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by Nicholas Dupree,

Synduality: Noir Season 2

Anime Series Review

Synduality: Noir Season 2 Anime Series Review
The Silver Storm has been quelled, and Rock Town is safe and sound, but Kanata's worries are far from over. Amid the storm, Noir's personality was inexplicably replaced by Mystere, a brash and enigmatic persona who claims to be the "real" Magus he's been partnered with. Mystere brings great power and greater revelations with her, as she may be the key to discovering the paradise, Histoire, that Kanata's parents died searching for. Yet our heroes' search for the legendary Histoire and the truth of Mystere and Noir's existence is threatened by the shadowy organization Ideal, who seek Histoire for their own ends.

This second cour started as a big fat question mark. While the first half of Synduality: Noir had occasional drama, most of its runtime was all about chilling with its extended cast as they got into cool robot fights. While that lent the show a lot of charm, it meant that viewers had no clue what the larger story was about, nor how well the show might handle a turn into heavier drama and linear plotting. Once the good times were over and our cast had to follow the main quest line, would that endearing charm go away?

The answer is a bit muddled. While there is still a lot of fun to be had with these characters and their DayGlo robots, most of the extended cast is left by the wayside as we whittle things down to the important characters. Kanata and his now trio of robot companions are fine enough as a group, but they lack the casual rapport and wacky shenanigans that characterized much of the first season. The one exception is Mystere, whose brash personality and total lack of respect for her human partner make for some good comedy and a solid contrast to Noir's soft-spoken nature. On the whole though, there's a lot less fun banter as the side characters are left behind, and our remaining core characters start shouldering heavy drama and tragic backstories.

That trend doesn't improve with our villains, particularly Weisheit, the scheming mastermind constantly targeting Noir in the background in season one. A lot of time is spent making him as loathsome as possible, with recurring monologues and evil smirks on top of the genuinely cruel way he treats his Magus partner, which at least makes him easy to root against. Unfortunately, that doesn't make him interesting. Once he takes the reins as our main antagonist, any time spent listening to him wax poetic about his motivations or plans feels like dead air. His whole personality boils down to "hates robots" and "is evil," which makes for a functional end-boss but not a compelling character.

Thankfully, the rest of the cast work pretty well even as things get serious. Black Mask, aka Macht Alter, and his stone-faced camp are still pretty funny, even as we have to take him seriously as antagonist-turned-anti-hero. Tokio gets roped into his shtick but leans into it by donning a purposefully ridiculous "White Mask" persona to troll his too-serious rival. Mystere and Noir's dual search for their true identity makes for a compelling arc-long mystery with a couple of neat twists. The standout, however, is Ciel's storyline, which manages to feel horrifying, tragic, bittersweet, and uplifting, all in just a few episodes. While none of our characters are terribly complex, they're well-rounded and likable enough to be engaging even as the tone feels darker with each episode.

The larger plot is decidedly less engaging, if only because it's so standard for a sci-fi anime. Ideal, our obligatory secret society, is dead set on achieving some nebulously defined mission that needs Noir and Mystere to succeed. Weisheit manipulates Kanata seemingly just for fun while almost never doing anything meaningful to advance his goals. Then he reveals his Instrumentality-esque plan, which the combined power of our heroes must defeat. It's pretty bland fare, which is fine when it's taking a back seat to the character drama, but it really starts to drag when the battle against Weisheit takes center stage. That leaves the final three episodes feeling pretty perfunctory, only buoyed by the well-paced action sequences.

Visually, this season marks a slight but noticeable downgrade. While season one had wonky-looking episodes, it could also look pretty nice when needed. Here, some production crunch means that anything 2D looks at least a little shoddier than season one ever did. Characters will look wonky and melted while standing stock still. There are at least a few instances where the lip flaps don't match the audio at all. The solid character designs and color palette keep the show's head above water for the most part, but everything that isn't a CG robot or 3D-rendered background looks scuffed.

Thankfully, those CG fights are just as good as before, if not better. The Coffin mechs still have an acquired taste, but the various upgrades and redesigns they get all look sharp and offer some cool new tools for fighting. The fights are excellently directed and animated with a sense of speed and heft that works perfectly for the chunky little robots. The final battle in particular makes great use of 3D backgrounds and the zero-gravity setting to construct some fantastic spectacle, and in all, the action does a lot to make up for the weaker 2D animation. The music is also still excellent, though the loss of STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION's original opener is sorely felt.

All told, while the dramatic escalation gives this second half more momentum, it also feels like something was lost in leaving behind so much of that chill, hang-out vibe from season one. The ending wraps up the key story line while leaving plenty of room to imagine the cast's future adventures, and it's satisfying enough, but it doesn't leave much impact. Perhaps that's about right for a show that, while fun and nostalgic for a certain era of mech anime, never really constructed an identity for itself. There's no grand, unifying theme to put a ribbon on at the end, besides the power of friendship and not being racist against robots. The cast are fun, but not so fun that you crave more adventures once credits role. Synduality: Noir perhaps ends up better than other video game tie-in series, but in the larger mecha genre, it's still an also-ran.

Overall : B-
Story : B
Animation : C
Art : B+
Music : A

+ Great action, Makes a solid turn from action-comedy to drama, stellar soundtrack
Weak villain, Lesser animation compared to season one, ending doesn't leave much impact

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Production Info:
Director: Yūsuke Yamamoto
Series Composition: Takashi Aoshima
Takashi Aoshima
Masaru Hatano
Hajime Kamoshida
Yūya Takashima
Hiroshi Yamaguchi
Shinpei Ezaki
Sho Kitamura
Susumu Nishizawa
Chihiro Nitta
Kiyoshi Okuyama
Hidekazu Sato
Masao Shimizu
Hiroaki Shimura
Nejiko Shimura
Naokatsu Tsuda
Yasunari Watabe
Yūsuke Yamamoto
Shunichi Yoshizawa
Episode Director:
Tatsuya Igarashi
Sho Kitamura
Naoki Kusumoto
Yūki Nakano
Munenori Nawa
Kentarō Sugimoto
Masahiko Suzuki
Takayuki Tanaka
Naokatsu Tsuda
Yūsuke Yamamoto
Unit Director:
Shinpei Ezaki
Yasunari Watabe
Music: Masato Nakayama
Original story: Hajime Kamoshida
Original Character Design: neco
Art Director: Kenta Masuda
Chief Animation Director:
Kenichirō Katsura
Masaru Kitao
Kazuaki Morita
Hideki Sakai
Sorato Shimizu
Animation Director:
Futoshi Fujikawa
Akihiro Ino
Tomoyuki Kameda
Kenichirō Katsura
Honoka Kikuchi
Masaru Kitao
Yukihiro Kobayashi
Masayori Komine
Miki Konno
Yūki Morikawa
Manami Morishita
Kazuaki Morita
Hideki Sakai
Keiichi Sasajima
Yūya Sawaguchi
Masahiro Sekiguchi
Hiroko Shigekuni
Hideaki Shimada
Sorato Shimizu
Koichiro Ueda
Shinichi Wada
Ippeita Watanabe
Kōsuke Yoshida
Takaya Yoshida
Animation Character Design: Kenichirō Katsura
Sound Director: Jin Aketagawa
Cgi Director: Yasuhide Oppata
Director of Photography: Satoshi Yamamoto

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Synduality: Noir (TV 2)

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