According to Martin (2009), “Darker than Black is one of those rare series which is consistently better than it probably should be. It has all of the elements necessary to be a run-of-the mill series about super-powered agents, terrorists, and hoodlums, yet somehow it puts them together into two-episode stories which carry a heavier impact and sharper edge. Lurking behind all of the super-powered antics, bloody violence, and intrigue is one of the year’s better series.”
An apocalyptic world with a fake sky, containing fake stars, where a mysterious wall has appeared known as Hell’s Gate is shrouded in more than darkness and death. In this world there are humans and there are also other races known as Contractors and Dolls. These other races resemble humans in appearance, but whether or not they are human is up for debate. Contractors are beings like humans only with special abilities, like super powers. The contractors have to pay a price for using their powers though, which is where the word contract comes in. Their “payment” for the use of their power can be considered a contract of sorts. Typically, their payment is something they despise.
“Smoke what we hate to smoke, drink what we hate to drink” is a line spoken by one of the contractors within the show. These contractors are despised and looked down upon by the humans that know about them, viewing them as less than human; simply killing machines. Contractors are used by governments and secret organizations for assassinations and other dirty work. The government and these organizations work hard to keep the existence of contractors unknown from the general public.
The manner in which contractors are treated by those humans who are aware of the existence of them is quite discriminatory. The fact is, they assume they know all there is to know about contractors; that they are cold blooded killers and nothing else. Although, throughout the show, the viewer is lead to believe otherwise; the viewer more or less ends up sympathizing for the contractors.
The main character of the show Hei, also known as The Black Reaper or BK201, is a contractor. He works for a secret organization known as The Syndicate. He carries out various missions throughout the show for this organization, all the while undergoing discrimination simply for what he is; a contractor.
This theme of discrimination against the contractors by the humans, one race against the other seems oddly familiar. The discrimination that goes on in the show can easily be a comparison to the discrimination that goes on in real life. Discrimination against people for their race or ethnicity occurs across the globe. In countries around the world minorities are the people who are discriminated against more often than not. In Japan, the minorities who have a history of being discriminated against are Japanese who are of Korean, Ainu or Burakumin ethnicities.
Elements within the anime Darker than Black are signs for the discrimination against minorities in Japan. Specifically, it is the discrimination against the races of Contractors and Dolls by the race of Humans in the anime Darker than Black that is a sign for the discrimination. Minorities in the anime Darker than Black are discriminated against in similar ways that minorities are discriminated against in real life Japan. The three minorities in Japan that are easily portrayed in Darker than Black are the Ainu, Burakumin and Koreans. There are numerous examples of discrimination against the minorities, Contractors and Dolls in Darker than Black. Three significant examples of discrimination against the minorities in Darker than Black are as follows. The Contractors are considered by the humans to be “less than human”. It is considered taboo for a Human to be romantically involved with a Contractor. Humans continue to be prejudice against the Contractors and discriminate against them specifically for the bad reputation the Contractors have for being a violent, crime committing race.
According to Martin (2008), “Their existence kept secret from the general public, control of contractors is highly-prized by various intelligence organizations and other private interests, though the contractors themselves are sometimes treated as less than human.”
Throughout the anime Hei and the other members of his team belonging to The Syndicate, carry out The Syndicate’s biding. Hei often acts irrationally, more on his impulses and personal desires rather than follow orders. This consequently gets him and his team in trouble with The Syndicate. Hei’s team is made up of him and one other Contractor, a Doll and a human. Whenever Hei steers off course from the orders given to them by The Syndicate, Huang the human member of the team threatens Hei. During one such incident, Huang says “You contractors are just weapons, so do your job or get thrown in the fire.”
Yamaguchi’s (2004) article found the following, ‘“You non-humans from the hamlets have blood that is vulgar and tainted,” reads one of the letters sent to Aoki, who said the missives are sometimes intentionally sent to his neighbors to embarrass him.” This quote from Mari Yamaguchi’s article is about a Burakumin man who tries to live a normal life within the Japanese society. He constantly receives harassment and discrimination for choosing to live outside of the hamlets, or villages designated by the Japanese government for living quarters of Burakumin people. They are often ridiculed when they choose to live outside of the hamlets.
Just as the Burakumin people are treated as “less than human” within Japanese society, so are the Contractors treated with an equal amount of discrimination within the world of Darker than Black. Burakumin are not the only minority in Japan that Contractors can easily be compared to in Japan though. Korean Japanese are also very discriminated against in Japan. There are numerous stories of marriages, engagements and relationships being disrupted solely based on the fact that one of them is a minority, including Korean Japanese citizens.
This same occurrence happens in Darker than Black. As stated previously, it is considered taboo for a Human to be romantically involved with a Contractor or a Doll for that matter. As the name “Doll” implies, they are treated even less human than Contractors are. During the anime, there is a human man who falls in love with a Doll. As expected, this is much looked down upon by other the humans. “I can’t believe you would throw it all away for a thing like that doll,” said a friend of the man.
Occurrences of discrimination similar to what happens in the anime happen in Japan more than we would like to think. Japanese citizens young and old contribute to the ongoing discrimination of minorities in Japan. Alas though, there are many Japanese citizens who do not agree with the way minorities are treated. Where you will find Japanese who are more accepting of minorities, is in the youth of Japan.
Meet Allisha Furuya. She is a 25 year old, beautiful, intelligent full Japanese woman; freshly graduated from a prestigious University in Japan. She strongly disagrees with the discrimination of minorities in Japan. In fact, she has experienced the discrimination against Korean-Japanese people first hand; not against her, but against her relationship with a Korean-Japanese man.
“My ex-boyfriend was 3/4 Korean. I almost married him, but we broke up last year. Everyone told me they’re relieved because they weren’t that happy that I was dating a Korean guy, for no specific reason; just because of his race. People don’t say that to you directly, but they were definitely implying his nationality. My mom said it was okay if I wanted to marry him because her interest was my happiness. But she told me she was glad that I dated him after her parents, grandma and grandpa passed away. They would have been so disappointed if they were alive. I guess because they experienced WWII. The Koreans were discriminated then, and the grandparents passed it to our generation,” said Allisha Furuya (personal communication, November 15, 2013).
Discrimination like this is far too common in Japan. It is no wonder there is even anime that portrays the ongoing problem. Another aspect of the ongoing discrimination of minorities in Japan that is portrayed in Darker than Black is the bad reputation that a select few have made for Burakumin and Korean people alike. Burakumin and Korean people are known for crime in Japan, just as the Contractors are known for crime in Darker than Black.
Humans continue to be prejudice against the Contractors and discriminate against them specifically for the bad reputation the Contractors have for being a violent, crime committing race. One example of this from the anime is towards the end of the series. The conflict between the Humans and the Contractors finally comes to a head. A way becomes evident to completely annihilate one race or the other. Both sides are fighting a race against the clock to rid themselves of the other side.
“You kill your enemy or accept defeat. Violence only escalates. Humans and Contractors will attack each other with increasing fear and retribution until one side draws its last breath. How can you not understand that?” says a Darker than Black human character that is fighting against the Contractors, to a human who sympathizes for the Contractors.
The degree to which this character despises Contractors is quite similar to how much many Japanese people despise the minorities in Japan, specifically Koreans and Buraku, or Burakumin still today. The crimes of a few are what give a bad name for all Koreans and Buraku. This is unfair for the rest of the Korean and Buraku people, who may actually be decent, productive members of society. But regardless of fairness or truthfulness, the rest of Japanese society then views the entire population of Korean and Buraku minorities to be no good, law-breaking criminals. Many Japanese discriminate against the Korean and Buraku minorities based solely on the wrong-doings of just a few.
Meet Daisuke Yamagoto. He is a 27 year old, full Japanese man, who is a DJ at a dance club in Tokyo, Japan. He doesn’t believe there is discrimination of minorities in Japan. In fact, he is upset with the rights that the minorities, such as the Korean and Buraku Japanese do receive. He believes they are all bad; criminals up to no good.
“Those ‘“minority’” people are not a minority. Here has been no racism for those people. But they say ‘“Japanese are racists’” or such stuffs. They are taking advantage of this situation a lot. Like they get a lot of money from government, but they use Japanese names when they do crime. And media, TV, news, etc. knew about it, but they don’t tell the truth. Because those “‘minority’” people bought media, so they control that news. I’m talking about Koreans and Buraku people,” said Myuji Yoshida (personal communication, November 13, 2013).
It is this kind of hate, and misunderstanding that leads to the kind of “war” and destruction between opposing people, just as in the end of Darker than Black when the fighting between the humans and the Contractors lead both races to an attempt to completely eliminate the other.
Although the majority of people desire to eliminate the other race completely, there are a few who believe both races should live on and strive to coexist. Hei, the main character is one of those few. In the end, Hei, or The Black Reeper also known as BK201 decides to take the middle road. He intervenes in both sides’ plans, to save both races from extinction. It is Hei’s ultimate decision to accept both races of people for whom and “what” they are, that saves them all. Perhaps Hei’s acceptance for all of the races in the world of Darker than Black is a sign for what the creators of the anime desire for the people of Japan; acceptance for all of Japan’s people.