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Darker Than Black, volumes 4 & 5

Darker Than Black, volumes 4 and 5
2009 TV Series (episodes 15-22). Director: Tensai Okamura. 100 minutes (each). DVD, bilingual, $29.98 (each). Distributor: Funimation.

Okay, so I no longer associate Burger King with the designation BK-201. What can I say? My love for Darker Than Black blinds me. These supernatural “contractors,” callous men and women employed as international spies and assassins, captivate the imagination. Here we find Hei, also known as BK-201 or The Black Reaper. Operating in Tokyo for the Syndicate, Hei searches for his sister Pai as he navigates a city crawling with clandestine killers.

Why BK-201? Each contractor is linked to a new star, which oscillates when they use their unique powers; thus the astrological designation. These stars materialized alongside the spatial anomalies known as Heaven and Hell’s Gate. The mystery and power behind these cosmic events has flooded Tokyo with foreign operatives and corporations. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone wants something.

As I’ve said before, this anime is essentially a sci-fi crime drama steeped in international espionage and otherworldly phenomena, one reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell, Ergo Proxy, or even Blade Runner. And although I’m still irked with the underdeveloped story behind the enigmatic Gates – after twenty-two episodes all we know is that Hell’s Gate sits in Tokyo, while Heaven’s Gate imploded in South America sometime ago –, character development is the hook that cuts deep!

Volumes four and five particularly open up the vein of the past for Hei and his Syndicate handler Huang, and it’s a flow of blood to be quaffed. As various agencies vie for the secrets behind Hell’s Gate, a rash of bombings strike Tokyo. The Black Reaper may be looking for his sister, but we soon learn that he was operating in South America when Heaven’s Gate disappeared. The reemergence of a contractor named Amber unleashes a flow of memories that will push the ambivalent assassin to the point of human emotion. Better still, Huang will recall that disappointing day when he left the Police force and began his empty walk toward the Syndicate.

Desperate characters, haunted by past transgressions, meet before an elusive gate in Japan. Flawed humanity reigns in these voyeuristic vignettes. Screw the Gates, or even Pai! You’ve now become intimate, and that’s why you should love Darker Than Black.

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