Movie: Anime is not a single style of animation from Japan but a wide variety of differing styles that include titles such as Neo Ranga, RahXephon, Kai Doh Maru, or even Read Or Die. Each one has a fan following and some subtle (or not so subtle) differences that make them unique. Personally, I enjoy a number of different series, including all of those listed and more. Recently, I was made privy to a series that really made me sit up and take notice. That series is NOIR.
The series is centered on a couple of female assassins who take only the most difficult assignments and usually for the "right" reasons. One of the leads has amnesia and struggles to regain her sense of self while the other appears to be quite a mercenary. The series is somewhat exceptional based on it's quality of animation, it's music, and it's story lines that appear to have plenty of thought going into them. My biggest disappointment here is that while Volume 1 had 5 full episodes and Volume 2 had 4 episodes, volume three only has 3. That seemed a bit light, even given the quality of the show. If this trend continues, I'll be paying for nothing before too long so my fingers are crossed that this won't be the case. Here's the three episodes and description as provided by ADV.
Episode 10: The True Noir:
Noir's services have been solicited to eliminate a corrupt police officer, as well as the crooked judge who assisted the dirty cop in getting away with his illicit activates. Arriving at the courthouse to carry out their task, Kirika and Mireille are shocked to find that someone has beaten Noir to the punch. Is it a mere coincidence? Or is there something more at work here? While Kirika and Mireille remain bewildered by the officer's murder, the shady Judge receives warning from the mystery assassin that Noir is preparing to kill him.
Kirika and Mireille travel to a library to finish the second half of their assignment, but thanks to the assassin's warning, the judge is well-prepared for Noir's arrival. A ferocious gun battle ensues between Noir and the nefarious police officers loyal to the judge. As the smoke clears, a blood-curdling scream echoes through the hallowed halls of the library. Investigating the cause of the disturbance, the mystery assassin reveals herself to Kirika and Mireille, proclaiming to be the "True Noir."
Episode 11: Moonlit Tea Party:
Reflecting upon their encounter with the mysterious Chloe, Kirika and Mireille receive a strange invitation to meet with a representative of the equally-mysterious Soldats. Embracing Soldats' offer, Kirika and Mireille travel to the designated meeting place while trying to piece together what few pieces they have. As the Soldats' operative departs, Kirika and Mireille give chase, but it is to no avail. Altena disapproves of Kirika and Mireille being informed of the mysteries surrounding Soldats' function and identity, and orders Chloe to put a stop to the disclosure.
Returning three days later to learn more information, Kirika and Mireille are greeted not by the Soldats representative, but black-suited gunmen. After returning to Mireille's loft, they receive a surprising visit from Chloe, who makes herself right at home. Kirika offers the cloaked assassin a cup of tea, much to Mireille's dismay, which she gratefully accepts. As the three sit down to a moonlight tea party, Mireille pumps Chloe for information, but only garners cryptic responses from the enigmatic Noir.
Episode 12: Assassination Mission:
Altena dispatches Chloe to Switzerland to assassinate retired General Dieter Reimann, who was formally affiliated with Soldats during the Cold War era. Upon Chloe's arrival, to her surprise, the General invites Chloe to join him on his afternoon hike though the Swiss Alps- knowing full well of her intentions to kill him. Chloe is not the only one after General Reimann's life however. His arch nemesis, a former East German Intelligence chief turned drug lord by the name of Zellner has also dispatched a sweeper team to assassinate his former Cold War rival.
As General Reimann reminisces to Chloe about his conduct as a special operative in Soldats' service, they are unexpectedly ambushed by Zellner's hit-squad. Displeased by this turn of events, Chloe makes short work of their assailants. Chloe explains to the bewildered General that it is unacceptable for anyone other than her to kill him, and that's the only reason she saved his life. Over wine, Chloe learns that Zellner had brutally murdered the General's daughter in an effort to score a victory against the former NATO commander. Chloe says that proper revenge must be carried out, but the war-weary Reimann dismisses the idea as being wrong to begin with. Upon completing her tasks, Chloe rushes home to tell Altena of her adventures.
Picture: The picture is presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen and again looks great. I didn't see any problems with the transfer or the print itself. Very sharp and crystal clear as usual.
Sound: The sound was presented in both Japanese and English 5.1 Dolby Digital Stereo with optional English subtitles. This is another area where the series shines. The vocals, especially the Japanese vocals, were crisp and clear with plenty of separation between the channels. The music was exceptionally good too.
Extras: The unique extra here was the short interview with Houko Kuwashima, the Japanese vocal lead for the show. The other extras consisted of some sketches, a clean opening and closing, some trailers, and a paper insert that provides some background notes about the series.
Final Thoughts: The show continues to impress but I'm a bit torn on how high to rate it. It only has 3 episodes so I feel the $30 price tag is high enough to lower the rating to just Recommended. While the show has a lot going for it, more and more companies are including 5 episodes per dvd in this price range and it seems fair to adjust the rating in such a way. The acting and stories are good enough to keep me watching though and I hope ADV decides to either offer more episodes or better extras.