NOIR (2001)

 

Format: 26 22-minute episodes on 7 DVDs

 

Rating: PG-13 (BN, AC, GV)

 

Type: Action-Mystery

 

American Production:  ADV Films

 

Japanese Production:  Bee Train/Victor Entertainment

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

B+

Writing:

B+

Character Design:

B+

Animation:

B+

Artistic Merits:

A-

English Dub:

B

Musical Score:

A

Songs:

A

Opener:

B+

Closer:

B

 

 

Humor Content:

N/A

Action Content:

A

Drama Content:

B+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B

DVD Extras:

B

 

 

OVERALL:

B+

 

Synopsis

          A teenager with amnesia, a mysterious watch from her past, a team of men of unknown origin attempting to kill both her and the teenager, and the name of a notorious assassin of times past: these are the pieces of the puzzle facing Mireille Bouquet, a beautiful assassin-for-hire, when she travels to Japan to investigate a strange message sent to her via email: “make a pilgrimage to the past with me.” There she discovers Kirika Yumuta, a girl with no past but a phenomenal talent for killing people. The only things she can remember are who Mireille is and the name Noir, which may be her or which may refer to a legend in the assassination business in Europe. The two ultimately team up under the name Noir while attempting to sort out the mysteries of their past and present, and what a fearsome team they make! Eventually they learn the name of their foes – the Soldats – but whether that ultimately helps them or just draws them deeper into a web of mystery, deception, and danger remains to be seen.

 

Quotes

      Noir: it is the name of an ancient fate. Two maidens who govern death, the peace of the newly-born their black hands protect.

 

The Long View      

      Noir is a story told in vignettes of one or two episodes each until it nears the end. Some of these vignettes stand alone, while others provide insight into the backstory and/or advance the overall plot concerning the mysterious Soldats and what interest/involvement they have with Kirika and Mireille. It is justly executed as a completely serious story; humor to any degree would be inappropriate for the tone that the series sets. The opening episode will draw you in with its combination of action and mystery, and later episodes achieve an excellent (if sometimes predictable) balance of action, drama, and intrigue. One is always left wondering about the motives of the Soldats; sometimes they are clearly trying to kill Kirika and Mireille, other times they seem to be testing them, and occasionally they are even helpful, although they are always obscure about their true nature and purpose.

      For most of the first half of the series Noir is a two-woman show. Mireille is a Corsican by birth who has come to adopt Paris as her home. Although not vicious or cruel, she has become so inured to the danger and death involved in her line of work that she does not allow any emotions she might have to interfere with her job. She seems to prefer less-than-savory types as her targets, but for her a job is a job, and she doesn’t like leaving loose ends. Kirika is by far the quieter of the two but also the more interesting one. She speaks little, instead letting her actions and expressions speak for her, and seems withdrawn and passive. She is deeply troubled both by her inability to remember anything but “terrible things” and by the fact that killing people doesn’t trouble her, but only occasionally do her emotions peek through – and it’s usually a significant event when they do. She remains utterly calm and collected when she goes into action, which only further enhances the impression that she’s one of the last people you would want to have against you. Her aim is unfailingly accurate; in one of the neatest scenes in the series she shoots a quarter-sized hole in a wall and then shoots people through the hole – while standing several feet from the hole!  Kirika is also very acrobatic, can target people in the dark just by sound, and can kill with almost anything, whether it be a dining fork, the earpiece from a pair of glasses, or even her school ID card. Together they make a team well capable of triumphing even in situations where they are greatly outnumbered and outmaneuvered. One should never forget that the heroines are professional killers, however. They will shoot and kill people in situations where you would not normally expect a hero do to so. This gives the series an edge that equivalent live-action or anime series normally do not have.

      As the series progresses into its middle episodes two additional recurring characters are introduced. One is Chloe, a girl of Kirika’s age who always wears a high-collared cloak and is as lethal with throwing knives as Kirika is with a gun. She is one of the chief assassins of the Soldats, has a strong past link to Kirika, and is prominent enough in the overall storyline that one entire episode on the third DVD is centered on her. The other recurring figure is Altena, a woman who is seen in brief glimpses throughout the series but does not have any lines in the first half. She seems to be one of the top members of the Soldats and is apparently directly responsible for a lot of what happens to the Noir team. Although she seems to care deeply about both Chloe and Kirika, she is herself a woman of dark intent, one who has been shaped by events in her own past, which have led her to her somewhat skewed philosophies. I think it’s also worth noting here that, of the truly skilled individual killers Noir runs into during the series episodes, more are women than are men. All of Noir’s primary targets and the generic stooges they run up against are also men. Is someone trying to make a statement here, or is this just a stylistic issue? Either way, the series clearly suggests that the female of the species is the more dangerous one.

      Artistry is one of the many strong points of Noir. Character design is excellent, especially for the female characters, though the male characters sometimes blend into one another. Costuming for the lead characters is quite good, although I have to question that cloak that Chloe always wears. The backgrounds are meticulously-detailed renditions of building interiors, parks, and cityscapes whose color schemes seem to subtlely reflect the mood of the given scene. They blend seamlessly in with the traditional cel animation; if any CG effects were used in this series, I was not spotting them. The varied weaponry used by Noir and their opposition are also depicted in meticulous detail and were clearly drawn by people who knew their weaponry. The animation itself seems smooth and does not rely on shortcuts as heavily as many anime series do. You won’t find many common anime artistic conventions here, either. When the characters are doing their business we get to see them actually going through the motions, although the goriest details are always off-screen or left indistinct. Because of this, the series justifies no more than a PG-13 rating despite the amount of killing that goes on in it, and there’s virtually no sexual content. Noir could probably be shown on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block without editing.

      Another key component of Noir is its music. Moreso than most anime series, Noir is defined by its musical scoring. Haunting operatic numbers sometimes laced with up-tempo beats are the norm, with variations on a bell-laden watch song and Church-like chants being other staples. In many places throughout the series these tunes are as much the substance of the scene as the visuals. The song in the opener, “Copellia’s Casket” (the name is another operatic allusion), is an upbeat string-laden song that highlights excellent visuals, while the closer is a quieter and gentle piece to go with more ordinary closing graphics. Although dialogue in the series is sometimes sparse due to the emphasis on action and music, the main English vocal performances are still very well-done. The guest appearances and minor supporting roles in the series feature prominent industry names in both the English and Japanese vocal tracks but are a bit more inconsistent in quality, especially when the voice actor is trying to fake an accent that clearly isn’t natural. This brings the overall “dub” rating down a bit.

      Noir has presented an intriguing and distinctive story that may not seem to be going much of anywhere at first but wraps up in one of the better resolutions of any major anime series. Its frequent use of flashbacks are effective and well-conceived tools for revealing little bits of information at a time, and the gimmick of the watch is a nice touch for driving the storyline. And for all its mystery and intrigue, it still packs some wonderfully dynamic action sequences! I highly recommend it.

 

DVD Extras

· Company trailers

· Japanese Promos

· Cleaning opener/closers

· Extensive annotated production sketches

·  Extensive liner notes, including production personnel interviews, technical notes, and production information

·  Special glasses (1st DVD only) used to read hidden messages on the backs of the liner notes of all DVDs

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Mirielle Bouquet

Monica Rial

Kirika

Shelly Calene-Black

Chloe

Hillary Haag

Altena

Tiffany Grant

 

 

 

Home   |   Anime Reviews   |    Manga Reviews   |   References   |   Links   |   Bibliography