Wednesday Afternoon Anime
That Was a Joke
Darker Than Black, created, directed, and written by Tensai Okamura and animated by Bones, is set in an alternate Japan that exists on the edge of a no-man’s land called Hell’s Gate. Hell’s Gate appeared about ten years prior to the beginning of the series, and with it’s sudden, mysterious, and chaotic arrival, some humans began displaying special abilities. These superhumans are called called contractors, and they are segmented in society, neither acknowledged by the public nor given full rights as humans. Much of the conflict stems from the efforts of humans to control and even eliminate the contractors.
Marginalized as they are, contractors have to look for alternate ways to make ends meet, and that’s where much of the story happens. Hei, the main character, and most of his cohort work for a variety of shadowy organizations, some legal, some not, doing all sorts of things that are often very much illegal. Hei and his partners are employees of a Chinese crime syndicate, but that doesn’t make anyone around them more noble. It’s hardly surprising that Hei, the conflicted criminal, often seems the best of them all.
(image source: AnimeBox)
Contractors in Darker Than Black are required to make a remuneration as part of the special powers bargain. Their payment has nothing to do with money however; it’s instead a sort of obsessive compulsive penance. Some contractors are forced to smoke cigarettes, some drink, while some have to cut their own skin or otherwise cause themselves harm. Others have to do very mundane tasks, though, like dog-earing books or lining up rocks in a grid. The similar thread to the remunerations is that it is a compulsion for them all, and though the consequences are not made explicit, the audience understands that it would be bad to miss a payment.
Each contractor is represented by a star in the sky, the “real” stars having disappeared with the moon when Hell’s Gate appeared. When a star falls, a contractor has died. The humans and contractors alike track the stars to stay informed of who is dead, who is alive, and who, based on a star’s “activity,” may be causing trouble and where.
(image source: AnimeBox)
The sudden appearance of Hell’s Gate in Japan, and it’s sister gate in South America, and the disappearance of the stars and moon are difficult to swallow and never explained. These facts are just accepted by the characters as part of the mythology of Darker Than Black. This is a thing that happened and now we all have to deal with it. It’s easier to suspend disbelief early and go with the fact of Hell’s Gate as a precondition for the series than to look for answers that will never be forthcoming.
Memory of the Future
Darker Than Black wraps up very nicely in 25 episodes (with a 26th hanging on the end for no reason I can fathom), and the second series of 12 episodes in Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is just as good. However, not all of the characters are present in the second series, and the ones the audience recognizes are changed after the events of episode 25. Which is a good thing; throughout the series, the characters had grown in themselves and with each other, and it would have been disappointing for Gemini of the Meteor to be a reboot or leave the previous characters untouched entirely. Gemini of the Meteor, without a planned third series, brings Darker Than Black to a satisfying, if chin-scratching, close. Gemini of the Meteor has not yet been officially translated or released in the United States, but it is available on the down-low at GoGoAnime.