Mireille Bouquet is a beautiful but highly skilled assassin who has been plying her "trade" in France. One day, she receives a mysterious e-mail from a Japanese girl called Yuumura Kirika, asking for help to discover her past. Mireille goes to meet Kirika and later discovers that Kirika has assassin skills surpassing even hers. They later join forces to form an assassin team called "Noir", and this starts off a suspense-filled mystery involving the origins of "Noir" and a large organization that may have something to do with both Mireille and Kirika's hidden pasts.
Chicks with guns. The concept isn't very new, and the focus of many TV series and movies has shifted away from the testosterone-filled Rambo/Terminator movies of long ago to shows with ultra-cool girls blasting their way to the top of the TV ratings. I mean, even Pammy the Augmented Baywatch Lifeguard did the chick/gun/action thing - so what does Noir have that VIP/Alias/Dark Angel doesn't?
Okay, so now you're wondering about the fiyr star rating, aren't you? So maybe Noir doesn't have anything revolutionary in any of its elements, but it certainly manages to impress in many, many more ways than a beach shot of Pammy ever would. In fact, Noir is quite stereotyped but in spite of all that it still manages to distinguish itself as one of the better action/drama anime titles of recent time.
We start off with Mireille's character getting introduced to Kirika and eventually teaming up with her. Kirika looks like the usual action girl - she has mad assassin skillz (and I must cleanse myself for using that word) but she has amnesia and has called on Mireille to help her discover her real identity. As with all anime amnesiacs, she is withdrawn and soft-spoken but contrary to what you might expect, she also hides a darker side to her personality. Mireille, on the other hand, is more mature and outgoing. She may not be the polar opposite of Kirika, but she does become like an older sister to her as they begin to bond and she is usually the motivation behind Kirika's actions.
These two girls find themselves in the most unexpected situations when their use of the codename "Noir" comes to the attention of a large organization that has deep roots in the rise of modern civilization. While the pair start off with standard assassination jobs, they eventually find themselves caught in the fabric of this highly unstable organization with their only reward being a glimpse of their past.
As you might expect, the plot involves a lot of suspense (particularly towards the second half) and it certainly strikes me as being well thought-out. While it may not be as gripping as the great mystery novels out there, it still manages to entice you to keep going as it tosses small chunks of the plot in your direction. Unfortunately, the first half deals more with expanding the main characters through mission-of-the-day episodes and moves particularly slow. It does speed up as the plot begins to unravel, so think of it like starting the car on a cold day.
The highlight and probably the main selling point of this title would be its action scenes. Mireille and Kirika (and later some other assassin characters) are really stylish assassins, especially Kirika in particular. Far from being lame sniping campers, they have a wide variety of ways in which they take down their targets, and use rather resourceful methods in dire situations. The actions scenes usually play out very well and draw a contrast to the melancholic and slow parts of the show.
Visually, Noir impresses. The backgrounds used are not just dark, gloomy streets, but wide pastures, beautiful vineyards and stunning European locales. You really get the feeling that you're not in Japan anymore (or Kansas, for that matter), but taking a nice vacation in Europe. That's certainly a change from the usual secret mountain bases, deep-space stations and Edo period Tokyo.
Glaringly obvious is, of course, the issue of blood. Or actually the lack of it. The generic baddies die all over the place but they don't bleed, gib, or go flying - they just drop dead. This certainly wouldn't be what you would expect in an title of this kind, but at the same time I feel that introducing blood and gore would actually detract from the impact Noir has.
The Noir soundtrack is arranged and performed by Kajiura Yuuki, another acclaimed composer in anime circles, and her work here certainly shows off her capabilities. The music manages to capture a light French (or rather European) feel to it, and this is complemented with the heavy techno-Latin chant fusion of the action tracks. It's good stuff, and goes well with the show.
While this review shares the same rating as the primary review, I feel a little less impressed with Noir than Diane was. Maybe I had my expectations too high for this title (as is always the case with me), but at times I was tempted to give up because of the slow pacing of the early plot. In addition to that, the overall "conspiracy theory" - while certainly well-written - seemed rather cryptic most of the time and put me off in a way. However, I remain just as captivated by the action and style as Diane was, and this is largely how it gets its stars.
Unlikes most TV action series, Noir isn't a thirty-minute action fix. It's a drawn-out story that pieces together as you go along, so rushing through it would not be a good idea. As long as you don't expect to be inspired, mystified, thrilled and shocked in *every* 25 minute episode, Noir will pull through.
The cream of action-drama anime has just gotten sweeter and creamier with Noir. The slow pace and sombre mood of the plot might turn off some people, but those who stick with it will be rewarded with brilliant action scenes and awesome chicks with guns. Drop a star if you don't like mystery or drama. — Enoch Lau
Recommended Audience: Definitely teens and up. Very, very violent (it's screened at midnight in Japan) with deaths in every episode and implied child rape and torture. While there's obviously a deep bond between Kirika and Mireille, there's nothing to imply that they are homosexuals. However, certain ladies in the show did share a kiss or two.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Noir © 2001 Bee Train
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