ADV Films is releasing NOIR: Shades of Darkness in two editions: as a disc in a standard DVD case, or in a Special Edition including the disc and its case, plus an exclusive slipcover designed to hold all six volumes of ... more »the series, plus a special- edition T-shirt, available only in the Special Edition package!« less
"The people who brought you Bubblegum Crisis, Tenchi Muyo, El Hazard, Dual, and Photon are back, and this time they've created something truly spectacular. Although the character designs for this series are somewhat derivitive (Mirelle looks like a blonde Sylia/Ifurita/Mitski Rara) the animation itself is crisp, fluid, and beautiful all around. The settings are stunning; be it Paris, Corsica, or a little town on the French/Spanish border the settings are vivid, capturing all the flare of a European city. The background music for Noir is a brilliant mixture of 'local sound' and fast paced J-Pop. Several of the songs are sung in latin, a language with plot-related significance to the series. And, although I have not yet heard the English dub, the Japanese voice acting is superb. But, above all of that stands the most sterling, indepth plot AIC has ever given us. Even the classics like Gall Force, El Hazard, and Bubblegum Crisis have to stand aside. Noir features the story of two assassins, one seeking vengence for her family's murder and the other searching for her lost identity. The pair, Mirelle and Kirika (respectively) team up to form a team called 'Noir'. However, by doing so they attract the attention of a powerful, mysterious group. And, as if that wasn't enough, they must also contend with a mysterious woman who claims to be the 'True Noir'.Mirelle and Kirika must go on a 'pilgrimage to the past', each coming to terms with the half-forgotten events of ten years previous.Beyond the mind-bending mystery, the plot also focuses on the relationship between the two women. Though they begin their partnership with some degree of reluctance, the pair soon grow on one another. How their friendship stands the test of time, however...Although this series is about a pair of assassins, there is almost no blood shown at any time. The high body-count of each episode would quickly desensitize the viewer to the site of blood. Instead, it is only featured when one of the two main characters is injured, and even then it is reserved for only a few special scenes. This is purely artistic, and greatly enhances the experience of the story. If, however, you're looking for lots of gore, this series probably isn't for you.Beautiful animation, wonderful music, and a brilliant, gripping plotline make Noir one of the best animated television series ever made. It is a shimmering gem atop many other greats by AIC, and can stand beside Neon Genesis Evangelion, Akira, and Revolutionary Girl Utena as one of the best Anime has to offer. I highly recomend Noir if you've enjoyed any of the aforementioned series, and still recomend it otherwise.Cheers!"
A series without peer, but watch out for the dub....
Sprite Speigel | 02/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First off, if I was reviewing this in terms of Noir as an anime rather than the Noir DVD as a package, it would get five stars unquestioningly. Noir is a stunningly beautiful, masterfully-constructed, heart-rending tour de force of an anime. It's not like every other anime in the world, and for that reason alone many people will hate it; ultimately Noir is about people entangled in a bitter, brutal and convoluted battle for truth and survival, and how those people and their relationships grow, develop and are slowly unravelled. If you fail to empathise with the characters in the first instance, Noir will not work for you; if they capture your heart, then Noir will instantly become your favourite anime and stay that way for time immemorial, such will its words and images sear themselves into your mind, heart and soul. It is not a "style over substance" anime as many claim; indeed, there are times when Noir is very much *not* about style, with the animation rather primitive in places, but it's more that the substance is very difficult to reach if you're just not the type to care about the characters. There's nothing quite like it out there, and for that reason alone, you need to try it; there's a chance that it simply will not mesh with you, but if you are one of those who its appeal captures, you're in line for one of anime's greatest mental, emotional and spiritual rollercoasters since Evangelion.I loved Noir long before I bought this first DVD; I'd seen the fansub. The DVD has all those nice little extra features you'd expect, with character sketches, original Japanese promo trailers, clean opening and closing sequences and a selection of other ADV previews, and outside of the disc content, a beautiful set of liner notes illustrating may of the production team's thoughts on the series. There are also five episodes, so it's good value for money, all in all. However, this DVD also has an English-language dub track. I'm not one to be elitist and knock a dub for the simple sake that it isn't a sub, but above and aside the fact that the subtle connotations in the voice-acting of Noir - which has precious little dialogue and is sometimes entirely carried by the emotions in the characters' voices - make a dub pretty much impossible, this one is, quite frankly, appalling. Kirika sounds like a My Little Pony character with laryngitis and is far more emotionless than she's supposed to be (contrary to popular belief, Kirika is *not* meant to be Rei IV), and Mireille sounds downright depressed when she's meant to be flippant and couldn't-care-less. In short, both of the characters sound extremely tired and world-weary, and if this is your first experience of Noir you'll instantly consign it to the back of the shelf, because it's physically and emotionally draining to watch. The original Japanese dialogue, by comparison, is mysterious, intriguing and illustrates far more depth betwen the main characters than "oh, we're assassins and we kill people and we'd