Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Darker Than Black Volume One|
Genres: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense, Anime & Manga, Animation
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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Not Something I'm Going to Continue With
Pat Shand | Freeport, NY USA | 12/26/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE STORY: "Darker than Black" is a dark science fiction tale that had the potential to be great. However, instead of focusing on character, they use the characters as machines for exposition. Instead of slowly developing the mythology or the characters, they'll have a character give a five minute long, awkward speech on their history or what it means to be a Contractor. The mythology of the show is interesting, albeit a bit confusing from the way it's introduced. It's a bit like Heroes, in that it's about characters with superpowers being pursued... but the lines between the Contractors (superpowers), the public, the FBI, and the random companies and groups that are introduced throughout the series are never really drawn, making a lot of the conflict a confusing mess. It's not all bad, because out of the five episodes, I enjoyed the third and fourth ones, and found the character of Yin to be fairly fascinating, both from her demeanor and from her power. But this, I'm afraid, is a series that failed to hook me. And one more thing... I'm not sure if this should go in the "story section, because I don't know if the English dub used the original music... but what the heck? The violent, dark, supposed-to-be-creepy sequences have jazz and the blues playing in the background, totally ruining the entire effect. From the opening scene to a pretty cool showdown at the beginning of Episode Five, the music totally ruins all the tension.
THE ANIMATION: It ranges from great to awful. There are some stunning images, but they are pretty spread out throughout the set. There is a lot of lazy animation here, from the awkward way that characters walk, to the way that no one really moves in the background when a character walks into a store. At the expense of making the animated world of "Darker than Black" a convincing one, the animators cut away the details.
THE DVD: With the animation and the story, at least there were a few things that I enjoyed. The actual set-up of the DVD is by far the worst I've ever seen on any show. I have no idea what Funimation was thinking when they made this disc, but it's horribly done. They have individual episodes here, but instead of having a PLAY ALL function, all the episodes instead bleed into each other. And with the format of a "Darker than Black" episode already being complex (Prologue - Opening - Story - Closing - Preview), it is very disarming when you first watch the episode and wonder what to do when it keeps going on and on through seemingly random things. I've never had a DVD that has ever done that before.
OVERALL: I didn't hate the story, and I thought that episodes three and four were actually fairly entertaining... but I also wasn't impressed with the overall product. There might be others who this would appeal to, but I will not be following this series.
Good Start and Has Potenial
CFH | Blue Ridge Summit, PA USA | 01/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed "Darker Than Black" more than it likely deserves. Being that this only contains one disc, with only 5 episodes, it is hard to fully judge the series.
No spoilers from me, but the storyline is set in the near future, the Hell's Gate has opened and all of the stars in the sky have been replaced by fake stars that are representations of "Contractors". The episodes on the disc somewhat slowly bring us up to speed on the back story of beings with special abilities, like "Contractors" (remorseless assassins with special powers that come with a price), "Dolls" (basically blank humans who can be implanted with temporary memories/personalities or who can perform specific functions like remote sensing and observation), and some hybrids thrown into the mix as well.
There are several groups of players interacting, including a special police unit that tracks "Contractors", The Syndicate (including the main "Contractor" Hei/Bk201), various governments (references to French, Americans, and British spy agencies), and other criminal groups (all employing "Contractors").
As the storyline unfolds it becomes apparent that not all "Contractors" follow the stereotype and in the cliffhanger final episode, we learn something about Hei's motivation (again, no spoilers). It was enough of a hook that I will likely buy the next volume: Darker Than Black, Vol. 2
The animation was passable overall. It has some truly beautiful artwork in some scenes and some of the flattest animation in others. There was anime style blood and gore, but far less than I have come to expect.
Overall this is an interesting series, recommended for fans of the genre."
Mysterious, suspenseful, and totally awesome
lain4ever | Los Angeles, CA | 02/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some of my friends still haven't heard of this awesome shonen anime, "Darker Than Black," which may be one of the best damn anime series I've ever seen.
Admittedly, it starts very mysteriously. A man is chased on the rooftops by some cops. Then the man makes the cops fly in the air. The man then disappears to another spot in the city, breaking his fingers. Then the man meets the hero of this anime, Hei, who kills the man.
