A couple of weekends ago, I got a hold of the boxed set for one of my favorite anime, Descendants of Darkness. I was quite thrilled. Each disc contains one story arc, both in Japanese with English subtitles and dubbed into English. They also have some interesting (and sometimes amusing) extras. I’m really quite pleased.
…for the most part.
If I had to make a guess, I’d say whoever U.S. Manga Corps hired to write the summaries on the back of each disk had a relatively incompetent friend watch the series and got their information from that friend’s summary. There’s only one that’s remotely close!
Let’s go in order. Disc 1 is the Nagasaki story arc. Nagasaki explains how the main character Tsuzuki met both his partner Hisoka and his enemy Muraki. Somewhere in the middle of all these meetings, Tsuzuki and Hisoka track down a vampire who is being manipulated by Muraki to kill people.
All right, so let’s go to the insert, shall we (corrections will be marked as we go): A vampire is on the loose, and it’s up to dashing supernatural detective Tsuzuki (Okay, let’s clarify. Tsuzuki is a Guardian of Death. His job is to help the souls of dead people find their way to the Underworld so they can be judged for the sins committed in their lives. He really isn’t a detective, but occasionally has to chase down people who aren’t aware they’re dead yet or who have managed to stay alive past their expiration date. He himself happens to be dead.) to stop her! But are good looks, charm, and preternatural powers (Tsuzuki never uses his good looks to get him out of anything, and spells and animal guardians can hardly be considered terribly preternatural.) to bring this fiend to justice? Tsuzuki may have bitten off more than he can chew, and the Ministry has sent him a new partner, a volatile young man with a mysterious past (The closest Hisoka gets to volatile is when Tsuzuki backs him into a wall in the Ministry; and his tragic past is revealed in the second episode.). Together, they’re on the most dangerous mission of their afterlives. (Somehow, I find the rest of the series far more dangerous than Nagasaki…sorry.)
Next up is Disc 2, the story arc built around the classical piece “The Devil’s Trill” and its lore. A young man recieves an eye transplant, only to discover the previous owner made a deal with a demon that was transferred to the boy when he received the eye. The demon is trying to kill him through a series of accidents, and the young musician develops a bit of a crush on Tsuzuki when Tsuzuki and Hisoka try to save him and the donor’s daughter.
The insert says: A musician inherits a haunted violin, and his skills increase to superhuman levels (Please see above. The skills come with the eye long before Kazusa gives her father’s violin to Hijiri.) Detective (No, seriously. He’s a Guardian, not a detective!) Tsuzuki is called to investigate, but before he can vanquish the demon, he himself is possessed. Now it’s up to his brash young partner to solve the mystery and destroy the cursed violin…before it claims Tsuzuki as its next victim. (Where do I begin? Watari figures out the situation with the contract before Tsuzuki is possessed. In fact, by the time he becomes possessed, the mystery is solved, and they’re just trying to call out the demon so they can vanquish him. Really, Hisoka’s only shining moment here was to recognize when Tsuzuki was possessed and then to play a small switching game with Hijiri to keep him safe. Oh, and the violin has absolutely no interest in Tsuzuki. The demon only goes after him because he gets between the demon and Hijiri.)
Then there’s Disk 3. People who should be dying are suddenly outliving their expectancy, and the cause is tracked down to black market tradiing centering around a certain luxury liner. Our favorite team of Guardians gets on board just in time to discover Muraki is on board, and then to witness an odd series of serial murders. Each murder has a tarot card left at the scene, and Muraki ends up one of the victims.
This time, the insert got it mostly right: Supernatural detective (Again, see my earlier rants on detective vs. Shinigami) Tsuzuki tracks a murderer (He and Hisoka are sent there. They aren’t the ones who uncover the situation.) to a cruise ship, where there is no escape. But which passenger is the killer? Time is running out, and everyone is a suspect as the voyagers begin to die mysteriously, with nothing but a macabre tarot card left as a clue. Occult forces are brewing (Outside of the appearance of tarot cards on each victim, there’s nothing terribly occult brewing here.), and our hero (Don’t you love how Hisoka has been left out of each of these? It’s a team effort, writer!) must unravel the mystery of the Tarot Curse, or no one will reach the shore alive. (Given how the arc ends, I’m not actually certain anyone who isn’t main cast makes it out alive.)
From there, it’s on to the last CD, which contains the Kyoto arc, my favorite of the four. Hisoka and Tsuzuki discover that Muraki is involved in a cloning project at a local university. Little do they realize that he’s really looking for a way to kidnap his beloved Tsuzuki to transplant his body to the head of Muraki’s late step-brother so that Muraki can kill him for killing his parents. The circumstances surrounding Tsuzuki’s death are revealed, and Tsuzuki is driven mad. Desperate to end his undead existence, he tries to destroy both himself and Muraki. (I’d tell you how it ends, but you really ought to watch it for yourself. It’s quite touching, even with Dan Green’s little mis-adapted line…)
The insert tells us: A mad scientist stalks Tsuzuki, seeking to cage him and clone his supernatural powers. (I can only assume this refers to Muraki’s litlte flunkie, since Muraki has no desire to clone Tsuzuki…just kill him.) Trapped in the diabolical doctor’s laboratory (For whatever reason, we’ll ignore the first three episode in the story arc where Tsuzuki is slowly losing his mind trying to protect a student at the local prep school, or where we get to meet an old college friend of Muraki’s.), Tsuzuki comes face to face with his oldest enemy, a vengeful immortal who has hunted him throughout his afterlife (There is nothing to suggest Kazutaka Muraki is immortal. In fact, he continually says that his interest in Tsuzuki stems greatly from when the undead man was a patient of Muraki’s dearly deparrted grandfather. The evidence from both the manga and the anime suggests that Muraki started stalking Tsuzuki in Nagasaki.). Now his brash young partner must rescue him from the killer’s underground lair, before Tsuzuki loses his soul and sanity to the demon, and is forced to make the ultimate scrifice. (I hate to say it, but this is pretty far off. Tsuzuki wants to kill himself, and Hisoka wants to stop him from doing it.)
It’s funny…in my experience, Descendants of Darkness fan fiction writers tend to get it right. Perhaps they should have hired one to write the summaries of each story arc…