Darker Than Black (Bones/Aniplex)
Seasons: 2+ 5 OVAs Original Run: April 5th, 2007- September 28th, 2007
Suggested Rating: PG-13
“What is it that you fight for?” –Various Characters in Darker than Black
These words easily sum up the main themes in the neo-noir anime Darker than Black. DTB follows a small band of Syndicate hitmen as they encounter various cases that involve unique humans called Contractors, people with special abilities. The setting is uniquely sci-fi as it takes place in a near future Tokyo after a mysterious space abnormality known as Hell’s Gate, affects a good portion of the city, and causes the stars to be replaced with fake replicas. This in turn causes the government to erect a massive wall to enclose this strange phenomenon.
For each fake star there is a Contractor, and this is where the show really shines. Contractors are special humans that have been to hell’s gate and survived. Returning with strange powers that allow them to do everything from generate electrical currents to using their own blood as an explosive, but there is a price. For every time a contractor uses their abilities they must perform a certain action. These ‘prices’ like the powers themselves come in many different varieties; from laying a pair of shoes upside down to breaking your own fingers. The show uses these contractors to ask a lot of questions about society, what it means to be human, and the importance to think for one self. These are typical of the sci-fi genre but the depth of human emotion or lack thereof is well done and one of the many reasons to give this show a try.
The main character Hei or under his alias ‘Li Shengshun’ is an enigmatic seemingly emotionless character. During the day he works and operates as Li, a carefree and mostly oblivious no body. While at night he is Hei The Black Reaper and wearing a mask defeats contractors under the syndicates orders. Hei goes from being very two dimensional to an extremely deep character over the course of the show as you learn more about his past and why he is the way he is. As a contractor himself Hei has the ability to generate electricity and uses this to defeat most of his adversaries. What is interesting is the questions Hei encounters that forces his true character out over the course of the show, one of these being “what do you fight for”. Without spoiling anything its worth seeing his personal journey to the end.
Not to over look any other characters, the show has a pretty expansive cast with every episode introducing and leaving fully developed characters as the main cast barrels their way through each person’s life on their missions for the Syndicate. Like many cop dramas the episode format is very structured to provide a new story almost every episode (as well as a handful of new characters) with the exception of a few two parters. Everything moves at a crisp pace even if the main characters take awhile to fully develop.
For fans of shows like Cowboy Bebop and Movies like Blade Runner this is easily something I highly recommend watching. There are charming moments and there are ones that will make you worried everyone is going to die, with human emotion on display Darker than black asks a lot of questions and in the end I suppose it’s up to you to answer them…
What are you fighting for?
I rate Darker than Black 4/5 Kupo!