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Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor: The Complete Second Season (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 21, 2011 by  



A great balance of action and drama, the sequel to the popular series “Darker than Black”, “Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” features a much deeper storyline and for fans of Hei and Yin, you’ll definitely love the four OVA’s also included in this combo pack.  Overall, I enjoyed this Blu-ray release but watching the first season is important.   Hopefully, FUNimation Entertainment considers releasing the first season on Blu-ray for fans who are interested and curious about the series.  

Image courtesy of © 2011 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Darker than Black: The Complete Second Season

DURATION: (Episodes 1-12 + OAV 1-4)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1), English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 8, 2011

Originally created by Tensai Okamura

Original Character Designs by Yuji Iwahara

Directed by Tensai Okamura

Scenario by Hiroyuki Yoshino, Mari Okada, Shinsuke Onishi, Shotaro Suga, Tensai Okamura

Music by Yasushi Ishii

Character Design Takahiro Komori

Art Director: Takashi Aoi

Chief Animation Director: Takahiro Komori

Anime Production: BONES

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hidenobu Kiuchi/Jason Liebrecht as Hei

Ikuya Sawaki/Kent Williams as Mao

Kana Hanazawa/Alison Viktorin as Suou Pavlichenko

Kiyomi Asai/Cherami Leigh as July

Houko Kuwashima/Lindsay Seidel as Shion Pavlichenko

Kaho Kouda/Jennifer Greene as Madame Oreille

Kenta Miyake/Newton Pittman as Genma Shizume

Kozue Yoshizumi/Tia Ballard as Yōko Sawasaki

Masaya Matsukaze/Gregory Lush as August 7

Mitsuki Saiga/Kara Edwards as Mina Hazuki

Nana Mizuki/Kate Oxley as Misaki Kirihara

Ryûzaburô Ôtomo as Gorou Kobayashi

Sanae Kobayashi/Monica Rial as Kanami Ishizaki

Tomoyuki Shimura/Christopher R. Sabat as Yuusuke Saitou

The intrigue and danger continues in Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor. Hei – aka the masked killer, BK-201 – encounters Suo, a young Russian girl whose life changed the night a meteor fell to Earth. With Contractors attacking from all sides and the mysterious organization Section 3 closing in, Hei must fight to keep Suo alive.

In 2007, Tensai Okamura’s anime series “Darker Than Black: The Black Contractor” premiered on television in Japan.

Featuring music by Yoko Kanno and receiving a manga series adaptation, the anime series won “Best Original Anime of the Year” by GoGoPlex.  Two years later, its sequel “Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor” made its premiere in Japan in Oct. 2009 and now, the sequel receives its Blu-ray and DVD release via combo pack titled, “Darker than Black-Gemini the Meteor: The Complete Second Season”.  Also, included with this Blu-ray release are the four OVA’s which take place between the first and second series.

In the first season of “Darker than Black”, a mysterious territory known as Hell’s Gate appeared in Tokyo and it immediately altered the sky and the landscape.  All the stars were replaced by false stars and people started to emerge with new special abilities.  These people are known as “Contractors” and each fake star above corresponds to a Contractor.

And Contracts are kept a secret from the masses and many are known to murder people and also known for changing one person full of life and energy to a person with no emotion.  But there is a price that the Contractors must pay for their use of power.  Each time they use it, they must pay by either eating certain foods or completing tasks.

Certain organizations and governments around the world have used these Contractors as spies and assassins which led to “Heaven’s War” in which the United States lost their position as the country of dominance against a mysterious organization known as the Syndicate.

The main protagonist of the first season focuses on elite Contractor Hei who takes on espionage missions in Tokyo for the Syndicate.  But later on, he and others are kicked out by The Syndicate and contracts have been taking out on all their lives.  And he discovers secrets regarding the Contractors that he and his Doll (emotionless “mediums” which were created to mimic the form of humans) Yin are in hiding from the Syndicate and the many Contractors that are after them.

This leads to the sequel “Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor”, Hei is still in hiding from the Syndicate but now he has become an alcoholic working on jobs for the CIA.  He comes into contact with Suou Pavlichenko, a 13-year-old girl who is the brother of Shion Pavlichenko (who was born a contractor at birth). Shion can produce an object from nothing and this includes making clones of himself.  He has the ability to communicate with Suou when he is far and he teaches her or tells her how to fight, what to do and also learn self-defense.

And now there is a search for both children and Hei ends up kidnapping Suou.  But when she sees her childhood friend being killed by a her good friend, turned Contractor, she loses her emotions and becomes a contractor herself and now Hei mus train her.  But unlike other Contractor’s who lose all emotion, Suou has emotions which she can’t fully understand.

Meanwhile, a group of hired Contractors have captured a weapon named “Izanami” which turns out to be Yin (who used to work with Hei), who can disable a Contractor’s abilities and kill them.

Trying to hide from the Syndicate, Hei, along with Suou, July and Mao (who is in a flying squirrel’s body) escape from Russia to Tokyo.

But with Contractors going after them, will these four have any chance of surviving?  And when they discover sensitive documents that state that disaster will take place if  the Izanami weapon, Yin and the Izanagi weapon, Shion are to meet, the four do what they can to prevent this from happening.

For the four OVA episodes of “Darker than Black Gaiden”, for those who wondered how Hei and Yin were separated after running and hiding from the Syndicate will find out how the two were separated, but also how Hei became an alcoholic.  The OVA’s are also a primer that helps introduce people to the sequel.

