For the last month, I've watched two episodes of the second season of Darker Than Black
every Friday as Funimation
released them via Hulu and YouTube. I actually posted my reactions to the first pair a while back, and you might find them if you scroll down a bit on my page; I haven't been at this site long, so you won't have to go too far.
After seeing the last episode this morning, I felt...drained. If I had to compare it to anything else, it would be the feeling I get after watching something like Gurren Lagann
or Wolf's Rain
. Both were wild rides with plenty of dramatic twists and heart-wrenching character deaths, and both had endings that just didn't quite satisfy. Since not everyone has had the good fortune to see Gurren Lagann, or the dubious fortune of watching Wolf's Rain back when it aired on Adult Swim's anime block back in the Stone Age, I won't post any details of what exactly happened at the ending of each show.
Meet the new BK201. (He's a horrible jerk.)
Darker Than Black's second season starts with the cutesy high school shenanigans of its Russian protagonist Suo
, then tosses the poor girl into the company of a brand new crop of contractors that give those from the first season a run for their money. Of course, she is quickly taken under the wing of series veteran Hei
, and soon enough she's whipping out anti-tank rifles and kicking ass with the best of them, so there's not too much to worry about.
Or is there? The second season takes a different direction than the first; the writers spend a lot of time exploring just what their world of contractors and otherworldly Gates would look like from the perspective of a teenage girl, and to be honest, it can be pretty horrible at times. To make matters worse, the people around her are all absolute bastards; even Hei, who was the nicest person in the first season, is a horrible jerk to the girl.
This isn't the only change; the music is decidedly different, although just as enjoyable as Yoko Kanno
's work from the first season. Almost none of the old flock of characters have returned, and the few who have returned have also switched sides--sometimes more than once. However, as a whole, the cast is just as memorable as that from the first, and benefits from yet another change: this season ditches the more episodic structure used in the first in favor of a single linear storyline, which allows viewers to become more attached to a smaller cast of characters, as opposed to a flood of bit players who come and go with each plot arc.
In the end, I'm just not sure how to feel about the second season of Darker Than Black. The characters are great, the fights are great, and the music is great, but while the story as a whole is interesting and compelling, the ending is even more confusing and dissatisfying than that of Wolf's Rain, and raises far more questions than it answers. While there seem to be a few interquel OVAs to bridge the gap between seasons one and two, I have yet to hear any word of a third season, which means that for the time being, those questions are going to go unanswered.
That being said, I definitely recommend this show to anyone who wants a good, enjoyable, twelve-episode anime. The first season is great and has been released as part of Funimation's "Classics" line, but for those unwilling to fork over thirty or forty bucks, the second season doesn't necessarily require having seen the first, and doesn't spoil too much from the first season, either. You can find the first season here on Amazon
; it's going for about $35, though that is of course subject to change. As for the second season, you can find it here on Hulu