Darker than Black

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Darker than Black
-Kuro no Keiyakusha-

"Darker Than Black" Titlecard
(DARKER THAN BLACK -The Black Contractor-)
Genre Neo-noir, Supernatural
TV anime: Darker than Black -Kuro no Keiyakusha-
Director Tensai Okamura
Writer Tensai Okamura
Studio Bones
Licensor Flag of Japan Aniplex
Flag of the United States Flag of Canada FUNimation
Flag of Australia Flag of New Zealand Madman Entertainment
Network Flag of Japan MBS, TBS, Animax
English network Flag of Singapore Flag of Indonesia Flag of Malaysia Flag of the Philippines Flag of India Flag of Pakistan Flag of Thailand Animax Asia
Original run April 5, 2007September 28, 2007
Episodes 25
Illustrator Noki Ya
Publisher Kadokawa Shoten
Demographic Shōjo
Magazine Monthly Asuka
Volumes 2 (9 chapters+omake and 4coms)
OVA: Beneath the Fully Bloomed Cherry Blossoms
Director Tensai Okamura
Studio BONES
Episodes 1
Released March 26, 2008
Runtime 23 minutes
Anime and Manga Portal

Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha (DARKER THAN BLACK-黒の契約者- Dākā Zan Burakku -Kuro no Keiyakusha-, lit. "Darker than Black: The Black Contractor"?) is an anime television series, created, directed and written by Tensai Okamura and animated by Bones. It premiered across Japan from April 5, 2007 on MBS, TBS, and its affiliated broadcast stations, with its satellite television premiere in Japan on Animax in May 2007. The music for the series is composed by Yoko Kanno. The series has also been adapted into a manga series, which is serialized in Monthly Asuka. The anime also was awarded Best Original Anime of The Year by GoGoplex, a popular magazine for teens.


[edit] Story

Ten years ago, an inscrutable and abnormal territory known as Hell's Gate appeared in Tokyo, altering the sky and wreaking havoc on the landscape. The heavenly bodies disappeared, replaced by false stars. During this time, people who possess various special abilities emerged. Kept secret from the masses, these individuals, known as Contractors, are able to murder in cold blood. Various nations and organizations around the world use Contractors as spies and assassins, often resulting in violent battles for information. Each fake star has a corresponding Contractor, and they vibrate when their Contractor's power is being used. As such, Contractors are usually identified by their star's Messier catalogue number. However, their abilities are gained at the cost of their humanity. They are implied to lack human emotions which includes no aversions to murder, and they are regarded as extremely rational and logical in their decision making. Contractors are thus named because of their need to always complete a remuneration or payment each time their power is used (ex. eating flowers, breaking fingers, drinking blood). It is not entirely clear what happens to one if he or she fails to complete the remuneration. Contractors are described as being psychologically compelled to complete their remunerative task.

