Darker than Black 2 - A Failure to Engage/Engaging in Failure
Statements like these, of course, have to be qualified. The series breaks irreparably at several points throughout the seemingly-superior continuous narrative, takes a breather at parts where you’d expect things to go back to the glory of old, but no, it never does.
1. Re-introducing old characters for the sake of it. This was painful to watch, almost harsh. That one-off character meant to complement November 11’s powers? Yeah, let’s show her off, then kill her for dramatic effect. Ditto that shota doll who was cobbled together for the MI6 team for purposes of consolidating a team. We didn’t give her enough screentime then, let’s make up for it now.
Why even bother with continuity, right? What this could have been in the right hands and enough episodes would have been golden, a treasure trove absolutely brimming over with enough story to sell enough BDs for a third season or a spinoff. The various intelligence agencies could have taken cues from the original, numerous, now-deceased contractors and talked about them, introduced characters with direct connections to them, made it feel like we were still in the same world we left. They didn’t.
2. Not making us care enough about the new characters. Suou dipped and swayed in terms of inducing both apathy and annoyance, going from one to another like the hormone-driven teenager she almost was. Why should I care that there’s some guy interested in her when it does absolutely nothing to forward the story? Why should I care about her classmates, for that matter, or the conflict? Speaking of conflict…
3. What was at stake wasn’t enough. What the hell were they fighting for? Oh, that’s right, she wants to see her brother, and there’s something about some papers, a prophecy, and the end of the world. But I don’t care at this point. Why are you holding me at arms length from the gravity of the situation?
Those who hadn’t seen this with the foreknowledge of the Gaiden episodes wouldn’t know that Hei just wants to see Yin again. Either way, do we really have to bother at this point? Why slap the mythological baggage of Izanami and Izanagi onto characters that are, at this point, some sort of abstract conundrum? Why name your series Gemini when the focus is solely on one twin, and not both? Where is the escalation of conflict, of urgency, of wanting to know what happens next?
4. Post-hoc, the new in medias res. This made me weep inside, and I would have wept openly if I actually enjoyed displaying my grief over trivial things like flaws in my media. Amagiri survived that full-body incineration, of course, with nothing more than mild third-degree burns and loss of hair. There was an excellent opportunity to give Mao the backstory he never had—and merely hinted at—in the original. Amber? Why, let’s throw her like a red herring at the viewer! It’s not like her original line, “I’ve travelled so far to see you, Hei,” actually had any potential!
This one hit me the hardest, and it’s not because they seemed so tacked on, so after the event that puerile attempts at fanfiction could come up with better. It’s because Okamura did show during the glimpses of brilliance that accompanied breathing new life into said old characters that it would have fit so cohesively if he wanted to.
5. The soundtrack. For the love of all that’s holy, the soundtrack. Watching the sakura OVA before the Gaiden was a mistake—it reminded me of how Kanno’s decades of composing come full circle could never be replicated with the magic that only she could do. Those who believe that this tour de force of Kanno’s was merely ‘X lite’, where X was a previous work of hers—pearls before swine. Those who deluded themselves into thinking that this soundtrack beat the original—I guess awful techno and meandering generic anime music must have their niche audience.