Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Noir Anime Review

Noir
Nowaru
ADV Films
Complete Collection - 7 discs
650 mins. - 26 episodes
$49.98 (2011) 4-disc
$89.98 (2008) Thinpak
$89.98 (2005)
$29.98 (2003) Vol. 1-7/ea.
$44.98 (2003) Vol. 1 w/t-shirt
ISBN 702727195525
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Koichi Mashimo
Studio - Bee Train

Synopsis: Mireille Bouquet is a skilled assassin living in Paris.  She is drawn to a young Japanese girl named Kirika who possesses an item from Mireille's past - a pocket watch.  Kirika has amnesia and can't remember her past, but possesses uncanny fighting abilities.  The pair are besieged by a group of hitmen and dispatch them with minimal effort.  They form a partnership with Kirika returning with Mireille to Paris.  Mireille searches for the killers of her parents and Kirika searches for her lost past.  The pair begin taking jobs under the codename "Noir".
Mireille and Kirika - the pair who contract assassinations
 under the codename "Noir"
They are a formidable team with deadly skills and an impeachable killing record.  The secret of both their pasts is well-kept and has cost countless lives over the years.  In their travels they encounter another deadly assassin named Chloe who claims to be the true Noir.  A secret organization is uncovered which dates back for centuries and are known as Les Soldats, French for 'the soldiers'.
Mireille in a shootout with underworld henchmen
Mireille and Kirika kill their way across Europe uncovering the secret past of the Soldats yet never finding any definitive answers.  Sometimes the past is best left forgotten, but is doomed to be repeated.  Kirika is a blank canvas and a seemingly natural born killer.  Mireille struggles with the demons of her past which come back to haunt her.  Chloe appears as an antagonist at first yet has a deep spiritual kinship with Kirika.  Will she be swayed to join the Soldats?
The watch Kirika possesses when she meets Mireille.  What is its link to Les Soldats
Chloe was raised by a woman named Altena who wants to change the Soldats. Is she manipulating Mireille and Kirika as pawns in her game?  Will the two women find the answers they seek even if it destroys them?  Mireille has promised to kill Kirika once they uncover the truth.  The relationship of two killers can be ephemeral at best.  One thing is certain - it's going to take a lot of killing to uncover the secret of Noir.
Mireille ponders the watch which belonged to her dead parents
Pros: Great music - both opening and ending themes plus the background music, interesting story premise - ancient organization operating in the shadows, decent ending, some good episodes with intriguing drama/mystery, high point of the 'girls with guns' anime genre, lots of action (although practically no blood)
Chloe - the deadly assassin who claims to be the true Noir
Cons: Bland characters, exceedingly slow-paced plot (particularly in the middle of the series), animation style is simple, original 7-disc release by ADV was excessive and just milked people for their money (seriously, an entire disc for three episodes!), Mireille wears the same impractical clothes throughout the entire series
Who is the true Noir?
Mike Tells It Straight: I watched Noir and can easily say it's the epitome of the 'girls with guns' anime genre.  Koichi Mashimo is a prolific anime director with many series under his belt (Sorcerer Hunters, .hack//Sign, Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE), but may be most well-known for his 'girls with guns' trilogy (Noir, Madlax, El Cazador de la Bruja) and assassin-themed Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.
Chloe returns home to Altena.  What is her secret link to Les Soldats?
The series has plenty of action - gunfights and the girls killing dozens of Les Soldats henchmen (plus some highly skilled female assassins).  Oddly it shows very little blood and no gore.  Maybe that's a sign of the times when it was produced (2001) where television series were geared for a broader audience (mindful of younger viewers).  Series today are much more graphic in their violence which I theorize is due to the increased gore in video games.
Mireille is not afraid to kill people while wearing an impractical micro-mini skirt
Despite the action the series can be excruciatingly slow-paced and the characters are very bland.  The animation was decent yet the character designs were overly simple.  It's guilty of a lot of 'talking mouth' and gradual camera pans on unmoving faces (both tricks to keep animation budgets down for TV series).  The only saving grace to the story was the gradual reveal of the mysteries surrounding Les Soldats and both the girls' pasts.  Each episode progressed the story and led to a final confrontation.
Chloe gets the briefest moment of downtime.  She harbors an
intense fascination for Kirika
The last few episodes and the ending were pretty decent.  I'm a bit ambivalent on recommending this series.  Don't get me wrong, it's a solid show and can be engaging.  It just felt really long and I got bored at points.  It won't stop me from checking out Mashimo's two follow-ups (these are not sequels, but both are standalone series). Stay tuned for upcoming reviews and please leave your comments about the show!
Final showdown between two friends?
TO BUY and Recommendations: