Reviewby Zac Bertschy, May 5th 2003
DVD 2: The Hit List
Professional assassin Mireille Bouquet has taken the mysterious and endlessly depressed killer Kirika Yumura under her wing. Together they form Noir, an unstoppable team of assassins. In the second volume of Noir, the relationship between the two is further explored. Hints at Kirika's mysterious past are revealed, and the unknown organization Soldats slowly comes to light. Also, Kirika befriends a little kitten, who incidentally is not the target for assassination.
ADV's release of the hit action series Noir continues, and fandom continues to be split down the middle on this show. Some call it pure fan service, others call it genius; more still call it lots of flash and no substance. The truth is always somewhere in the middle, and there are a few things about Noir that nobody can deny: the show is beautifully animated, unique, and stylish. Everything else is up to interpretation.
The second volume doesn't do a whole lot to push the story along. Noir is one of those shows that didn't gain that large of a following until after about 10 or 12 episodes had aired and the story finally picked up. The episodes included on this disc push the show to episode 9, which just isn't far enough. As it is, the stories included here are stand alone, episodic installments that do very little to develop the characters or even reveal much about the arching storyline. That having been said, the show itself isn't bad, it just seems to take an eternity to actually start going somewhere.
The production values in Noir are near-second to none. The animation is smooth and fluid in most spots, and although there's a lot of obvious shortcuts; shortcust such as characters conveniently lifting their guns to cover their mouths before they speak. The music remains beautiful, if extremely repetitive. It must be said that Noir probably has the most beautiful hand-painted backgrounds to ever be featured in a television anime series. They invoke a post-impressionist feel and some of them mirror famous impressionist and post-impressionist paintings; it's a unique style and adds more than a touch of class to the show. Watch this show on DVD if for no other reason than to simply stare at the amazing backgrounds. Paul Gauguin would have been proud.
The dub remains adequate but not spectacular; some of the actors seem to be phoning in thier performances, and I've yet to find an American dub voice actor capable of convincingly pulling off a young girl. They always sound like a 20-something year old female trying to sound like a little girl. All women claim they're good at this, but you can always tell. I wonder when they'll actually start hiring age-appropriate actors to play these characters.
The biggest thrill in this release is in the liner notes, believe it or not. The director addresses the common perception that Noir is a ‘fan service’ show. I've never seen a director do that before, especially in the liner notes. He's very frank about it, and while it would be easy to cynically dismiss his reasons for stating that Kirika and Mireille are not designed to pander to the endlessly lusting fanboy masses (Kirika wears “dumpy” clothing and doesn't smile, Mireille is an icy cold bitch), I can't help but take his word for it. He claims that Mireille only has two fan service shots in the entire show, one being a bathing suit scene and a shower scene. If you've dismissed Noir as a series intended solely intended to titillate men, read this essay. It may turn you around on the show and give you a new perspective on it. It seems the director is familiar with the tendency of anime fans to find and exaggerate the sexuality in every anime series they see. He seems a little bitter about it (as was Anno Hideaki, who reportedly did things in retaliation for the endless unauthorized pornography his characters appeared in). It's refreshing to hear the director defend the show and state his true purpose. That doesn't mean that on some level Noir wasn't designed with the intent to sell the characters; it just means that the primary goal of the show isn't to provide fanboys with masturbation material. They were serious about creating a quality show with interesting characters. You have to respect that.
When all is said and done, however, Noir remains a pretty but very empty show. There just isn't a lot of depth to the characters and the storyline remains stagnant. Perhaps the next volume, which apparently starts the main storyline, will bring this anime up from the higher levels of mediocrity that it currently rests at, and the show will finally start showing its real potential. Until then, there's nothing new here. If you've been ignoring the show, however, simply because of the character designs and fanboy reaction, read the essay in the liner notes. You might be willing to give the show a bit more of a chance.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Good animation, stylish presentation, amazing backgrounds
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