It's a disconcerting opening to say the least. However, the anime gets better as it goes along. It turns out that Hei is a contractor, who bears the psychic powers to throw electric wires at his enemies.
He's a member of a syndicate of contractors. By day, however, he is a college student named Liu Xiansheng. In the first two story arcs on this DVD, he helps out two female contractors who are unaware of their powers.
The second story arc, "The New Star Twinkles in the Dawn Sky," is really the spotlight of this series. Liu investigates the activities of Tahara, the sole survivor of the Hell's Gate incident, where the contractors obtained their abilities. Liu is also interested in Tahara's middle school daughter, Mai. She also has a mysterious thing inside her wrist...
This is an awesome anime, with some of the best choreographed fight sequences since "Cowboy Bebop." There's plenty of fast scenes with quite a bit of gore, but tons of excitement. And with Yoko Kanno behind the soundtrack, there's plenty of (surprise, surprise) fast jazz in the background, just like Bebop.
To say the least, "Darker Than Black" is one hell of a sleeper hit. I'm definitely keeping an eye out for this series."
Darker Than Black - I'll pay the price!
The Matrix Fan | 08/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Years ago I watched the movie Akira and thought it was the most groundbreaking animated film I ever laid eyes on. One thing I learned from my introduction into Japanese Animation is this: without a compelling story, no one will want to know more. After watching Volume 1 of Darker Than Black, it looks like I've found another story that piqued my interest.
Darker Than Black takes place in the not-too-distant future of Japan, where an area simply known as "Hell's Gate" is shrouded in secrecy. Once Hell's Gate appeared, the Contractors showed up soon after.
A Contractor is a person with a unique superpower such as levitation, electroshock or teleportation, among others. Each time their superpower is used, the Contractor must "pay their price" and complete an obsessive/compulsive action afterward such as eating a plant, dog-earing book pages, eating, smoking, or even breaking one's own fingers. Since they feel no guilt, Contractors are the perfect tools for spying and assassination.
Over the course of 5 episodes on this disc, we follow the adventures of a Contractor known as BK-201/Hei, living a double life as an exchange student called Li. He comes into contact with other Contractors, Dolls, government agencies, and much more. Japanese Animation usually leaps right into the storyline and explanations are revealed further down the road, and Darker Than Black is no exception. While nothing about Hei or his companions is fully explained, we are given just enough information to pique our curiosity and watch the next episode.
The animation was quite good - I included a few screen captures. There wasn't a lot of foul language (which I've come to expect in this genre of TV) but there are a few scenes of violence that are definitely not for young children - so the M.A. rating is appropriate here. Most of the translated dialogue flows well, but a few scenes didn't quite mesh. One example was the following:
(1) Spoken English: "So you just moved to the city huh? Guess that explains the way you dress."
(2) Subtitled English: "Li-San, you're from China? Your Japanese is great."
Now how about those DVD extras?
Within each episode, we can choose the scenes we want to watch, but for some reason there are two menus:
(1) The first menu allows us to choose between 4 chapters of the story.
(2) The second menu lets us choose the prologue, the opening song, the closing song, or the preview to the next episode.
Audio - choice of English or Japanese.
Subtitles - only English is offered.
(a) Episode 2 commentary - contributed by Jason Liebrecht (Hei) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Shinoda Chiaki).
(b) Cast Auditions - 11 audio clips of the actors/actresses reading for their roles.
(c) Production Artwork - 13 color sketches of characters and their biographies.
(d) Settings - 11 sketches ranging from the Porsche interior to Hei's blades.
(e) Textless songs - Music videos of the opening and closing songs, "Howling" and "Tsukiakari".
(f) Trailers - 8 different anime shows/movie trailers. Whether you enjoy vampires, ghosts, giant mechs or androids, something here will catch your fancy.
Funimation Entertainment is only too happy to gather new followers: inside the DVD case is a flyer with 40 color ads for animated shows!
So what's the verdict?
I did enjoy my introduction to this series - it left me with a cliffhanger that begs to be followed up on. I was a little disappointed that there weren't any extra features for the Japanese actors/actresses or the series creators, I would have enjoyed hearing their thoughts.
As I mentioned previously, without a compelling story, no one will want to know more. After watching Darker Than Black, I definitely want to know more about what lies beyond the Gate. If you like Japanese Animation with plots that take a little while to play out, this is the show for you.