[edit] Main characters

The main characters of the series, Huang, Yin, Hei, and Mao.
Hei ( ?, Chinese: Black) Voiced by: Hidenobu Kiuchi (Japanese), Jason Liebrecht (English)
The main protagonist and an elite Contractor with the Messier Code BK-201. Hei plays a gentle-hearted student from China named Li Shengshun (Li Xiansheng (Han Yu Pinyin) or Li Sianshong (Tong Yu Pinyin), literally Mr. Li), but when "working" he takes on the role of a seemingly (at first) apathetic and guiltless killer known also as The Black Reaper. Part of an organization of unknown ambitions known only as the Syndicate, Hei is searching for the whereabouts of his sister Pai, whom he lost several years ago when the South American gate imploded. Hei's contract allows him to generate electricity, and he is hotly pursued by the Japanese government for his involvement in multiple assassinations. He acts as the spy/assassin of his team. His huge appetite and seeming lack of a obeisance lend him more of a sense of mystery, even with his own team.
Yin ( In?, lit. Silver) Voiced by: Misato Fukuen (Japanese), Brina Palencia (English)
A supporter in Hei's team. Yin is a spirit medium known as a "Doll". Very passive and speaking rarely, she is described as having no emotion and incapable of such processes (however as the series progresses she shows a slight human side with hints of emotion). Her primary function is to locate individuals, usually assassination targets, for the team as she has the ability to see anything near water when she is touching some. Before the appearance of the Gates she lived in Finland as Kirsi (last name unknown) learning to play the piano under the tutelage of famed pianist Eelis Kostinen.
In the manga, she resembles Kanon since she is also a "doll" though she has some of Kirsi's memories, making the method for creation of dolls into a point of speculation.
Huang ( Hwan?, lit. Yellow) Voiced by: Masaru Ikeda (Japanese), John Swasey (English)
Huang's position can be interpreted as that of field supervisor. He is a human and only possesses strategic abilities. He has a general dislike for contractors and dolls and voices it regularly in spite of having to work alongside three of them. Huang passes down orders from the Syndicate to the rest of the team.
Mao ( ?, lit. Cat) Voiced by: Ikuya Sawaki (Japanese), Kent Williams (English)
A Contractor who has lost his original body and now resides within that of a black cat. As the cat's brain is not fully capable of containing Mao's human conscience, a server is utilized to support some of it. If he were to lose contact with said server, he would become as a cat. Possibly related, Mao shows some proficiency as a hacker. His messier code is HM-432. A very practical character, he is very interested in watching Hei react to situations in an unorthodox manner. He fears the Syndicate's disapproval and on occasion is able to receive direct orders from the top. His contract allows him to possess other animal bodies.
Misaki Kirihara (霧原 未咲 Kirihara Misaki?) Voiced by: Nana Mizuki (Japanese), Kate Oxley (English)
The Section-Chief of the Foreign Affairs Division 4 who is investigating matters that concern Contractors. Misaki has long brown hair and glasses and rarely smiles or laughs. She has a strong sense of justice and a sharp intuition. Kirihara became a policewoman in order to protect the weak, has a distaste for smokers due to their smell, and is sensitive about the exposure of her body. She likes eating greasy food but claims to stay fit because she works out. Her father is Superintendent Supervisor Naoyasu Kirihara of the National Police Agency. She also is obsessed with finding the identity of BK-201 (codenamed Hei) whose is involved in many of her cases, shrouded in mystery and death. She occasionally hints a glint of affection towards Li (unknown to her as BK-201/Hei) whom she sees occasionally throughout the series due to him playing his role as a spy.
Kana Shinō (師能 奏 Shinō Kana?)
Kana is the main character of the manga. She, while exploring the mystery of her father's "death", meets Hei. She is kind and caring. Her mother was killed by her father, and her father is killed by his boss.[1]

