Noir Episode 1


"Maidens with Black Hands"

Excellent. The first non-narration line is some lovely, lovely Engrish. And we're off!

Like in .hack, at times in Noir, Yuki Kajiura's superb score takes over the anime. It's so present at times, that when it isn't there, you're sort of wondering what sort of plot or dialogue is going to go by until it comes back (signaling story movement).

Noir has many strong suits. Along with Kajiura's music, the animation is very good, art top notch, and action extremely stylistic. The first half of this episode shows all four of these things going together perfectly, with a great gunfight sequence. Unfortunately, after the eyecatch, we lose action, and the show seems to almost slow to a crawl. The music is still there, but the spacing between dialogue seems to expand, and we get those lovely anime dramatic pauses (i.e. pause and pan the camera around an unimportant part of the scene).

When all the good parts of the show came together in the first half, it was great. It remains to be seen if the non-action segments can keep my attention.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 11:39 PM | Comments (3)

Noir Episode 2


"Daily Bread"

Ever since the first time I saw a TV show which used a stock intro, I've disliked it. For anime, it began with the first series I ever watched, Record of Lodoss War. Unfortunately, after two episodes of Noir, it seems like this is another one of them. It's the sort of thing that makes you want to give the fast forward button some work.

If there's one thing about Noir that it really shines in (and there are a few of these), it's the show's use of color. From scene to scene, the art is incredibly good, really fleshing out each shot. Purple really stands out, from the muted, romantic colors of sunset, to cold, lifeless rooms.

Also, as I touched on in my last review, this show is all about style. The various action sequences all play out in superb fashion, and it seems like attention was paid to the style of each and every frame of this episode.

Not really sure where the overall story of this show is going (this is another one-shot, it seems), but the characters are interesting, even if we don't know much about them. Mireille is very visually striking, and her heartless approach to her job as an assassin really contrasts her "normal" self, and even her outward appearance. On the other hand, Kirika acts very subdued, with a palpable sadness as she goes about Noir's business.

This is good stuff, and easy to watch (action, style, little plot). I'm looking forward to more.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)

Noir Episode 3


"The Assassination Play"

Another mission for the Angels (of Death) in this episode of Noir. However, this time, something doesn't go quite right. Their identites get blown slightly in this episode, which really isn't too surprising. I mean, how secret can you be when the people who hire you know how to contact you easily, and know your targets? I have to imagine at some point someone's going to figure out.

Anyways, this episode felt like a bit of a let down after the first two. There's not too much story advancement, and the action seems to be a little less tense and interesting as in the first two. The story's sort of stuck in neutral right now. This is that part of most shows where the audience is supposed to get use to the "normal" grind of the show, before the real story (or stories) begins.

It's hard to say much more about this episode other than it felt really average. It's probably not a good sign that on the third episode, I already have an impression as to what an average installment of Noir is.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

Noir Episode 4


"The Sound of Waves"

After finishing this episode, the only thing that really came to mind is, "huh?" As in:

"Huh, how could they have fit so little actual stuff into an episode."


"Huh, did something happen just now?"

This appears to be another one of those episodes where nothing really important happens. I really hate those episodes. On top of that, all the possible action sequences (how exactly does Kirika manage to get to the president of the company, for example) get glossed over.

All the various "plot" elements of this episode are pretty unimpressive, also. What the heck is this place? Why are our heroines here? Did we really have to introduce a new setting to try and drive home the fact that someone has a disturbing amount of information about them?

Why should I care?

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Noir Episode 5


"Les Soldats"

I haven't mentioned one of the problems with Noir before, and I probably shouldn't go farther without saying something. Noir unabashedly reuses little scenes throughout the series. More than that, sometimes you'll see the same scene multiple times within the same episode. Mireille as a little girl is the most egregious offender (which appears twice in its entirety in this episode alone).

But it wouldn't be anime without excessive flashbacks, would it?

Either way, when the animation isn't being reused, it sure does look great.

