I'll keep this short: Anyone who is a fan of Darker than Black NEEDS to find a way to watch these 4 episodes; they are crucial to understanding so many things about the series, including several things that didn't make sense in season 2, the relationship between Hei and Yin, and Hei's character development.
The OVA bridges the gap between seasons 1 and 2, explaining what happened to Hei and Yin during that time, and not only is this information vital to the plot, it is incredibly entertaining. This OVA is 4 episodes of pure awesome, as we finally
get long awaited closure about what Hei and Yin meant to each other and how Yin "evolved". There is no comedy, no side arcs, no anything; just 100% plot, and for a story I have become so invested in, I like it that way.
In case I didn't make it clear the first time, fans of the series NEED to find a way to watch these episodes, because they are both fantastic and important; I might have enjoyed them more then certain parts of the original series.
[b]DtB: KnK Gaiden[/b]
This is a nice follow up from the first season but obviously if you watch this first before Ryuusei no Gemini because this was aired one year after the 2nd season and for some reason i think the 2nd season will be different than i thought because of the cover with that girl with the sniper.
The story follows Hei and Yin in their attempt to run from the Syndicate, they now have a more deep relation of caring and even in love and in which they will have their own problems between them as now Yin has ''another'' personality that wants to take
over her body and Hei will find there's something bigger behind her ''other'' personality that will make him change at the end of the anime, a change that i didn't like but at the same time looks like he will change back for what he heard at the end, well despite being short and not knowing the reason why Yin becomes what she becomes at the end, it was good and has great action scenes.
[b][u]Art & Animation[/u][/b]
Very good art style and animation, more improved from the first season (it has to be for the gap of 3 years).
As before very good music and VA, it doesn't have a OP song but it has a decent ED song without videoclip.
Very good development between Hei and Yin, really nice to see they care for eachother, much better to see Yin having emotions and acting emotional towards Hei but i didn't like what they did at the end with her and a character comes back, the evil contractors were interesting and not likeable because it's supposed to be like that.
A very good enjoyment for the follow up for what happened at the end of the open first season, i hope Hei and Yin have a big role in Ryuusei no Gemini but because of that cover showing that pink haired girl is worrying me.
The first season of “Darker Than Black” left the exact fate of two of its central cast in an ambiguous state. This four part OVA continues the story past the first season finale while serving as the transition into the new direction second two would take in Ryuusei no Gemini. This OVA combines the strength of both season into a nice package telling a compelling story, interesting leading characters, and great action scenes.
Good: Fills the gap between seasons 1 & 2
This four part OVA can be summarized as a “couple on the run” sort of story. Hei and Yin are trying to survive daily life
while escaping from an organization called “The Syndicate” that is hunting them down. There is more to the story than that outline. Primarily showing the growth of Hei and Yin bond and learning why everyone wants Yin. Despite that description the tender moments Hei and Yin share together won’t come across as romantic. How it plays out is more tragic with events appearing to be much bigger than everyone within the series thinks. In just four episodes it takes a relatively small conflict progressively giving it a grander scale in every passing episode. Forcing Hei to challenge himself mentally if the greater good is more important than personal desire. The fact that this isn’t Hei first time making a decision around the same scale practically serves as an essential character moment for understanding his change in personality in season two Ryuusei no Gemini.
While short Gaiden does hint on some things to come in season two. For starter, there are brief instances of over the top powers being shown. One example being a contractor that can cause explosions by blowing bubbles. Such powers aren’t a highlighted issue because they don’t stay on screen for a long time. However, they provide the best moments of animation. In particular, the fourth episode, which is the climax of this whole story and allot things blow up literally and narratively.
Another reason to watch this OVA for fans is it will fill in the gap between season one and season two. If you go straight into Ryuusei no Gemini, there will be plot points that won’t be addressed. In particular, how Yin got in the positioned she did and why Hei personality changed drastically from the last time he was seen. Also it’s a transition from the old noir direction into the more action oriented direction in Ryuusei no Gemini in each episode. Its start like season one with a noir beginning and ending with Ryuusei no Gemini more action oriented direction.