[edit] Terminology

Evening Primrose (EPR) (イブニングプリムローズ Ibuningu Purimurōzu?)
A powerful organization of Contractors led by Amber. Their stated goal is to reveal the existence of Contractors to the general public, and to promote their status as a new race/group of humans. Special rights and privileges for Contractors are also on their list of objectives.
Hell's Gate (地獄門(ヘルズ・ゲート) Heruzu Gēto?)
A mysterious and chaotic area of space that appeared in Tokyo ten years before the start of the series. Its appearance led to the rise of Contractors and Dolls. A massive wall has been constructed around it to keep civilians – or anyone else, for that matter – from entering. Several countries, including Japan, are cautiously conducting research on the Hell's Gate, exemplified by a top-secret research facility built next to the Gate Wall.
Heaven's Gate (天国門(ヘヴンズ・ゲート) Hevunzu Gēto?)
Another chaotic area of space that appeared in South America and disappeared five years before the beginning of the series, along with everything in a 1500 km radius around it. Its exact nature at this point is unknown in the series. Its appearance apparently started a large-scale war, one that Great Britain and Argentina participated in. It also seems that Amber, Havoc, Hei, and his sister Pai, were involved in the War and were adversely affected by the Heaven's Gate's sudden disappearance. The area where the gate was has become inaccessible. Interestingly enough, Heaven's Gate and Hell's Gate are located on opposite ends of the globe.
PANDORA (Physicalquantity Alternation Natural Deconstruction Organized Research Agency)
A UN-operated research facility dedicated to studying the phenomena of Hell's Gate. Located on the edge of the gate within the walls, an international team of scientists examine the properties of the gate via manned and unmanned expeditions within. Paranormal phenomena akin to ghosts are not uncommon here, likely due to the lab's close proximity to the gate. Though run by the UN, it is not impervious to intelligence agencies; both the Syndicate and CIA have infiltrated almost every level of the research center. PANDORA has a heavily armed security force, consisting of armed soldiers possibly of various nationalities and armored vehicles, meant to protect its facilities and personnel.
Contractor (契約者 Keiyakusha?)
Contractors are individuals who have gained superhuman powers due to the appearance of the Hell's Gate and Heaven's Gate. The existence of Contractors is kept a secret from the general public by most governments around the world, but they are well-known to the higher echelons of society and in the criminal underworld. Contractors possess two other traits that give them a rather sinister reputation: the need to perform remuneration, which is a bizarre, obsessive compulsive "payment" for the use of their powers, and a generally pragmatic, Machiavellian world view. This is described by the Contractors themselves as a lack of emotion in general, but not much evidence exists to verify this claim. Many Contractors exhibit at least some forms of emotion, including love, joy, guilt, and sorrow.
Later in the series it is explicitly revealed that Contractors are fully capable of experiencing emotions, but that those feelings do not play a prominent role in their thought processes. They are described as being totally rational, and totally amoral. The general rules seems to be that they feel no guilt, and they cannot form or retain social bonds. A normal Contractor cares, in essence, only about their own well-being, and everything is reduced to a cost/benefit analysis: Any other issues like laws, emotions, or the question of the sanctity of human life are irrelevant to them.
Doll (ドール Dōru?)
Emotionless "mediums" created to mimic the forms of humans. Dolls can form a variety of functions; the most commonly seen in the series is their use of observer spirits, which serve as reconnaissance. Dolls have different mediums through which they can send their observer spirits and must be in contact with this medium while observing; for example, Yin's medium is water, through which she can send her observer spirit anywhere else there is water. A Doll can also act as the perfect sleeper agent. It can be given the memories and personality of another person and assume a person's personality perfectly, mimicking all their habits, dreams, and feelings until the time is right. Interestingly enough, a Doll by the name of Shinoda Chiaki seemed to have some "life" of her own by saving Hei from being killed by another Contractor. This suggests that Dolls, like Chiaki, can go beyond their "set" characteristics and become something else. Other examples include when Huang discovers Yin crying, July expressing confidence in himself and November 11 as a team, and Sakurai, a doll stolen by the yakuza, smiling as she runs away with one of their own.
Moratorium (モラトリアム Moratoriamu?)
An intermediate between a Contractor and a Doll. Moratoria appear to be people with Contractor powers who do not require remuneration as part of their power. Unlike Contractors, they do not have control of their powers, shifting into a hypnotic state of unconsciousness as they use them. Moratoria also suffer from severe mental trauma as a result of their power. According to Mao, the chance of a Moratorium morphing into a Contractor is near zero, but possible.
Regressor (喪失者 Sōshitsusha?)
A Contractor who loses their powers in exchange for a flicker of hope for a normal life. There are very few known Regressors, and the way one becomes a Regressor is also unknown.
Nick holding the Meteor Fragment.
Meteor Fragment (流星の欠片 Ryūsei no Kakera?)
An object coveted by many intelligence agencies and organizations, and once held at PANDORA. It seems to be connected to the appearance of Hell's Gate, however, PANDORA does not believe that it is of much importance as they had already discovered a similar substance in South America before Heaven's Gate disappeared. Its appearance resembles a large lens, and when inside the Hell's Gate, it displays an as of yet unexplained synchrotron light. The Meteor Fragment was first stolen by Nick for the CIA. It was then stolen by Hei who infiltrated the PANDORA installation by orders from the Syndicate. It was then obtained by Amber, who holds it to this day. This object allows entities which do not exist (such as ghosts) to appear, and also allows entities which exist to disappear.
Contract Payment (契約対価 Keiyaku Taika?, also referred to as "Remuneration" or "Obeisance")
True to their names, all Contractors must pay a price for using their powers, whether they wish to or not. Moreover, it seems that the amount of payment required is dependent on how much the Contractor uses his/her power. Although this payment can be delayed, especially in the midst of combat, it is ultimately unavoidable. Each Contractor has a unique remuneration, reflecting the chaotic nature of the Hell's Gate. Remunerations are typically difficult for the Contractor and range in severity from irritating to painful. However, there have been a few contractors who enjoy their remuneration and at least one who uses it in conjunction with his own ability.
Known remunerations include
  • Alteration of age, swiftly growing older or younger
  • Arranging pebbles in meticulously straight lines
  • Drinking various fluids, such as hot milk, beer, or the blood of children
  • Earmarking the pages of a book
  • Eating various foods, such as boiled eggs
  • Inability to lie
  • Intaking and regurgitating objects
  • Kissing someone
  • Placing the shoes of the victim upside down on the ground
  • Regaining human feelings for a brief time
  • Self-mutilation or injury, including dislocating fingers and wrist-slitting
  • Singing a song
  • Sleeping
  • Smoking
  • Writing poetry
It is also possible for a Contractor to fully pay off his Contract, but this is an incredibly rare feat, requiring a drastic and traumatic sacrifice. A good example of this is one of Hei's teammates, Mao. He paid off his Contract, but did so involuntarily at the cost of his body, forcing him to reside in the body of a cat.

