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Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor (Season 2 + OVA)
Darker than Black is an acclaimed anime television series from writer/director Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain). The series is animated by studio Bones. The original series aired in 2007 with a follow-up entitled Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor arriving in 2009. A short OVA production followed in 2010. Funimation's Blu-ray/DVD combo pack release contains both the Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor sequel and the short OVA production.
The concept of the series focuses on mysterious beings known as Contractors. The lead of the series is a contractor and is known as the Black Reaper. A contractor is someone with special abilities which are connected and derived from the "Heaven's Gate" incident. With new powers, these individuals gain superhuman strengths and skills but begin to lose what makes them human to begin with: becoming cold killers who are often assigned by organizations to work as spies or assassins and get important information for nations and others.
In the second season sequel series, the Black Reaper, also known as BK-201, comes across a young girl named Suo who he ends up bringing in to his world. After surviving strange events following a giant meteor crash on Earth, Suo becomes a contractor as well. Over the course of the season, BK-201 trains her in the way of a contractor and she experiences the same process known to BK-201. Meanwhile, a mysterious and powerful organization known as Section 3 has tried to find and destroy BK-201. Other contractors are trying to take them down as well.
Having never seen the first season of the series, Darker than Black's second outing was hard to follow at times given that I did not understand the concept of contractors right away and the series does a poor job of exploring the idea behind them. While it technically serves as a sequel series and not solely as a second season, viewers will probably benefit from seeing the first season. The series story is also somewhat convoluted and takes twists, turns, and detours that are unexpected.
The concept of Darker than Black ultimately feels somewhat vague. It's supposed to have sci-fi undertones and high-concept elements, but it ultimately feels more like a story about contract assassins working on jobs while a mysterious (and poorly explored) entity, Section 3, works against them and wants them destroyed. The series does try and add emotional context to the characters on occasion but the series lacks the level of depth necessary to be a more enjoyable story.
What the series lacks in storytelling ability, it tries to make up for with an abundance of visual flair and style. While the scripts written by Tensai Okamura are often messy and confusing to follow, Okamura exceeds as a visual director with great technical skill. The framing of shots impresses and the and pace established is often non-stop (especially during action sequences). Anime fans hoping for an action-packed show with fluid animation and technical finesse will certainly be thrilled by the series as it excels in exploring these attributes. The production was superbly handled.
The animation produced by Bones is certainly remarkable. There is nothing to be disappointed by with regards to the art style. The character designs are exceptional. The background art is a detailed and visually pleasant experience. The fluidity is superb. It's clear the animators did an immense amount of work on the production. Scenes have a number of intensely choreographed action set-pieces and are always high quality. On that level, Darker than Black earns its acclaim and reputation. No anime fan should be disappointed by the technical attributes. The only real production disappointment might be the lack of score music by Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), who did the music for the original Darker than Black series but did not return for the follow-up.
Unfortunately, Okamura's stylistic strengths as a director and the high-quality nature of the animation can't make up for the often weak storytelling. Okamura's writing isn't on par with his directorial style. The characters simply aren't that compelling enough and it often feels like the series is simply padding a storyline around high-octane action set-pieces rather than the other way around. It doesn't mesh effectively. Viewers who have seen and enjoyed the original Darker than Black series might enjoy it more than I did, but as a newcomer the series seemed to be much more about flash and a lot less about substance. The flash impressed. The storytelling did not.
Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation. The high-definition clarity is exceptional. The line detail is amazing and the artwork looks visually stunning. The bold colors and style of the series looks stunning on this native-HD release.
The audio is included in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Japanese. Each of the presentations has a good boost from the lossless audio. The clarity sounds strong and the score and sound effects are well implemented into the respective sound designs. The English track sounds superior given the surround-sound implementation and has a slightly better bass presentation. However, fans of either the English or Japanese dubbing should find this to be a satisfactory release. English subtitles are provided.
The release is slim on extras (though it's worth noting that the set does impress with the inclusion of both the second season sequel and the short OVA).
Supplements include: Episode 4 Commentary, OVA Part 1 Commentary, textless songs (clean op/ed), and trailers promoting other Funimation releases. As with other Funimation releases, commentaries are with select members of the English dub cast and will primarily appeal to viewers who are fans of the respective dub VA's.
Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is the sequel to the acclaimed anime phenomenon Darker than Black. Funimation has released the set with an impressive Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with strong technical merits and both the entire second series and the short OVA which followed it. Fans of the series will undoubtedly want this release.
Newcomers should give it a rent or check out the first season before delving in to this follow-up production. Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor excels at great action and animation but the storytelling wasn't capable of matching the effectiveness of the action set-pieces.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.