Darker than Black Gaiden – 04 OVA

Claude has kidnapped Yin and plans to sell her to the highest bidder, who turn out to be some old Chinese friends of his. When Hei rolls in to rescue her, Claude disguises himself as her to trick him, then disguises her as himself so that he electrocutes her. This completes her awakening into Izanami, who begins sucking up the souls of thousands of contractors, until the Syndicate steps in, pacifies and re-captures her. Depressed over the loss of his love, Hei takes up drinking, and is then confronted by Madame Oreille.

Watching it now, a year after it aired, we get a similar sense of this Gaiden series that we did with the Star Wars prequels, particularly Episode II with regards to this episode. That is the sense that everything in these four OVAs was inevitable. We saw the entire Ryuusei no Gemini series, so we knew what was going to befall Hei, Yin, et al. There’s not much in the way of surprise of novelty in the plot, as it’s merely filling in the blank between the two animes. So it comes down to execution: and it was executed pretty well.

There was also a sense that something good was gradually becoming corrupted, namely Yin. One new fun fact we did learn is that the entire reason the Syndicate was founded was to prevent a prophecy from coming true – that is, the Awakening of Izanami/Yin. That failed, but the Syndicate had long since forgotten its purpose anyway. Yin, it would seem, was a prisoner of fate; a puppet to events that had a mind of their own. Her love of Hei, and his of her, got pushed to the side. Despite growing to love and need one another so deeply, they were never meant to be. Which sucks…and also explains why Hei is such a drunken mess at the beginning of Gemini.

Rating: 3.5

Darker than Black Gaiden – 03 OVA

Hei and Yin have been taken to a remote jungle compound where a small group of contractors has gathered for refuge from the human world. Their de facto leader, Amagiri, believes if Yin continues to evolve, she’ll obtain the power to change – or destroy – the world. Some of the contractors ambush Yin in the jungle, injuring him. When he returns to the compound, the rest of the contractors were slaughtered by Claude, who took Yin.

As Yin moves inexorably towards evolution to a higher and more dangerous form of being, we can’t help but feel this episode got a little bogged-down (literally, in the case of its torrential rains, as well as figuratively). The jungle refuge was a pretty neat setting, but it was underused, with most of the running time consisting of Hei and Yin sitting around, or having quiet conversations about things we already knew about. Essentially, Hei and Yin should have taken up Amagiri’s offer to leave while they could.

The thing is, Hei was seemingly immobilized by his own indecision. Yin tells him that he got her evolution started, and it seems to quicken when he’s near – in which case separating himself from her would seem to be prudent. Yet Yin says even that wouldn’t matter, as she’ll never be able to forget him, and his effect on her would remain. Call us crazy, but it sounds like she loves him. Of course, now that Claude has Yin, and injected something to “make her unstable”, killing her may be the only way to save the present world, if they so desire, that is.

Rating: 3

Darker than Black Gaiden – 02 OVA

Hei and Yin are in Hong Kong, and while Hei believes continuing to run is their only course, Yin believes it’s pointless, and they should ambush their pursuers instead. To lure their enemies, Hei puts Yin up for sale. Xiao Jie, an contractor with two huge contractor brothers, is interested in her, but Yin provokes a fight. Hei and Yin split up while the three siblings chase them, but Claude intervenes, using the siblings’ own powers against them. Back in Tokyo, Youko meets Mina, and the two are on their way to catch BK-201.

In the words of Mugatu, Hei and Yin are two Hot Little Potatoes right now, though they’d rather not be. Yin continues to exhibit very un-doll-like qualities, expressing affection for Hei personally as well as suggesting an alternate course of action when she thinks he’s wrong. This episode pretty much follows the same chase-and-battle formula as the first one, with a couple more players.

Rather than just dealing with the Syndicate, they face off with the lovely Xiao Jie and her beefy bros. Her renumeration – shedding her garb bit by bit, makes her a great femme fatale-of-the-week, but the episode wastes no time icing her. Youko and Mina comprise the vanguard of the third party after Hei and Yin – the government. With all these people after them, Hei and Yin likely have no choice but to continue their international odyssey.

Rating: 3.5

Darker than Black Gaiden – 01 OVA

Being hunted by Syndicate contractors, Hei and Yin escape Tokyo for Okinawa, masquerading as newlyweds. Hei is looking to book passage to Taiwan, but Yin insists they’re safe, and they stay longer. Hei panics when he sees a hotel guest who looks exactly like Amber, but she turns out to be an impostor created by a contractor with power over illusion. Yin is kidnapped, but Hei is able to defeat the Syndicate team sent to kill him and recover Yin, who continues to evolve.

This four-part OVA that aired from January to July 2010 bridges the time between the first Darker than Black series (The Black Contractor) and the sequel (Gemini of the Meteor). We took an instant liking to the first series’ (obviously) very dark, rich atmosphere, kick-ass action, and stirring music by Yoko Kanno. The second series widened the DtB universe and appealed to younger audience by introducing Suou (voiced by Kana Hanazawa). Both series explored the power and motivations of the subset of society simultaneously gifted and cursed with superpowers that required renumeration.

In this first bridge OVA, Hei is on the run with Yin, a beautiful, formerly emotionless doll, who is suddenly evolving into more of a human, with emotions and a will of her own. This first episode wastes no time throwing us right in the middle of the aciton as Hei takes on a trio of deadly contractors while still in Tokyo. The tropical setting that follows subverts the dark atmosphere, and Hei and Yin have some nice quiet scenes together. But there’s still plenty of uneasiness, and inevitably, the Syndicate arrives, trying to use Hei’s past with Amber to throw him off balance. He cuts himself to break the illusion and thwart the Sydicate…for now.

Rating: 3.5