“A very rational proposal, I’d expect no less from a Contractor”-HeiDarker Than Black Ep.1
Darker Than Black is rated R-17+ (Violence and Profanity)
Spoiler free zone
Darker Than Black is about a world that has lost the moon and real stars because of the appearance of two mysterious “Gates”. The stars have been replaced with fake ones that represent people who have suddenly manifested powers called Contractors. The show focuses on the contractor Hei, and events surrounding him.
The first season is a masterpiece of storytelling. The OVA series that takes place before the second season is 4 episodes of perfection. The manga, Darker than Black: Jet Black Flower, also written by Tensai Okamura, leaves you thirsty for more. The second season, Gemini of the Meteor, is so bad it breaks my heart. I dislike Gemini of the Meteor so much, that I changed this post to be about the hook of the first episode instead of a full review just so I don’t have to re-watch it.
What you should take away from all this is that the story and characters are so good, the questions it brings up so compelling, that I think everyone should watch the series anyway. Every second I spent on this anime was worth it, even the ones spent on Gemini. In the end, I was left with more questions than answers, but if that’s the price for the privilege of knowing and loving the characters, I would even sit through Gemini again. Don’t let the bumbled landing keep you from giving this anime a chance, it’s defiantly worth it.
This is the part where I fangirl about how well the first episode of Darker Than Black by Tensai Okamura and studio Bones HOOKED me in…
The first episode throws the viewer into the thick of things right away and wastes no time giving examples of what makes the world different from reality, and then explaining what the viewer just saw. Within the first five minutes, you know the basic facts by which this world works. This prevents confusion and halts any questions being asked by the viewer, enhancing the experience by reassuring the audience that what you don’t know will be explained. It’s like they’re saying, “just sit back and think only of the mysteries of the plot and leave the world building to us.”
After hammering out how the world works, they are just as quick to give you defining character traits by which to recognize the characters before you know their names. Doing this in the first few minutes of the first episode is very important as it enables the viewer to get attached quicker and frees up the rest of the episode and future episodes to focus on plot and character development. This will also ensure more emotional impact when good and bad things happen to the characters. Whether it’s a wedding or a funeral, you’re more likely to cry if the event involves people you know.
Episode 1 does a phenomenal job of introducing the main character Hei and all his contradictions. First, you see him disgusted by a contractor, but he is a contractor. Angry at a logical deal, but very logical himself. Suspicious and methodical, but he looks at stars that aren’t real. He switches from a normal, kind man to a ruthless soldier in seconds. Is he just a good actor, if so, which is the real Hei? Kind, ruthless, both or neither? Does it matter? All this character insight from just the first episode is almost too much to take in, but not enough at the same time, making you eager for the next few episodes to shed some light and give some answers.
It also hints at possible themes in the show. The real stars were replaced by ones that represent contractors. When one falls it means a contractor has died. What does it say about this society, that even though the stars represent someone’s life, they are called fake and not worth looking at?
Some other questions I jotted down while watching the first episode.
- Why don’t Contractors think of themselves as human?
- Are they psychopaths?
- If they are, does that justify saying they’re not human?
- Did they manifest powers because they’re psychopaths or are they psychopaths because they manifested powers?
- They pay a price for their power, but it seems different for each person, why?
- Is there any significance to their ritual like fee?
- Dolls don’t seem to have feelings at all, are they seen as less than human as well?
- By calling them dolls are they saying they’re objects rather than people?
- Not having feelings is the way some symptoms of depression can feel or look like, so is the show commenting on how people with depression and social disorders are looked at and treated?
The creators give you all the tools necessary to understand the world, and characters that are dynamic, while also hinting at horizons of deeper philosophical and moral developments to come. In short Darker Than Blacks first episode does everything a first episode should do, and then gives you an action-packed chase scene, just in case you get bored.
Honestly, by the end of the episode, the only question that mattered anymore was “Should I not sleep so I can binge the next 25 episodes?” The answer was obviously “yes”. Who needs to sleep?