[edit] Media

[edit] Anime

Darker than Black was conceptualized by Tensai Okamura and produced by Bones and Aniplex.[2] The series premiered on Tokyo Broadcasting System and Mainichi Broadcasting System's Thursday late night anime broadcasting timeslot, replacing the Sunrise series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion on April 5, 2007, and similar to Code Geass incorporated corporate sponsorship of Japan News Network partners Pizza Hut and Nifty, where episodes of the series was streamed every week during the series' broadcast run.[3][4] It completed its initial run on September 27, 2007, and received its broadcasting satellite premiere on Animax from May 8, 2007 to October 23, 2007.[5] The series was also aired in English on Animax Asia, Animax's English language networks in Southeast Asia and South Asia from December 2008 onwards. The series has also been released in Japan by Aniplex across nine DVDs, each containing three episodes, except for the first DVD, which had only two.[6] The ninth and final DVD included an original video animation, which expanded upon the romantic relationships between characters.[7] The DVDs were released between July 25, 2007 and March 26, 2008 by Aniplex.[8][9] FUNimation received the license for the series in Region 1 and has released one DVD compilation with two more coming in the future.[10] The first English DVD was released on November 25, 2008 and the second and third DVDs are set for release on January 20, 2009 and March 10, 2009 respectively.[11][12][13]

[edit] Leaked document

A document containing information about Bones staff and production details, was leaked onto the Japanese filesharing site uploader.jp, within the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format, on July 2008.[14] Among other details, including confidential contact information in regards to Bones staff members, it revealed that a second Darker than Black and Fullmetal Alchemist series was in production and were being directed by Tensai Okamura and Yasuhiro Irie respectively.[14] This information regarding Fullmetal Alchemist, which had never been previously released, was later proven to be true on January 2009.[14] In an official statement posted on Bones' official website, co-founder and president Masahiko Minami claimed that the document was not released by the studio themselves but by an unnamed third-party. In a later statement, Minami also stated in regards to the two new series, "It hasn't been decided yet. We are interested in doing them. As original science-fiction works, they were extremely fascinating. With these kinds of dramatic story lines, I feel that there's a lot we could do potentially."[15] Six months later, however, the second series for Fullmetal Alchemist was confirmed to be in production with Yasuhiro Irie as director, thus confirming the document's validity.[14]

[edit] Manga

A manga, illustrated by Noki Ya, was serialized in Monthly Asuka. Kadokawa Shoten released the series to two tankōbon on August 8, 2007 and January 26, 2008 respectively.[16][17] The series has not yet been licensed to a publishing company in the Americas, however.

[edit] Music

Anime soundtrack
Soundtrack by Yoko Kanno
Released July 25, 2007
Genre Anime soundtrack
Length 54:00
Label Aniplex Inc.

The original soundtrack was composed by Yoko Kanno in 2007 and contents a total of 20 tracks including the first opening and ending themes performed by Abingdon boys school and Rie fu. Other non-instrumental songs were written by Tim Jensen and performed by Mai Yamane (tracks 8, 10) and James Wendt (tracks 14, 19).[18] It peak ranked 57th on Oricon albums chart.[19]

  1. Go Dark (3:14)
  2. HOWLING — TV size ver. (1:29)
  3. High Heels Runaway (ハイヒールラナウェイ Haihiiruranawei?) (3:28)
  4. Tenderly (2:19)
  5. Sid (シド Shido?) (2:04)
  6. Was (4:08)
  7. Outside (2:36)
  8. No One's Home (2:43)
  9. Guy (2:02)
  10. ScatCat (2:02)
  11. Contractor (ケイヤクシャ Keiyakusha?) (3:34)
  12. Shadow (2:45)
  13. Black (クロ Kuro?) (3:38)
  14. Deadly Work (3:36)
  15. Stargazing (テンタイカンソク Tentai kansoku?) (0:45)
  16. BlueCat (3:08)
  17. Moonlight (ツキアカリ-TV size ver. Tsukiakari TV size ver.?) (1:32)
  18. Water Forest (2:11)
  19. Blend in (3:14)
  20. Yin's Piano (インのピアノ Yin no piano?) (3:11)

[edit] Production

At one point, the show’s production manager ran away with the manuscript.[20]

