The Lost Backlog of Summer 2014 #4: Noir

noir21aSeeing as I had no confidence in the summer season, I decided to invent a backlog of shows to watch from one of three different areas. The fourth show on this list was Noir a show that aired in the spring of 2001 and which I had never started or even had an inkling to watch before. I marathoned it, and these are my thoughts on the series.

As I was watching the conclusion of Noir, there were quite a few thoughts that came to mind. Why did this have to be the 800th anime I completed according to MAL? Had watching procedurally-generated anime the night before raised my expectations as far as writing is concerned? Finally, wasn’t the whole evil villain having a pit of lava as a trap cliche to the point of parody by 2001?

noir08aUnlike the previous posts in this series, I don’t have a personal history with this show going in. I can, however, talk about this particular period in the context of my watching anime. I think back when this show aired I was under 10 completed anime. It was just the nature of anime availability for a high school student who couldn’t get a job beyond punching a touchscreen as people ordered terrible fast food. As far as anime production was concerned at this point, almost nothing from this period has aged well. It was a money pit that few people would throw money at to get a series produced, unlike now where many people throw money into the pit and don’t realize that lottery tickets are a better investment.

noir13aIt’s that theme that I’m going to focus on for most of the rest of this post. The first few episodes aren’t terrible looking visually, but the dialogue sounded like it was recorded in someone’s bathroom. This seemed a bit of an oversight as the director Mashimo Koichi was also the sound director on the project. That was simple enough to adjust to, since the music was done by Kajiura Yuki in the show that brought her attention. The problem with that is that it feels like she was only paid enough to make as much as she could in just a couple of days so within 3 episodes you’ve heard 90% of the whole soundtrack.

So, the sound isn’t exactly the strong point of Noir, but what about the visuals? The version I was watching looked rather faded in quality, but that was a common issue with shows from that period. A decent amount of effort was spent in trying to recreate the exotic locales where the events of the series take place. However, since this is classic “girls with guns”, the action scenes are important and that is probably the biggest shortcoming I had with it in an entertainment sense. The animation is low budget to the point where very little looks fluid. Also, it goes without saying that the body count of the show is in triple-figures, but there’s more blood in a single action scene in Crime Edge than there is in the entire 26 episode run.

noir10aAlright, so what about the story? To give a brief summary, two assassins Mireille Bouquet and Kirika Yumura team up as Noir to try to find clues about the latter’s past. They then end up involved with a secret society called the Soldats who have been playing a long game with their entire lives and put them through a series of ever stronger trials.

noir06aThe character development is a weak point when it comes to Noir. Mireille starts out as the strong assassin who knows how to do her job smoothly and efficiently while Kirika is just a killing machine. That changes when a character that Mireille met exactly once in her past reappears in her life and she becomes crippled by fear at the prospect of facing a mafia boss. Meanwhile, Kirika develops into a more complete person for a while; even taking up art for a filler episode, but that changes when a Czech/Slovakian (it’s never made clear which one) ex-Foreign Legion officer is offed for the sake of plot. She then goes down the path of indiscriminate killing machine again. Admittedly, it does add a bit of drama when Mireille is no longer 100% confident of situations, but then she has Kirika and another girl Chloe to bail her out. It’s just a bit of a shame that the end sort of turns into jealousy over who Kirika’s friend is, though it’s a bit more complicated by that.

noir17aThere are a couple of other things I wanted to talk about with this show before I wrap this up. As the show kicks into gear early on and the main pair travel from place to place, they go to different places around the world. The shame of it is that it feels like there was little research into what those places are like, and they feel like some outsider imagining what a place is like. So in Paris, everyone goes to the cafe and Mireille gets on her moped to buy baguettes from the bakery. They go to a New York which is being run over by Mexican gangs and find a building that has a 13th floor. Italy is portrayed with Roman ruins all over the place. It’s like the writer just looked at a travel guide and watched a few 80s movies to determine what each place was like.

noir11aThere are also absurd moments that are completely out of place which is how I’m going to wrap this up. There’s a moment in the middle of the series where Chloe opens her closet and it pans through her selection of frilly dresses until it gets to the assassin shroud at the end. It would have worked brilliantly in a comedy, but this was definitely not. Finally, there was a confirmation that this was a show for the children:

noir02aFavorite Tweet About Noir From My Followers:

Next Time: A scrawny middle school boy transforms into all-powerful youkai by night. Gets all the women.

One thought on “The Lost Backlog of Summer 2014 #4: Noir”

  1. My understanding is that the censors dictated the almost complete lack of blood in Noir.

    While I think some of your complaints are justified, I would add that Noir was likely made on a shoestring, which led to many of the shortcomings in things like action animation and scenery.

    However, the real reason I’m commenting is that I want to defend Noir, as it’s my favorite anime (not the best anime, just a personal favorite).

    In my opinion, you’ve got it exactly backwards: the character development is what Noir is all about. It’s not that Mireille is becoming unsure while Kirika is becoming strong, it’s that the two of them are becoming FRIENDS, and that the coldness between them at the beginning – and the reason that is revealed about two-thirds of the way through for Mirielle to hate Kirika – steadily dissolves over the course of the 26 episodes.

    The show really lays out its cards in the very first episode when Mireille quotes Hemingway to Kirika: “Even in a crowd, I was always alone.”

    Because Noir isn’t about girls with guns nearly so much as it’s about lonely people coming to trust and rely upon one another.

    Is the lava pit at the end kind of silly? Maybe, but it’s mostly there to seal the bonds between the two girls: Kirika wants to kill herself to repent for the sin she committed against Mireille. Mireille is the only one who can forgive her, and save her.

    I’m sorry you didn’t like Noir. To be honest, I’ve recommended it to many people, most of whom felt about it more as you do than I. That’s why when I see something negative written about it, I feel the compulsive need to (no doubt fruitlessly) try and make the case that it is a truly brilliant and moving work – ultimately, perhaps more like a great opera than an action show, with few if any of the traits that people seek from anime.

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