A total of 26 episodes, Darker Than Black took me three days to finish. (If you’re wondering, my record is currently Mirai Nikki, also 26 episodes, which took me less than 24 hours.)
Darker Than Black (directed by Tensai Okamura) takes place in a world where this mysterious phenomenon dubbed as “Hell’s Gate” takes place in Tokyo, replacing all the stars in the sky with false ones. At the same time, people with supernatural powers began to appear, and whenever they use their power, the star that corresponds with that person shows activity. However, as powerful as these supernatural people, called “contractors,” are, after any usage of their power, they are forced to undergo “remuneration,” which ranges from eating a certain food, repeating a meaningless action, or even self-harming.
Our main character is a Chinese contractor, Li Shun Sheng (Hidenobu Kiuchi) with the code name of “Hei,” or “black” in Chinese, who works for a secret organization.
Not only is the premise extremely interesting and original, there is also a pretty intense plot that I followed along for the most part and plenty of badass action scenes. There were some moments where I felt as the clarity was a little bit iffy and I had some unanswered questions, but at this moment, I am hoping the second season will still clarify some details.
I enjoyed seeing the types of abilities each of these contractors had, because most of them were very creative, so creative that I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. In short, it was super cool.
I also particularly liked the character development. Contractors are supposed to suppress their emotions with rational decisions, making them more like killing machines that intelligence agencies exploit to their advantage. This gave room for each of the characters, although it was mainly Hei, who expresses compassion and remorse, to really explore who they are as a person and what their identity is, but it also draws on one of my favorite questions: “What is it that makes humans human?”
The motif of humanity is not as obvious as Parasyte, but it still plays a major role in characterization. Hei seemed a little typical at first, seemingly friendly but quiet person, but ruthless when it comes to killing others and carrying out his assignments. However, as the series continued, even though this fact didn’t change, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was different about Hei, but he just felt different from the other obligatory cool character from other series. As a character, he was one of my favorites. He also had really cool action scenes.
There are still so many characters that I feel like I have neglected to mention, but they are all interesting, and with the exception of one, I didn’t find any of them annoying; they were all interesting, enough back story was revealed to satisfy me, and they were all very different.
However, especially towards the end, there were just a few too many details that I wished were covered more thoroughly. I understood most of the plot, but many elements of Hei’s back story still felt unexplained, and then there was the whole situation with Amber that I just didn’t quite get. But, as I mentioned above, I have high hopes for the second season to answer some of these questions.
Conclusion: Darker Than Black shows that intense action doesn’t need to take away from interesting and complex plot or well-developed characters, entertaining the audience from beginning to end with creative supernatural powers, character development, and just a hint of philosophy, all balanced equally well to meld into one marvelous series. Bonus points for Hei, because he’s super cool. 8.5/10.