The thriller genre of anime concerning real places and typically political ideas is sparse. Despite the versatility of the medium in being able to create technically amazing shoot-outs (you’d think we’d see more John Woo style action in anime) there doesn’t seem to be many examples out there. And to make things even worse, the few examples are, for the most part, less than exceptional. Black Lagoon and Phantom: Requiem for the Phantomare the only anime of this type I’d go so far as to recommend; everything else tends to be on the bad side.
I was recommended checking out the Bee Train trilogy of girls with guns due to my want for an anime like Black Lagoon. Sounded good to me until I started watching Noir, which has made me not want to watch the other two entries in the series.
Noir is the story of two girls, Kirika and Mirielle who work together as the assassin duo Noir. Kirika is a Japanese school girl in possession of a musical locket and pistol who contacts Mirielle, a French assassin, in a bid to understand her past. While at first at odds, the two grow close as they discover a group known as Soldat is pulling their strings and the name Noir has much larger implications than what they believed.
In essence, we have a decent set-up for what could be an entertaining action/adventure. Kirika has amnesia and Mirielle wants nothing to do with her due to her line of work, only allowing herself to help Kirika at the expense of killing the girl after she’s discovered her past.
That said, there are a million problems with the plot and the pacing. The main problem comes from how confusingly the story is presented. Characters are left in the dark, as is the viewer, but the slow reveal of who the Soldat are, what Noir is, and how all these forces come into play is annoying and not satisfactory. And that’s not because they don’t explain things well, it’s because the story makes something really easy to understand and pretty simple to spell out into a huge game of “How can we make our stupid, simple story seem intelligent?”.
Because of how scattered the plot is the first eight or nine episodes of the series are kind of boring. In this portion you’d typically see characters being made three-dimensional so the plot can progress with the viewer in an emotional bond with them. Hard to do so when the characters are paper thin. Even harder to do that when the viewer is bored out of his mind.
The middle is okay. By then you realize it’s an episodic show with little cohesion to the episodes aside from the Soldat. A third assassin character is introduced and it’s more of the same vanilla flavored action and story.
The final act of the story is where the show decides to stick its head up its ass. It wants to seem smarter than it is (and it does this throughout at certain points but not so prevalently as the end) and decides that instead of allowing the viewer to realize what Noir is and the value of the fifteen second speech that opens every episode of the series, it wants to repeat that speech over and over.
And it’s not just the speech about what Noir is that is drilled into the viewer. Mirielle’s parents were killed when she was a young child, leading her to her life as an assassin and one of her goals is to find who did it. She has flashbacks all the time to her parents lying dead on the floor and I’m not kidding when I say this scene is replayed fifteen or so times in the entire series. I get it! Her parents died!
It’s supposed to get us emotionally invested but nothing takes me out of a story more than constant reiteration of established points. The focal point of Mirielle’s actions are her parent’s deaths and early on we understand that. By the end, showing it again is meaningless because we get the character (what little there is of her).
Two things easily kill Noir: Repetition and the failed attempt at intelligence.
The repetition is more numerous than what I previously said too. If you plan on watching Noir, get ready to see reused footage a lot. Be prepared for constant flashbacks and even a flashback to a scene earlier in the same episode. That is what kills the beginning and end of the series. The middle isn’t quite as bad, but bookending your series that poorly means either the viewer will leave at the beginning or leave at the end with a bad taste in his mouth.
As his is an action series let’s talk about the action. That’s easy…
I assume this show had a limited budget because what could have been awesome shoot-outs and various other action sequences boil down to bad guys standing in place and shooting while the heroes stand in place and shoot. Of course, the bad guys have never shot guns before, and also suffer from Parkinson’s Disease as they can’t shoot straight enough to hit their targets.
There’s one piece of action much later in the series that’s really bad where about twenty-five goons are on a staircase and Kirika approaches them, gun in hand. They all pull their weapons but decide not to shoot until she does. As they stand there shooting, she stands there shooting. Actually, only a couple people shoot, the others stand around with their guns at their sides wondering what kind of sandwich to order for lunch before getting picked off.
And that’s a sad thing because the action should be what holds this show together and keeps me watching, if nothing else. Instead, it’s just as piss-poor as the story.
Then there’s the problem of the characters not bleeding. My friend found an article (I’m not lying) that states that it’s all a philosophical thing. The main characters bleed to show humanity while bad guys don’t bleed because not having blood means they’re not human.
