Darker Than Black is one of those shows that just seemed to beg for a Blu-Ray release. The show’s rich use of color and delicate background artistry always felt as if it was being held back by the limitations of the DVD format.

After what seems like an eternity of fan requests and idle hopes, FUNimation has delivered exactly this.

In February, FUNimation announced that they’d release Darker Than Black‘s first season in a deluxe Blu-Ray set. The set, which would be limited to 5,000 units, would be priced at $99.98, while supplies lasted. Extra features promised included an art book, a display easel, and special “Classified” packaging.

FUNimation went above and beyond with their marketing, going as far as to release a short trailer to promote the title:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-pJlIMUxh4

We received our copy on Friday, and were surprised by what arrived on our doorstep. A full teardown was not only warranted, but needed, in this case.

(Click images to enlarge)

Packaging

Darker Than Black consists of the release, an art book, and a set of art cards that are bundled together in a black cardstock folio.

The folio is a solid matte black, which has a silhouette of Hei’s mask stamped on the top-center in a muddled grey. Beneath the mask is the show’s logo, with “Premium Edition: Eyes Only” occupying the bottom of the folio. It’s kept shot by a string tie, reminiscent of an office folio.

The art book and discs are bundled together inside. Also in the folio was the display easel (not pictured).

The discs are packed in a folder, which features a key visual of Hei set in monochrome that wraps around to the back.

Inside the folder, the discs are loosely arranged in pockets. I use the term “loosely” quite literally. When I opened the folder for the first time, all three discs were loose. No damage was sustained, but I do want to note this as a demerit.

Each disc is a sharp black, with the show’s logo and disc number stamped on in grey. The left side of the folio includes a pocket which contains four art cards, which are snugly held in place. So snugly, in fact, that it was difficult to remove the cards without causing damage to the folder.

That said, the four cards are attractive, each featuring a vibrant piece that serves as a refreshing contrast to the “black” motif of the set. The back of each card is solid black with the show’s logo and a silhouette of Hei’s mask presented in grey.

The art book is nicely presented. The sleek black cover belies the robust collection of vibrant and gorgeous artwork within. The book’s pages are printed on a heavy stock, with glossy finish, giving it a luxurious overall look and feel.

On-Disc Extras

Extra features include:

  • Episode 2 Commentary (Disc 1)
  • Episode 9 Commentary (Disc 1)
  • Episode 13 Commentary (Disc 2)
  • Episode 16 Commentary (Disc 2)
  • Episode 22 Commentary (Disc 3)
  • Episode 26 Commentary (Disc 3)
  • English Dub Cast Audition Videos (Disc 3)
  • Production Art Gallery: Characters (Disc 3)
  • Production Art Gallery: Settings (Disc 3)
  • US Trailer (Disc 3)
  • Clean Openings & Closings (Disc 3)

Menu Structure

Note: Since the release has a consistent look & feel across the discs, I will only be covering the first disc of each edition. Further dissections would be redundant.

Due to our lack of a Blu-Ray drive, we sadly do not have screens for the Blu-Ray menus.

The main menu is presented as a looping video with the Darker Than Black logo overlain in the center of the screen. Menu options are presented in white sans-serif font, set in a black box. The text on a menu item shifts to purple when it is highlighted.

Episode listings are presented as a straightforward list, in the format of “EP-[Episode Number] – [Episode Name]”.

Video Quality

Overall

I’ll say this now, and I’ll say this loud: The Darker Than Black Season 1 Premium Edition does not feel like a $100 boxed set.

The materials used to construct the package are cheap, and almost guaranteed to wear out with any regular usage. The lack of security on the discs ensures that they will slip out of the folio at some point. In contrast, the hold on the art cards is almost laughably tight.

That said, the overall aesthetic is pleasing. The “For your eyes only” motif is fun, and the consistency is welcome. While the presentation is fun and in-theme for the show, I’d personally like to see the cost going toward more durable materials, and a sensible packaging, rather than a cardboard folder.

In recent years,we’ve seen companies like NIS America, AnimEigo, and even FUNimation themselves put out limited bundles that go that extra mile with a package that looks fantastic, while still being able to stand up to everyday use. They’re stylish and practical, delivering just as much bang for your buck as this Darker Than Black release.

With that in mind, let’s call a spade a spade. This isn’t meant to be treated as a Blu-Ray set. It’s not something that’s intended to be used, watched, or even handled on a serious level. It’s a display piece. A conversation starter. It’s made to sit on the shelf, draw a few “oohs” and “aahs” from guests, and maybe be opened once or twice to give a quick watch.

And it’s with a heavy heart that I have to say that I can’t recommend this release at all. I don’t say this lightly. The visual quality is magnificent, and the audio is delightfully crisp. Still, there are far too many negatives tied to the release that would give me pause at $60, let alone the $99.98 asking price.