Director: Koichi Mashimo
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Length: 26 Episodes
+ Solid animation
+ Realistic details and char acters
+ Strong musical score
A solid production, Noir straddles the middle ground between the action thriller and a psychological drama. It begins like a James Bond-style adventure film but slowly evolves into a psychological thriller, using the clichés and plot devices of the thriller as a way of exploring the human psyche in relation to violence and the nature of identity. Although not the deepest series ever produced, it has intriguing characters, nice animation, a taut script, and a beautiful score. It would be a good diversion for any fan of espionage thrillers, psychological dramas, or even realistically depicted, strong female protagonists. Most viewers may want to take in the entire series in one or two sittings in order to finish the entire thing while all the details and plot twists are fresh in their memory.
3.5 out of 5
Noir Anime Review
Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 5/15/2007
In 1997, well known anime director Koichi Mashimo founded Bee Train Studio as a "hospital" for animators - a place to nurture young talent and artistic quality rather than merely churning out cheep product for profit. The new studio quickly established its reputation through their anime adaptations of popular video game franchises most notably hack//SIGN. In 2001, their first original series Noir, premiered on TV Tokyo. It is heavily influenced by the films of such directors as Luc Besson and John Woo and the fiction of Robert Ludlum (The Bourne Identity). It tells the story of two female assassins drawn together by their mysterious past and struggling against the machinations of a secret organization known as Les Soldats (The Soldiers).
Due to restrictions imposed by the network, the violence in Noir, unlike some other anime is stylized and usually bloodless. However, that doesn't limit the body count; Noir's innocent face is a mask hiding an efficient killer, she drops generic thugs ruthlessly and seemingly without remorse. While TV Tokyo may have intended the restrictions on violence as a way to curb depictions of violence in the media, these restrictions inadvertently help desensitize the audience by turning the antagonist's agents into generic automatons to be stylishly gunned down. When blood is shown, it is used to enhance the drama of the death of a particular character.
Noir desperately wants to know who she is and why she can commit such acts of violence. She lives alone in a suburban house and goes to school while her parents work in the United States but this is all a lie, a cover for some covert mission. He only clues are her pistol, a pocket watch, and confusing memories. Noir begs Mireille for aid in finding the answers to her questions of identity. Mireille reluctantly agrees but plans to kill Noir once they both have the answers to the questions surrounding their lives.
Show More The second episode of the series begins with a bang as an officer of a French anti-terror unit is killed in an explosion along with his wife and family. Meanwhile, Mireille and Noir make a life for themselves in Paris as if they weren't international assassins. They shop together, eat together, and live together just like any other roommates. Never depicted like typical femme fatales, each young woman has a realistic, well rounded personality. Mireille is similar to James Bond - sophisticated, cultured, and wordily. Noir is a shy, introspective teenager. Together they function as a near perfect assassination team - cold, methodical, and efficient. They nearly function as a single individual - in fact they sell their services under just one name - Noir.
The mystery surrounding the pair deepens and is further explored. Mireille was traumatized as a child by an extremely violent event, every time she sees Noir's pocket watch and hears its sad tune, she remembers that event and it connects her to Noir some ho. However, the creators of the series tease us with only tiny bits of the past while simultaneously developing the present story of Mireille and Noir's adventures as assassins. Their current mission is to assassinate both the leader of the anti-terrorism branch of the public police bureau and a member of a terrorist organization linked to that official. The exact details of the plot are not important but rather the style in which the plot unfolds. Mireille and Noir go through meticulously planning and research as they prepare themselves for their mission. At the same time, their targets have learned of the plan. The corrupt police officer even admits that the police sometimes used the services of an assassin named Noir. However, that was more than 30 years ago. After Mireille and Noir complete their mission, Noir again wonders why she is able to kill without feeling sad. Mireille replies that if they new that, the mystery would be solved and she could kill Noir.
Appropriately the third episode begins in a cemetery; Mireille is leaving belladonna lilies on the grave of a friend, strangely the woman who becomes her next client is also leaving belladonna lilies on a grave. Noir and Mireille set out on their new mission with the same ruthless efficiency that they pursued their previous case only to discover that the new mission is trap - an attempt to kill the apparently infamous Noir. Both their client and their target turn out to be assassins hired by the same mysterious organization that stole Noir's memories. The remainder of the episode is a tightly choreographed extended chase and gun battle through the dark corridors of a closed hotel. As their "client" lays dying, Mireille asks the woman her name and who is behind the attempt on Noir's life, the woman refuses to answer these questions and dies waxing philosophically on not having a grave to carve her name into.
