Darker than BLACK – Gaiden 04 (END)
Another two months and two BD/DVD volume releases later, we have the final episode of the Darker than BLACK Gaiden prequel to the events in Ryuusei no Gemini. The best part of this finale is that it actually made sense of the ending we saw seven months ago, which many will recall came somewhat out of the blue. More specifically, I’m talking about the appearance of another Yin within Izanami, the cloning of the entire Earth that resulted in the revival of Suou, July, and many others, and Hei’s decision to go along with it. At the time, the sudden appearance of the “white Yin” came as a total surprise already, so the duplicated world shown in the epilogue proved to be even more difficult to grasp. Given the lack of explanations, I dare even say it was this jarring conclusion that took away from the sequel as a whole. However, with this Gaiden chapter shedding new light on why that happened, my original opinion has changed for the better, leaving me questioning the decision to try and tell the Ryuusei no Gemini story without the proper foundation. Hell, the meaning behind the “Ryuusei no Gemini” subtitle didn’t even make much sense to me until I finished watching this final episode of Gaiden.
As it turns out, Izanami’s ability to seemingly kill both Contractors and Dolls alike with absolutely ease is actually her way of collecting samples to recreate a world just for them. Learning of that not only gave a whole new perspective on the sudden creation of a second Earth and Hei’s acceptance to that idea when confronted with the real Yin within Izanami, but also on the meaning behind “Gemini of Meteors”. The way I see it now, the prophecy documented in the 50-year-old Mikata Documents involves Izanami creating twins (gemini) of all the shooting stars (ryuusei) that result from the death of Contractors in a new world where they can coexist in peace. Naturally, she only targets Contractors and Dolls because humans are the ones that exploit their abilities for their own benefits, but her power has been shown to be able to collect samples from humans as well. The twist of sorts lies in the fact that no one — especially not us as the viewer — had any idea that Izanami had some utopia-like goal in mind when everyone’s understanding only extended to the point that she’s been “killing” Contractors and Dolls indiscriminately.
For all intensive purposes, it was probably fair to interpret it as such, since there was no guarantee whatsoever that Izanami would recreate everyone as they were on the new world, so that in conjunction with Yin’s resistance towards Izanami taking her over and her hope to save Hei from any unnecessary suffering by begging him to kill her provided the underlying conflict to make everything work. To that end, the sudden creation of a Gate-like zone where she awakened and the Agency resorting to the use of a Gate Particle Beam to momentarily suppress her added to the urgency and severity of the matter. I just wish I knew about this earlier on, since it makes me appreciate Hei and Yin’s internal struggle a lot more over the course of everything else that happened when all the organizations join the mix. It also changed my perspective on who the antagonist in this series was, and left me feeling that there really wasn’t one since everyone merely acted as a cogwheel in some prophecy outlined in the Mikata Documents. However, the fact that it never came off as such due to all the groups acting out of personal gain or fear of an apocalypse, meant the lack of a true antagonist didn’t take away from the story’s search for answers.
For this Gaiden arc, I can’t even see guys like Claude, a.k.a. Shichi, as one, since he was only helping Izanami awaken just to see if she’ll lead Contractors to a world where they aren’t subjugated by humans. Some may disagree since it was revealed that he did assume Amagiri’s appearance to deceive all the other ex-EPR members into killing Hei, but it’s worth noting that the actual deaths of everyone last time was the work of Izanami herself. Claude himself was only spared because Yin managed to suppress the awakening at the time from the baby’s crying after all, and even went on to act irrationally in pursuit of his goal to the point that he got killed by the Chinese secret agency that he once worked for. If anything, he was a curious extreme activist at best who helped realize the prophecy, but far from being a true antagonist. In contrast, we had Contractors such as the female stray dog from last time (who’s still only listed in the credits as such) working with Hei to try and prevent Yin from falling into wrong hands, only to wind up as another piece of the complex puzzle. Everyone seemed to have a part to play, but the struggle itself was probably against “destiny” more so than any particular individual or faction.
Ultimately, what I felt was missing the most in the sequel was the revelation that Yin was still battling with the Izanami within her and managed to suppress it herself with her “feelings” towards Hei in mind. This prequel also showed her reasoning with it and convincing it to hold off on the awakening, and exactly how Hei had fallen to his alcoholic levels of depression when he thought Yin was dead. The scene with Hei frantically restraining himself from killing Yin, and the latter’s ability to save Hei from getting absorbed followed by her tear-filled confession and goodbye put a much more emotional aspect on their relationship, which I wish I had an understanding of going into the events of Ryuusei no Gemini.
Rationally speaking (like a Contractor), I gather the decision to leave all this to a prequel was due to BONES only getting the budgeting for a 12-episode run despite the original season’s twenty-six, so the producers went with a story that began with a lot of questions surrounding Yin and used them to drive the progression. In retrospect, I find that it actually worked well in one regard, as not knowing about the details in this prequel behind her awakening allowed the sequel to focus on Suou and her situation, while having Hei work towards the end goal of reuniting with Yin provided the overarching story. I honestly don’t know how much I would have cared about Suou’s story and how she became a Contractor if I knew then what I do about Yin’s situation now. Of course, the trade-off in this approach is that the ending made little to no sense at the time, leaving me on the fence about which was the better way of going about it. I guess that’s why I’m not the director.
As a viewer though, I’m leaning towards watching the prequel first if I had the choice to do it all over again, simply because the story covered there is too crucial and affects the understanding of the sequel far too much to the left out. All I need is to be reminded of how a lot was left to be desired at the end of Ryuusei no Gemini to make that blatantly clear in my mind, and how it would’ve remained that way indefinitely if this Gaiden arc were never produced. While I still feel that the thunder of Suou’s story would’ve been stolen to a degree knowing that Hei doesn’t really give a damn about her in comparison to Yin, a good twelve episodes straight of just her would have likely been enough for her character grow on me. All the while, the pursuit of Yin would help propel the story forward just as much as Suou’s one of self discovery. As such, if anyone’s seen season one and has yet to get into the sequel, I wholeheartedly recommend watching Gaiden before Ryuusei no Gemini now that you have a choice.
For broadcasting purposes, the logical break is undoubtedly the time period right after Yin’s awakening and Hei getting invited to the CIA by Madam Oreille, so I can completely understand the decision to leave these four episodes off as bonus OVA ones. However, it’s my firm belief that the series as a whole works better if it’s perceived to be 16-episodes long with a time-lapse between the end of Gaiden and the beginning of Ryuusei no Gemini. In the end, BONES delivered the story they were after, just not in the order that would’ve made it more of an instant hit in my eyes.