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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor [Review]
Posted by IceCreamNinja in News Articles December 29, 2009 at 04:14:44 AM

Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor puts me in a bit of an odd position as a reviewer. The show pulls no punches; immersing the viewer in a magnificently constructed universe that exists with little to no explanation, development or back story offered to make sense of it. The world exists as it does. These are the characters that inhabit it. This is what they can do. Accept it or move on. Such self-confidence in a work is appealing in many ways, and the unexplained questions that arise early in the series and are taken as a matter-of-course for the characters tend to latch on to the viewer and pull them along with the hope that the answers will soon be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, and something that I only found out after six episodes in, was that Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor is actually the second season of a previous series that concluded its first season run back in 2007, which therefore meant that some of those interesting questions I had about the show that kept me watching in the hopes of finding an explanation were in fact already dealt with before this season even started.


Let’s ignore my overwhelming ignorance for a moment though and focus on the series itself. The setting might best be described as a cross between sci-fi and post-apocalyptic. Set after the sudden appearance of two otherworldly “Gates” and the subsequent, violent destruction of one of them, Darker than Black’s world is one in a constant state of upheaval. People known as “contractors”; super-humans with incredible and diverse powers and no moral or emotional ties to the rest of humanity, battle each other and promote the interests of whatever state, syndicate or corporation with which they’ve happened to have aligned themselves, without any regard to the incredible destruction and wanton loss of life they leave in their wake. Humans carry on, both in a constant state of fear of these contractors and of the very distinct possibility that they themselves might become one, as no one seems to understand what governs the process behind which a person who appears normal one day can suddenly and without warning transform into a contractor the next. Even the night sky has changed, replaced instead with a simulacrum whose stars through some unknown means represent the life of each individual contractor still left on earth.

Amidst all this we find Suou Pavlichenko, the daughter of a Japanese woman and a Russian scientist who, at the start of the series, is living in Siberia with her twin brother. On the day of the Heaven’s Gate explosion, apparently a major plot point of the first series, she is nearly killed while camping with her father and brother after a nearby meteorite strike, and awakes to find that her brother, in addition to losing one eye and the use of his legs, has become a contractor. Flash forward five years and we see Suou leading as normal a life as possible given the circumstances as a middle school student in a Russian preparatory school, while her father continues his research in a lab attached to their house. Good things seldom last forever, of course, and soon we find Suou on the run and in search of answers after her home is destroyed, her father killed, and the disappearance of her supposedly wheelchair-bound brother; not to mention her best friend-turned-contractor now leading the forces in hot pursuit.

The show is completely fearless in its unflinching portrayal of the world and its inherent brutality. This is an unpredictable and violent place, where human life and emotions are cumbersome burdens easily tossed aside. People will die. In many cases these will not just be nameless extras, but characters that the show has dedicated in some cases significant amounts of time developing. Parallel to this constant threat of violence is the dual descent of Suou—as she transforms into a contractor and her struggle to retain some shreds of her humanity, and ascent of Hei, a contractor from the first series with whom Suou links up with, and who early on loses his contractor abilities. Their combined journey and the struggle to understand both themselves and one another is probably the highlight of the entire series.

The show is not without its negatives, though, and chief amongst these complaints is the character of Mao. Mao was apparently present in the first series, and his sudden and unexplained appearance early in the second season was ultimately the reason why I eventually broke down and looked up the show on Wikipedia to discover that it was a continuation. Mao was a contractor who, as remuneration for his abilities, permanently lost his body. Contractors you see, despite being completely rational and uncaring individuals in every other instance, are inexplicably obsessive-compulsive about the use of their powers. This is usually portrayed in often inventive and incredibly imaginative ways, like the magician who must reveal the secrets behind magic tricks before he can cast illusions, or The Flash-like runner who has to eat a cheeseburger after every burst of speed. If the remuneration is large enough, the contractors can use their powers without hindrance. Such is the case with Mao, who, after the loss of his body, is apparently able to transfer his consciousness at will into any medium or data storage device.

In the first series, he was a cat.

You can see where this is going.

Yes, one of the most common and lamentable anime tropes makes its ridiculous appearance in this otherwise dark and fascinating journey; the God Dammed Talking Animal. While the first season saw Mao in the form of a talking cat, this season sees him manifested in the body of Suou’s pet flying squirrel. One moment, the animal is cowering from a cat in its cage, and the next, it’s suddenly sporting a distinctly low voice and reclining in front of a television as it criticizes the main characters after their latest escape. Why? Why did the creators feel it necessary to include such a useless character that constantly comes off looking completely idiotic and out of place every time he opens his mouth? Was the series so obviously lacking in cuteness or comic relief that it needed something to add such alien levity and absurdity to an in all other respects pensive and serious tale about the loss of innocence and the discovery of one’s place in the world?

Mao aside, there are some other absurd aspects the show tries to treat with a straight face, most notably the manifestation of Suou’s contractor power, which sees an insanely immense sniper rifle slowly spawn from her chest and pointed threateningly at anyone in the immediate vicinity. What were they doing while she was slowly getting ready to shoot them, and should they really be worried when they’re standing closer than the end of the barrel of the gun itself?

Despite these issues, though, Darker than Black; Gemini of the Meteor stands as an entertaining and at times fascinating series that manages to keep the viewer interested, despite the occasional slip or knowledge gap resulting from unfamiliarity with its first run. For those uninterested in story and spooky sci-fi, there’s enough action in every episode to keep you tolerating those parts where it slows down to dwell on the nature of the character’s journey and the larger issue of humanity as a whole. As the series is now at about the half way point in its run, it will be interesting to see where the creators will take things from here.
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