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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Darker Than Black - Review

Darker Than Black is about how a mysterious gate appears in Tokyo along with psychics who've made some form of contract with the supernatural. These psychics are then referred to as Contractors since they gain power in return for having to do something each time they use their power (thus contract). In comes Hei, a contractor who works for an underground organization simply referred as "The Syndicate" who doesn't seem to be restricted by any mandatory obeisance in return for power. Add in Officer Masaki Kirihara who's trying to figure out where these contractors came from and you have a story.

If you think this is one of those anime where there's a minute opening, with a somewhat non-linear plot development combined with unique characters that wraps up well in the end, you'd be right. A lot of anime seem to take this turn where they tell the story through "everyday" life situations and add in character development at whim. I'm not a big fan of this kind of story telling as I feel that's kinda cheating to get character development and backstory in a very distant approach so it looks like it wasn't randomly called but it is effective. I also kinda hate how then this becomes an excuse to not be definite with a coherent plot because then it can be "explained later."

Regardless, character development was done well and by the end you learn to like and understand every character (my personal favorite is Yin). Once the "main story" picks up (which is actually surprisingly early) the story gets as intricate as the characters. The story is more than just two sides duking it out. As complex as people are, the story have multiple parts and different perspectives that you can see from. Even the multitude of individual contractors that are encountered in the anime each have their own reason for choosing to be one and have a unique contract.

The animation is really well done. Then again, it's to be expected as the animation team is the same ones who did Full Metal Alchemist, Wolf's rain, Rahxephon, and Ouran High school Host Club. Each character is distinct and very clean. Just watching it is awe-inspiring. The music is just as amazing, but then again that's to be expected. With Yoko Kanno in charge of music, you get a nicely orchestrated symphony that fits the situation.

In terms of production, Darker Than Black has a lot put into it. Original work really beats shows that are derived from manga. Having a good director and original concept along with good production values becomes quality work that's worth at least one viewing. and it shows. You get good music, good animation, concept and an overall great show. It's slow at times but this 25 episoder has a nice balance of action, romance and plot development that should hook a lot. Unless you're REALLY against action anime, take a look.

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