  • Planning: Seiji Takeda (MBS), Masuo Ueda (Aniplex), Masahiko Minami (Bones), Takuo Minegishi (Hakuhodo DYMP)
  • Original Concept: Bones, Tensai Okamura
  • Original Character Design: Yūji Iwahara
  • Character Design and Chief Animation Director: Takahiro Komori
  • Art Design: Tomoaki Okada, Masahiro Satō, Eiji Taguchi
  • Design Works: Takayuki Yanase
  • Art Director: Takashi Aoi (Green)
  • Color Design: Nobuko Mizuta
  • Director of Photography: Yoshiyuki Takei
  • Editing: Kyōko Ogino (Jay Film)
  • Music: Yoko Kanno
  • Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi (Fonishia)
  • Sound Effects: Shizuo Kurahashi, Sō Maibara (Soundbox)
  • Sound Tuning: Tetsuya Satake
  • Sound Assistance: Fumie Ishikura
  • Sound Studio: TV Tokyo Center
  • Sound Production: Fonishia
  • Music Producers: Keiichi Tonomura, Toshiaki Ōta
  • Music Production/Coordination: Aniplex, Borderline, Myrica Music
  • Producters: Hirō Maruyama (MBS), Ryō Ōyama (Aniplex), Yoshihiro Ōyabu (Bones), Osamu Hosokawa (Hakuhodo DYMP)
  • Director and Series Composition: Tensai Okamura
  • Animation Production: Bones
  • Production: DTB Production Committee (Aniplex, Bones, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Myrica Music, Movic), Mainichi Broadcasting System

[edit] References

  1. ^ Ya, Noki (2007). Darker than Black, Volume 1. Kadokawa. ISBN 978-4-04-854115-2. 
  2. ^ "Darker than Black (TV)". Anime News Network. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=7382. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  3. ^ "DARKER THAN BLACK 黒の契約者" (in Japanese). http://www.d-black.net/news/index.html. Retrieved on 2007-04-16. 
  4. ^ "Variety.com — Nifty adds free content to site". Variety.com. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117962202.html?categoryid=1009&cs=1. Retrieved on 2007-04-14. 
  5. ^ "Japanese Air Dates" (in Japanese). cal.syoboi.jp. http://cal.syoboi.jp/tid/1099/time. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  6. ^ "Darker Than Black — Kuro no Keiyakusha - 1" (in Japanese). neowing.co.jp. http://www.neowing.co.jp/track_for_cdj.html?KEY=ANSB-2791. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  7. ^ "Darker Than Black — Kuro no Keiyakusha - 9" (in Japanese). neowing.co.jp. http://www.neowing.co.jp/track_for_cdj.html?KEY=ANSB-2799. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  8. ^ "DARKER THAN BLACK-黒の契約者- 1 (通常版)" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B000PHVZ9I. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  9. ^ "DARKER THAN BLACK -黒の契約者- 9(最終巻)" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B0012ONMIK/. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  10. ^ "Funimation to Release Love Hina, Jyo Oh Sei, Darker than Black, XXXHolic, more Tsubasa, more Negima". Anime News Network. 2007-07-01. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2007-07-01/funimation-to-release-love-hina-jyo-oh-sei-darker-than-black-xxxholic-and-more-tsubasa-negima-ax-2007. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  11. ^ "Darker Than Black, Vol. 1". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001F2U728/. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  12. ^ "Darker Than Black, Vol. 2". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001K98M5A. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  13. ^ "Darker Than Black, Vol. 3". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001OMZYD6/. Retrieved on 2009-01-19. 
  14. ^ a b c d "New Fullmetal Alchemist Anime's Staff Confirmed". Anime News Network. 2009-01-11. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2009-01-11/new-fullmetal-alchemist-anime-staff-confirmed. Retrieved on 2009-02-15. 
  15. ^ "Bones Studio Addresses Allegedly Leaked Document". Anime News Network. 2008-07-06. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2008-07-06/bones-studio-addresses-allegedly-leaked-document. Retrieved on 2008-07-06. 
  16. ^ "DARKER THAN BLACK-黒の契約者 1 (1) (あすかコミックスDX) (コミック)" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4048541153. Retrieved on 2009-01-27. 
  17. ^ "DARKER THAN BLACK-黒の契約者 2 (2) (あすかコミックスDX) (コミック)" (in Japanese). Amazon.co.jp. http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4048541498. Retrieved on 2009-01-27. 
  18. ^ "Sony Music Shop". http://www.sonymusicshop.jp/detail.asp?goods=SVWC000007478. Retrieved on 2007-08-09. 
  19. ^ "Darker than Black OST peak rank". Oricon. http://ranking.oricon.co.jp/free_contents/search/ranking_list.asp?itemcd=718184&samecd=1&chart_kbn=11A&linkcd=31377821. Retrieved on 2007-02-15. 
  20. ^ "Anime News: this year in anime abortions". http://heiseidemocracy.com/2007/09/21/anime-news-this-year-in-anime-abortions. Retrieved on 2007-09-21. 

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