Noir: Shades of Darkness is a story about 2 young female assassins with mysterious pasts. One of them, Kirika Yuumura, has amnesia and the other, Mireille Bouquet, takes the girl under her wing. Together, the two are the focal point of Noir. This is the first dvd of the series that was released in Japan in 2001. Here's a breakdown of the 5 episodes included on the first dvd as provided by ADV:
Maidens with Black Hands
After receiving a mysterious E-mail inviting her to "make a pilgrimage for the past," the renowned assassin Mireille Bouquet travels to Japan to meet the solicitor of the cryptic message. Upon meeting up with the letter's sender, Mireille confronts the young woman, who answers her queries by opening a pocketwatch that plays a mysterious melody that seems to distress Mireille. Afterwards, the young woman quickly bolts in to the confines of an abandoned construction site, where Mireille promptly pursues her.
Perched atop a construction beam, Mireille finds the enigmatic girl staring silently at the mysterious pocketwatch as the sun quietly sets in the background. After quietly proclaiming herself to be "Noir," Mireille and the unreadable young lady are quickly ambushed by gun-toting men in black suits. After repulsing their assailants, the young girl known as Kirika Yuumura leads Mireille back to her home and tends to her injuries. After telling Mireille what she knows of her story, Kirika asks Mireille to help her search out the truth about the secrets locked away in her obscured past.
Returning to Paris with Mireille, Kirika slowly begins to settle in to her new life in the City of Lights. Following the murder of a prominent officer in the French National Police's Counter-Terrorism unit by terrorists, Mireille receives an assassination request, which she accepts with Kirika under the designation of "Noir." Their assignment is to take out the terrorist leader of the People's Armed Alliance, as well as the Director of France's National Public Peace Department. The two men have been sharing compromising information with each other about their respective group's operations, and this does not sit well with the rival faction within the terrorist organization.
After scoping out their targets, and finalizing their plan of attack, Kirika and Mireille undertake final preparations for their first joint assignment. Meanwhile, the two conspirators meet after leaning of the plot against their lives, and are stunned to learn that the legendary Noir is now gunning for them. Having not been active since the 1970's, does Noir's notorious reputation in the underworld possess a deeper meaning than Kirika and Mireille realize?
The Assassination Play
Following the suspicious death of a young corporate president, the grieving widow of the slain company leader places a contract on the head of Albert Dux-a shady businessman with a nefarious reputation in the big business world. Noir accepts the assignment and proceeds to a hotel undergoing renovation to attend to the assassination request. In reality, however, the assignment is a feint to lure the unsuspecting Noir in to a carefully laid ambush.
Trapped within the dark confines of the resort hotel, outnumbered and outgunned by professional gunmen who stalk their every move, Kirika and Mireille find themselves locked in a life and death struggle against an unseen opponent. During the conflict, Noir stumbles across information that leads them to believe that the ones responsible for the ambush are the same people who robbed Kirika of her memory. Is there an unseen force manipulating both Noir and Dux's actions from the shadows?
The Sound of Waves
Now more mindful of the peril in which they face, Kirika and Mireille travel to Ulgia to assassinate ranking conspirators preparing for an elaborate coup within the exotic country. Shortly thereafter, the president of the powerful corporation who was backing the takeover arrives in country to push forward the plan despite its setback. The president's daughter soon arrives from New York to spend time with her father on her birthday, but receives a bitter reception. That night, Kirika reflects upon the girl's appearance, as well as her own sketchy past.
After receiving a mysterious letter disclosing Noir's location, President Hammond quickly arranges for an assault by the Ulgian Army forces based in the area to deal with Noir. Their location surrounded by heavily armed Ulgian troops, the unimposing Kirika casually approaches the soldiers. Thrown off by her appearance, the Ulgian troops drop their guard allowing Mireille to capitalize on the situation; Kirika soon joins in and dispatches the remaining forces. Their final targets now awaiting them, Kirika and Mireille set off to complete their mission in Ulgia.
Still bothered by the events which transpired during the Albert Dux incident, Mireille asks a trusted friend to look in to who was pulling the strings behind the surprise attack. Arriving to collect the results of the investigation, Mireille discovers that her friend and his family had all been murdered. Troubled that the information was damaging enough as to get her friend killed, Mireille seeks out answers to unlock the identity of their shadowy opponent.
Upon discovering an enigmatic hint that her friend left behind for her at a small pub, Kirika and Mireille travel to St. Galan Church in search of the answer to the wine bottle's cryptic clue. Mireille investigates the catacombs that reside beneath the cathedral, and amongst the earthly remains of the dead unlocks the first clue as to the identity of the power which had been shadowing their moves. But will the powers that be, lurking in the darkness permit Kirika and Mireille to obtain such carefully guarded knowledge uncontested?
The picture is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and looked sharp and clear on my television. It was one of the best looking anime dvd's I've seen since the format debuted with no artifacts or video noise.
The sound was in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a choice of audio tracks including Japanese with subtitles, English, or English with song subtitles. The music and vocals were crisp and clear, very much complimenting the flawless picture. Even the little special effects show a lot of thought put into them.
The extra material provided included a long presentation of production sketches from each episode, including alternate angles, clean opening and closing sequences, Japanese promo's, and trailers to other ADV releases. If you buy the more expensive premium release, you also get some other cool stuff including a box to hold future releases in the series and a T-Shirt.
I vividly recall many anime companies releasing bare-bone dvd's with no extra's, edited movies, and only one or two episodes per tape/disc. The most recent trend, led by companies such as ADV, have been to include more content for your dollar. In a series like Noir, more bang for your buck is expected and ADV comes through with shining colors. Having watched this dvd a few times already, I'm anxiously awaiting future volumes which will hopefully provide as much texture and attention to detail as this one did. I've always preferred some of the romantic comedy or mech robot series in anime but Noir really shined. To sum it up: Noir is a first class winner which addresses style and substance to make for an easily accessible good time.