Posted by psgels on 30 September 2007 with categories: Anime Reviews


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.

13 Responses

  1. Archer says:

    as i see this anime seems to be liked by the majority of people and by almost all anime blog writers i visit and it is nice to see such a anime
    overall for me it was an interesting anime,that had a dark,adult theme,an arc based series that i usually enjoy watching,some interesting characters and even if there were some episodes that were not as good there were enough better ones to make this a great anime so i think it deserves the high rating

  2. kiseki gurl says:

    While I liked DtB I personally think this is a little overhyped. I felt like a lot of the arcs were kinda pointless (I forgot half of them) and I felt some were placed at the wrong time (i.e. Huang’s arc). I thought DtB had a lot of potential that it wasted. And the ending did not help.

  3. naneya says:

    Just finished this series.

    I find it is a quite well series in many detail , but Its story’s structure is just a mere story about “Badass hero and his gang” and his enemy(of cause evil organization).

    Like I said before, I known well that this series managed its detail very well but it just a detail, its story line is so lame, completely wasted its potential to be a good series.

  4. L.A says:

    Although Okamura Tensai is one of my avoritetop 3 directors, I really did not like this one.
    Too many things, I say more than half of them are unsolved and unexplained. (Now I seriously doubt that BONES intend to do this all the time!)
    Of all things, I hoped him to write more scripts. I know he doesn’t write many scripts, and he may not be an experts…
    He wrote only the first 2 episodes but they turned out to be the best among all the episode from the series.
    (Well I sure admit Suga Shotarou and Nomura Yuichi are both great writers too)
    Not that I completely hated the show, I was rather dissapointed maybe as well as I was expecting too much from the start.

  5. Perrin4869 says:

    Rewatching the anime again made me realize why I loved it so much in the first place. And I must say, the score you gave it hardly makes this anime justice. It has astonishing production values, and extremely intricate plot, believable characters, an original and unique and imaginative setting… It also manages to be funny without resorting to low humor, with the detective they created. No other anime I can think of boasts of such feats. I also disagree with you about the ending being rushed, it had a proper build up of 5 episodes (21-25 can be called the ending in my opinion), and the conclusion was more than satisfactory, at least to the plot threads presented throughout the season. Season 2 will take a completely different approach, because of the way this season ended, so it’ll probably focus on completely different things.
    The only 2 things I can say badly about this series is that some arcs are definitely lower in quality when compared to the rest of the series, and that the opening and ending songs are not suitable to my tastes at all.
    Maybe this is just a fanboy speaking here, but I can’t wait any longer for season 2!

  6. Snowolf says:

    For some reason, I was strangely addicted to this series (finished it in three days!). I just finished it, and I really think it’s a bit different than any type of dark, crime/supernatural based animes in that it’s very subtle. And the animation, music, and dialogue fits the characters perfectly. In fact, everything was pretty much perfect for me except the OPs, in which the second one looked like an opening for Initial D (-_-) and the random “filler” episodes. Which I understand, is part of the whole series and thus makes it different than all the others, but sometimes it really lagged me down. Otherwise, Darker than Black was a truly fascinating and interesting anime to watch, and I can’t wait to see the second season. :D

  7. Xanza says:

    Absolutely loved this anime which I finished in roughly 2 days.
    While the major story arc finished the second last episode of season 1 the last episode was a nice way to end it, I spend the episode in giggles.

  8. Alex says:

    I got to agree with Perrin4869. This is possibly one of the best animation I have watched so far. It’s subtle and the characters have profound depth. I agree the episodes are uneven, 13 and 14 obviously being the best. However, I found most minor characters interesting and belivable enough and the director is able to address something quite philosophical without sacrifying the entertainment value. The second season is good, but it really lack the depth of the first season. Hope a third season can bring a satisfactory conclusion to the story.
    Finally, I have nothing to complain about the ending. A lot people believed it was over ambitious and many things left unexplained. However, that’s where I see the beauty.

  9. Alex says:

    I got to agree with Perrin4869. This is possibly one of the best animation I have watched so far. It’s subtle and the characters have profound depth. I agree the episodes are uneven, 13 and 14 obviously being the best. However, I found most minor characters interesting and belivable enough and the director is able to address something quite philosophical without sacrifying the entertainment value. The second season is good, but it really lack the depth of the first season. Hope a third season can bring a satisfactory conclusion to the story.
    Finally, I have nothing to complain about the ending. A lot people believed it was over ambitious and many things left unexplained. However, that’s where I see the beauty.

  10. asdf says:

    I disagree with your rating as it should have been at least a 90. But I agree with your comments. But I do feel that it had too much of a short life span lasting 37 & OVA(25 in S1, 12 in S2)

  11. josh says:

    Loved fhe anime goin from episode 25 to 26 really confussd me nade no sense at all :o

  12. Topaz says:

    One of my favorite anime of all time! I was so hooked that I finished it all in one day! DtB has an great plot which was surprisingly very interesting and felt real even though it was clearly fantasy. It was very suspenseful with many excellent, subtle plot twists. The main characters are all well developed throughout the episodes. Unlike most anime, the minor characters were all essential to the plot and their motives were convincing. My rating for this is more of 92/100.

  13. Shinigami says:

    Wow.. seems like we are on the same opinion on quite a lot of stuff. I am surprised to read this… The creativity of the contractors and the contract’s prices to be paid, I haven’t paid that much attention to the arc separately, but I do feel you have a reason there too…

    Btw, you can read my review here: http://shinigamilist.com/2011/10/23/darker-than-black-a-really-good-combination-of-sci-fi-and-everyday-life-review/

    in case you’re interested ;)

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  • Emma
    (Sunday, Feb 1. 2015 10:48 AM)
    This is a fairly minor complaint but in some older anime I always noticed “flashing light syndrome” and “Epilepsy visuals” , “Animes equivalent to flash photography”, it can sometimes bother me alot/hurt my eyes watching old shows, then again I am susceptible to epilepsy…
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Feb 1. 2015 09:14 AM)
    @Bam: Emotional involvement and rewatch value are very important to me in a film, which is my preference for synecdoche over birdman.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Feb 1. 2015 04:05 AM)
    “Firechick, answer: Hell no. And don’t impersonate Bam. You suck at it.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Feb 1. 2015 03:05 AM)
    Yeah guys! Why aren’t you reviewing Go! Princess Precure?
  • Firechick
    (Sunday, Feb 1. 2015 02:51 AM)
    Is anyone gonna review Go! Princess Precure? I hear it just aired.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 11:14 PM)
    Synecdoche is incredibly rich in detail, and keen return viewers can find a lot of things they missed the first time thru. Kaufman didn’t have a single teacup in a shot that didn’t mean something. Pacing is a bit of an issue, but if you notice the passage of time you can see that was deliberate as well. The movie could’ve been livelier, but for a movie about death and decay that would’ve been a bit of a sell-out.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 11:01 PM)
    @Emma: Birdman and Synecdoche have a lot of thematic elements in common, and given that Synecdoche was released in 08 makes me realize that Alejandro González borrowed quite a bit from it; although in the end they are different enough to justify Birdman’s existence. Where Synecdiche was a better written movie, I feel that Birdman was the better directed one.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:15 PM)
    And I’d go as far to say this beats out birdman for me by miles.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:14 PM)
    The film is a solid mood piece thanks to the in tone cinematography, a great performance from Hoffman that along with his characters drama makes for an emotionally investing film. And before it gets TOO sad theres all those bits of dark humour fitted in there that work out pretty well. This is probably my favourite work by Kaufman currently.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:14 PM)
    Well Bam, I had a go of synecdoche there. A bit of a slow burner, near the end slightly drawn out, however that last stretch was forgiven by that bonkers ending.

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