I’d like to refute that. Um, innocent people are murdered in this show and don’t bleed. I wouldn’t exactly consider the soulless, lifeless killing machine Kirika more human than the guy they assassinate who has a wife and daughter.
There’s truthfully no reason to not have blood and I feel that the impact of the action scenes, despite how bad they are, is even less because of the exclusion of blood. Nothing’s funnier than watching bad guys dance and then fall over for no reason. It makes the show seem PG, when the story is more of a PG-13 or R level.
The character’s, as expressed before, are paper-thin. There’s minor development but I wasn’t invested enough to care. Kirika is quiet, a killing machine. Mirielle drinks tea and wears really short skirts and kills people. The third assassin, Chloe, may actually have more emotion than either of the main characters despite being in the show so little.
That brings up my last point about the characters and story. Why such short skirts and heel boots? Wouldn’t an assassin want to wear something a little more…protective? It bothered me throughout that the director had an apparent idea that I would enjoy masturbating as these girls viciously murder people.
The animation is alright and the music is absolutely killer. The operatic soundtrack comes with haunting violins and an opening that really gets you in the mood for something dark and suspenseful. If nothing else, listen to the soundtrack for this show.
The only problem with the music is, much like the overuse of the same footage again and again, the music is played so much during the show as to get annoying. Be prepared for the same two or three music tracks every twenty minutes.
Noir is bad. It’s trying way too hard to be pretentious, recycles way too much footage and music, has awful action sequences and even worse characters. It’s an expression of how to do an action/thriller completely wrong. And it’s not that it’s embarrassing and awful like Jormungand, it’s that it’s boring and safe while trying to have staying power through a “mind-boggling” and “super smart” plot. Listen, adding historical significance and lots of quotes from high-brow literature and using Shakespearean language doesn’t make something smart. It can make it pretentious but pretension is easily gauged by whether it works or not and whether something is inherently smart enough to be allowed to be pretentious. Blade Runner can be as pretentious as it wants because it’s very intelligent. Noir, not so much.
And all of these problems I’ve stated can be forged into the singular nail that penultimately seals the coffin and ends this review:
Noir is boring.
Noir is the first of a long line of chicks with guns series, most of which are made by Studio Bee Train. It made some sensation when it first came out (like most new anime do) but it was pretty much shoved to the side more and more with each new similar anime before eventually being almost forgotten after Requiem for the Phantom came out (which is the best of this sort of shows). Most anime that are regarded to be the first in a field are usually labeled as all time classics and remain known to most (examples of which are Astro Boy, Hokuto no Ken, and Urusei Yatsura) but this is not the case with this show. Why? Simple; its context was so simple, it got rehashed right away in later shows with gradually better directing. That didn’t happen with the shows I mention above; they still feel unique even decades after they were made. So to give you a simple comparison, it’s like watching five seasons of Pokemon. The visuals may be improving but they are otherwise THE EXACT SAME THING!
Let’s now focus a bit on the technicals of the show. The artwork is ok for its time, not too detailed but not too shabby either. The character figures are generic, especially when it comes to the mass produced Men In Black baddies. The animation is rather standard, with people mostly standing still and talking, while action sequences are basically the girls doing some really impossible acrobatics while their enemies are standing frozen for several seconds. Meaning, although the battles seem impressive on a superficial level, it all boils down to a few girls killing a dozen men with a six pistol, while miraculously evading a hundred bullets with fancy aerobics and hitting their opponents easily because they are standing still. Hey, I can only suspend my disbelief for a few episodes before it gets repetitive and the stupidity of the whole thing surfaces. THE MOOKS DON’T EVEN BLEED!
The music is very good if you are fans of lyric music full of ambience. I personally have nothing against it and it holds out as a fine soundtrack to bye. The dialogues also have some maturity in them for going for some deep psychological or mysterious issues from time to time. Other than that, the overall simple context of the whole series will most likely make them feel like they are repeating pointlessly. Thus it is the music and not the talking that keeps you interested. Sound effects, meh, nothing special to comment.
