“That was a right-pretty speech, sir. But I ask you, what is a contract? Webster’s defines it as ‘an agreement under the law which is unbreakable.’ Which is unbreakable!” – Lionel Hutz, The Simpsons
This DVD collection consists of both the second series of the sci-fi anime Darker Than Black, as well as the OVA collection which is set between the two series chronologically.
For those not familiar with the first series, Darker Than Black is set in the near future. Due to a freak abnormality, two “Gates” opened: Heaven’s Gate in Brazil and Hell’s Gate in Tokyo, where wishes can come true, but at a cost. Following this the Moon disappeared from the sky, as well as the stars. The ones now in the night sky are fake and relate to the people known as “Contractors”, people that have incredible powers at the cost of their humanity. They cannot dream, logic and rationale replace their emotions, and every time their use their power the contractor has their own individual “Price” to pay.
One such Contractor is Hei, a Chinaman who can manipulate electricity, but as he inherited his powers from his sister he has no actual Price (although his huge appetite is often claimed to be so.) Following the events in the first series, Hei and his companions are on the run from the group they used to work for, The Syndicate.
The second season, Gemini of the Meteor, starts off in Russia and focuses on a young girl, Suo Pavlichenko, whose brother Shion becomes a Contractor following a meteor impact. Shion is hunted down and eventually Suo comes into contact with Hei, now an alcoholic. Due to reasons I shall not go into for fear of spoiling too much of the plot, Suo eventually becomes a contractor herself, her ability being that she can generate a gigantic anti-tank rifle and her Price that she has to make origami figures.
This ability raises two issues which me. Firstly there is a tiresome transformation sequence that occurs every time the rifle generates which becomes grating after a while. Secondly, I seriously doubt that a 13-year-old girl could use and carry an anti-tank rifle. If she could, she would put Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagann to shame, were it not for the fact that Yoko is the better markswoman (Suo hardly ever fires her weapon).
The series develops over a relatively suitable, comfortable pace. There is always some form of action going on, and if it is not, there is usually fairly decent plot development, a humorous aside, or occasionally a bit of fan service. There is not too much of the latter about, being either a quick flash or something from the Contractor Hazuki, who is seemingly a lesbian and whose Price is that she has to kiss a man after using her powers.
The overall ending does seem to be slightly convoluted and open-ended. Annoyingly there are no plans for any further episodes so it looks like we will have to make do with this.
The four-part OVA, Gaiden, was created after the second series but is set between the two, explaining some of the events which lead to the latter. While it is enjoyable, I do find it perplexing as to why these OVA came after the second series and not before. Still, so long as you watch it before the second series, the story should be more enjoyable.
There are also fewer extras on these DVDs from the first series which is a bit of a let-down. On the plus side I do like the soundtrack, especially the pieces by Abingdon Boys School.
In conclusion, I prefer the first series over the second, but this collection is entertaining in several respects.