Darker Than Black. A review.

Immediately following my Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood spree, I revisited an anime that I had picked up and dropped halfway some two years back.

Darker Thank Black: The Black Contractor

An unofficial title card

Written and Directed by Tensai Okamura, Darker than Black is a 2007 series spanning just 25 episodes.

First, the brief story.

The anime follows the story of Hei, a young man with supernatural powers that allow him to manipulate electricity. But he’s not unique in terms of being gifted. The world is filled with such people who have been given gifts which can range from Material Substitution, Manipulation of Air currents and Teleportation.

Those who are given such powers are called Contractors, so called because they have apparently ‘sold their souls’ in return for their powers and cannot feel emotions. They also incur a unique debt with each use of their ability. One woman who can send out shockwaves has to ingest cigarrettes, another has to arrange small pebbles in a square pattern and another has to dislocate his index finger.

These contractors appeared with the appearance of two supernaturally charged areas called the Heaven’s Gate in South America and the Hell’s Gate in Japan.

And that’s a brief description of the story.

The story is very complex and at times feels suffocatingly complicated. The first few episodes are confusing and bring up more questions than they answer. It’s only by the end of the series that answers start to crop up and even then, the exact question of ”What exactly is the Hell’s gate” is never answered.

Obviously the short length of the series contributed to this lack of answers but there is another reason.

The anime focuses not on the large scale questions such as how these phenomena occurred but on the problems faced by Hei, the main character. He is trying to solve his sister’s disappearance and that’s what the main focus of the anime is.

But it’s confusing.

At times the watcher is brought tantalizingly close to deciphering the mystery of the Hell’s Gate but is then quickly yanked away so that Hei can discover an important clue as to his sister’s disappearance. It’s both frustrating and exciting.

So let me put any expectations to rest. Most of our questions aren’t answered until the very last episode and even then, many of them are left unanswered. If you like that, then watch this anime. If you don’t, well watch it anyway because despite the confusing story and complicated narrative, this is a beautifully directed and well produced anime.

This is Tokyo.

The atmosphere of the anime is dark and most of the action happens at night. Rarely do fights break out in broad daylight, one reason being that the existence of ‘Contractors’ is supposed to be secret from the public.

As such, the the producers probably had to work and think hard about how to bring out the correct atmosphere of the anime through the limited environments of a dark, unfeeling, metropolitan area filled with mindless lights.

The answer they came up is brilliant: The entire city is tinged with a lime green which from the first frame works to unnerve the watchers. All the night scenes, save for a few, are tinged with this oppressive green tint and the sky, has deep purple shade that is at once artificial and off-putting.

The show is also liberal with it’s violence and graphic deaths. Blood spills across the screen in horrifying close-ups and cold staring eyes of a victim glare at you, leaving chills down your spine.

Contractors get gleams in their eyes when they use their ability and almost everyone gets manic expressions on the verge of a kill. It’s unsettling yet at the same time, it never feels fake. Everything feels amazingly correct.

That’s the visuals done. Now onto the sounds.

The sounds in this anime are marvelous. Not the music. It’s largely unnoticeable. What’s amazing are the sound effects.

To mirror the feel of a cold, almost dystopian society where technology reigns supreme, everything in the world sounds sharp.

From the clicking of heels, a door lock being opened to the sound of the Chief Inspector brushing her hair, all the sounds are crisp, clear and sharp. The rings on every telephone is the same, digital tone that sounds robotic. The talking is done with a large lack of emphasis and every word the characters speak is quick, instant and closed off. This is offset by the silences that follow. The sense of oppression and a lack of true freedom is beautifully brought out by the silence contrasting the sharp sound effects.

The fights

The animation is fluid and engaging, slowing down to throw focus on quiet conversations and revelations then speeding up and switching quickly between angles to capture effectively the fast pace of a fight sequence. Indeed, this is one anime where the fights are incredibly quick. Despite the characters exchanging no more than a few blows, each is designed to kill and aimed precisely. There are no wasted movements in any fights and perfectly captures how terrifyingly deadly ‘Contractors’ are.

So the only negative points: The story.

Yes it handles a good load and manages to solve most of the important issues by the end but it sacrifices some revolutionary issues to solve smaller and more personal issues. It does help character progression obviously but it’s always better to see character progression happen along with conflict resolution rather than instead of.

The artistic direction of this anime is amazing and even though it contains its share of blood and gore, this is not a crime or horror story. At its base, this is a story about discrimination, rebellion and love.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Rishav K Singh

Project Theos

TPG

gay lawyer talks gay problems.

A collection of jumbled thoughts that you should probably read.

Nadisha. 19. Sri Lanka. Architecture student. Avid eater. Avid reader. Wannabe avid writer?

100WordAnime

Reviewing anime in 100 words (approximately)

Just A Sack Of Star Stuff

Ramblings of a random teenager

Scribe's Canvas

A place for a little bit of everything

COMPELLING STORIES ON THE GO

Provide real time stories to people combined with the latest news and analysis

The Pantless Anime Blogger

Reaching For 1,000 Anime Reviews.

OTAKU LOUNGE

Come chill on the couch.

trips and what not

#tripsandwhatnot

tacosinyourtwenties.wordpress.com/

SHOULD I BE EATING THIS OR APPLYING FOR A.. WAIT WHERES THE GUAC???

The Lit Mermaid

books & other loves in between

It Started in Oxford

Lifestyle posts from a Brit in Georgia

Ana Spoke, author

It's time to get hella serious about writing!

Glitchy Artist

Screenshots of the Universe

Kosmogonic

Submitting to the Glorious Inevitable

What Inspires Your Writing?

A blog dedicated to writers...and the people, places, and things that spark their creativity

The Neighborhood

Society online's creative conscious.

wandering story teller

A few stories from my life...

Dimitris Melicertes

I don't write, I touch without touching.

Elan Mudrow

The Ridges of Intertextuallity

Jessa Quinn

Jessa reads... everything.

The Feck it Philosophy

Writing, short stories, poems, creative writing, novels, novel, poetry

joieangela

Books. Adventures. Celebrations.

The Novelty of Life

If reading is your passion

Stoop kid confessions (Vogue Giambri)

Just a NYC girl afraid to leave her stoop

The Ninth Life

It's time to be inspired, become encouraged, and get uplifted!

Thoughts of the Fallen

A collection of nonsensical words thrown together

Avoiding Neverland

A nomadic teacher's thoughts on preparing teens for life

one chubby blob

One chubby blob voices her opinions among the millions that have already been heard.

Lisa Jakub

Writing about what happens when we stop acting

Chris Martin Writes

Sowing seeds for the Kingdom

THE OBSESSIVE WRITER

Because life is too overrated to ignore

Lightningpen's Blog

Imagination becomes art when passion tricks insecurity

Grady P Brown - Author

Superheroes - Autism - Fantasy - Science Fiction

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

One Name A Day

Zeeshan Amit

%d bloggers like this: