Darker Than Black
A decade ago the night sky was changed forever. The normal stars were replaced, and the moon was to never be seen again. Aside from this, two areas known as gates also appeared. The new stars each correspond to a new type of human known as a contractor. A contractor is a person with a super ability which they gain at the cost of their emotions, and use of their power compels them to preform an odd obsessive behavior. Contractors were used to fight one another in an all out war over the first gate in South America which lead to it's destruction along with millions of people around it. That was five years ago and the remaining gate is in the middle of Tokyo Japan.
Contractors, and knowledge of the nature of the stars is all hidden from the regular world population who go about their normal lives. However some such as the Public Security Bureau's Misaki Kirihara are charged with keeping things a secret and often mopping up the mess. But things around the city are getting even more heated then usual with Contractor activity. In particular Kirihara is interested in the Contractor corresponding to star BK-201: aka the Black Reaper.
Ominous name aside, Hei (BK-201) is one of the most skilled contractors out there. He's also unusual. Unlike most contractors he's often kind, friendly and generally... human. Hei's job entails working with a cell of a secret organization called the syndicate. Hei and his team never question their jobs or why they do them but over time some questions begin to be raised. It seems inevitable that Hei will end up on a collision course with chief Kirihara. And then he's the biggest problem yet: the ex-girlfriend shows up.
Darker Than Black took me by surprise in a few ways. First of all the quality of artwork and animation are consistently good. I typically don't hold my breath for the first two episodes of any anime since it's often a struggling point in most titles, but Darker Than Black managed to do well right out of the gate.
Characters are as deep as they need to be, although Hei's character is a bit odd. He's either kind and empathetic, or a heartless killer but it's almost like they're two different people. Either way you like him as a friendly dope, or a professional ass kicker. Yin is another interesting character, but there is only so much you could get out of an emotionless doll, and I was surprised that Darker Than Black didn't stoop the cheap level so many other titles would have in gimmicks around her.
The other main character is character is Misaki. Interesting, with much of the story revolving around her and the law enforcement view , yet her story and Hei's never really converge like expected and they always end up seeing different sides of the same coin. Two other side characters worth mentioning are Gai and Kiko with a detective agency. The Bogart wannabe and his anime crazed assistant (with a huge crush on Hei) seem like they would be disastrously idiotic but are honestly hilarious. They cleverly give Darker Than Black some humor without getting in the way of the overall story.
Oh yes, the story. The stories aren't that bad, mainly dealing with contractors and so forth. The eventual plot build up was decent although not mind blowing either. I can also appreciate (the last) episode 26 being silly fluff that's just meant to be a lot of fun. It leaves the series on a lighter note as opposed to the more serious climax an episode before.
The coolest aspect of Darker Than Black is most certainly with the weird setup of the whole thing. The stars being replaced by "fake" stars is weird, but how the stars directly correspond to contractors and creates a whole new seriousness to stargazing and astrology. The weirdest thing of all is most certainly the obsessive compulsive behavior needed to be performed by contractors in order to use their powers. Dog ear each page on a book, taking shoes off and putting them upside down on the ground. If people think you're weird watching anime normally, try to explain this stuff when they walk into the room...
So getting to the baseline verdict for this show. It's good. Darker Than Black is better than average in all aspects and consistently so. It's just not exceptional at anything either, and feels a bit generic. Being generic isn't all bad, such as the case here where Darker Than Black takes what has been done before, fine tunes it, and puts it in a great package. There's also a bit of frosting with the weird stuff that does honestly give this anime its own feel. With quality and consistency, Darker Than Black proves to be well worth watching.
Kurosawa: Watching the same crimes play out year after year, like a jukebox with one sad song. It's a city with no one to trust, and no one to love. Where cigarette butts are the only ass you get.
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