A negative to the “Darker Than Black: Gaiden” OVA are the one-shot characters. A trait that didn’t carry over from the main series was characterization for supporting characters. So the supporting cast feel like tools to move the story forward. This can be forgiven because of the length of Gaiden. It is noticeably rushed in certain scenes. In the first episode, Hei is ambushed at a hotel he’s staying at by two contractors and it just cuts to another scene in the middle of that fight. While it’s not important in the story it is telling, a detail like that can’t be left to the viewer imagination to fill in especially considering what sort of ability that specific contractor has. In the final OVA things end with a hook leading into the second season instead of being self contained. The final scene in Gaiden can be summed up with the word destiny. It’s just a matter of time before it actually occurs because no matter how much the anime wants to stray off from that path it’s written in destiny.
Mixed: Only two characters get developed
The focus of this four part OVA is on Hei and Yin relationship growing more intimate with one another. Building on two already established becoming more individuals. Given their roles a greater sense of importance once episode 3 and 4 come around with a huge revelation. By the end of Gaiden Hei becomes a more dynamic character. Changing drastically by the end of Gaiden with it being shown with a simple visual that gets across how the following events impacted him. Yin might say little in four episodes, but it’s the simplicity of her words that has lots of meaning.
Aside from Hei and Yin the OVA doesn’t focus on any other character. Most of the supporting cast will leave something to be desired especially Mina Hazuki and Youko Sawasaki both of whom are in season two. Showing up with little explanation and no bearing on the story. If it’s not Hei or Yin, then there is nothing more to the character once they get shown.
Good: Receives the same treatment as the main series
Bones Studio is once again behind the anime series and the production values remain high. The backgrounds are diverse jumping from the industrialized cityscape, to a small tropical island, and a couple more location in its short run. Backgrounds are detailed like in the first season with distinguishable character designs for the entire cast. It does have a few notable design choices that are purely for fan service, though are not on screen for a very long time. Episode two contains the most fanservice out of all the episodes with the character Xiao Jie (whose is name not mentioned in the Gaiden’s OVA) stripping clothing as part of her payment for using her powers. Beyond that example, there’s no other fanservice moment in the same degree.
One area the four part OVA improve on from the first season are the action scenes. Like in the first season, the action scenes are restrained in how flashy they are portrayed for three episodes. In the fourth episodes it ditches the restraints it gives itself going for an explosive climax. The major upgrade in the OVA is the choreography for the action sequences are quicker. Utilizing all sorts of framing technique to capture the quick movement. They are animated smoothly displaying Bones Studio at the top of their game in these action sequences. Whenever Hei dodges any sort of projectile attacks his movement never takes any notable shortcut in the animation. The staging of them also improved thank to Hei having to think on the fly more quickly in his combat situations and no dialogue interruption during these action scenes to disrupt the flow.
Voice acting from both the Japanese and English cast remains good. Once again the English dub script remains as faithful as possible to the original Japanese script. The changes that are made are barely noticeable in the story it is telling regardless what version is seen. In both the Japanese cast and English dub voice actors reprise their previous role. Hidenobu Kiuchi and Jason Liebrecht provide the voice for Hei. Just like in season one, both actors deliver great performances of a seemingly emotionless character without coming across wooden. To both actors benefits the material allows them more range interacting with their co-stars in situations places Hei out of his element. Easily these two actors are the standout in this four OVA. Brina Palencia and Misato Fukuen both voice Yin. Both actresses do a fine job, but aren’t given much material to build on their performances that feel like a rehash portrayal.
As for choosing how to see Gaiden it’s a tie for voice work. Gaiden does not offer time to have a recurring character and allow them time to grow. Unless you’re a big fan of Tetsuya Iwanaga for the Japanese cast or Johnny Yong Bosch for the English dub playing Calude the only other character with a big enough role to take notice off. Simply go with personal preferences since nothing is lost in either version.
In the music department, it has a similar soundtrack to Ryuusei no Gemini going more for a thriller vibe. Offering a mixture of rock tracks, techno, and lighter sounding tracks for the more personal moments in the series. The melancholy ending theme “Can You Fly” by Yasushi Ishii is played in every episode. It’s the only noteworthy track in the music department. While in general the soundtrack works “Can You Fly” by Yasushi Ishii is the only memorable track that remains with you after you finish the series.
