Monday, November 24, 2008

Darker Than Black vol. 1 Impression

Darker Than Black volume 1 from FUNimation takes government conspiracy to a new level. A new breed of covert agents, Contractors, roam the streets. Each Contractor wields unique abilities, the result of the gate opening 10 years prior. The gate showed up and of the initial group to investigate only one man survived. Since then the government hunts Contractors and erases the memory of anyone who comes into contact with one. The mystery as to why is to be revealed, the here and now deals with one particular Contractor, a hunter, BK201, the Black Reaper. The BK201 designation is assigned to each star that appears. As a person comes into their power, becomes a Contractor, they are assigned a number by the Star Gazer. This alphanumeric designation is how they are identified and tracked. As one becomes a Contractor they begin to lose their humanity paying a unique price. Much is left to be revealed about Contractors, the gate, dolls … but let’s get back to the Black Reaper.

BK201, the Black Reaper, his name is Lee, a man who’s past is to be revealed and who, while a Contractor himself, hates and seeks to destroy any other Contractor her encounters. He considers them monsters, but what occurred in his past for him to hate them so? Utilizing a mask to conceal his identity and a grappling weapon BK201 hunts with a thirst for destruction it’s hard to believe he’s the same calm Lee we see in normal day settings. Always in tow with Lee is a talking black cat, a mysterious (aren’t they all) girl and a shady short guy. All of their past are to be revealed also. The government’s reasons for wanting the gate and Contractors covered up is a mystery, but we’ve met Kirihara the local police chief assigned to hunt these Contractors and who becomes entangled with Lee.

In this first volume of Darker Than Black viewers are introduced to a slew of characters breaking into factions such as Contractors and Dolls, the government, police and Lee’s group. The overall mystery of what Contractors are and what occurred 10 years ago is the main story point as well as Lee’s personal vendetta against Contractors … and what is up with paying a price for your powers? The stories told in volume 1 set the stage as Lee encounters and kills a Contractor, is lured into a trap by that Contractors associates, becomes and errand boy, a driver to Tahara (lone survivor guy mentioned before) and then encounters a fire wielding Contractor who’s just come into her power.

The story leaves more questions open than answered, but it’s the desire to see these answers that will keep viewers coming back and for fans of mystery mixed with action Darker Than Black is solid. Design and animation breaks no molds but servers to tell the story of a future where powers are possible and the government is working to cover it up. Fight sequences are smooth as unique powers come into play, so while you learn Lee moves quickly, how he uses them against different powers is fun to watch. The voice acting is also solid, not great but solid. This brings me back to where I’ve been a few times, the story. The larger mystery of the gate (Hells gate), Contractors and Lee himself make this a very interesting series. Wolf’s Rain and Witch Hunter Robin come to mind when I think about the overall story and design of Darker Than Black. So where does this leave anime fans? Simple put, looking for a good spy, government conspiracy, super power, and mystery filled action trip? Darker Than Black is for you, nuff said.

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