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Noir: Complete Series (Anime Classics)

FUNimation // Unrated // April 14, 2015
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted May 7, 2015 | E-mail the Author


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Noir Blu-ray Review


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noir
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">(2001)
is a unique anime series that tells the
story of Mireille and Kirika, two assassins who "work"
internationally on jobs assigned to them that involve finding and
killing
criminals involved in syndicates. The pair goes by the codename style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> which
refers to the most powerful assassin around. The duo is also
mysteriously linked to one another by a past that is unknown. Over the
course
of the series revelations are made about their past, the truth behind
one
particularly dark and disturbing criminal syndicate is uncovered, and
the stage
is well set for an action-thriller with dramatic elements. style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> is a
seriously style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">darkstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> anime
(pun intended).


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
greatest strength of the series is the music
score by Yuki Kajiura. This comes as quite the surprise as many
acclaimed anime
series have featured stellar music that is perfectly complimentary to
the
storylines being told and yet style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> is a
rare-breed
of show where the storyline often feels secondary to the style. style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> oozes
style over substance from beginning to end and despite that
shortcoming it still receives a first rate score to accompany the
proceedings.
The music frequently compliments the artistry of the animation and it
serves as
a lush backdrop to the action on screen. The score tends to bring its
own range
of emotional depth, which can manage to make up for some of the depth
missing at the core of the writing for this series, but the series
itself is never as satisfying
an experience as a result.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
animation is visually impressive. The character
designs are distinctive and memorable for the main characters. The
animation
backgrounds succeed as perfect backdrops for each story and are usually
extraordinarily detailed. The supporting roles that are sprinkled
throughout
the episodes are never given as much detail or individuality in
character
design and that is certainly notable and unfortunate. On the bright
side of
things - this series does manage to showcase amazing visuals in each
episode
and for a story that tends to focus more on style than substance the
style is
certainly impressive. style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> can
stand out quite distinctively as a unique anime series simply
because of its unique approach to the animation and direction.style="">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
primary series director is Koichi Mashimo (style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Madlaxstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">, style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">El
Cazador De La Bruja
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">) and
the film-making approach is one of the
greatest strengths of the series. Mashimo is typically much more
interested in
the interactions between the characters and their relationships than he
is in
the action. This helps to give a distinctive feel to style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">; one
which cannot be easily duplicated. The scripts by Ryoe Tsukimura
are often extremely minimalistic with sparse dialogue and plot. 
When the
ongoing storyline shows advancements it also builds with considerably
slow
pacing and the only thing that holds together these simplistic strands
is the
series direction. Mashimo might focus on the gaze of one of the
characters,
close up on the eyes, or show viewers a seemingly minute detail in the
foreground of the animation. These moments are frequently filled with
pathos
that seems to be missing within the actual scripts (at least based upon
the
frequently uninteresting side-stories that make up the bulk of the
series
middle chapters). In a strange way, style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> might
actually
consist of many scenes and moments that are less fascinating than what
one
might typically hope for but the series director has such an
interesting
approach to how to tell the story that moments that might have felt
bland or
generic with another director in charge are instead uniquely
fascinating and
visually hypnotic.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">If there
is a dramatic pitfall to the series it is
that the good intentions of director Mashimo are not entirely warranted
given
the lackluster character development given in the actual scripts. The
beginning
of the series was wise to keep elements mysterious and intriguing.
Viewers
would surely feel the series presented enough potential to become a
memorably
developed story.  Over the course of the series, many episodes
are spent doing little to actually advance the story and it becomes a
bit
repetitive and underdeveloped. It doesn't help that the main element
that
needed to be established -- a connection between the audience and the
primary
characters -- is never entirely established fundamentally. The
characters are
frequently interesting to behold but the stories never given enough
insight in
to the personalities or minds.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
series does manage to attempt to ask serious
questions about morals and values in a way that is interesting and
important.
The characters seem to be at conflict with themselves at different
points in
the show which does help to improve the dramatic backbone of style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">. The
series eventually tries to tell a redemptive story arc (at least
in a sense) but the conclusion doesn't manage to be entirely satisfying
in that
regard.  However, the last several episodes are filled to the brim
with
interesting twists and turns in the storyline. Characters are given
some proper
development that should have come even sooner to increase viewer
connection to
the characters. While the series takes too long to develop certain
aspects of the story, the
writer and director manage to successfully begin and conclude the show
in a
compelling way that should please fans. The stylistic and original
approach given makes it a noteworthy production worthy of exploration
by any anime
fan.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
Blu-ray:
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">  style="">


