the backstory provided about her didn't appeal to me as greatly as Huang's, the ex-cop. Yin was shown to have retained some of her memories, as well as the emotions that came with them. In the scene where she cries after a lapse in her conscious self, I have to admit it was unexpected, but it was actually Huang that shines at that moment (he was about to kill Yin, all he had to do is pull the trigger. But he didn't. Seeing as he was an asshole for many episodes, it was a rare gesture and did seem out-of-character until we get to his backstory). There's also the contractor Mao whose body has been destroyed ten years ago so he is now inside a cat's body. He can travel from one animal to another, usually a bird when he does surveillance for the group.

Now the disadvantage: These characters are already well-rounded, hopefully with more reinforcements and developments as the story evolves, but there comes a time during the anime when said characters become devices for the exposition itself. Instead of Hei, Yin, Huang and Mao to evolve more, their growth halts just for the sake of the story's plot and their contributions to moving it. That's the only frustrating part. But it is salvaged by the outstanding ensemble of characters that come and go throughout the episodes, like the two villains in episodes 13 and 14. They were chiseled into well-rounded characters in just a span of two episodes which is a very impressive feat and, although their roles didn't last, their appearance in those episodes was unforgettable. There were also more prominent secondary characters  like the Section Chief for Foreign Affairs Misaki Kirihara who is a strong, female character not because she's a police officer who carries a gun, but rather because of her intuition and honest dedication to her work and the people she serves. There's also the laconic detective and his bubbly assistant, and the British intelligence agents who are contractors themselves; they provide volumes to the story, and complement the main four at best.

There really wasn't a villain. One of the reasons DTB sells to me is because every character would be considered the hero or the villain which removes the moralizing tone, and therefore makes the story convincing. Amber, who started off as the enigmatic contractor who might be responsible for Heaven's Gate destruction and possibly the death of Hei's sister, was only there because she's suppose to tie the ends for resolution's sake, but doesn't entirely accomplish the job. She was a beautiful sight, filled with potentials to be a dimensional character if only she stayed longer.

I never really cared much about the characters in general, either. I did like Hei, Kirihara and Huang (Mao and Yin, I'm not sure yet) but I didn't  completely emerge myself into them. Still, I would want to see where the story brings them forth, especially Hei (I think I actually care about him, in a sense).


Overall: 8/10

My complaints really are the backstory, the resolution and the character development that could have been better. Other than that, this anime is exemplary. It almost rivaled Death Note to me. There's a second season and I hope the story has a lot more power to it. I'm looking forward to watching Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor.
 
 
Current Mood: happyhappy
 
 
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastard: ciel lacrimosaruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 10:58 am (UTC)
Hello there! I'm here from darker_than and I have to say that I quite liked your review. You've certainly hit on a lot of the points I had in mind, but you're a whole lot better with words than I am. -laughing-.

I definitely agree about the lovely cast of characters who come and go. They kept each and every episode enjoyable and engaging. And also, I'm very happy that Kirihara was seen as a strong female character because I thought the same as well.

(Can't help it but my eyes strayed over to your list of likes and eeee, you like Kuroshitsuji and Saiyuki too? <3)
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 11:02 am (UTC)
OH SNAP PINOY KA!
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: misa playtimeharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Born and raised!~ XD
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 02:30 pm (UTC)
Small world! Same over here.
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: misa playtimeharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:33 pm (UTC)
I've seen your list of ships, btw. You're also a Batman fan? I'm sitting here, watching the movies. Just finished Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer is such a hawt catwoman <3

Fanboy po kayo, kuya? Psych grad po?
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
Huge fanboy po! And yes, I graduated BS Psych last year. -laughing-

Huge Batman fan. Probably the first Batman anything I saw was the one with Val Kilmer? That was so long ago. And I do agree! Michelle Pfeiffer is just amazing.
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: misa playtimeharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
Congrats, sempai. Also for your five-year relationship. :)

That's what I'm watching right now! With Tommy Lee Jones as Two-face, Jim Carrey as The Riddler and Nicole Kidman as the leading lady.
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastard: bring itruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you! -bow left, bow right-

Memorieeeees! Man, I really need to watch those old movies again. Have you seen the one with George Clooney? And Uma Thurman, I think? Ah ha ha, the one with the "lip condoms"? One of my favorite ones. (if I've got the names all wrong, well, crap.)
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: misa playtimeharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
That's Batman and Robin with Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. I'll be watching it after Batman Forever of Val Kilmer. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy---hawt! She's so pretty as a redhead---just freaking Uma Thurman is always goregous.

