Sunday, September 23, 2007

Darker than Black: The Hell's Gate Cult

Darker than Black episode 23: Hei holds Pai
(Progress: Episode 24)

In addition to Tensai Okamura and Yoko Kanno, add Bones and falling stars to the list of things that Cowboy Bebop and Darker than Black have in common.

Maybe I'm a little late in making the connection — the South American entity was called Heaven's Gate, after all. In my defence, 10 years ago is a long time, and I had a narrow(er) world view back then. Budget cuts and teacher's strike were terms that were infinitely more relevant at the time, as they lead to no school.

The term works on a couple levels, like how there was a cult, the fact that millions died (although who knows if that's the case if they can't set foot in the area around the gate), and how a war was fought around and possibly over Heaven's Gate.

Contractors are an odd sort. They are generally described in the vaguest of terms as self-interested and having no conscience. Neither trait is special. One would have to have no conscience to take on killing people as a job, and being self-interested and apathetic to most other things unrelated to survival comes with the turf.

What is curious is how Contractors have continued to put up with killing each other and important people for over a decade. I'm not quite sure how risking one's neck to kill someone else serves one's interests better than, say, a cushy desk job. I suppose being in essence a mercenary does have a pigeon-holing effect.

The fact that there's a chicken and egg problem — that if you just quit then others Contractors will come after you, so no one is particularly inclined to leave — may also have something to do with it. And if nothing else, non-Contractor special forces teams have proved perfectly capable of taking their marks to the cleaners, although those can turn into messy affairs.

It seems that the amount of free-will that a Contractor exercises is proportional to their effectiveness as a killer. Wei is so bad-ass that he develops pride and ambition. The irony is that like Maki, that ridiculously powerful bomber kid, the human flaws he exhibits on the job lead to his downfall.

Hei's situation is blurred by the possibility that he may have inherited his powers as opposed to being arbitrarily assigned them along with a shiny new star, and thus may not have signed the boilerplate employment agreement (unless his payment is to eat a ton and never get fat), but he's still one of the best Contractors in the field. How does he demonstrate his free-will? By rescuing his teammates, because he can.

I don't think that most of the sub-ordinates of Evening Primrose have free-will so much as they are rational people acting on the information given to them. If someone went up to Mai and told her, That accelerator you're defending will kill you if switched on, she would surely think twice about toasting Amagiri and Brita. Enlightened self-interest does have enlightenment as a prerequisite.

As the show gets set to conclude, we see Contractors serving their true employer. They may do so only reluctantly and without the zealotry one might expect of a cult, but they are inextricably bound to its existence. It's the worst kind of working relationship.


Quyen Tran said...

Blacker than black, ie. Blanking Level... har har... I've gotta get out of this industry.

introspect said...

Life will be better once analog broadcast is dead. Or debugging will get that much weirder.