Based on the anime by the same name, this two-volume series (collected in an omnibus edition) depicts a side mission of the series’ main character, Hei. The characters are pretty interesting and the basic framework of the story has potential. If only the plot made more sense!
Darker Than Black
Story by BONES and Tensai Okamura, Scenario by Saikoa Hasumi, Art by NOKIYA
Yen Press, 384 pp.
Rating: Older Teen
In the world of Darker Than Black, a strange dimension known as Hell’s Gate has suddenly appeared in the middle of Tokyo. Coinciding with this event, some humans sacrifice their souls to become “contractors,” people without emotions who are able to control “the powers of darkness.” One such contractor is Hei, who works for a shadowy syndicate while searching for his missing sister. The government built a wall to block out sight of Hell’s Gate, so most normal people don’t even know contractors exist.
In this manga side story—serialized in Asuka, a magazine aimed at female teens—Hei encounters Kana Shinoh, a high school girl whose world is thrown into a tizzy when she spots her dead father walking down the street talking on a cell phone to some guy named Klang. As she tries to figure out what’s going on, Kana makes enemies of Klang somehow, who sends a couple of his minions to kill her, including her own father. Hei protects her reluctantly, but not as unkindly as someone presumably without emotions might be expected to do.
You’ll notice my usage of the word “somehow,” which could really be a theme word for this volume. Within a scene it’s easy to follow what’s going on, but the story lacks a strong sense of cause and effect and never seems to come together in a cohesive whole. In its second half, and I suspect that this is in an attempt to tug at the heartstrings of its audience, the focus shifts from attacks on Kana to showing how Klang really isn’t a bad guy, he’s just misunderstood. You see, he’s lonely and sad and everything he did was for love, so that makes it all okay, right?
There are some interesting ideas here—and I did like Hei and his talking cat companion, Mao—but I’m left scratching my head over many things. Perhaps having seen the anime first would’ve helped, but I honestly don’t think so: the flaws are in the construction of the story, not in its concept or central characters. A story should be able to make you care when someone’s mother is taken hostage or when revealing the existence of a program to imbue an army of puppet soldiers with contractors’ stolen powers, but this one simply can’t.
But, y’know, bright side: talking cat!
The Darker Than Black omnibus is available now.