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Darker Than Black: Starter Set (includes v.1)
Darker Than Black Starter Set
includes v.1
Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Anime & Manga, Animation
UR     2008     2hr 5min

Everyone Wears A Mask. A new and deadly breed of covert agent walks the streets. Known as Contractors, these assassins and spies wield bizarre supernatural powers to carry out the dirty work of others. They thrive in the u...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Animation, Mystery & Suspense, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Funimation Prod
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Animated
DVD Release Date: 11/25/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 5min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese, English, English
Subtitles: English

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Darker Than Black Volume Three
Director: Tensai Okamura
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Darker Than Black Volume Two
Director: Tensai Okamura
   UR   2009   2hr 5min
Darker Than Black Volume Four
   NR   2009   1hr 40min
Darker Than Black Volume Five
   UR   2009   1hr 40min
Darker Than Black Volume 6
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Movie Reviews

"Now I've lost it, I know I can kill."
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 12/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"To start with, DARKER THAN BLACK is a damn nifty title. And, it turns out, this anime series is pretty intriguing. The deal-io is this: Some years ago, Hell's Gate opened up in Tokyo, giving rise to wide-ranging anomalies and wiping the heavens of its stars, replacing them with false ones. Hell's Gate (and Heaven's Gate, in South America) also gave birth to Dolls and Contractors. Dolls are passive mediums who can spy from remote distances, and on whom can be imprinted temporary identites and personalities. Contractors are assassins and covert operatives, those who have gained paranormal talents and rendered detached and amoral. As such, they feel no remorse when engaged in wet works.

A fascinating fallout of a Contractor's power is that the bearer is forced into obsessive compulsive behavior. After accessing one's ability, a Contractor must then perform a remuneration of some sort (arranging pebbles, dog-earing the pages of a book, scarfing bowlfuls of noodles, etc.). This is how the Contractor fulfills his own personal contract. I dig that there's one Contractor who particularly loathes cigarette-smoking, but guess what his price is, for using his power? Another nice conceit of the show is that each of the new stars corresponds to a Contractor, and so, each Contractor is also associated with his star's Messier catalogue number (from Messier's system of assigning numbers to foreign bodies in the sky, for purposes of identification). For example, Hei's Messier Code is BK-201. But Hei is also known as the fearsome Black Reaper. He's the anti-hero of the series.

So, hey, who's Hei? He's an unassuming Chinese exchange student going by the moniker of Li Shengshun, newly arrived to Japan. Or that's his cover anyway. Hei is a Contractor. His power is generating electricity, although he's also very skilled at wielding this cable/garotte-like device. His associates comprise of a scruffy field advisor, a blue-haired Doll serving as a locator, and a talking cat, and they work for some shadowy, occasionally referred-to syndicate, although the show is keeping details close to the vest. They go around taking on this or that mission, even as rumors of the Black Reaper continue to rock the underworld.

Meanwhile, on the periphery, a gutsy female police inspector is poking around, bent on nabbing the Reaper.

DARKER THAN BLACK is a promising anime series; it's got some good stuff going for it. The animation looks good, and is in that by now generic COWBOY BEBOP style. I also like the gritty, noirish elements of the show. In brief moments, there are echoes of BLADE RUNNER in its poignancy and existential angst. And I'm very curious about further ramifications concerning Hell's Gate. The series also boasts its own terminology, in which words like "moratorium," "forfeiter," "contractor," and "doll" carry unexpected definitions.

But here's the thing: I found myself feeling ambivalent about the self-contained central character; it's hard to get a read on this guy. The occasional ominous tone sensed here is partly brought on by Hei's oblique nature - you don't quite trust him. The storytelling doesn't focus much on character development; it's more intent on progressing the plot, which, by the way, tends to be nebulous and deliberately paced. There's no easy gratification in terms of getting comprehensively briefed on who's who and what's what. While DARKER THAN BLACK promptly establishes the rules of its universe, it then becomes stingy with further revelations. There are passing mentions of relevant current events and backstory, but these carrots aren't spelled out as much as thrown into the exposition, and done so casually that you have to strain your ears. If you blink, you might miss out on tidbits on Hell's Gate and on the conflict involving the UK in Argentinian soil. This initial bunch of episodes teases you along, counting on its excellence of quality to curb your impatience. It worked for me.