style="margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; text-align: center;" align="center">style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Video:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> arrives
on Blu-ray in
North America (for the first time stateside!) utilizing the same source
elements used for the remastered Japanese Blu-ray release of the
series.
Restored from original film elements, Noir
looks stunning for much of its high-definition presentation. Colors,
clarity,
detail, and depth are more immersive and impressive. The improvement
that can
be seen for Noir is notable and
should please fans of the series hoping to find a upgrade in the
visuals. The animation
has never looked so beautiful before.  style="">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noir
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">is
presented in 1:78:1 widescreen (which preserves
the original television broadcast aspect ratio). The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC
encoded
image is a big step-up over the DVD's of Noir
and gives a good upgrade for fans who owned previous editions. While
the image
is somewhat soft and smooth at times (like the standard definition
presentation), this seems to
be source related and is because of how the series was animated. The
improvements
are immense. Viewers will be pleased with the significant high-def
upgrade. Outside of
occasional minor banding, Funimation's Blu-ray release of Noir
is extremely nice looking and improves the video on many levels. style="">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Audio:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";"> has
received a sonic boost
as well. The upgrade to Dolby TrueHD lossless 5.1 surround sound for
both the
English and Japanese language presentations is a notable improvement.
The
clarity of the music and sound-effects is much better and will please
audio
enthusiasts hoping to find a reasonable upgrade. The music score
presentation
sounds splendid. The dialogue is always easy to understand. This is a
nice
lossless audio presentation.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Both the
Japanese and English audio presentations
are generally pleasant. While the show is frequently front-heavy with
less
emphasis given to the surround sound, there are action-heavy scenes and
episodes
where the surround usage is more substantial. The Japanese dub is
superior as
far as the voice acting goes (with stronger and more nuanced
performances), but
the English dub is enjoyable and seems to have slightly superior bass
performance. Either option should satisfy fans of the series.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">English
subtitles
are provided.


style="margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; text-align: center;" align="center">style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Extras:style="">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Like the
DVD edition, Noir arrives on Blu-ray with
a plethora of bonus materials for an anime set. While the quality of
extras is
a bit mixed (some of the bonuses are excellent while others are merely
decent)
it's hard to imagine fans being disappointed by the number of
supplements
included.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Supplements
on this release include:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Interview
with Houko Kuwashima (4:43),
Interview with Kotono Mitsuishi (6:33), Interview with Tarako
(5:53),
Interview with Aya Hisakawa (6:20), Kirika Music Video
(1:18),
Interview #1 with Shelly Calene-Black (Mireille) and Monica
Rial

(Kirika) (2:09), Interview #2 with Shelly Calene-Black
(Mireille) and Monica
Rial
(Kirika) (24:17), Interview #3 with Hilary Haag
(Chloe) and Tiffany
Grant
(Altena) (15:02), Interview with the English Language Cast
(25:32), Noir: The Unsoled Story (7:45), and Original
Japanese Promos

(3:44).


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
interviews with the Japanese Voice Actors were
thoroughly engaging and informative. The questions that were asked were
related
to the series and hearing the responses was simply fun. It provided
good
insight into the VA's views on the characters, story themes, Yuki
Kajiura's
score, and on the work done by director Koichi Mashimo. Any viewer who
enjoyed
the Japanese language dub will likely be entertained from any of these
inclusions.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
Kirika Music Video is pretty similar to how it
sounds - it's basically a short (barely over a minute long) Anime Music
Video
(AMV) that highlights clips of the Kirika character. It was not a
particularly
engaging video but the decision to make it with most of the color
removed was
an interesting choice that highlighted how interesting the series could
have
also been in an even moodier, classic film-noir style. style="">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The
interviews with the English Voice Actors were
not as engaging as they were for the Japanese VA's but they do have
some merit
and are worth checking out anyway. Each VA tends to spend more time
talking
about their own personal backgrounds to greater lengths than they
discuss the
actual series. There isn't as much cohesiveness to the questions and it
makes
the interviews somewhat less compelling from a series standpoint. Yet
the
actors are interesting people and it should entertain some viewers
curious to
learn more about these Voice Actors.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">The style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noir:
Unsoled Story
style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">is a
silly camcorder made short film with sock puppets being used as
the main style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Noirstyle="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">
characters with dubbing (and actual cameos) from the English VA's.
It's a bit ridiculous as a short and not nearly as funny as it probably
was for
them to make, and while it's nice that the bonus is included it's not
likely
going to engage most fans unless they are looking for some simple
randomness to
watch after finishing the actual series.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">It is
worth noting that two episode commentaries
are included for episodes 15 and 16 (The Cold-Blooded Killer Acte 1
and II)
with the English language VA's and dub director. These commentary
tracks feel
disorganized and uninformative. Each participant tends to gloss over
talking
about the actual show and simply goofs off and says random things from
start to
finish. The VA's are not reintroduced for the second episode either so
unless
you've listened to the commentary for the first part there is no way to
really
know who is speaking. I don't see any reason to recommend these
commentaries to
fans of the series.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Lastly, clean
opening and ending credit sequences

and trailers for other Funimation Entertainment releases are
provided.  


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Final
Thoughts:


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">It's
remarkable to now have Noir on Blu-ray in North
America. The
series is a superb dark action series. Even though it's focused more on
style
than substance, the series works for the most part with its great
animation and
superb music. The middle act is weak but with both an excellent
introduction
and strong concluding act, Noir is
certainly a worthy series. The brilliant score music composed by Yuki
Kajiura is hauntingly
beautiful and sounds great with the lossless audio boost.


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">While style="">Noir
is not a perfect anime series, fans will surely want to own it in the
best
possible way with this substantial Blu-ray upgrade (which offers fans
superior
video, audio, and an equally impressive supplemental package). style="">


style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Verdana","sans-serif";">Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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