OMG~~~~~~~~~~ I should have started this post as soon as I finished the first season of Darker Than Black, but I kept debating whether maybe I should wait until the second season was over and I’d finished watching that too. But now that I’ve finally watched the first episode of Ryuusei no Gemini, I AM ON A FANGIRL HIGH~!
Maybe helped along by Honey & Clover season 2 episode 5, which I just rewatched and has plenty of NOMIYA x YAMADA! Plus, watching Youtube videos of Honey & Clover insert songs! So THIS is why I love anime~ eheheh.
Anyway, the point is that I was definitely not satisfied with the original ending of Darker Than Black; and so I became incredibly happy and relieved when I watched the first episode of the continuation today and loved it. But wait, on to the REAL point, which is to write a review of the first season.
Darker Than BLACK – Kuro no Keiyakusha
Ah the first season of Darker Than Black, “The Black Contractor”. I fell in love with it because…? The characters, the awesome music, the pretty animation, the intriguing setting. I think the reason I first started watching this was actually because of the music. I’d just finished Wolf’s Rain, and while I wasn’t too enthralled with the way the plot wrapped up, it didn’t stop me from loving the music. And that was how I discovered Kanno Yoko. She also did the music for Darker Than Black, and after Wolf’s Rain just her name was pretty much enough to get me interested. So I downloaded and clicked open the first episode… WOAH. I was thrown into a completely confusing and slightly different modern Tokyo. The interesting thing about Darker Than Black is that it’s based on 2-episode story arcs, which you’re thrown into the middle of right from the beginning. Even the main characters aren’t completely revealed to you until later; the details of the setting and the plot take basically the whole series to be understood. And if you’re often struck dumb by the awesomeness of certain characters and forget to pay attention, you might not ever completely understand the details of the setting and plot and be extremely grateful for the overview you get at the beginning of the next season.
Plot and Setting.
The reason I put plot and setting as the same category is because for Darker Than Black, they’re basically one and the same.
At first you don’t get much of a background story, only the words “the syndicate”, “Heaven’s Gate” and “contractors”. Then you meet your four main characters: Hei, Yin, Mao and Huang. Yes, they are supposedly Chinese. They appear to be a team working for the mysterious “syndicate”. Their goal: uncertain. Basically, they deal with events that have to do with contractors; a sort of person with super-powers (?) that has appeared along with “Heaven’s Gate” in Tokyo and “Hell’s Gate” in Brazil – two mysterious areas where reality appears to be distorted. That’s right, everything is extremely mysterious.
So the “background story” turns out to be in the process of the viewer learning more about the setting. I’m sorry if this is really confusing, but since the actual series itself is quite confusing, it’s fairly impossible to explain it in a short paragraph.
Not really going by standard review categories here… just trying to organize my brain a bit.
You could say Darker Than Black is episodic, but I don’t think I would. It does (for the most part) follow a sort of formula where over every two episodes, a contractor is introduced, and various issues have to be dealt with. However, I REALLY didn’t want to use the word formula there, because Darker Than Black is in absolutely no way formulaic. Nuh-uh. Just no. Each arc has its purpose in revealing more to you about the characters and setting, and each arc is always interesting since you know so little about the characters and setting.
This is what really caught and HELD my attention about Darker Than Black. Yes, the music is awesome, as I expected with Kanno Yoko. Yes, the setting was intriguing. But it was the characters that really made me want to keep watching. At first I just wanted to see more of them; now I shamelessly love them and will still love them even if they grow small beards like Hei does in the second season.
Hei is an excellent and versatile main character; being a contractor he’s suppossedly a heartless killer (or IS he?) but he also has a fake identity… yes, the mild-mannered and clumsy Li Shen-shung! Don’t you love secret identities? I do. Yin, Huang and Mao are also all interesting characters in their own right, and each get their own dose of fleshing out and background which never seems forced. You know how in shounen you start out with the main character, and then the first people he encounters end up becoming his companions for the rest of the show? And each time he meets a new one he gets their background and then they just do nothing? Darker Than Black is the antidote for that.
In addition to all THAT, the characters in the arcs are also well-done; which is hard when you know they’ll probably only be around for 2 episodes. Plus, you have your side characters, as well as the characters that you recognize from previous arcs. And they never get completely ignored, which is awesome. November 11, April and July are a tidy unit that make their appearances just when you want to see them; and the foolish detective pair also show up from time to time. As for the one I haven’t mentioned yet… YES, the lady police officer! She is so cool. She reminds me of the days when I wanted to join Interpol. And I’m hoping she makes a comeback in Ryuusei no Gemini.
