Operation “My Favorite Things”: Memories under moonlight (Darker than Black)

What I liked about episodes 13 and 14 of Darker than Black was how easily all the components of the story fit together into something beautiful both visually and emotionally, and how it still managed to tie back to Hei’s little band of criminals without having to draw too much attention away from the star of the story, which is Yin. The obvious, overarching point that this particular story makes is that beings like her, “dolls” as they are called, retain some of their will and emotion. Yet, this isn’t all we can dig up from this pair of episodes. We can go deeper. We have the technology.

[Coalgirls] Darker than Black - 14 (BD 1280x720 x264  FLAC).mkv_snapshot_17.23_[2013.05.02_09.21.11]
For most of humanity, the obscuring of the night sky meant a new age of superpowered espionage and the end of normalcy. For Yin, the sky’s transformation does not matter to her much except for the absence of the moon’s bright, serene light. Most of Yin’s memories are of scenes where the moon shines brightest, and is representative of the memories she holds dearest in her heart. Before the night sky changed, before she obtained an observer spirit and lost her memories, she was playing the piano. Though she was blind, she found solace basking in the gentle glow of the moonlight and the presence of both her tutor and her mother. I’m going to assume that she wasn’t especially close to her father, given her reaction during the funeral, but that doesn’t really hold much impact in this story anyway. Exactly how important are these memories, per se? Well, they’re the first ones to manifest once she loses contact with her observer spirit, so that’s certainly says a lot about how important they are. They also (though it’s admittedly forced a bit in episode 13) manage to put her on a sort of path again. At this rate, she would return to her homeland with her tutor and attempt to lead her old, normal life in society again. However, Yin is not comfortable with that kind of offer. In fact, she outright rejects it.

[Coalgirls] Darker than Black - 14 (BD 1280x720 x264  FLAC).mkv_snapshot_11.00_[2013.05.02_09.17.56]
Point being, her reunion with her tutor summons more than just good memories; it also dredges up nightmares. Before she turned into a doll, it’s heavily implied that she feels both anguish and guilt over her mother’s death. Admittedly, she was part of the reason why her mother died, so it’s understandable for her to think that her mother’s death was primarily her own fault. She sheds tears at what’s presumably a morgue, perhaps the last important time she sheds tears before turning into a doll. The moonlight upon her mother’s dead body ingrains the memory into her mind.  At this point, too does the moonlight fade completely for her from then on. So too, with the vanishment of the moon, do her emotions. The strange phenomenon may have indeed saved her from further anguish, and the opportunity to forget.

“‘Bearing the sins of the children of Earth, the moon begins to consume its light.’… They say that a lunar eclipse is a symbol of atonement.”

“If that’s the case, then the moon is in a perpetual state of atonement, since it can’t be seen anymore.”

~Bertha and Itzhak

The moon disappearing meant more than just contractors and dolls, Hell’s Gate and Heaven’s Gate. It also became an escape of sorts for Yin. The problem with her escaping is that her guilt remains ever present, even as an emotionless doll. She still hasn’t confronted her own feelings about what happened to her mother.

[Coalgirls] Darker than Black - 13 (BD 1280x720 x264  FLAC).mkv_snapshot_14.56_[2013.05.02_09.41.55]
Nor has she, for that matter, come to terms with the future she threw away. It is unclear exactly how it happens, but by joining the Syndicate she is forced to live a reclusive life devoid of social interaction. She adopts traits that would ill fit her if she desired to become an accomplished pianist. Even though the story gives no verbal cues that this was indeed her future, since it may also imply that she just played the piano as a hobby, I think it gave enough visual/aural cues to spin it towards my interpretation of events. Should it be by coincidence that it’s the sound of the piano, as opposed to her tutor’s presence, that allows Yin to recall her moonlit memories so clearly? It’s pretty clear that music holds enough importance in her life for it to elicit that much of a reaction out of her.

Should it also be by coincidence that the pianist in this scene looks like an older version of Yin?

