Movie: With all the anime series centering on sword & sorcery, mech robots, and comedy, you'd think a change of pace might be a good idea. With one series, NOIR, you'd be wrong since it's a GREAT change of pace. The series is centered on a couple of female assassins in France 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. In the last outing, Volume 3, the team underwent a few changes while trying to learn more of a rival assassination group, Soldats, that wants them dead. In NOIR 4: Death Warrant, the characters start to learn a lot more about their pasts and connections to one another, a clear sign that things will be heating up real soon given Mireille's claim that she'll kill her friend, Kirika, when their connection to one another is clear. Luckily, ADV Films went back to having 4 episodes this time which helped it earn it's rating of Highly Recommended once more.
Episode 13: Season Of Hell:
Kirika, having befriended an older guy she saw painting by a river, ignores Mireille's warning to stay away from him since she sees him as a kindred spirit. She finds out he's a mercenary who's going to rejoin the foreign legion and has seen a lot more than life prepares you for-much like herself but her enemies seem determined to eliminate her at all costs, and she learns that those around her will ultimately pay the price for associating with her.
Episode 14: A Bouquet Of Flowers For Mireille:
Mireille's uncle Claude Feyder, himself an assassin, meets her over lunch to get re-acquainted. He provides a lot of background information on her past that tied her to Soldats, and his list of targets includes someone very near and dear to her. How will she choose, or will fate intervene and make the choice for her?
Episode 15 & 16: The Cold Blooded Killer Acts 1 & 2:
In an interesting turn of events, Soldat hires the NOIR team to assassinate a powerful crime lord in the Far East. The ladies take the job, even though it seems to be a set up, in order to find out more about the shadowy organization. The gals fight another assassin, Shaoli, and find out that Soldats is somehow divided and possibly vulnerable. As the team gets closer to Soldats and it's operatives, they learn how hopeless their situation really is, but tough it out to the end.
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 and a series soundtrack is available too.
Extras: The best extra here was the interview with Japanese vocal performer, Kotono Mitsuishi who discussed a lot about her role as Kirika. 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, this time, focusing on the wonderful music.
Final Thoughts: With 4 full episodes this time, I've adjusted the rating to a place it deserves to be. The whole show provides a blueprint for how other anime should be considered-no bold expositions every 5 minutes, silence where it's most appropriate, and all aspects of the show handled like it seeks a bigger audience. I almost hate to see the next dvd as the series doesn't have many more episodes but at least I know it has tremendous replay value. Very entertaining multi-layered series like this don't come along all that often.