Art & Animation.
Always fluid and pretty. Sort of in the style of Phantom, I guess; but I think I might tentatively say it was even better. I liked the chara designs, too. They were simple, but definitely recognizable and unique in their own way.
Did I mention it’s awesome? Again, Kanno Yoko magic. I loved both OPs, and I particularly liked the first OP animation. The EDs were also both nice, though I did like the first one better. The BGM was the opposite of cliche. One background track that definitely stuck with me was the track from the Next Episode Previews.
I used this category back in my Spice and Wolf review, but I haven’t had to bring it back until now. Darker Than Black has a very unique, original and enjoyable atmosphere. It’s not happy-go-lucky, and people die; but it’s not always like OMG-WTF-Splat-Blood-Gore-Depressionnn either. It’s a mixture of comedy at times, though definitely not the classic anime humor that involves hitting people with paper fans; along with action and original ideas and details and human interaction under interesting circumstances. Of course, the music helps. Basically, the thing is that normally when I watch something I’ll be like “Oh this reminds me of such-and-such show” but Darker Than Black doesn’t remind me of anything. And I think that’s cool.
Darker Than BLACK – Ryuusei no Gemini
And it’s finally over. And I’m finally posting about it. And yet… I feel that it’s NOT truly over. I’m actually secretly hoping for a third season even after the OVA’s scheduled to arrive in January; and I don’t think I’m the only one. I just can’t get enough of the whole DTB world. That said, this installment of it was quite satisfying up til the last episode. It was also quite different from the first season.
PLOT: The second season introduces new and re-newed characters with the Pavlichenkos and a new incarnation of Mao as a flying squirrel (momonga?) Of course, Hei also returns; as does Yin (eventually) in some other form – Izanami; and the kick-ass lady police officer arrives back on the scene as well. The events take place two years after Hei and the others from season one had ditched the syndicate.
The two-episode arc format is dropped this time around in favor of a short and sweet 12-episode plot driven show. And it works quite well. It’s kind of like one of the arcs of the original season only extended and given tons of depth and details. TONS of depth and details. There has been a LOT of debate over which is better, the first or second season… but I’m not even gonna go there. I think both seasons are really good, just in different ways. But then I didn’t go into it as a major fan of the first season. I mean I really liked it, but I wasn’t obsessed. Plus I’d only just finished watching the first season for the first time when the second one started airing. But if you’re a fan and for some STRANGE reason you haven’t watched season 2 yet, then I would tell you that it’s best to go into season 2 with a mindset of it being a really long, extended arc from season 1.
CHARACTERS: I loved all the characters in season 1, so it was great to see more of them. Even the ones that grew small beards and became brooding alcoholics. That’s right, Hei; I’m talking about you. But it was fun to see him change back to his old kickass self.
Personally I really liked the new characters. Though I so didn’t want Suou to fall in love with Hei. Ah well. Still… we really need more Russians in anime.
Oh and: Awww July was so cute!
MUSIC: It was sad that Yoko Kanno and the “Now I’ve lost it I know I can kill” OP and the music that played over the next episode preview left, but the new music director did a good job of keeping up a “Darker Than Black” atmosphere that was a little different from the first season. Which, overall, is what the second season was. Darker Than Black, only a little different. And yes, the track that played over the action scenes was really cool.
THE ENDING: There’ll probably be spoilers. Nya. This post is kind of obligatory now, since it’s been so goddamn long since I watched DTB2. Also I can’t really think of anything to say. However, the ending cannot be ignored. Jeesh. IT WAS SO RUSHEDDD. And yeah, it made me THINK a lot, but in the WRONG WAY. If you want to make an impact like that, where someone makes a freaking copy of the whole world; you have to BUILD UP TO IT. Like in The Matrix, morons. Do they just SAY “The world is fake?” NO, they introduce you to characters and build UP to saying “The world is fake”.
So much was unexplained. And looking back NOW, it really feels like I’m still waiting for the “REAL” ending. Though I guess I am, since the OVAs aren’t out yet. I’m expecting the OVAs to provide a new ending for the second season, though they probably won’t.
All in all, however, I didn’t actually care that much. The rest of the series made up for the questionable ending.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Okay this may be one of the worst posts for DTB Ryuusei no Gemini yet. Maybe some day if I’m not lazy I’ll rewatch and then rewrite this. For now let me just say: I loved watching this show. And I am so psyched for the OVAs. And I am crossing my toes for a third season.