The DARKER THAN BLACK starter set collects the series' first five episodes and runs at 2 hours. The inaugural two-parter "The Fallen Star of a Contract" - centering on a frightened runaway lab researcher and her unpretentious rescuer - had me scratching my head some with its bewildering turns and its characters' murky motivations. The second episode, by the way, is marked with a sad, bittersweet ending, so, hurrah for you, if you're into that. In the second two-parter "A New Star Shines in the Dawn Sky," a star is born, meaning, in the parlance of the series, that someone has just manifested Contractor abilities. And she's a high school teenager. "Red Giant over Eastern Europe (Part 1)" is the last included episode and pits Hei against MI6 agents who've abducted a notorious ex-Contractor. Who happens to hold crucial information desperately needed by Hei. This is the first episode in which we learn something significantly personal to Hei.

Bonus stuff includes: a relaxed, semi-goofy audio commentary on Episode 002 by American voice actors Jason Liebrecht (Hei) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Chiaki); Cast Auditions, the English version, as the voice actors perform off-the-screen readings; Production Artwork - character bios and black & white sketches and descriptions of various settings and objects in the series; an option to play the opening ("Howling") or the closing ("Tsukiakari") songs; and trailers for DARKER THAN BLACK and other anime films. This being the starter set collection, there's also an empty art box included, which can either store future collected volumes in the series, or air. It's really up to you.

If all you have to go on are these five episodes, you might be tempted to jump ship. I'm leaning towards giving this anime show a chance, because the premise is that intriguing to me, and the production values are top notched. I don't mind the slow burn approach, as long as there's an eventual payoff. In the meantime, Hei remains an enigmatic character, garbed in that obligatory cool black duster. But I'm still not sure I like him."
Great start for the series
R. Suarez Giacoman | Mc Allen, Texas United States | 12/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Created, directed and written by Tensai Okamura, whose credits include Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop (all of them favorites of mine) "Darker than black" first five episodes arrive courtesy of Funimation.

The original series contained 25 episodes and an OVA, the starter set is supposed to include a box where I'd assume the remaining 4 sets to be released can be placed (since my copy came from Vine I got only the disc without the box)

As usual with this type of shows, by the time they start there is already a major plot going on. 10 years before the first episode a territory known as Hell's Gate appeared in Tokyo, causing alterations on the sky. The people built a huge wall to separate Tokyo from this place. Weeks after this happened, people with special abilities appeared, known as `contractors' they have powers and abilities that are used for espionage and similar tasks (including murder)

The show follows a team formed by Mao (a contractor trapped in the body of a cat), Huang, Yin (a blind girl catalogued as a "Doll" with abilities to locate people but emotionless) and the protagonist, Hei. As the series develop it interesting to follow the story and the traits of the characters that appear in it, yes, they do have abilities but they have to pay a price for using them, the price will usually be an odd activity for the contractor to perform (such as break his own fingers)

Episodes included are:

"The Star of a Contract Fell... (Part 1)"
"The Star of a Contract Fell... (Part 2)"
"The New Star Twinkles in the Dawn Sky... (Part 1)"
"The New Star Twinkles in the Dawn Sky... (Part 2)"
"The Red Dream of a Calamity Disappears in Eastern Europe... (Part 1)"


Not many extras are included as usual in this type of releases. Text less songs, audios from the casting of the English voices and trailers from other releases from Funimation. Episode 2 though includes an Audio Commentary by the show English voices.

The show is presented in anamorphic widescreen, English language Dolby 5.1 surround and Japanese stereo (in my case I rather watch these in the original language but stereo is an insult to any home theater system) and subtitled in English.

Highly recommended for fans of anime, I am already looking forward to the next release.
Dark Darker Darkest
Jon Kreisler | New York City, NY USA | 07/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"When you can forget you are watching anime, you know you are onto something wonderful. Darker Than Black is a gripping tale where you don't always know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. There are a group of aliens, who look like humans, known as contractors. Contractors possess some ability that makes them super-human and dangerous. They are hired to be assassins, or thieves or terrorists. A contractor usually has a 'price' to pay for using their special abilities. Some need to break a finger, others may need to eat a cigarette. However, there is also a group of rogue contractors who don't need to pay for using their abilities. One contractor, known as BK201, is such a rogue, who hunts other contractors. The entire series seems to revolve around the life of BK201 (known as Lee, without his mask.)
This is a series and volume one, whets your appetite enough to want more. (If you want more, you will have to purchase additional volumes.)
Good quality animation and story lines that keep you interested make this an anime series worth watching."
Good animation, hard to follow story
Kurupt | chicago | 02/19/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The story in this one was kind of hard to follow in my opinion. I found myself getting a little bored because i just didn't see where they were going with the story. The plus of the dvd is the anime was pretty good. The animation was the only thing that would draw me back in when i found that i was drifting due to a poor story."