VIDEO:

“Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  Typically, TV series tend to lack a lot of detail but the series is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1) features crisp animation, especially with the character designs with real nice shadowing and well-saturated colors, while a lot of the focus is on the details of the painted backgrounds. And as expected, the OVA’s for “Darker than Black Gaiden” even look better with the colors, detail and is much sharper and even more details on the background.  I didn’t detect any artifacts or banding, in fact, this is a beautiful anime series!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” is presented in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Dialogue is crystal clear, voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done and interesting enough, for the OVA’s, FUNimation Entertainment even brought out Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephanie Sheh (typically known to be voice actors for Viz and Bandai) for the OVA’s.   But as the English soundtrack was well-done, what I enjoyed about the Japanese soundtrack was more of the emotional voice acting by voice actress Kana Hanazawa.  She really brings out the emotion and pain out of Suou quite effectively.

But as expected from this anime series, with a lot of action, there is good use of the surround channels.  Of course, the English soundtrack is much better because it is a 5.1 lossless track but still, the Japanese soundtrack also sounds great (and if you have a receiver capable of playing stereo on all channels, that was my preference when watching with the Japanese lossless soundtrack).

Note: The English subtitles are forced (no option to turn them on or off) if you watch the series in Japanese.  Some Japanese companies do request this from time-to-time (usually for near-simultaneous releases and sometimes even eliminate the Japanese soundtrack).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Darker than Black-Gemini the Meteor” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Audio Commentary (Episode 4) – Audio commentary features Zach Bolton (ADR Director), Alison Viktorin (voice actor for Suo) and Kate Oxley (voice actor for Misaki).
  • Textless Opening Song “Tsukiakari no Michishirube” by Stereopoony
  • Texless Closing Song “From Dusk Till Dawn” by Abingdon Boys Club

DISC 2:

  • OVA Part One Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with  Zach Bolton (ADR Director), Brina Polencia (voice actor for Yin) and Jason Liebrecht (voice actor for Hei).
  • FUNimation Entertainment Trailers

EXTRAS:

This is a combo-pack as FUNimation Entertainment has been doing with many of their anime series on Blu-ray recently.  So, for those who want to share with friends or watch the series during a long commute or plan to purchase a Blu-ray at a later time.  Also, one can easily compare the picture quality between the Blu-ray and DVD release.

An intriguing anime series with a lot of twists and turns, action and cool characters galore!

“Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” is an enjoyable anime series featuring cool character design, beautifully painted backgrounds but when it comes to its storyline, its important that viewers watch the first season.  And I think this is where things may become problematic in some ways.

Typically, FUNimation Entertainment has released the first season of a series before its sequel.  Granted, not so with “Full Metal Panic” (the third series was released first, followed by the first series months later) but in the case of “Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor”, unlike “Full Metal Panic” which season 1 and 3 are more connected and season two was more comedy-driven, to understand the “Darker than Black” sequel, you need to watch the first series.  So, I’m a bit surprised that the first season was not released on Blu-ray at all, to help those who are not familiar with the series know what’s going on.

But fortunately, FUNimation Entertainment did include the four OVA’s of “Darker than Black Gaiden” which takes place between both series and to tell you the truth, is a much deeper storyline as it focuses on the relationship between Contractor, Hei and Doll, Yin.

While the first season explains why Hei is unlike other Contractors (I don’t want to confuse anyone who hasn’t watched the first season but he is not a true Contractor, he was “merged” with his sister’s powers before she died), we also learn how Yin is not a typical “Doll” and that she may not have emotions like humans but there is something special about her that hints that both she and Hei have some bond.

And the same can be said with “Darker than Black – Gemini the Meteor” as the young Suou doesn’t understand her emotions that she feels towards a guy that she thinks she liked and also her feelings towards Hei, because she is a Contractor.

If anything, the addition of Suou brought a bit of sympathy towards a contractor like her because she just wants to be a normal girl.  She has a vibrant attitude and if anything, I think some viewers may find it difficult to see this character being mistreated in a way.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some fans started to look at Hei much differently because he has changed quite a bit since the first series.  He’s become an alcoholic and I guess you can say, abusive.   Especially his treatment towards Suou as everytime she doesn’t listen to her, he tends to smack her.  Hei was a real kindhearted person in the first series but eventually, he has gone through a lot since then and some may feel that he’s turned out too much of a jerk.

But fortunately, instead of the focus on the violence by Hei, the story eventually gets better with each episode.

But needless to say, if you are familiar with the first season, the OVA’s and the sequel are pretty entertaining and feature a good blend of action and drama.  Definitely one of the better anime TV series I have seen on Blu-ray released in 2011, not just in story but also overall look and performance.

The Blu-ray release as mentioned is quite solid in terms of picture quality and audio quality.  While not the most immersive anime lossless soundtrack out there, it’s still pretty good.

Sure, I would have loved a 5.1 Japanese lossless soundtrack but still, I enjoyed both soundtracks for this series.  Voice acting in Japanese and English were fantastic.  I wish there were more special features but granted, I’m glad that FUNimation Entertainment added two audio commentary tracks and also included the four OVA’s instead of releasing it separately.  And also, because this is a combo-pack, you do get the Blu-ray and DVD release.

If you do own the first season of “Darker than Black” on DVD, you’ll find the sequel to be quite compelling and the sequel and OVA’s to be captivating.

But for those who are going to hold out in hopes that FUNimation Entertainment does release the first season on Blu-ray, hopefully FUNimation Entertainment will release the first series on Blu-ray in the near future.






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