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Darker Than Black Season 1 Blu-ray Premium Edition (anime Review)

Darker Than Black Blu-ray Premium editionTitle: Darker Than Black : Complete Season 1 Blu-ray Premium Edition
Director, Author: Tensai Okamura
Studio: Bones
U S Distributor: Funimation Entertainment
U S Release Date: May 26th, 2015
Format: DVD/ 625 minutes
Genre: Drama, Sci Fi, Supernatural, Neo-Noir
Age Rating: TV MA
Overall Personal Rating:  A
Similar Series: Baccano and Gunslinger Girls

 

At what point is a human life more important than any other life? Also what makes a human being, is it the ability to live based on emotion or is the inability to utilize cool logic to control your action?

Synopsis:
Darker Than Black takes place in Tokyo after the emergence of the Heaven and Hell Gates that changed the world forever. The area around Heavens Gate has become inaccessible and over 100 million lives were lost in its destruction. Hells Gate in Tokyo has begun to show unusual activity and contractors have become more involved in the area. When the Gates first appears the sky changed and all of the stars became false images. The one thing about these false stars is that they were all connected to a person on earth. The person associated with each star gained an unusual power and when they used the power they had to pay a price. The powers can range from turning their handprints or blood into a bombs, transporting themselves or others they touch through space and time or even changing things at the molecular level. The name contractor comes for the unknown contract they enter into when they discover their power. They must pay a price every time they use their power and the price is typically something they do not enjoy from having to smoke a cigarette to breaking their own fingers.
The contractors also lost their emotional bearings when they entered into the contract and are cold and calculating persons who are viewed as less than human. They have become assassins or governmental field agents doing the dirty work. With their powers and apparent lack of emotion the end up being the perfect agent but there seems to be something happening and things just might be about to change forever.
The series revolves around a small group that is associated with a secretive syndicate that seems to have some very deep connections. They always get the best intel and have a knack of being in the right place at the right time. Our main protagonist is Hei, aka the Black Reaper or BK-201, appears to be just another college student trying to make his way in the world. He is partnered with Yin a Doll or spirit medium, doll are basically shells of people that can project themselves out into the community as long as they are in contact with natural substance like water, power lines or even windows. The Dolls are very much emotionless and almost void of any personalities. The next partner is Mao, the black cat. He is a contractor that can project himself into animals, the big problem for him is that his body was last and he lives his life as a black cat, who just so happens to be a great spy. The last member of the team is the field supervisor, Huang. Huang is a normal human and former police office until he lost his wife when she turned out to a contractor and killed his partner.
This group seems to just be following order until the appearance of the rouge Contractor group Evening Primrose, who seem to be interested in seeing the same thing happen at Hells Gate that happened at Heaves Gate. The leader of Evening Primrose also happens to be an old friend of Hei’s and is after him to join their group, but Hei believes that she had something to do with his sisters disappearance and would rather destroy her.

Throughout the series all roads point to this union and the mystery of what really happened at Heavens gate. The cast of Characters is a large and lively bunch and the action and drama leads to an exciting conclusion.

Commentary:
Darker Than Black is one of those series that gives a rich and colorful backdrop to the age old question as to what does it really mean to be human. The development of the story leads us to believe that Contractors have lost their humanity and are nothing more than tool, but this viewpoint can be seen throughout history toward any group that does not fit the norm. With their special powers and strange rituals that must be made in payment for use of the powers it makes them also seem like super-humans. I think that the way that the Contractor’s existence is first portrayed and then later evolved into something much different provides of that connection that need to happen for this series to have its real impact. The team of Hei, Yin, Mao and Huang is a microcosm for the series. You get to see these characters grow and develop and become something more than just a machine directed by the syndicate’s puppet masters.
I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the highly emotional team lead and the blank void of Yin the Doll. I also enjoyed moving through this series and discovering that there is something hidden just below the surface on each of these complicated beings.
I must applaud Tensai Okamura for providing such a rich environment for these characters to develop. There is a lot going on but all of the plot devices do not collapse and make things too complicated.
The animation and overall quality is also at a level that help to keep the dramatic feel moving and helps maintain the overall quality of the series. My hat is off to the staff at Bone for the superb quality and attention to detail that they provided for this series.

Overall Grade: A
If Sci Fi drama is your bag, then Darker Than Black is for you. The creation of the series and the pacing will not leave you wanting for more. It deserves every bit of an A. It is great to see Funimation re-release this awesome series in this premium Blu-ray edition and reintroduce it to a new generation of serious anime fans.

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