After spending an entire twenty-four episode season with Hei and Yin I’ve very much appreciated how this four part OVA told an arching story and added upon two already developed characters. Unlike the first season, I immediately got hook into this four part OVA and all it took was one stellar opening action sequence. Thankfully it also had the same quality writing and storytelling that made the first season such a great anime.
Production Values: 3/3
“Darker Than Black: Gaiden” combines the strong writing of season one with the upgraded action scenes of season two. It’s a must watch for any fan to make clearer sense of Ryuusei no Gemini ending and for anyone who wants to continue watching the rest the “Darker Than Black” series without getting lost in the story. Gaiden combines the best elements of both seasons even if it lasts under two hours.
First of all, I would like to point out here that I'm trying to make this as unbiased as I can, unlike one of the other reviewers (whose name I won't mention) who after just 1 episode already predicted that this would be great. Clear sign of a fanboy. I'll be reviewing it on the basis of it's purpose, i.e. answering the questions that left you confused or unanswered in Ryuusei no Gemini.
I'll go through the other sections first though.
The artwork in this is very much in keeping with the second series. It's sharp and well animated, if not a bit too dark at times,
but then it is called Darker than BLACK (gotta count for something eh?). Nothing much wrong with the art or the animation without being overly exceptional at any aspect.
Now's where things become a bit more touchy. The sound, in terms of Voice-overs, are fine. The main VAs return and do a good job. But the music compared to the series seems a bit lackluster. The only redeeming music score I found was in the last episode, with a melancholy vibe generated by a piano & violin (?) number that played out a signicant sequence well (without spoiling). It's a shame because I thought the music complimented the 2nd series very well, but then this is only a special.
The character situation is also a split decision, ultimately depending on whether you liked Hei from series 1 or series 2 better. If it's the former, you'll probably enjoy it more. The no-nonsense action is back too, with the battle scenes becoming quite intense at times as Hei jets around the area eliminating enemies. There are more signs of compassion from Hei here, similar to that seen in series 2, so BONES have tried to cater for both. Some of the other characters, such as Claude also do serve a decent purpose in trying to lead the awakening of Izanami in what he feels will help contractors rule the human race.
But that isn't the problem. The problem is that the specials are trying to bridge the gap for the 1st to 2nd series. That should include the developments in the characters from how they made the transition from each series. There wasn't alot of development here. Hei suddenly gained a drinking problem any the only conclusion that can be made as to why is because of depression. But if your answering questions, why be so vauge about it? Thats only making the specials harder to understand. Nor does Yin (not Izanami) develop, as the audience can form their own conclusion that Yin love Hei at the end of the 1st series anyway. It's just saying it that she hadn't done.
This is just part of the problem with the narrative. While some loose ends are tied, some obvious ones are not. Why did Hei go to Russia? How did they (the CIA) know that Shion was such an important influence in the Awakening process? Was it detailed in the Mitaka documents? These were not explained among others.
Other inconsistences include the fact that upon awakening, Inzanami didn't kill Hei but killed the rest. Why? Is it because of Izanagi? (see S2) Is it because Yin stopped them for killing him? And if Hei is supposed to be a contractor that are emotionless, then why couldn't he kill her when she asked for it?
And this is the problem with Gaiden. Yes, it does answer some of the questions that the 2nd series conjured up. But it only lead to more confusion in the process. Not only that, but having to cram it into four 24 minute specials really do give the end product a rushed feel, a slighlt unfinished feel.
I'm not saying to avoid these specials, because it will help to detail what happened between series. But that doesn't stop it feeling rushed and still with holes in it.
To Conclude: It does it's job, but feels as though they tried to get this done and distribute it as soon as possible. It feels rushed, but it does still feel like DtB, which is probably why many will not agree with my conclusion. But hey! A review is to voice your own critical opinion right?
Note: Add 1 to the overall score if you absolutely loved the first series action.
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