I'm Harley, btw, sempai. Nice to meet you. My name is a pseudonym, of course, been using it since I joined eljay 2006. It comes from Joker's lovely assistant, you see.
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
Lady, you are making me want to watch all of those Batman movies! I think I'll make that my project next week. I am, afterall, a house bum. Might as well keep myself busy and entertained.

Nice to meet you, Harley <3 I had a hunch it was from Harley Quinn. She's one of my favorite villains in the Batman-verse. You can just call me whatever you like but I'm better known as Cynic or Ruins or Dan. -laughing- Would you mind if I added you? We seem to have a lot in common.
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: twisted lightmisaharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
Hai, Ruin-sempai! I'll add you too~ It's always nice to meet a fellow otaku and a pinoy at that!

Watch the movies! They're so good..

I love abusive relationships, I mean, since I'm masochistic too, like Harley. Her love for Joker is also like Mrs. Lovett's love for Sweeney Todd, and Misa's love for LIght Yagami from Death Note
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: sanzo profanityharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
Kirihara is actually the top of my list, next is Hei then Huang then Amber. DTB was great, although it definitely left me wanting more.

And Saiyuki will always be my most favorite shounen/manga anime. I love Sanzo!~
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: dance with the devilharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
and Ghost Fighter, pare!!!

And yes, I do looove Black Butler. It was my fandom-breakout last 2009.
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
vgehpiehgfeh GHOST FIGHTER. HOW I MISS IT. I remember the days where Dennis was dubbed with a female voice. Oh lord.

Black Butler remains one of my favorites to date. I'm a whole lot more into the manga though?
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: the first kiss is a delightharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Fucking dubbers made a mistake with that. Yu Yu Hakusho is still a strong fandom to me. I love Hiei. I own the DVD copy with Japanese and English dub and I can't stop watching the damn thing!~

Yeah. I preferred the manga version.
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
I think I should invest in a DVD of my own as well. D: I want to fully appreciate the thing as what I know about it is the little I saw growing up. And the little I understood. I'm horrible with anything vernacular.

I'm a little excited for the new season though. Considering it's a new master and a new butler, I'd like to know how and where they take this. The manga though remains unrivaled in my love for it.
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: dance with the devilharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
Sempai, you can buy pirated DVDs naman around, and they're good quality. My DTB's eps 24 and 25 were shit though, the audio doesn't match the scenes...I'm gonna find a replacement.

Shit, I dunno what I will do without my Sebastian and Ciel...and Meilin... *sobs*
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastard: ciel lacrimosaruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
I'm usually stuck at home so probably I'll scour downtown one of these days? It's a little trickier to find those here in Cebu. Or I may not be very good at finding them. Hrm.

I'm very concerned about my Viscount Druitt D: I will miss him so much! He's hilarious and perverted and possibly a little dense. -sigh-
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: matt is a cool bastardharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
Viscount Druitt, yes indeed. I prefer my meganes though...William T. Spears...he doesn't get a lot of screentime :c
The Winter Cynic, or Lord Magnificent Bastardruins_of_sodom on February 11th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
Not at all! It's so sad to see so little of William. At least he gets a little extra love in the manga. But what I really want to see are his moves in a fight. *w*
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: frail tezukaharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
I want William T. Spears since from the beginning. He and Seba-chan could be duel partners!~
bunny_kinz on February 11th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Nice review.

I agree the resolution was pretty weak.
The story started out so strong but later got lost along the way.

The series was almost perfect for me...till it got to that point :[
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: twisted lightmisaharleycooper on February 11th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
I really wish it could be salvaged though, because it was so good! I'm just not ready to believe that all is lost :)
(Deleted comment)
Harleigh Maureen Cooper: evil gets a better faceharleycooper on February 12th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
Gawd, I forgot the gist of DGM. I watched it last year and never got back to it when I stopped watching. I'm gonna be watching it again hopefully next week...cause I remember it being good too, and sure, I'll review it. I kindda like reviewing the animes I watch now :)
Home of Happiness❤un_ladylike on February 25th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
Hello!

Thanks for being a member of YuYu-Matchmaker here on Livejournal! I just wanted to let you know that the community is now back open and there's a new theme posted, so please feel free to drop on by and enter:

http://community.livejournal.com/yuyu_matchmaker/43519.html

Thanks~!
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