The story and characters are A MESS! Trying to stretch a simplistic premise to last a full season can only be accomplished by slow pace, repeating flashbacks, going in circles, and throwing in lots of battles with easily defeated baddies. It tries to be mature and mysterious but eventually the ending is one big WTF and you are left wondering the point of the whole show. Ancient secrets and emo chicks that shoot anything that moves; it’s just not working. The main characters DO develop though. And by main, I mean only the girls since the male genre in this series is just an army of clones, identical weaklings without a face or personality. It’s all about the girls and their emo pasts. There is some interesting chemistry amongst them (hem, yuri, hem) but the whole thing happens so slow and repeats a lot before eventually going for some magical nonsense in the finale. Yeah ok, lol and move along.
There is no value in this anime, since as I said Requiem for the Phantom is its nth remake and the best of its kind (although I am no fan of emo chicks with guns and by no means fan of that series). As one described it, such Bee Train shows are basically long moody music videos and not good action/mystery series. So no, I don’t recommend it. Hear the soundtrack and skip the rest.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 0/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 1/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 2/2
VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 0/3, Memorability 1/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 1/2, Story 0/3, Characters 0/4
Alright, since this is my first review, I can give this a shot.
Okay, what I think of this anime is that it is fantastic; I love the storyline, characters, and music as well.
Seems like it is a James Bond-like anime to say for sure, there is a main character named Kirika Yuumura.
At the beginning of the series, she loses her memories, she meets a woman named Mireille Bouquet, during the series they take a religious journey to help Kirika find her memories.
In the mid-episodes, they meet yet, another assassin named Chloe.
Chloe claims to be "The True Noir"; telling Mireille that she and Kirika are meant to be Noir together.
Angered and flustured by this comment, Mireille lashes out that Chloe is insane about the ancient fate, but soon, as Chloe tells her that she is the daughter of the soldats, she finally realizes why.
Later in the series, Kirika gets killed by Chloe from the barrel of her gun; causing her to remember who she truly was before she lost her memories.
Feeling contented by the fate chosen, Chloe tells Mireille who killed her family; saying that she had witnessed it from her own two eyes, assumingly she was a child then and remembers it quite clearly just to taunt her out of it.
Angered by Chloe's taunts to remember, Kirika runs off and headed towards the cemetary, killing the soldats as a result.
As the final result, Kirika turns back into the person she once was, journeying herself to Corisca--to find the "mistress Altena" Chloe has mentioned before and to be reunited with them.
Later in the manor, Kirika--the killer, starts to asks questions about who she is.
Altena answers that she once lived here in Corsica, where the children had persished and suffered many obstacles and had left to die in the wilderness.
Chloe, howvever, seems to show jealousy towards the closeness of Altena and Kirika's relationship.
Later on, Kirika roams throughout the darkest parts of the manor, encountering bloodly swords and chain shackles.
She says that the room smelt of blood, Chloe appears, replying that she is right.
Kirika then, asks that why had the people suffered and that Corsica is her home, (In which, the compassionate, human side of Kirika is reaching out to Chloe.)
The rest I pefer not to say, in which it might spoil the plot for those of you who want to watch it.
This anime, in my humble opinion deserves a perfect 10 and here's why.
Story: Slow paced, but not in a boring way. The way the story unfolds for the characters is actually something that re-inspired me to write once again. I was literally blown away by the characterization builds. Couldn't have done a better job myself to be honest. Normally in an anime you get some form of a cheesy ending but not in this one. Noir brings something to the table that I firmly believe many anime need to follow and use.
Animation: Yes it gets a ten. Well drawn action sequences that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Sound: In a word, priceless. Crystal clear without the annoying wanna be ambiant sounds that you'd normally hear in anime.
Characters: I started speaking a bit about this in story, so I'll get a tad bit deeper without spoiling anything for you. Besides being well drawn out and such, each characters story brought something to the table. Even the minor characters storylines were played out perfectly.
Overall: No arguing, if you haven't watched this yet smack yourself in the face really hard then go watch or find someone who has the dvd's and ask them to lend it to you. A must have if you're a collector, the box art is absolutely beautiful. So yeah it's a MUST watch for you anime fan boys and girls out there.
Yes im probably went a little crazy with the 10's but i honestly feel this is one of the best anime's I have seen as far as series goes. This is an anime for those of us who enjoy our stories slow, allowing us to get to know our characters and get attached to them. Throw in some awesome action scenes and some of the best music in an anime and you got a perfect series. For some people this series will be to slow for you but i encourage you to just keep watching it and by the end of the series you are going to want to watch it again. The ending is usually one of things that bothers me about a lot of animes but in this one the ending is just perfect.