Darker than Black is an arc-based series, much like Studio Bones’ previous production of Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi. The setting is quite different, though. Instead of the Tenpou-era, this one plays in modern-day Tokyo in an alternate universe, where strange humans with supernatural powers, calling themselves contractors live amongst humans. For once, their purpose isn’t to destroy mankind, but to just carry out their job. And that’s the beauty of this series.
Darker than Black is about the relationship between your job and your own instincts. All the characters in this series are adults who are just trying to survive in a dark and gritty environment, with pressure coming from both enemies and superiors. The interesting thing about the contractors is how they’re able to make rational decisions, regardless of their emotions, making this quite an intelligent series. Organizations have many layers and characters have often subtle motives.
The powers of these contractors are just like the setting: full of creativity. In this series, the people with the strongest powers are actually the weakest, because these don’t leave any room for strategies. The story also knows how to use its characters, where every major character gets at an arc dedicated to him or her for development and background information. There is just one issue with the ending: the creators got too ambitions and tried to stuff too much in the final episode, making it end up rushed.
There’s one more problem, one that many other arc-based series suffer from as well (for example Ghost Hunt, Ayatsuri Sakon): the quality of the different arcs fluctuates heavily, and you’ll never know when an arc will turn out great or just good. The best episodes of the series are because of this not among the final ones, but episodes 13 and 14. These were simply perfect, with some of the best minor villains I’ve seen in a long while. The successive arcs were good as well, but none of them really lived up to the same quality, unfortunately.
Still, despite this, Darker than Black is a definite recommendation for anyone, looking for a story aimed at adults. There’s enough action, and yet the action is not of the brainless kind you see in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It knows how to build up the individual stories for each arc very well with nearly all of them having satisfying climaxes, and this is definitely one of the more intelligent series that came out in the past spring-season. And let’s not forget Yoko Kanno, who composed the soundtrack for this series. Her style may be a bit more subtle than say, Yuki Kajiura, but it fits the series perfectly.