Darker Than Black
A decade ago the night sky was changed forever with the normal stars replaced, and the moon never be seen again. Two areas known as "gates" also appeared. Each of the new stars correspond to a type of human known as a contractor: someone with a super ability gained at the cost of their emotions. A side effect of using this power compels them to preform an odd obsessive behavior. Contractors battled each other in a war over the first gate found in South America, leading to its destruction and killing millions of people nearby. That was five years ago and the remaining gate is in the middle of Tokyo Japan.
Regular people know little about the true nature of stars and contractors. Some such as the Public Security Bureau's Misaki Kirihara are charged with keeping this secret and mopping up the mess. Things are heating up with increased contractor activity. She's particularly interested in the contractor corresponding to star BK-201: aka the Black Reaper.
Hei (BK-201) is a highly skilled contractor but ominous name aside; unusually kind, friendly and generally... human. He's employed by an organization called the syndicate. Hei never questions the jobs or why he's doing it, but recently some things aren't adding up. To the point where he's starting to wonder. It seems inevitable that Hei will end up on a collision course with Kirihara. Then there's the biggest problem yet: the ex-girlfriend shows up.
Darker Than Black is the kind of title which is consistently of good quality but lacking in any memorable feature. Darker Than Black lacks something in the likability department to where I'd consider watching again like titles of similar (but generic) quality. Even so, it's solid enough to pick up if you've got nothing lined up and you're looking for some supernatural fighting action.
Hei's is an odd character in that he's either kind and empathetic or a heartless killer - almost like two different people. He's likeable enough, and developed well, but not until late in the show. Misaki is a counterpoint from the law enforcement side, but oddly enough her story never really converges with Hei's. In a clever way Darker Than Black provides comedy relief in two side characters in a detective agency. I thought the Bogart wannabe and his anime crazed assistant (with a huge crush on Hei) would be a disaster, but instead I found them hilarious. They do a good job providing humor without getting in the way of the story.
Beginning episodes deal with contractors and Hei's job. I liked astrology and stargazing becoming serious business due to "fake" stars corresponding to contracting. There are weird compulsive behaviors of contractors, like Dog earing book pages, and turning shoes upside down. This kind of stuff does add a bit of flavor to the anime, which would otherwise be typical superhero style stuff. Later episodes move to a bigger plot and a deeper look into Hei's past. To it's credit Darker Than Black has a conclusion and successfully transitions from episodic stories in the beginning to a deeper one towards the end. I also appreciated the last episode being extra silly fluff to cap the series off.
Darker Than Black is consistent and better than average, but lacks enough flavor to bring it above a level of generic. It's good enough to be worth picking up if the concept is of interest, but probably won't win you over otherwise.
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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