Genres: action, drama, mystery, supernatural
Story – 3.9
Darker than Black – Kuro no Keiyakusha: Gaiden, is a 4-part OAV series that fills the gaps between season 1 and season 2. First of all, it is extremely important that you watch this short series BEFORE you watch the second season. I cannot stress the importance this has on your impression of the series, as it will relieve some of the sheer bewilderment that earlier audiences probably were suffering from being thrust in an unexplained environment… Although this will wait to be discussed until the next post.
Having already worried you, let me encourage the reader by saying the second season was not at all what some people put it out to be… But it does touch on the dangers of translation when jumping to further in a timeline. Still, Darker Than Black: OVA is arguably a decent performance that should still hit a lot of good notes.
First up – The Moral Category: This is definitely the creepiest of the series, yet it always keeps fairly protective of the characters. There is some language throughout the OAV (also referred to as OVA, although OAV technically implies the scripted rather than written nature of the show), but that fits the genre it’s from. Also, there is a bit of a racy scene with a Contractor whose payment involves stripping. I would have been fine with the scene if not for that one article of clothing she removes slowly. Nothing is exposed, but the awkward position of the camera and time allotted overpowers a few comfort zones.
Darker Than Black OVA starts us off just after the events of Season One. Hei may have saved the world, but the Syndicate’s head turned out to be a disappointment for the truth to come out. You see, the Syndicate had contingencies made in the event of his death. Now that the Syndicate is in full silence mode, it’s going to be near impossible to catch them. Perhaps this is what Amber had feared initially, but Hei can’t worry about that. Instead, he’s left without a job and Yin to take care of. Quite the sad setting.
The proceeding first episode still has its bright moments with Yin, who we already begun to like as a possible romantic friendship. Hei might be a bit rough, but he can be very sensitive towards Yin when push comes to pull. Alas! The possible peace for the duo will stay, for another set of Contractors are out to get Yin. I liked the direction it went when we see Amber miraculously reappear before Hei, and we know something is up. Even more so was when we heard the owner of the vacation hotel suite they were staying at thinks Amber was a man! I loved the freshness at which the beginning gave us and how unpredictable show show was.
Need some more twists? Well, it turns out Hei gets outwitted by the fake Amber (well, her ability to control thoughts), but somehow Yin did something to slay the fake Amber before she could kill Hei. Actually, it comes off rather shocking, and we hear on later that Yin is undergoing a change. But until this mystery is solved, there are a few memorable characters the show has us meet, and I thought it kept to the mastery of the first series to this point. We meet from here another Contractor (the one with the weird stripping payment), and once again the action was superb, with the contractor dying in the most extreme manner. Was it a good thing Hei didn’t see this when he was almost killed by the Contractor? Probably, and you can feel the tension in the air as Yin becomes more unpredictable… although being more human isn’t really a bad thing.
Having been saved by a man named Amagiri (who we saw in the previous series with that boiled egg payment), Hei is brought to the Evening Primrose’s hideout. From there, we meet a few members of the place and see what I’ve always hoped for was a couple… A contractor couple. Apparently, tying in with what Amber had said, the Contractor’s themselves were beginning to grow up in their state. What I found a wee bit convenient, yet explainable, was the notion that Yin somehow was the prophesied one in the Mitaka documents from the show before.
I’m not against big bad things in shows, however it always feels a bit predictable when a character happens to be the chosen one. The only thing that might have foreshadowed this change of scenery was the Spector figure we saw in the first series. But remember that in the course of Yin’s possible awakening (which itself was fine), some of the events seemed a bit rushed and convenient. Maybe even on the verge of being silly. Perhaps that is the problem with telling a whole tale in two hours (or 4 episodes), but nonetheless it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the viewer.
As for the ending? That definitely jumped a few points too quick, but arguably the finer details were met and satisfied. What I did like was how Yin’s alternate self was suppressed by her own will, and those reasons were consistent enough with the rest of the series. Maybe having all those governments rushing in a zone probably should have resulted in more than a little interest from the nation it involved. Honestly, that part of the series was the weakest link and almost shoved the show into amateur mode.
I think overall the short OVA ought to be acceptable to the viewer, and although the rushed feeling lost some of the translation, I thought overall Darker than Black was very much still the original show. What cannot be denied is that this OVA was made for the direct purpose of making up for the tragic mistake of the Second Season, and that might account for the short episodes. But please do not make the mistake of watching the Second Season without this OVA…. because the character change in Hei is more expressively explained by the romantic pull of this OVA.
Emotional Draw – 4.3
First of all, the OAV series of the Darker than Black series only has a couple of genuine moments of laughter. That’s for the best really, since the OVA is a tragedy for our hero Hei. What is amazingly well done is the romantic budding friendship of Hei and Yin. For Yin to actually try to smile, for example, and take the time to finish her makeup was very feminine and very sweet.
I loved the early romantic appeal of the show, and that first dinner was done spectacularly. Really, for quite some time you’ve always wished for the pair to come together, so getting to see Yin’s emotions begin to show out about her friend Hei was solid. More amazing was the jealous emotion that Yin’s spector uses to save him two times. Sure, it’s also creepy, but getting to know how important Hei is to Yin ought to melt any romantic’s heart. Take the Amber arc. Seeing the way Yin was jealous felt powerful, and that intrinsic scene of the fake Amber’s death was such a wow factor.
Another thing I felt the OAV did well was the tragic nature. All the sad scenes, especially the final one with Hei and Yin, were great, and I felt spent sufficient time to get those emotions across. This candidly made up for some of the rushed feeling of the series, and I think helps redeem it in my eyes a lot.
Characters – 4.9
Hei – 5.0
Jason Liebrecht reprises his role as Hei, and does a very good job throughout the series. Hei himself is coming to terms with how much he likes Yin, and yet before he can make up his mind about the issue, Yin is slipping away. Honestly, I just want more of Hei and Yin.
Yin – 4.8
Cute, a doll that is starting to come out of her shell, and yet has this problem of a prophesied entity in her that will destroy the world, it must suck to be Yin. That being said, Brina Palencia does an ever solid performance on the young woman. Yes, the alternate version’s lines might be a tad bit convenient.
Creativity – 4.7
A nice touch for the OAV was how there is no intro song. This helped set the serious tone of the series, and ultimately made the sadness of what was transpiring stronger. Much like the original world, this one maintained its believably throughout the series. The artwork was pretty solid, and some of the scenery is just downright gorgeous.
As for the ending song, it is “DARKER THAN BLACK” by Yasushi Ishii. The director liked the song enough to pull it from the second season (though the OVA is set between Season 1 and 2). It has the right amount of sadness and yet is itself appropriately dreamy.
Grade Overall – 4.3
(While it’s a bit of a let-down from the previous season, Darker than Black: Gaiden is still a very solid mini-series, and worth a watch….ESPECIALLY if your planning on watching Season 2)