The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Darker than BLACK

Title: Darker than BLACK aka Darker than BLACK – Kuro no Keiyakusha
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: BONES
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 6 Apr 2007 – 28 Sep 2007

Synopsis: Ten years ago, “Hell’s Gate” appeared around Tokyo. This mysterious field caused the stars in the sky to disappear and extraordinary powers to awaken within humans. These humans, called Contractors, use their powers for their own ends but only at the cost of a personal remuneration. In this world of the supernatural, Hei, a Contractor himself, Yin, a blind “Doll”, and Huang, a no-nonsense enforcer, work for a mysterious syndicate bent on unlocking the secrets of Hell’s Gate and eliminating any other Contractors that get in their way.

The Highlights
Animation: Strong, consistent and fluid.
Storytelling: The two episode format works.
Music: Kanno Yoko has done better.
Characters: Lots of interesting folks come and go… mostly go.
It ends: And leaves the viewer wanting, but not in a good way.

It’s hard to watch Darker than BLACK (BONES‘ styling, not mine) without getting an immediate Cowboy Bebop feel. It is obvious that BONES wanted to create a world where our heroes could come and go into various situations without any limitation whatsoever. Like Spike, Jet, and the crew of the Bebop, we know very little about them at first, and find out more and more as the series evolves. The more we learn, the more we come to like these guys, even the generally ruthless Huang. Bebop was limited, however, in that it had to try to tell each of these stories in one 24 minute episode. Darker than BLACK dedicates two episodes to every story, so you get the feel of an “hour long” format like you’d see in most western network shows.

The problem is that even by the end of the show I really could not connect with most of the main characters. Hei was still more likable when he was running around as his “Li” persona. Yin, being an emotionless automaton “doll”, can’t grow outside of the limitations set against her by the story. Huang was probably a much more interesting character before we found out his backstory. Section-Chief Kirihara Misaki never manages to be anything but a reason to explain things to the viewing audience. Mao stays his usual pragmatic self to the end. Etcetera. What ends up happening is that the most interesting and dynamic characters often end up dead by the finish of the two-part story. Though these characters serve an important part as a way to give the world more fleshing out and providing later story points, they’re gone faster then you’d like.

Worse, the show’s plot suffers from these two-part formats in that they don’t maintain a consistent storyline from start to finish. Though you can tell that certain events take place along a time-line, you can also pretend that each part could fit anywhere else in the series without too much required thought. By the time they get to the real meat and potatoes of the story at about episode 20, there is not enough time left to try to bring the viewer on board with what the Contractors, especially Amber’s group, are trying to do. The resolution, such as it is, manages to only do one thing and that’s end the show. It feels too much like BONES is just saying “Darker than BLACK is over and we are not going to explain anything. Sorry.”

I think that is probably the biggest let down. BONES has formed a reputation of producing quality anime shows with strong storytelling or at least long lasting entertainment. With preceding masterpieces like Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven, RahXehpon, and Ouran High School Host Club, the expectations for a BONES work are probably unfairly high, but I just cannot consider Darker then BLACK to be up to their standards. I’m sorry BONES, but this one ranks down in the gutter with Wolf’s Rain.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: TypicalIdiotFan

Top of page