animefringe april 2003 / reviews

Noir Vol.1: Shades of Darkness
Format: bilingual DVD, 5 eps., 125 min.
Production: ADV / Bee Train / Victor Entertainment
Comments: I lost count of the bodies in episode 1.
Animefringe Reviews:
Noir Vol.1: Shades of Darkness

A lone female assassin named Mirielle Bouquet operates her dangerous business in France. Halfway across the world, a Japanese girl wakes up in a strange place with no memory of her past. In searching her surroundings, she finds, among other things, a school ID card bearing her picture and the name "Yuumura Kirika." She also finds a musical pocket watch that plays a haunting melody and a gun that somehow feels comfortable in her hand. Time reveals to her that not only does the gun feel comfortable, but she also knows exactly how to use it. Strange men hunt her, and she kills them ruthlessly, expertly, and without a trace of remorse. Her heart seems to be made of ice. How can it be that this deadly amnesiac may hold the key to the past of a career killer in France that she's never even met?

Noir is set in a modern timeframe that is only slightly darker than real life. The world of Noir is rife with political mischief and scandal, war, terrorism, international crime and conspiracy -- a frightening truth lurking beneath a veneer of normalcy. The depth at which the main characters, Mirielle and Kirika, are submerged in the underworld makes the cheery French sidewalk cafés and the giggling Japanese schoolgirls that surround them both respectively seem very surreal. Ordinary people live their ordinary lives with no inkling of the goings-on just outside of their perspectives, and perhaps it's better that way -- if they knew, the fear could swallow them whole.

Kirika contacts Mirielle and sets up a meeting. The sound of the song from the pocket watch piques Mirielle's interest, and their uncertain first meeting turns into an even more uncertain partnership, both of them sharing Mirielle's apartment in France, both of them with a perpetual eye over their shoulders. They become a team, a lethal duo known to the underworld only as Noir. However, like any successful assassin, the huntresses know all too well how easily they can become the prey.

Noir is one of the finest series to come out of Japan in the past two years. Its high level of production is apparent in the keen and detailed art, the outstanding voice acting and sound effects, and the exquisite soundtrack. Its port to North America is admirable as well, with a very solid release, satisfactory and tolerable English dubbing and subbing, and an overall red-carpet treatment from ADV. The set that included Noir volume 1 with the artbox and T-shirt was very reasonably priced and put out an exceptional amount of bang for the buck. The artbox has a nice matte finish, and the black T-shirt is made of high-quality materials and sports a nice image of a well-armed Kirika across the chest. The shirt is very large and may be used as a tent by the more petite fans, but it is nicer than most anime T-shirts you will find as well as being comfortable and durable.

The first DVD contains a well-rounded 5 episodes with a nice set of extras, including clean op/ed sequences and productions sketches. The DVD menus are very nice and easily navigable. The DVD insert has production notes and "Staff Chat" segments to give you a little more insight into the series, and also includes a pair of Noir 3D glasses... You'll have to play with those on your own, though.

Noir is a series that starts of with a high body count and a slow-moving plot. I'm looking forward to the next release in hopes that the plot will pick up speed -- the show has a lot of potential, but only time will tell if it lives up to it.