Ah yes, Darker Than Black: Here's a program that most certainly gets me to stop in my tracks in effort to enjoy even when my "tracks" include shows that are longer, more hyped, and have already been released in their entirety. After all, this is a series I picked up in the fourth installment, backtracked to the first and now will attempt to evaluate this, the 6th and final, DVD release of the show. My sporadic route to getting here aside, the sixth Funimation release of the gritty superhero drama follows the format of the prior four volumes in terms of structure and runtime.
Containing episodes 23-26, Darker Than Black 6 comes in at a runtime of 100 minutes even. Just like in the previous sets, the four episodes within are actually a pair of two-parters. Wearing an appropriate TV MA rating (17+), DTB makes frequent use of violent sequences and occasional gore. Language leans toward the adult side but vulgarity is certainly not gratuitous. Additionally there is no real nudity or sexual situations to report.
These four episodes come packaged on a single disc within a standard sized DVD case (with cool foil art wrapping). Extras come in the form of an English cast commentary over episode 26, production artwork stills gallery, textless songs and Funimation trailers.
Language options are typical sub & dub meaning the option of original Japanese dialog track (stereo) or an English dub (5.1 Dolby Surround) and English subtitles available under either.
The show, for those who know nothing about it, can best be described if the Japanese were to develop a serious incarnation of what we Americans might consider comic-book superheroes. Mutations and superhuman abilities abound only unlike the American take on the same scenario, we have religious fanatics, alcoholism, and the unique concept of power use coming at a consequence. Each application of supernatural power by a user (called a Contractor here) results in a cost of use that can range from anything from having to smoke a cigarette to rapid aging. If you are familiar with the show, let me say simply that these four installments are requisite material to the ongoing story arcs and actually do well in revealing vital information that has been long in development.
Technically, what are contained here are the three final episodes of the series and the OVA to the mythos.
Episode 23 follows the exploits of Eric Nishijima and his rather genius ambition to use a particle accelerator to exterminate the contractors. Amber, in the mean time, assembles as many contractors as she can to take out the accelerator before it can take them out. Huang, Mao, and Yin assist Hei to infiltrate Hell's Gate with the guidance of Wei.
Episode 24 picks up with Hei's team, who were recently booted from the syndicate on the orders of Eric Nishijima. The EPR's contractors launch an attack on PANDORA security forces, leaving the way open for Hei and Yin. The syndicate takes out the EPR's doll system, leaving Hei with only Yin for guidance as they head towards the interior of Hell's Gate.
It all comes to a fever pitch in episode 25 when after collaborating with Amber, Hei learns that Contractors have a much more human side than ever thought possible.The core of this show (and the greater story arc) deals with Hei's decision to devote to the world of human beings or Contractors once and for all.
The final episode (the OVA) backs off on the steadily building tension that's been getting stronger in each DVD volume of late. It tells the romantically laced tale of Mayu Otsuka, a Japanese National Police Agency worker who wrote a story about a masked man that believes to exist only in a dream. Mayu, dreamy stories aside, starts to develop feelings for Hei, while Saitou struggles to confess his feelings for Kirihara.
Pacing is a bit less methodic as it has been of late within the Darker Than Black formula. Rather then a pair of connected two-parters, the final three episodes string together with consistency while the OVA takes things to a different plane. The secret to the show's lasting success lies in several intertwining story arcs that develop with what could only be described as being deliberately drawn out. The grander story is told from several varying threads through characters that you'll find yourself slowly coming to care about (a fear that was needlessly stressed over in the earlier installments).
Like most Funimation properties, it could be said that the English dub is easily on par with the emotion captured in the Japanese dialog.
Now that the show has been released in its entirety, I strongly recommend giving it a go all the way through. It was back in November of 2008 that Funimation dropped the first installment on the North American market and here it is August of 2009 when the final installment arrives. The conclusion is satisfying and does well do leave few questions unanswered. A complete box set release of this property would be a wise move by Funimation, but no sense denying yourself the experience by waiting for that!
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