A fun, exciting series that doesn’t quite come together at the end.
What They Say:
The intrigue and danger continue with a new charge for BK-201, the masked Contractor known as the Black Reaper.
After a paranormal phenomenon takes over Yin, BK-201 is left to hunt for answers from the shadows, alone—until he encounters Suo, a young girl whose life changed the night a meteor crashed to Earth. With Contractors attacking from all sides, and the mysterious organization Section 3 closing in, the Black Reaper fights to keep Suo alive while he searches for the truth behind Yin’s disappearance.
For this viewing I listened to the English language track in Dolby TRUEHD 5.1. There is also a 2Japanese language track in Dolby TRUEHD 2.0, and English language subtitles. The sound quality was excellent with nice directionality and no drop off.
Darker than Black came in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. I watched the Blu-Ray and the video quality was excellent on this transfer. The colors were sharp, and everything was clear and easy to see, which was especially important given the show’s dark color pallet.
The front cover features BK-201 (Hei) standing in the foreground, dressed in black, holding his white mask in his right hand and one of his signature knives in his left. A cityscape at night is behind him and a green swatch of sky bisects the otherwise black background. The series’ title is written on that swatch in white letters. Above that in a blue strip is the Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack legend and at the bottom in small font are the Aniplex and Funimation logos.
The spine is practically all black with the exception of the blue strip continuing from the front. The series title is written in white font and BK-201’s mask is centered on the spine.
The back cover continues the blue strip and green swatch from the front cover. Yin takes up the majority of the left side and a series of screenshots hover beside her upraised left hand. The series’ summary and extras listing are positioned in the middle and the Blu-Ray/DVD specifications occupy the bottom third.
The discs are housed in the standards Elite Blu-Ray case. The episodes and OVAs are spaced out over three DVDs and two Blu-Rays. Four of the five disks are housed in inserts with the final Blu-Ray embedded on the backcover.
It’s a good design, although I find the back cover to be a bit busy. However, the case takes up very little space and the discs are easy to reach, so that’s a minor point in an otherwise fine case.
The menu is dominated by scenes cut from the series. The bottom third of the screen is occupied by a white border that looks rather like the top of a file folder. The options are written there in small, clear font with the option selected indicated by a change in front color from black to red. It’s a good, clean design that works well.
The extras are fine, if unspectacular. The commentaries were interesting enough, but neither they nor the textless opening and closing really caught my attention. There’s nothing bad here, just nothing exciting.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The world changed forever when two portals in space-time opened in Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. Known respectively as Hell’s Gate and Heaven’s Gate, the portals caused great destruction and caused the stars to disappear. The night sky is fake and the lights that shine in it are connected to special individuals known as Contractors. Those that become contractors lose their emotions, but gain incredible powers in return, such as the ability to generate lethal amounts of electricity, command insects, or summon an anti-tank rifle out of thin air. The use of these powers requires some sort of payment that varies from Contractor to Contractor. Some must eat certain foods, such as hamburgers, others must kiss people or make origami. (My favorite contractor, by the way, could perform real magic, but his payment required him to reveal secrets of magic tricks.) Their lack of emotion and their extraordinary powers make Contractors uniquely qualified for government work and the best, arguably, is BK-201, aka the Black Reaper.
Unfortunately, BK-201 (called so because of the Messier number of his star) has gone AWOL after the disappearance of his partner Yin. In his search for her, BK-201 encounters Suo, a girl whose brother is a Contractor and father a lead researcher into the events surrounding Hell and Heaven’s Gates. Various government agencies want Suo’s father and brother, and she becomes separated from them. It becomes up to her to discover why they want her father and brother so much as she struggles to stay alive.
Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is the sequel to the first Darker than Black series and as such, many elements went unexplained. This isn’t a problem unless, like myself, you never watched the first series. Thankfully there’s enough contextual information given so that new viewers aren’t lost, but I do believe I missed out on quite a bit of subtext and there were some elements I had to look up online (such as what the Dolls were). None of this affected my enjoyment of the show, but it does make me think that I would have enjoyed it more had I seen the first series.
That issue aside, this was an exciting show full of action, mystery, and solid character work. In many ways this is Suo’s story, and BK-201’s role is secondary to her. This is fine because I really liked Suo. She was brave, intelligent, and strong in a believable way. The show puts her through Hell, and part of the pleasure in watching it is observing how she deals with these terrible events. Her story becomes even more complicated when she awakens (for lack of a better term) as a Contractor. It’s clear from the beginning that she’s not a typical Contractor, and the struggle she undergoes to keep her humanity in the face of such radical changes makes for great drama. I do wonder, though, how fans of the first series will react to BK-201 becoming a secondary character. Obviously it didn’t bother me, but it could be an issue for others.
As enjoyable as I found the series, I did have some problems with the narrative. The story starts off being about Suo, but near the middle the plot about Yin’s disappearance is introduced and along with it a prophecy about two creatures called Izanami and Izagami. The prophecy is rather vague and apocalyptic, but implies that something terrible would happen if the two met. We later learn that Izanami is Yin and Izanagi is Shion—Suo’s twin brother. The two eventually come together at the end, but exactly what happens is rather confusing and partially predicated upon Shion’s desire to make a better world for his sister.
That last part brings me to another issue I have with the series: the show tells us again and again that the Contractor’s possess no emotion. They are completely logical, which makes them ideal contract killers. However, they constantly display emotions in one form or another. They form emotional attachments, get angry, and show concern for other people in a way that illustrates at least a basic level of human empathy. Suo is often remarked upon as being different because of her consistent display of emotions, but her behavior isn’t as radically different from other Contractors as we’re led to believe. There are hints throughout the show that Contractors do, in fact, possess some level of emotion, but it’s a plot thread that’s underdeveloped and took me out of the narrative a bit.
There were also a few plot threads and characters that were left dangling. I have no idea who Madame Orielle is or what she wants, for example. However, the series ends with a clear setup for the next, so I’m willing to bet that they will be resolved later.
Although I never saw the first series of Darker than Black, I enjoyed Gemini of the Meteor. The action and intrigue were solid, and I really liked the character Suo. That said, I do wonder if fans of the first series might not be put off by the fact that BK-201, the protagonist of the first series, is more or less a secondary character here. Make no mistake, this is Suo’s show, and while her character is strong enough to make that work, fans expecting more BK-201 might be disappointed. In addition to that there were dangling plot threads and logical holes that were unsatisfying—not to the point where it hindered my enjoyment, but enough to take me out of the narrative. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 4 Commentary, OVA Part 1 Commentary, Textless Songs: Opening Song—Tsukiari no Michishirube; Closing Song—From Dusk Til Dawn
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Running Time: 400 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection