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The Girl Who Stares at Deer

October 18, 2009

For a moment I felt like this deer. I felt that I was smack dab in the middle of metaphorical crosshairs, and that my interest in Darker than Black was on the verge of being shot and processed into fandom sausage.

In the second episode of Darker than Black, we get a flashback to a scene right before the meteor strike from the first episode. Suou’s dad is teaching her how to hunt, and she has a deer in her sight. She hesitates, refuses to pull the trigger, and the deer gallops away. Perfectly understandable for anyone to be nervous in such a situation, especially when the animal seems to be peering right into your soul with its woefully sad eyes. You have to be pretty cold-hearted to not feel a tinge of guilt.

Suou’s father proceeds to give her a mini-lecture on what he feels will happen in the future. He tells Suou that there are rough tribulations ahead, and that there will be a time when she’ll have to pull the proverbial trigger and kill the deer. He tells Suou that she needs to be strong enough to pull that trigger and that it is evolution that has given her this ability to overcome her weaknesses and utilize her mechanical cunning to overcome stronger forces.

My initial concern was that this would be yet another anime with a pacifist agenda, and that Suou would prove that her father’s words were incorrect. She would prove to him and every other character in the series that violence is never the answer, and that she can survive and change the world through peaceful means only.

Essentially, I was worried that Suou would become the spiritual successor of Vash the Stampede and be a sore thumb amongst a hand of Wolfwoods.

Based on Suou’s actions in the first episode, with her spiel about protecting her brother, and based on the initial images of the opening credits (by the way, the opening song kind of sucks), it looked like we we’re heading in that direction. We get a bunch of images of Suou looking longfully into the distance, obviously distraught over her circumstances. The opening is playing her up as some sort of Miyazaki-like Christ-girl. She appears to be the lone “innocent” force at work in a world of murderers, scoundrels, and government agents, and her youthful pluckiness will overcome that cynical vision and triumph.

At least that was my concern until I saw this:

And this:

I have no beef with people grudgingly taking up arms when faced with adversary. Like I said, it takes an awfully cold-hearted person to fully accept violence and never bat an eye. At the same time, I can’t stand the opposite end of the spectrum either. The Vashes of the world grate on my nerves in a way that the unregretful murderers in fiction never do. It’s one thing to desire peace, and it’s another to single-mindedly push for pacifism when common sense dictates that it’s either your brains being blown out or the asshole’s brains on the other side of your gun’s barrel.

Thankfully the second episode of Darker than Black indicates that Suou will not fall victim to Vashitis. She may be a reluctant heroine, but she won’t be a stupid one. She’ll pull that trigger when the time comes, and she’ll more than likely be in the right.

And I’m really digging how Suou’s photography hobby is carried over into what I’m assuming will be her prefered fighting style. It make perfect sense for someone who is accustomed to long-ranged photography to be a sniper. She already has the aiming down, all she needs is to handle the recoil and the willingness to pull the trigger. This is a great stylistic choice. Far more interesting than giving her Contractor powers or whatever.

Oh yeah, and the rest of the episode was pretty great as well. The action scenes remain well-choreographed and animated and the dialogue is fairly clever. There’s even a definite sense of tension, as there’s an anything-goes vibe as far as who lives and who dies. This is probably the best series of the season, and I’m sure I’d be enjoying it even more if I’d seen the first season.

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