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Anime Review
Darker than Black and sequel(s)

By Jawad

Genre: action, mystery, sci-fi noir, supernatural
Ages: 16+
Episodes: 25 (first season)

The anime studio Bones produced another series worthy of mention along with its more celebrated contributions in FMA and Cowboy Bebop. Darker than Black released in 2007 (winner of the Best Original Anime award by GoGoplex, a popular teen magazine in Japan) has received so much positive reviews that a sequel (plus four OVAs) were also released last year. With this out of the way let's begin the synopsis.

The plot:
The fictional Earth is in turmoil after the appearances of some mysterious territories, called 'Gates' (not Bill though, Hell's Gate, Heaven's Gate that kind of thing). The night sky is not the same anymore with the real stars being replaced by false ones. This also gave rise to people with supernatural abilities, called 'Contractors'. Some could bend metals, pass electricity through their bodies, become invisible, call upon millions of cockroaches (*someone shrieks and another jumps in glee*), stop time etc, but not without paying any 'remuneration' (peculiar too, I might add) which differs from contractor to contractor. They also shed their human emotions to adopt rational and logical outlooks. Various nations and organisations trained and used these contractors for dirty jobs away from the eyes of the general masses.

In this world of the supernatural, Hei, a Contractor himself, Yin, a blind “Doll” (similar to contractor, except their only ability is to keep 'lookout'. Effective.), and Huang, a no-nonsense enforcer, work for a mysterious syndicate bent on unlocking the secrets of Hell's Gate and eliminating any other Contractors that get in their way. Kirihara Misaki, an able cop is on their tails, is also trying to figure out the abnormalities herself. The question is: can the contractors and normal human beings coexist? That's the answer we would find in the series.

Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor
Episodes: 13
The high rating of the original series for the storytelling, interesting premise and overall entertainment factor spawned the second season in October 2009. It is set about three years after the first season. Some newer characters are introduced while Hei sports a new cool, but slightly drunkard look. The story is not exactly a direct continuation of the first season but still revolves around the Contractors, secret services, the power struggle and the need to dominate over others. There are many loose ends though, which made fans speculate about yet another sequel.

The Overall review:
Darker than Black follows a two-episodes-per arc format, but still manages to reveal the plot in a comprehensible way. With classy nightclub piano melodies and swinging jazz tunes, the story of Hell's Gate and its Contractors unfolds bit by bit. The tale is deep, on the verge of poetic, when cold-blooded killing machines develop emotions they weren't supposed to have. The character designs and voice acting are appealing even though most only lasted for two episodes and were then disposed off. Animation is strong, consistent and fluid. But the pace and presentation may not be for everyone: sticking to the whole series just to get the idea about what and why they are doing whatever-they-are-doing does not give a nice feeling all the time.

Why you should choose DtB:
I will phrase it in the words of a member at a Forum: “I wholeheartedly recommend this to someone looking for an anime that's a little different from the usual "Save your friends, save the world" ones.”

Until next time. Ja.

Must Watch TV: Modern Family

By Orin

Anyone who has ever seen Arrested Development will agree that that show is the height of family sitcoms. And heartbroken though we were when this show got cancelled, there was a tiny chance that someday some show might excel as much as this did. At last, in the fall of 2009, the wait was over. Modern Family was on.

At first Modern Family might not look much appealing, since dysfunctional families are a bit clichéd in television, to say the least. But the creators took everything that defines today's modern families and turned them into a show with immense potential. It's not just the hot Latina trophy wife, the Facebook-Twittering, high school musical singing modern day dad, and their Vietnamese adopted daughter that makes this show so diverse and great. It's the witty and incredibly funny blend of those things.

Based on a nameless suburb somewhere in America this 'mokumentary' of a show examines three families, each one very unusual in terms of a conventional family but blends in perfectly well with the concept of a 'Modern Family'.

The first family is Phil and Claire Dunphy's family with their three kids; 15 year old Haley, her younger sister Alex and their brother Luke. Phil and Claire tend to treat their kids like 'friends' instead of disciplining them. While Claire keeps her expectations to a bare minimum with saying stuff like “If Haley never wakes up in a beach in Florida half-naked, I have done my job.” Phil is a wannbe uber-cool dad and this is how he introduces himself, “I'm the cool dad. That's my thang. I'm hip, I surf the web. I text. LOL: laugh Out Loud. OMG: Oh my god. WTF: Why the face?”

Claire's father Jay, a 70 year-old man, his 30-year-old hot Columbian wife Gloria and exceptionally smart 10-year-old stepson Manny live nearby. Jay is a typical manly man, who ran a successful business and is now retired and spends his time manning up his stepson and sometimes unknowingly competing with Javier, Manny's father, to be the father figure of the boy.

Only when we start thinking that this show couldn't get any more diverse, there comes Jay's son Mitchell and his partner Cameron who has just adopted a baby girl from Vietnam. The couple provide lots of entertainment, especially Cameron, who after gaining a lot of weight after the adoption, explains, “Apparently your body does a nesting, very maternal, primal thing where it retains nutrients. Some sort of molecular physiology thing; that's science. You can't fight it.”

The script is superbly funny and the 'mokumentary' type setting worked really well. All the casts blend in well with the character. The show is for anyone who can grab the fun bits because this has enough for kids, parents, friends and well, everyone. The show already has been a huge success in the US as well as in the UK and Australia. Celebrities like Edward Norton and Elizabeth Banks already did cameos in the first few episodes and the show just promises of even getting better if the network doesn't make this set-up dull.

This show is a bit of a relief from all the overdone comedy-dramas that we have been tired of watching. With the spot-on politically incorrect script and fresh characters, Modern Family promises a lot. Because, after everything else, this is a bighearted family show that really portrays how families live nowadays.



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