Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Two discs, three story arcs, eight episodes - that's what we get from the final volume of Darker Than Black - at least, until or unless the second season makes its way to UK shores. Starting at the beginning, as you should, the first two arcs are of the 2-episode style that the series has been using for all of its run until now. The first sees Huang forced to confront his past in a mission that brings him face-to-face with a woman he once loved - a love that was doomed for several reasons, beginning with the age-gap between them - and who he may now have to kill for failing the syndicate. Given that Huang has for most of the series just been this grumpy old man who relays instructions from the syndicate and makes no secret of his loathing for Contractors, this arc marks a real turning point in terms of how likeable and sympathetic the character is. We get to see enough of his past to learn why he came to be the man he is now, and to realise that we should more be feeling pity for him (especially now) than annoyance at his permanent foul mood. It's also quite rare for the series to have scenes that pull quite so much on the heartstrings as some scenes we have here - a rather blatant play to get you emotionally involved, perhaps, but one that plays well to the arc's story and works well.
The second arc sets the scene for the finale yet to come, with loyalties being tested and revelations made that begin to make it clear exactly what's going on here. Misaki plays a key role in this, but she's reacting to events and unable to influence them, something that annoys her immensely as it's not a situation she enjoys being in. A lot of the arc is given over to exposition, as Amber explains to Mao and November just what's going on, clearly drawing the dividing line between her faction and what she's trying to achieve, and what those opposed to her will try to do. That certain people are so open about what they're up to is a surprise (in particular Amber's captive, Schroeder, who's surprisingly talkative in the presence of the Contractors that he'd very much like to kill), but it's necessary to clear the decks ahead of the final three-episode arc.
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