Reviewby Josh Lipowsky, Jan 24th 2003
DVD 1: Shades of Darkness
Words on a computer screen. A hauntingly familiar melody. Those are the bait that propel professional hitwoman Mireille Bouquet on an odyssey of death and vengeance, into the icy blackness of her own soul. There she will find Kirika Yumura, a young Japanese amnesiac whose killing skills are as deadly as Mireille's, and whose missing memory may unlock the mystery of Mireille's own past. In an uneasy partnership, never truly trusting each other, they embark on a journey through the ultimate darkness, searching for a truth that they know will mean their deaths.
On the surface Noir looks like a cross of The Matrix, Key: The Metal Idol, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, on deeper inspection it is the stereotypical anime of big eyes, big boobs and big guns.
The first episode of the DVD gives the audience hope of a deep mysterious plot that will delve into the pasts of the two main characters and will act as the catalyst for everything in the series.
The other four episodes push this driving plot device to the background while Mireille and Kirika slaughter the bad guys in pinpoint Matrix-style action. Noir, the codename Kirika used as an assassin – which the two girls adopt when they partner up –apparently carries a deeply rooted mythological status in the underworld. The deep mystery that links the two is briefly mentioned in a line or two in every episode, and flashbacks to Mireille's past are commonplace filler, but it seems that the writers have decided that the secrets of their pasts can only be revealed little by little per DVD. And when they told us that there was a secret (something that could be picked up on by just reading the summary on the box) that was our clue for this volume.
Another plot hole comes with the location. By the end of the DVD we know the series is taking place in France, but there is very little to clue us into this early on. In one scene, Kirika is wearing a shirt with a French flag but that doesn't necessarily mean the show is in France. Additionally, many of the window signs, including type on computer screens, are in English – an oddity in Japan and France.
Fortunately, unlike with other series' that take place in France, ADV does not force its American voice actors to force false French accents. ADV did fall down on the job with the dub again here because they left the original Japanese track in place for some background crowd scenes. Although obviously intentional, this does not help clarify the confusion about the series location.
The animation is not up to the usual par of ADV titles either. While the violent scenes are well illustrated, viewers will groan in agony at the incredibly poor mouth animations that seem to pop up in every episode. Remember early animation when a moving mouth was imposed on the side of a motionless face? Either through boredom, laziness or just lack of animation talent, these "side-mouths" appear on the characters every so often.
Nevertheless, the series is not a total loss. The music provides by far one of the best opening theme songs in a long time. The rest of the background music is fast-paced, but at the same time it envelopes the audience in a serenity that plays off the violent action incredibly well. The central musical rhythm of the pocket watch (apparently Noir's calling card) is haunting, even if it does sound a little similar to the Sailor Moon theme song.
If you're looking for a deep anime that mixes action well with plot, this is not for you, but if you just want something fun with a lot of shooting and a mesmerizing music, pick up Noir.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
+ The flowing serenity of the background music will take your mind off the plot
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