[Coalgirls] Darker than Black - 13 (BD 1280x720 x264  FLAC).mkv_snapshot_14.50_[2013.05.02_10.06.29]
My take on the story is that it’s an exploration of both Yin’s regrets and her (now dead) aspirations. She regrets not living her life as a pianist. She regrets being a factor in her mother’s death. She may also regret pulling her tutor into this mess as well. Yin laments at one point in the story that the silver light she once knew is now no longer reachable. It’s an obvious callback to the moonlight, both for realistic and figurative reasons. Yet, this holds more impact because Yin claims that she remembers everything that happened before her transformation and transition into her new life as a criminal accomplice. Apparently, it’s not enough to recall the events; She needs, somehow, to grasp them. It’s all fine and dandy if she chooses to remain with Hei and the gang instead of following her tutor to her old life, but Yin understands the need to come to terms with her own past. She needs some sort of instrument or symbol by which she can reclaim some of her long-forgotten agency and, in doing so, move on with her new life.

[Coalgirls] Darker than Black - 14 (BD 1280x720 x264  FLAC).mkv_snapshot_08.22_[2013.05.02_09.17.40]
Her redemption is outlined as such: all she asks for is to relive her memories. Not just through recollection, but also by physical means. Since she is given no other opportunity than her obligations as a recon agent, she has absolutely no time to indulge herself in what she wants to do. The piano in the abandoned building is perfect for this specific purpose. This particular instrument will help her reclaim some of her agency. So, she plays the same piece she played so long ago, not only to reminisce in but also to cherish the memories she shared between her tutor and her mother. The notes emerge from her small hands so delicately, so cleanly, despite the fact that she hasn’t been at a piano for a long, long time. Yet, she stops halfway through. Something isn’t quite right yet. There’s still something that needs to be done before she can effectively close this particular chapter in her life.

Maiden, black night, mourning in sadness,
falling into the night alone.
The moon that accompanies her radiates of silver,
as the night of atonement quietly passes by.

~Itzhak

When a sudden turn of events leaves a certain contractor on his deathbed, the numerous observer spirits he collected over time, Yin’s as well, gather in the sky and glow with the same serenity as the light of the moon itself. Yin recognizes this glow. No, she knows this glow. Arms extended as if to grab hold of as much of it as possible, and the music coming back for a strong finish, she opens her mental floodgates and the emotions rush in with a sudden flash. Her eyes widen in a mixture of surprise and wonder at the new feelings she’s feeling at this moment. Tears, for the first time since her mother’s death, stream down her pale cheeks.

[Coalgirls] Darker than Black - 14 (BD 1280x720 x264  FLAC).mkv_snapshot_17.18_[2013.05.02_09.20.54]

Addendum

  1. I failed to mention the similarities between the piece being played in this story, Yin no Piano, and another piece by Claude Debussy named Clair de Lune. The title is French for, you guessed it, moonlight. Go take a listen to both and marvel at the numerous similarities.
  2. I felt the show could have let Yin ponder a bit more about her decision to remain with Hei and the gang, but by making her decide early it effectively compacted the story into its two-episode format quite nicely.
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2 comments

  1. Let me just get to the point and say why episodes 13-14 were pretty darn good. Gai and Kiko.

    The trick thing about “dolls” is that they are described as emotionless and all most robotic in nature in the show, even at some points being insensate floating in a tube of science fiction fluid. However many of the ones in the show have emotions and other betraying features, which really brings up something interesting. It’s hinted a few times that “dolls” are made, rather than born most of the time, and the one’s that were human at one point, well… I’ll leave the imagery to you.

    Good speculation, and I’ll admit that these two episodes had some of the best villains of the show, and atmosphere as well. Tragic back stories, Gai and Kiko, who could ask for more?

    You, probably.

    1. I was quite tempted to post the hot springs picture, perhaps as an addendum labeled as “picture unrelated”, that appeared on-screen for exactly one frame because “everyone was waiting for it”. Thank you based Kiko.

      Bluh, the more I think about this whole doll business, the more I want to rewatch the entire series and then proceed to be even more confused about everything. Truth be told, back when I first watched Darker than Black none of this was running through my mind and I was much, much more lenient about what I liked versus what I didn’t like. Now, interpreting episodes like this in such a critical manner is second nature to me. I may or may not like how I’ve transitioned into a phase where I’m rarely impressed by anime these days.

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