Monday, October 1, 2007

Darker than Black shareholder applauds Serious Business

Darker than Black episode 25: The killing fields of South America
(Progress: 25/25)

But disapproves of child labour soldiers.

Darker than Black episode 25: Unmasking Hei
Of the mysteries surrounding Hei, be it his lack of a payment scheme although he ate a lot, or his un-Contractor-like irrationalities, it never occurred to me that he is the only Contractor in the series to wear a mask. I shrugged it off for the usual reasons, like he might be recognized by the authorities, but he didn't commence operations starting episode one, and no other Contractor took measures to hide their face.

In the beginning, there was a clear distinction between Hei as a regular person and Hei as a Contractor. The lightning bolt on the mask isn't some dishonest bluff. When he puts on the mask, he puts on lightning, on at least two levels. Later on, we see that he uses his abilities without the mask, a symbolic blurring of divisions.

People have long feared corporations. Images come to mind of mindless drones, the stereotypical company man defined only through his work, labouring under the equally dispassionate leadership that rules with an iron fist and is concerned only about its immediate interests. What is a Contractor if not a model cog, supposed to carry out orders unquestionably and without regard for the effects it may have on others?

How ironic is it then, that the reaction against Contractors is embodied in a group that is organized and called the Syndicate. With that knowledge, many of the missions that take place can be framed in the context of dealing with rogue Contractors or any objects related to the Hell's Gate.

Darker than Black has been open-ended on a number of items, one of them being the Syndicate/Organization/Illuminati. It is claimed that they essentially own the world's intelligence agencies, and yet the Russian FSB had sent out two Contractors to gather intelligence on the Syndicate.

What was the Syndicate attempting to accomplish by smuggling Dolls? When would this supposedly all-powerful organization resort to that kind of means for fund-raising?

The series concludes with an incomplete view of the world and its major players. Partial pictures have a disadvantage to more fleshed out views, partly because there is the suspicion that even the writers don't have a definitive idea of where things are going. It also allows such things as the springing of arbitrary surprises at the last minute, like Hei's sister's full abilities and the mechanism behind the disappearance of the Heaven's Gate.

At the end of the day, Darker than Black is not a series with instant appeal. There are no broke bounty hunters to instantly relate to (the broke part, of course). Its subject matter touches upon issues that can hit a little too close to home at times, pointing out things that we may not wish to acknowledge - let alone discuss - about ourselves or others in general. There isn't much in the way of answers, either, just a push to consider and compare their world and ours. I think I did see one message, which may or may not have some relevance outside of the series:

Behind every Contractor there is a human. One only has to afford them the dignity of being one to see that.


DtB 25 was the first episode watched on my new system, in a resolution exceeding 704x400. I could get used to this. When in doubt, just throw more hardware at the problem.

Or new hardware. I witnessed first-hand the bursty activity that compressed video can generate when trying to watch video sourced from external storage over USB 1.1. In scenes with either lots of movement (Gurren-Lagann ED) or localized high-speed motion (Gurren-Lagann OP with the circling Mugans) over many frames, the USB 1.1 connection is saturated.

The high-level reason is that something like DivX is unable employ large amounts of prediction between frames. The other extreme is a still shot, with will compress much better. It's easy to predict the position of a motionless object.

704x400 can still saturate the poky USB 1.1 connection on occasion, but in general it requires a pause to fill up the buffer and clear the bottleneck, so I've generally stuck to 704x400 resolution in the past. Of course, there's no problem with USB 2.0.

What about moving higher resolution media to internal storage for playback? I had never de-fragmented my old hard drive, and since it is more or less at capacity in addition to being almost four years old, it can have a hard time serving up the necessary bandwidth for stall-free playback. Yes, it was that fragmented. Playing back live performances, at relatively uncompressed 10,000 kbps MPEG-2, was not a good experience, if it could be called even that.

On the topic of new stuff, this current theme is broken in my latest installation Firefox, with grey flooding into the sidebar. It looks like the hunt is on for something different, unless I can get this resolved.


Anonymous said...

Great title! I laughed.

Great post overall, for that matter. I especially liked your analysis about Hei and his mask. :)