Anime Reel – Anime & Manga TV News

Fall Anime Review – Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini

Posted on: October 27, 2009

Darker than Black promotional image

I missed the boat on Darker than Black back in 2007. I wasn’t watching much anime back then, but I recently started watching it on FUNimation’s video channel (it’s also available on YouTube, for those international readers who can’t see the FUNi site) and got hooked hard enough by the setting and the style of the superhuman superspy thriller to watch it from start to finish.

The sequel, Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini, retains most of the staff and cast who made the first anime so interesting, but just one change on the staff makes it very different from its predecessor – and sadly, the change is for the worse.

Don’t get me wrong – I still like the new Darker than Black. It still has Hei as the sociopathic Chinese assassin version of Batman, and it still displays the same twisted imagination and complex politics that defined the original. But the new version has terrible, terrible music compared to the first series.

The score for the first Darker than Black anime was penned by Kanno Yoko (Cowboy Bebop, Macross Frontier), one of the best and most famous composers working in the industry. It had a moody and subtle sound that meshed with the stylishly shadowy visual palette of the animation to create an atmosphere that breathed with amoral life.

This time around, the music is composed by Ishii Kouji, who did the music for the Hellsing anime and not much else. The mournful strings and melancholy guitars that helped define the series have been replaced by generically loud and vaguely annoying techno, and I’m a few badly mixed dance tracks from shutting off my sound every time a fight scene starts. It’s truly unfortunate that the music is so noticeable and so horrible, because it starts to overshadow the good qualities of the series.

The story of shadowy Contractors, who have superpowers but use them at the cost of their conscience, and the many governmental organizations that use them unscrupulously, is as good as ever. We see the underworld of Darker than Black through the eyes of a young Russian/Japanese girl named Suou Pavlichenko, who serves as the show’s conscience in a world with no moral compass. It’s interesting to see the bloody and brutal battles between the Contractors as well as the innocent Suou’s reactions, and the story is still as well-written and mature as ever.

But you just keep coming back to that music…

The good:

– The brutal action is as intense and fascinating as before.
– The story is still strong, with plenty of shadowy conspiracies and mysterious motives to provide a constant stream of new and interesting wrinkles.

The bad:

– Cheesy techno fight music replaces the stylish and moody soundtrack of the original and makes me want to strangle kittens.

The ugly:

– Don’t ever get attached to a Darker than Black character other than the main character Hei, because the mortality rate of this series is the highest I’ve ever seen in a TV anime.

1 Response to "Fall Anime Review – Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini"

Firstly, I’d like to say good luck with the new blog Dom. I’m a longtime MT reader who was dragged over by the mention of this in your rant space.

Anyway, DTB; a great piece of work indeed. The first season was one of those shows that kept me wanting more and more as I watched it every week. I also couldn’t agree more that Yoko Kanno’s score for the show was nothing short of her usual quality work. Here though, we come to an impasse; I like the new score as well.

I’ve not heard much about this Kouji fellow, but I’ll give it to him when I say that his score seems to fit the frantic nature of the fighting better than Yoko’s did. It could also be that I watched DTB season 1 in 2007, and it’s now two years later. Getting old? Possibly. I just can’t get myself to recall much about the mood from the music during those scenes where Hei goes, as your comparison notes, “Batman” on his opponents.

Not to say that what’s being done musically is perfect either – I found some of the beats to be just a bit too tremendous in the last week or so of watching, but they still worked well.

Meh, maybe it all just boils down to how one prefers their spy-action?

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