“There always has to be a price.”

Imagine having the ability to do something incredible – a unique trait that only you could master and use in whatever manner you wish. Think of all the things you could do and accomplish whether they be good, evil, charitable, or selfish.

But what if there was a price?

Every time you used this special power you would have to make a specific payment – a payment unique to you, and only you. It may be an easy promise to fulfill or it could be an extremely uncomfortable one. But either way, your power and payment remain the same for as long as you should live. It is a contract only few have ever bought themselves out of and even fewer know it is even a possibility.

This is what it means to be a contractor.

The world of Darker Than Black is one of both humans and contractors. A contractor is a person with a unique supernatural power, however, with great power often comes great consequence. The price for using that power is an odd obsessive compulsive behavior or action that must be met without question; this remuneration may be eating a particular food, crying, self harm, or sleeping (among many others). Contractors are also said to be completely rational, amoral, guiltless and ruled by logic with a somewhat warped and prideful view of the world. Some examples of contractor powers may include manipulating the weather, conducting electricity, human or animal body jumping, earth tremors, water tracking, creating explosions with blood, and teleportation.

Contractors first emerged with the creation of Hell’s Gate and Heaven’s Gate – two chaotic areas that overtook parts of Japan and South America ten years prior, severely altering the sky and landscape. As real stars disappeared from the night sky, fake stars emerged – and with each fake star a contractor would awaken and be linked to that star. The contractor’s actions are reflected in the stars attributes and movements, a way for those investigating the contractors to vaguely know what they are up to. However, regular people and contractors do not mix well and the knowledge of contractors is kept as secret as possible except to those in higher positions. Some contractors wish to be treated as equals and fight desperately for that right, while others simply accept their fate and carry on as best as possible.

Darker Than Black is an anime that follows the Chinese contractor Hei, also known as The Black Reaper, and his fellow team mates as they perform various missions for a powerful and mysterious organization known as the Syndicate. The rest of the team includes Huang, the boss type middle man who transfers orders between the Syndicate and the rest of the team; Yin, an emotionless spirit medium known as a doll who can track and observe things through direct contact with water; and Mao, a contractor who lost his original body and now resides in that of a black cat (he can also spirit jump into the bodies of other animals) and usually serves as a diversion for the team.

Throughout the series various other characters will make appearances, some with more impact on the story than others. The Japanese police force, in particular a team led by Misaki Kirihara, plays an integral role as they investigate contractors, especially the one known as The Black Reaper. Another pair of interesting characters includes a slack off detective and his anime/cosplay obsessed assistant who bring about humor and chaos as they haphazardly both help and get in the way of Hei’s team and the police.

This show is different from many others of this genre in that it isn’t simply a superhero story where the chosen ones with power go out and save the world. The contractors are a minority, hated and feared by the general public, and often have no idea what is happening when they first acquire their powers – much less know how to deal with the repercussions. Aside from that, every character has a story – a story that is laid out over the course of a couple episodes and in some cases even touched on beyond that.

At the beginning of the show you are thrust into the action with a group of people you know nothing about doing something against someone. It can certainly be said that the anime starts off at a run and from there slowly begins to trickle bits and pieces of information to help you fill in some of the gaps. I did enjoy this anime even despite the main story seeming somewhat disjointed to me; but I think I especially liked the different perspectives and ideas it presented – particularly regarding the contractors. You may begin the series wondering what the hell is going on and end the series perhaps a little better off; but there is still so much left to be answered, and maybe that’s the point. After all, just because a story stops does not mean it comes to an end; and sometimes it is the not knowing that makes things matter so much more.

“No matter where you go, I hope this will make you smile.”

I would also recommend checking out the amazing opening/ending themes:

Abingdon Boys School – “Howling” & “From Dusk til Dawn”

Rie Fu – “Tsuki Akari”