Movie: One of the best anime series on the market today is NOIR. 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. In the latest volume of the series, NOIR 7: The End Of The Matter, the story quickly reaches its conclusion as the team of assassins learns more about their past. Both are sworn enemies of a criminal syndicate, Soldats, which has a contract on the teams' heads. Both ladies want to learn about their pasts, even if it means their untimely demise. 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. As the show came to the end, the team find themselves faced with a series of choices, between loyalty for one another and the pasts each of them strive to learn about. With only one more volume to go after this one, you know a lot of threads are going get wrapped up. Fans of the show should definitely get this one since a lot of history is revealed and the details of the show start getting really interesting (which, of course, they were before too).
The final three episodes, Dark Return, The Depths Of Hell's Fire, and Birth, all dealt with the choices the gals made in terms of who they were, who they wanted to be, and what would happen next. Chloe was shown as one half of the desired pairing (i.e.: NOIR) by the powers that be, with her, Mireille and Kirika's pasts all finally being disclosed (sorry, look for spoilers elsewhere). The dueling factions of the Soldats organization continue their struggle for prominence and a lot of changes took place among the surviving characters. The series ended on a bittersweet note, with most of the characters biting it. There was enough of an opening to bring the series back for a subsequent season (more likely a follow-up feature) but I think it stands just fine by itself. There was enough social commentary throughout the entire series to keep fans busy for years of dissection and I'm firmly in the camp that thinks it'd be best to leave the show finished.
The series as a whole showed an awful lot of care and an exceptionally good use of audio, particularly music, to convey information ranging from mood to emotion to all the other aspects so many other series slight in favor of the visual elements. I know there has been a lot of discussion regarding NOIR (both favorable and non-favorable) and I think this is due to the depth of the show; it leaves enough unsaid that you can interpret many of the events as you like (which I've noticed makes for heated internet debates). I'm going to rate this particular volume as Highly Recommended to any fans of the show as well as those who want to see some of the best that anime has to offer. I do have one caveat though, this was not the best volume to serve as a stand-alone product since the show builds as it goes along. Do yourselves a favor and get the whole series to watch from beginning to end. It really is good and you won't be sorry.
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. On a related note though, the anime style itself seemed a little rushed (less detail, more camera tricks, more static shots) than in the previous volumes but still within the acceptable parameters of this reviewer.
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 discussion between English vocal cast notables such as Monica Rial, Tiffany Grant, Shelly Black, and Hillary Haag with Matt Greenfield working the camera (he produced the series' English language version). It lasted the better part of a half hour and contained spoilers so watch this after you see the episodes. It looked like it was recorded on a cheap home videocamera and had a lot of grain but the important part was what they were saying (although the grain made one member of the group look about ten years older than she is – something no woman, particularly the wife of the director, appreciates). The other extras consisted of some sketches, a clean opening and closing, some trailers, and a paper insert that provides some background notes; one page with a note of gratitude from the Japanese director and the other a brief discussion on questions the series asked in regards to what went on. This also contains spoilers so don't read it before you watch the episodes.
Final Thoughts: While I'm saddened the series is over, it proved to me that anime can be more than just a guilty pleasure. It also had a bunch of strong female characters; something not generally the case in anime (due as much to market demographics as cultural origins), which means opening or expanding a large potential market for anime as a whole. I give the series an unqualified thumbs up for what it presented and how it did so, noting that the extras made up for the last DVD having only three episodes.