Mar 22, 2012
Arch-Defender (All reviews)
Opening sequence: 10
Ending sequence: 8
Rating: PT: Violence, blood, slight amount of gore. Light amount of sexuality.

Darker Than Black is a series who was praised for its first season and heavily criticized for its second. They are many reasons for that fact but it remains that the hate it inherited is undeserved nonetheless. The reasons for this incomprehensible hate seem to be as follow:
-You don’t understand anything: It’s true that when the second season came out it was nebulous at best. However, the OVA alleviated much of the confusion and unfortunately it seems not many people went back to the series after seeing it. Once you understand the basics behind the new storyline the series is indeed quite enjoyable.
-Hei is a drunk who beats on girls: People didn’t like what they call Hei’s character destruction. It’s nonsense; Hei was emotionless during most of the first season and he was a cold hearted killer, and now people are riled up because he drinks and hits people, it isn’t exactly as if his actions were worse than they originally were. Also, it gave Hei some character; something happened before the first season that made him turn to drinking. This implies that there was something he indeed cared enough about to be sufficiently depressed to turn to the bottle, basically he has a goal other than simple revenge or obeying orders. SPOILER-Also, since Hei eventually defeats his depression and drops his attitude and the bottle there isn’t any reason to be frustrated about this change-SPOILER Hei is human, humans don’t always make the right choices and so he had a bad turn. It’s unrealistic to expect people to be rational all the time in real life and while it might be more heroic to have protagonists who are always rational in fictional stories, it’s hardly believable.
-Suou: Apparently, some people didn’t like the new main character. As to why I have no idea: She as a stellar back story, good character development, an interesting contractor power and she offers a tone of emotionality that was lacking in most of the first season.
-Mao is squirrel: So fans miss the cat. There isn’t much to say here, I thought the new Mao offered fresh humor. He was fun as a cat but that appearance and the gags they used had run their course so it was logical to mix things up a bit since a sequel isn’t a repeat but a continuation of the original work.
-The show seemed rushed: Basically there pissed it wasn’t episodic. The show didn’t seem rushed, it was pulled quite well and the continuous storyline brought much life to a series that needed it. There’s a difference between rushed and actually having a story; my suspicions are that they wished it had been milked more and extended to 25 episodes again, but then we would have had a sea of fillers instead of an intense storyline.
-The ending: Yeah, you often hear people criticize the ending of any given series that dares to end on a “to be continue”. Apparently an on-going storyline is a foreign concept to them. They also can’t live with the fact we still haven’t found out the mystery behind the gates, so instead of taking the ending for what it is, a prelude to the rest of the story, they made sure the show would be ill received and probably ensured they would never found out what was going to happen and what it was all about.
-They want to hate it: People love to be able to say “The sequel is never as good as the original” It makes their day to go tell everyone just that.
In the end people wanted a repeat of the first season and have their panties in a bunch because the ending of season 1 left place to only one logical continuation, which is this show.

As for me, well I’ll detail below why this show isn’t the train wreck people love to masquerade it as being. This series was an enormous improvement on the franchise and I find it distasteful that it may not continue due to a fan fit, or if it does, that said fit may very well return the series to a “go nowhere episodic” direction.

The story of this new season revolves around a girl, Suou, whose father is murdered by Hei. Subsequently she tags along with him in the hopes of finding her brother Shion and finally understanding what exactly is going on. As the story progresses, the group is joined by Mao and July as they flee from various organisations intent on capturing Suou who they mistake as her brother Shion. Without going into details due to spoilers, I can say that some of the questions we had since the start are partially answered while others are born. The story flows fluidly and is remarkably well paced. It also offers a solid foundation for any future work and does a good job at being what it is; a continuation of an ongoing series.

The characters were also a major improvement from the previous installment. First off they actually showed an emotional side of Hei, both an ugly and beautiful one. Strange that people didn’t like Hei having dept to his character but I guess it’s a matter of taste. There’s also the return of previous characters such as July, Misaki and Mao which should have made fans happy. And then there’s the new characters: Suou, who is a young girl who must deal with being a Contractor while retaining her emotions. She’s a very interesting character and they did a fantastic job at elaborating on her struggles through the series. Then there’s Mina a.k.a. lightsaber wielding lesbian by the haters. Mina’s a character who basically exemplifies how Contractor powers have improved in this second season, and of course her payment is a rather unique one as well. She provided for interesting battle sequences during the show and with her character established I most certainly believe there’s room for more of her in the next installment should it ever see the light of day.

The characters were improved, interesting and well written, of course I can understand why veteran fans would be displeased by the lack of appearance of older characters but since most of them are, you know, dead, it’s still hard to sympathise. Of course there’s Yin, whom fans missed during the show, myself included, but her current disposition was required for the smooth development of the plot.

One of the theme the show introduced was Suou's struggle, after the loss of her father she as to deal with making it on her own and adpat to her new situation. She travels with the man who murdered her father and as to come to grips with her feelings towards him which aren't as hateful as she would hope them to be. She also suffers from Lee's abuse since he as become a drunken waste after the events of season 1.

The voice actors were well chosen for the most part. Each of them playing their characters without a hitch or any apparent mistakes.

The second season went where the first one didn’t in more than just its storyline: it also included fanservice during its run and although a small amount, it is still noticeable. Since it doesn’t interfere with the story, the characters or any aspect of the show, it is up to the viewers to decide whether it is an improvement or whether it acts more as a detriment. Personally I thought it was fine where it was; well placed and not in any way overshadowing the atmosphere of the series, much like it’s properly situated humor. The action was just as short though excessively improved due to the sheer superiority in quality of the Contractor’s abilities and just plain out better choreographed.

At the end of the day it’s another short series were you have to decide for yourself what to think of it. Though I strongly suggest doing a few things first: understanding that this isn’t season 1 but season 2 and to be prepared for a change of pace from the previous installment. This series is for people capable of grasping complex and elaborate storyline which may blend some light politics, fighting between various organisations and a character based plot where the action of each of the individuals presented may have a huge effect on the overall outcome. Basically, if you got that Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex was about corporation conspiracies, government machinations, how companies control and direct the course of society through artificial public displays and how the net as become a prevalent, crucial element of people’s existence who provides strength to the people with a way to act separately yet collectively while a weakness by how easily it can be breached; then you might be alright for this series, if on the hand you thought it was about a hacker going on a frenzy then you might want to skip it altogether rather than come back later and claim you didn’t get it. I also strongly advise anyone who wishes to watch this show to first watch the OVA which doesn’t spoil anything of the second season; it simply acts as a prequel to it even though it was produced afterwards. I watch the OVA first and it allowed me to fully enjoy the wonders that the second season had to offer.