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Evolving Dolls – Arguing the Absurd, Part 1

May 14, 2010

I’m firmly entrenched in existentialism. And by that I mean that I enjoy teasing out meaning from seemingly meaningless situations. I like being presented with an absurd, pointless situation that requires me to formulate my own interpretation. I loathe being spoon-fed philosophy and understanding, since more often than not it comes off as if the writer thought I was too stupid to do a little thinking on my own to figure out what the hell is going on.

I’ve found that many of my favorite series do just this. They give us just enough information that we can put the pieces together on our own and don’t resort to shoving their ideals down our throats.

First up on the absurdity chopping block: Darker than Black.

I’ve talked a great deal about Darker than Black. The more I think about the series, the more I like. But I haven’t said much about the recent OAV series. In talking about it I think I can nail quite a few points that illustrate how Darker than Black uses this sense of the absurd to create a pretty entrancing story.

I was a little worried about the OAV series at first. I liked how the second season didn’t really tell us why Yin had gone completely psycho and murderous. I know most fans were turned off by the abrupt change in her character between the two seasons, but I really dug it. Fortunately those fears, to this point, have been rendered moot.

Instead of finding out why Yin went all freaky-deaky on us, we’re seeing the series of events that lead up to her inevitable villainhood. Hei’s trying to escape from the Syndicate and is effectively on the ropes, and Yin’s emerging (but still repressed) feelings towards him seem to be bubbling to the surface in ways that they shouldn’t. She’s acting in the only way that her “doll” nature will allow. She herself cannot act, but this manifestation of her emotions can and does all too effectively, and with each manifestation its power seems to increase and its malevolence is amplified.

That’s the how. That’s cool. What’s being hidden from us is why all of this is happening. Why is Yin becoming one of the super-powered dolls that they talk about in the second season? We’re only seeing the symptoms of this process and not the cause.

It’s something of a chicken and egg dilemma. You could easily reason that it’s the bond between Yin and Hei that’s creating this “evolution” in Yin’s personality and powers. Dolls are normally used, abused, and cast aside due to their own emotionless personalities, but Hei treats her in a far different way. This nurturing may be leading to Yin’s evolution.

At the same time it may be the reverse. There may be some sort of change brewing within Yin that’s completely unrelated to her interaction with Hei. It could be some sort of biological change that happens to dolls after a period of time. Hei’s behavior towards Yin may just be some sort of catalyst. The change was there, Hei just gives these changes a means to be expressed to their fullest potential.

What’s awesome about the way everything is presented is the fact that either interpretation is perfectly valid (as are any other interpretations I’m not thinking of) and each one lends itself to a different ideal that can be expanded upon. It comes down to nurture vs. nature, and taking either side makes for an interesting argument. Side with Hei’s nurturing and you can talk about the how it’s the people around someone and the things that happen to them that determine their outcome. Side with Yin’s situation being a pre-determined biological situation and you can argue in favor of nature and genetic pre-determination and stuff like that.

The catch is that if the OAVs tell you which one it is, that choice to pick which side to debate for is taken away from you. You can no longer argue in favor of one interpretation or the other, you can only argue about whether you agree or disagree with Darker than Black’s interpretation.

The fact that Darker than Black, at least up to this point, has refused to dole out blatant answers shows that the creators most likely get this. They aren’t resorting to giving us the answers, they’re letting us figure out the answers on our own. They give us the evidence in the form of Yin’s progression, but they leave out the conclusion.

That’s the ideal way in which to use the absurd to get at one’s point. It is absurd for Yin to make an about-face in terms of personality, and it’s up to us to figure out why such a ridiculous situation would occur. It makes us active in the viewing process and makes the show far more engaging than having everything spread out before us to devour like an all you can eat buffet.

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