Disclaimer: the following post will contain heavy spoilers. Please do not proceed if you have not watched Darker than Black. If you have not watched the series and wishes to read on, you'll probably be confused.
Much of Darker than Black revolved around illusion and reality. This amped up when it comes to Suou Pavlichenko, the 13-year-old protagonist in the second season, who found herself in the most bizarre twist of fate. Instead of the audience scratching their heads at the post-apocalyptic dystopia, we have a character who tried to make sense of her situation and looked at the world through new lens with newfound information.
What would cause a young girl to end up dying in that manner?
A World Shattered
It wasn't easy for Suou to accept the reality of her situation: her past was a lie. She thought she was a typical teenage girl going about her business. Then, she and her family were raided by the Russian Intelligence. She did not know of her father's and brother's involvement in the research on Hell's Gate, etc. She was also unaware of her father's supposed colleague, Bella, being the MI-6 contractor, April. To add icing on the cake, Hei killed April right in front of Suou, compounding an already dicey situation.
The Uneasy Apprenticeship
As it turned out, Hei wasn't exactly working for the CIA as claimed by Madam Oreille when approached. The addendum to the deal was to train Suou into a proper contractor. This was not solely for self-defense purposes. She was expected to kill. Reluctantly, and probably also due to fear, she complied. In a series of seemingly physical and emotional abuse, she was able to hone her skills to become a more effective fighter. Who else could she turn to? She had no one. She was with a depressed drunk and a talking squirrel.
In fact, her life up to that point had been turned upside down. Her best friend Tanya was apparently a Russian Intelligence agent. Her pet squirrel talks because Ricardo (Mao) possessed it in order to communicate with the group. Her brother, Shion, was on the most wanted list by all the various intelligence agencies. How much shock could a 13-year-old take?
Unfortunately, it only became worse when she encountered her mother in Japan. Her mother revealed that she wasn't even the real Suou Pavlichenko. She was a copy created by her own twin brother. The "real" Suou passed away in a horrible accident years ago. The Suou now contained memories that were planted by Shion, save for one imperfection, as per limitation of his power.
The anguish and sadness put her over the edge. Who was she if not Suou Pavlichenko? She literally had an identity crisis. Was there nothing real about her life? Hei validated her by letting her know that she was the only Suou that he knew.
What was Real?
Incidentally, it appeared that her journey with her supposed captor/abuser and her relationship with him were the most real thing she's had in her life. It was in no way, shape, or form healthy, but the reality surrounding the circumstances was that she was the 13-year-old copy of a girl who died long ago, and she was traveling with a contractor-on-vendetta to discover the mysteries behind Hell's Gate and the looming doom that was Izanami. Along the course, they shared some tender moments.
Some people would ship Hei and Suou, but to me, their relationship was more of mentor and apprentice or siblings. Think of it more like Gerald and Ciri from the Witcher series. Throughout their journey, Hei intervened on several occasions before she committed anything she'd regret in her contractor-induced frenzy. Here are some examples:
- Killing Tanya outright after knocking her unconscious
- Turning the doll trader who kidnapped July into shish kabob via shards of glass
- Stopping her from shooting Izanami
In the end, Shion made a deal with Izanami and traded his life to create an alternate reality, where Suou could live a normal life. It sounded like a noble thing for her brother to do. We see the bittersweet ending of her living in this alternate Earth where none of the post-apocalyptic stuff we saw existed. There was something, or someone really, missing. Hei was nowhere to be found, and she couldn't shake the feeling that she was supposed to meet someone special.
How do we interpret this? Did she jump from one illusion to another? Or is the concept of reality subjective from the perspective of a multiverse? Was she never meant to be real?
It is noteworthy that her entire character design made her seem out of place. In many animes, we see characters with outrageous hair color as the norm. In Darker than Black, you'll notice she is one of two characters with that feature and the other one was meant to be comic relief and not crucial to the plot. Perhaps this further illustrates how she was not real from the get go?
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