Five episodes of loyal readership, and we're not much closer to finding out anything about the big mystery of this show. Well, we are given the name of the group that is trying to kill our lovable heroines, but not much else. There's obviously some sort of long history at work behind their motivation, but we're not privy to anything about that yet.

This episode, the enemy (Les Soldats!) does some more to prove that they're hunting after Noir, which forces Kirika and Mireille to do some legwork, which involves shooting some people and some other mildly interesting things. This show feels like it could be really good if it had any sort of plot or character development. We're acclimated to the show, okay? Can we please get on with it?

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 08:21 AM | Comments (1)

Noir Episode 6


"Lost Kitten"

From the moment Mireille says that it should be an easy job, you know all manner of things are going to go wrong.

The real downside of shows that move as slowly as Noir is that sometimes you're given so much time between things happening, you can more or less guess what happens next. Anything from a facial expression to an actual line of dialogue, it's all so predictable that I found myself saying lines and guessing a character's reactions before they actually managed to play out on the screen.

We get a little bit of character development for Kirika in this episode, but otherwise this is another throwaway one. Not just for plot, but for general enjoyment as well. How exciting do you think assassinating an old man who's about to die of natural causes is, anyways?

I don't know much about being a professional assassin (my experienced derived from watching Rurouni Kenshin... okay, maybe a few more pop culture references, also), but I have to assume that making any sort of emotional connection with your target only makes it more difficult.

Oh, and nothing really goes wrong. It was an easy job, after all.

Rating: C-

Posted by Kei at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

Noir Episode 7


"The Black Thread of Fate"

Were they so desperate to make a twenty-plus episode series instead of a nice twelve or thirteen one that the only way they could make it was to use every frame of animation at least twice (in the same episode)? Sure seems that way.

Maybe I should start keeping track of these things. The Mireille flashback occurs three times in this episode.

The show is still undeniably cool though, and it's entertaining to watch just for that, as it pulls it off in an enjoyable way (unlike, for example, Hellsing). It's almost like we're watching the same episode over and over again (in a different locale), but each time we're told two more things about the story. Think Groundhog Day with assassins.

The story is really moving slowly, though, and you probably could have skipped the last five episodes and still not be confused. I guess it's saying something about the visual quality and overall makeup of the show that it's still fairly watchable despite having no plot development.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 11:46 PM | Comments (2)

Noir Episode 8


"Intoccabile Acte I"

Terrible audio to start out this episode. I know Yuki Kajiura has a pretty eclectic sense of melody and orchestration, but come on.

It might just be me, but I find "half face covered by hair" to be a rather uninspiring character design. Though it is kind of amusing that as a child, the Intoccabile would have the same hair quirk.

I tried really hard to like this episode. The action was pretty good, there's a little bit of story development (they don't have Mireille's childhood flashback!!!) and all the other art, animation and music elements that are usually present in an episode of Noir are all there.

But it's just not a very compelling episode. The story really drags along, and it doesn't really seem to tie into the overall story, other than revealing about why Mireille's missing that little tuft of hair (surely you've noticed it by now). We'll see how this story arc (I'm assuming from the title) will fit into the story in general.

At least they're trying.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

Noir Episode 9


"Intoccabile Acte II"

I have this phobia, watching the Noir DVDs, that I'll accidentally skip an episode, and not realize it. I guess this says something about the content of the majority of most of the show's installments. Of course, it also says something that I still look forward to watching the show, mostly in hopes that some plot will show up to go along with the great visuals, style and music.

Flashbacks aren't terrible, but when they're as slow as they are in Noir, it becomes painful because you already know where it's going, and it takes so long to get there.

There's some good action scenes in this episode, and the final fight is fairly entertaining, if somewhat anticlimactic. This two episode arc seems to tie into the overall Noir storyline better than the previous seven, but I'm still waiting to get to the meat of the mystery behind who and what the Soldats are. Damn these twenty-four episode series.

I wanted to take a moment to make special mention of the great "work" outfits that Kirika dons throughout the series. Sometimes Mirieille wears similar garb, but somehow they turn out better on Kirika. Good designs!

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 09:13 AM | Comments (1)