Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Review: Darker than BLACK

February 10, 2009 Review

Finally. I finished watching Darker than BLACK (and its OAV) over the weekend, so here’s the review for the series. I’m still rather surprised with how much I ended up liking the series, but I’m not sure I explained that very well in the review. I never feel like I adequately explain anything in my reviews, haha; maybe that’s why they always end up excruciatingly long.

I’d really like to see a sequel to DtB though. If that BONES document leak last summer was right about the Fullmetal Alchemist sequel, then here’s to hoping that DtB part was true too, eh? As much as I’d love to have some answers to the five billion questions I have though, I have to wonder if having a sequel explain it all would take away from the huge mystery that is this series. I watched the last two episodes again while writing the review, but I still can’t be confident in making any kind of solid conclusion about the ending. It’s nice in a way, probably because it’s such a big change from the usual fare.

Side note: I can’t decide if I should bother reviewing the OAV. It’s really not that important to anything, but it was entertaining all the same — probably as close to DtB will ever get to crack.


  1. Ian K on February 10, 2009 9:35 pm

    I’ve seen the first four episodes of DtB, and hopefully with it being licensed and all I’ll get a chance to watch the rest of it soon. I was especially impressed with the first two, a classic espionage feel really came through for me in them.

    Most of the reviews I’ve seen of this show, while positive, tend to come with caveats – particularly to the effect that it ends poorly. I’m glad to see someone liked the ending, hopefully I will as well.

  2. Kiriska on February 10, 2009 9:45 pm

    If I hadn’t already lost faith in [adult swim] (and anime broadcast in general), I’d say that this would definitely be up their alley as far as style and content go. I think there’s a lot of mainstream appeal to DtB. I’m hoping that FUNimation puts more of it up on their video streaming site though, so you might be able to see more of it that way. :3

  3. Martin on February 11, 2009 1:58 pm

    I agree with your review there. I only watched it as far as episode #8 but it impressed me enough to put it on hold rather than just forget about it; Bones are consistent in their productions in my experience, so I see no reason to continue watching it later. The DVDs are out in May over here so I’m looking forward to that.

    I did get the feeling that it wouldn’t explain everything at the end, but sequel or not that doesn’t bother me much: the characters are interesting, the premise is great and it was just engaging overall.

    I’ll have to pick up a copy of the OST and listen to it on its own because I can’t really decide on the music either. It’s certainly more low-key than Kanno’s stuff usually is, but that actually worked in its favour at times.

  4. Kiriska on February 11, 2009 2:20 pm

    Listening to the OST on its own is probably a good idea; I’m sure there are a lot of tracks that I missed out on just because interesting dialogue was happening concurrently. I really did enjoy the suspenseful/thriller music though.

  5. vendettared on February 19, 2009 6:30 am

    I must say I am among those humble folks who jump on the “It had potential” bandwagon.

    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 and RahXehpon, and, 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.

    Nevertheless, a genial disposition Kiriska. Keep on writing.

  6. Kiriska on February 19, 2009 6:58 am

    While I’ll agree that much of the cast was more for entertainment or immediate plottage than anything with real depth, I felt that Hei had a bit more to him. Li was easy to empathize with; that that contrasted so much with his character as Hei was intriguing, and like I said — I found it really interesting that it was almost impossible to tell whether Hei or Li was the “real” personality for much of the series. I also wasn’t particularly bothered by the systematic discarding of characters every two episodes; while many of those people were also interesting, I was satisfied enough that their stories were concluded at the end of each couplet.

    I also do think that the final plot with Evening Primrose, the solar flare, and Hell’s Gate felt a bit rushed and that the series might have felt more relevant and cohesive if more of the overall storyline was fit into all of the mini-arcs, but at the same time, I think that storytelling decision lends itself to the mystery of the series. The couplets don’t necessarily give a proper timeline of recent/current events, but they do drop scores of information about the world and whatever happened and is happening with the Gates, and it isn’t hard to start figuring out some kind of timeframe for those major historical events. It was neat having to put all of that together yourself instead of having someone explain it to you somewhere along the way. Frustrating at times? Oh, yeah. It was why I was largely apathetic towards the series for the first handful of episodes, but after a while, the little pieces of information that they would drop was what kept me going.

    I don’t really think the ending was that much of a cop out either because by then, I was pretty accustomed to the fact that very little was ever going to be explicitly explained. I guess that’s why I wasn’t particularly disappointed by it. And as almost none of the characters in the series knew what happened either, I didn’t feel bitter that there was someone out there who had all the answers. I think it’s interesting to consider that BONES themselves might not know what the hell happened. Not having a final truth doesn’t make the progression of the story any less interesting to me.

    Haha, at the very least, I don’t think DtB deserves to be ranked down with Wolf’s Rain! Wolf’s Rain actually led you on to think there’d be an ending. DtB stayed pretty true with what you’d come to expect from it by the end.

  7. hazy on February 25, 2009 9:25 am

    I really loved this series. Had fun blogging it. The ending was okay for me, although it wasn’t as definitive as I was hoping it to be. Definitely needs another season (or more serious OVAs) to explain stuff. Still curious how dolls and contractors came about.