Having so many reviews and just cut-and-pasting them has gotten me complacent. Wasn’t sure what to put up today for so long that I almost completely forgot it. Ended up staying up late just trying to think of what to write up. In the end, that’s a good thing. One of the reasons to adopt a new weekly schedule was to shake things up and get me out of the rut after all. Normally I’d grab something else and pop it in here, maybe jump ahead to another day’s content, but I’m the person who likes the path of least resistance. So not going to do that. Good thing today is a fairly open day in the schedule. So I’m going to talk about an anime series I got for the winter gift-giving holiday. It’s one I’ve seen before, and in fact haven’t opened up the dvd case yet, but it’s one I really like and have seen quite a bit of.
So, go below the break to read me talking about Darker Than Black.
Darker Than Black is an anime series that can be summed up pretty easily. Superpowered action and mystery in more or less modern Tokyo. The main character is a silent dour loner who is a amazing badass. Kind of cliche on the surface. Like most of the stories I enjoy, especially the anime stuff, the surface isn’t all there is. It’s got some cool worldbuilding in it. From the people with superpowers, each one with a unique power that requires some kind of payment they follow obsessively to the point of compulsion. I like stories that have coherent magic systems, and that’s basically what this one is. Each time putting an interesting unique power and seeing what can be done with it. Most of them in multi-episode mostly self-contained story arcs.
The other part is the larger world, where we slowly find out that the world is, for lack of a better word, broken. Some kind of unexplained event happened and now a nearby city had to be walled off with a wall disguised as the sky so nobody is reminded of it being there. Or the fact that the night sky is no longer the real night sky. Instead each of the stars now represents one of the superpowered contractors (that’s what they are called) and looking at them can tell you when one is created, uses their powers, and when one dies their star falls and disappears. So the police now have an astronomy department. The whole thing is revealed in bits and pieces, always in conversations about other things. The show is one of the best examples of worldbuilding without exposition I’ve run across, though there are some blatant infodumps early on just to set things up.
I think my favorite part, since I’ve got a soft spot for darker stuff, is that there is this thread of things coming apart under everything else. Most of the stories and events are normal spies and super-power action scenes, but nothing turns out better in the long run. Our protagonists are certainly not working for good people. The police are struggling to deal with sociopathic supermen, each one with a wildly different ability, working for various governments and corporations. Hovering over everything else is the city/neighborhood behind the (practically speaking) invisible wall where the laws of physics and sanity have apparently been torn apart. I wouldn’t call it a dark show, exactly, though it’s certainly not sweetness and light. It’s more of a show where as the episodes roll by you come to the conclusions that all the viewpoint characters are merely trying to get through each emergency or mission, while waiting for the other shoe to drop and finally reveal how fucked-up the world really is.
Plus there are some fun science fiction type thought experiments. Or at least similar stuff. Just exploring the ramifications of some of the concepts the show has. Anyway, if you like darker urban fantasy action/mystery stuff, you really should give the first few episodes a try. At least get through the first story arc, which is two or three episodes long. Another reason I like the show is that it’s neither episodic or one huge plot through the entire season.
I’ve even got my own theory about the main character, which will mean absolutely nothing to anyone who hasn’t watched the show but I’m going to spend a whole paragraph explaining anyway. Basically, gaining superpowers destroys the ability to feel emotions. The superpeople work on pure logic and rationality, apparently anyway, and so are basically superhuman sociopaths. However, we get clues that our protagonist actually has emotions and cares about things, even though he has powers. We also find out that our protagonist was a extremely skilled and brutally efficient mercenary before all the supernatural stuff started up. As in, he was the kind of emotionless soldier that kind of scared the other mercenaries. My thought is that he was a sociopath before the event, and gaining powers flipped the switch in his head so he gained emotions instead of losing them. Either that or caring about things is his compulsion and that’s why he uses his powers so freely and we never see any other sign of his contract compulsion.