Show More The fourth episode begins in media res as Noir and Mireille infiltrate a party in a fictional "banana republic" to assassinate officials of Atride Corporation - a "coup d'etat" facilitator". With each episode, the specific details of the plot become less and less important as the series evolves into a more character driven psychological drama. In fact the plot serves as a skeleton on which the producers hang the questions of identity ant the nature of violence. For example, in this episode, the CEO of the Atride Corporation is a work driven type "A" personality estranged from his family - it just happens that his job involves government overthrows and military activity. Our heroines' unnamed employer has hired them to kill this man just as he is beginning to grow closer to his teenage daughter, freshly arrived from the United States. Noir sees this girl and it reminds her she is supposed to be a teenager just like her target's daughter. The CEO's daughter biggest cares are her parents failed marriage, Noir has much more adult struggles - including robbing this girl of her own innocence by killing her father the Atride Corporation's CEO.
In episode 4, the death of Vanel, one of Mireille's close associates, leads Mireille and Noir to piece together the clues that will lead to them to Les Soldats, the mysterious organization that has been hunting them since the series began. The clues uncovered by Vanel lead the assassins to a chapel where they discover a photocopy of strange poem. Mireille's discovery of this document draws her into an encounter with one of Les Soldats mysterious agents. A gun battle ensues and the agent is wounded. Just before dying the man reveals that the poem is clue to a secret more important than all of humanity. Like Dan Brown's Priory of Sion, Les Soldats formed more than a thousand years protect this secret at any cost. The remainder of the series 24 episodes follows Noir and Mireille as they both continue their work as freelance killers and seek the connection between Les Soldats and themselves.
Like other Japanese anime series, each episode of Noir is densely packed with story and character development, plot twists, symbolism, and visual metaphors - far more details than could be easily summarized in this review... Missing one episode is like missing an entire month's worth of episodes of a conventional American TV series. Each episode is intricately structured - motifs and scenes are repeated, flashbacks are expanded throughout the series giving clues to the mystery surrounding the protagonists. Among the repeated motifs are the silhouette of two women kneeling by a stylized sword, a poem recited by Noir at the beginning of each episode: Noir... it is the name of an ancient fate... Two maidens who govern death... The peace of the newly born their black hands protect, a motherly woman in a far off land who seems to be awaiting a future event, a watch, Mireille's flashback to the tragedy that has scarred her for life, and Noir's flashbacks to awaking without any memories and escaping from gun toting thugs.
Unlike some other anime TV series which too often use generic sounding synthesized pop, Noir makes full use of a beautiful and unique score by Yuki Kajiura, Yuriko Kaida, Ali Project, and Akino Arai. The score, which mixes techno, pop, opera, and classical motifs either functions to intensify the action or the emotional impact of the scenes. Some of the many gun battles are given a faster pace through the use of techno beats which also serve to give the fight choreography a surreal and beautiful dance-like quality at other times the use of opera and classical music seem to contrast the beauty of the music with the ugliness of the violence.
Another of the series' strengths is its realism. There are few moments of comic of relief; the series is almost relentlessly dark in this regard. While the characters are designed in the typical big eyed style, the producers took great pains to depict the series' settings, props and weapons with an eye for detail. Famous locations such as Paris are instantly recognizable and even the fictional republic of Ulgia feels like a real place. And unlike other anime series featuring attractive female protagonists, Noir avoids the kind of sexual fan service that has become an all too common occurrence in anime.
While far from being the deepest anime ever produced, Noir is a stylish and tightly produced thriller in the vein of films such as Le Femme Nikita, The Bourne Identity, and even The Da Vinci Code. It combines competent scripting, a densely packed plot, and intriguing characters into a series which even the most casual fan of thrillers should find enjoyable. Unlike some other thrillers, the exploration of the characters often takes center stage over the action and violence. When violence is employed, it grows organically out of the plot, flows logically, and it is stylized rather than gory and violent. The film makes good use of its score to heighten action and mood and in some scenes to counterpoint ugliness of death and violence with the beauty of the music.
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