really like some Prozac right about now". So, no matter what your position on subs and dubs, do this one a favour and *don't* watch the dub track; it's not, as I've said before, a regular anime, and really does need to be experienced in its original language to get the full effect. It makes *so* much difference. (Think of Card Captor Sakura vs. Cardcaptors; yes, *that* much of a difference.)Also, at some points, I found the subtitles themselves a little lacking; they seem to vary between clinical, literal translations of the dialogue, and flowery over-interpretations. Ultimately they too fail to capture a lot of the subtle nuances of the original language (for example, when Kirika asks Mireille to "give me some" - popcorn, that is, hentai - in episode 3, yes, that *is* the literal meaning of her words, but the *connotations* are more polite than how that blunt request sounds in English. It's more like, "I'd like some, please".), and to experience this anime at its best you'll either need to know a little cursory Japanese or have a dictionary to hand for those crucial bits of dialogue. I'd have personally liked some on-screen translation notes at points, but I've been spoiled with the fansubs, I suppose. Alternatively, turn the subs off and watch without! Not recommended until you've actually seen the series once first, but some fans swear by the fact that the subtle hints in the characters' voices and gestures are easier to pick up without the distraction of translated dialogue. I was also slightly annoyed that the Japanese language track is 2.1 surround sound, whereas the English track is 5.1, meaning the Japanese comes across as slightly flatter in sound quality, but that's me being a nitpick and most people probably won't notice it.Ultimately if you love Noir, you love Noir. If you hate Noir, you hate Noir. There's very little room for middle ground, as with all works of fine art; you either "get" Picasso or you think your dog could paint better with the leftovers of the Sunday roast. But every anime fan has a duty to Bee Train to at least try this one out, and maybe discover something beautiful. The production values of this DVD aren't perfect, but if you're willing to live with it and *not* watch the dub, I highly, highly recommend Noir as a series."
The editorial review is misinformed
Yoshio Tani | Gifu, Japan | 02/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... In my opinion, the editorial review dishonors Tsukimura Ryoue's rather remarkable script, because it stands on incorrect premises concerning the two main heroines of the story, Yuumura Kirika and Mireille Bouquet. Let me make the following two points.1. The implication that Mireille met Kirika in Paris, is an oversimplification, if not a downright misunderstanding. The implication is particularly inappropriate if it refers specifically to their first meeting told in the first episode. In the first episode, Mireille in Paris receives an email from one Yuumura Kirika and travels to Japan to find out what this girl was. Mireille was attracted to go there because the piece of tune attached to the email could be associated with the painful memory of her childhood. The location of their first meeting, where the first battle sequence also takes place, is in Kanagawa Prefecture, in the southwest vicinity of Tokyo. This information is presented to the audience by means of Kirika's school ID card. Only in the later part of the first episode, Mireille returns to Paris with Kirika, to start their half bitter honeymoon as the team Noir.2. The statements, "neither woman can remember her past" and "the only recurring characters in Noir are amnesiacs" are not correct. Of all the dramatis personae, only Kirika could be quite said to be an amnesiac. Other main characters, Mireille, Chloe and Altena seem to remember their pasts quite clearly. Even for Kirika, a "blank slate" would be imprecise words to describe her personality and abilities. A part of her memory had been concealed from herself. This was done hypnotically by an unknown party to suit their design, as will be revealed in the episodes 20 and 21. In the first episode, we find Kirika left to live alone in a house in Kanagawa which supposedly belongs to her family, but no one else is there. She leads a seemingly normal schoolgirl's life, but with a Beretta of unknown identity which she uses with a staggering skill. And she daringly attracts a pretty and deadly assassin from Paris. ...In my opinion, Kirika as a person is anything but uninteresting. Much more interesting facets of her personality will be revealed in the episodes to come.Noir is perhaps not an animation for everyone, since it contains so much killing and the hints on lesbianism are not negligible. Even with these marks subtracted, I suspect Noir to be one of the most noteworthy achievements among the recent products of Japanese animation...."
An extraordinary fiction
Yoshio Tani | Gifu, Japan | 02/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A set of 13DVDs contains all 26 episodes of the original Japanese version of Noir : the picture format is in 16:9 widescreen, the sound track is in 2.0 Linear PCM. I have watched these episodes over and over again. Noir is a rare masterpiece of extraordinary fiction, created by, and every episode written by, Tsukimura Ryoue. Even here in Japan, where the life of someone like myself is assailed by floods of animation, it is hard to compare the dramatic intensity and prowess of Noir to anything else.Noir is the story of two virgins, tragically grew up as assassins, desperately seeking light in their native darkness, and learning to love one another. Obstacles lie ahead in their paths, naturally. One particular and overwhelming trial exists between the two heroines which will become disclosed in the final series of episodes. The animation does not depict lesbianism in any explicit manner. Instead, their love is implied subtly and with depth of fluctuating emotions.The voice cast is done by some of the very finest of our voice actresses. The main heroines Yuumura Kirika and Mireille Bouquet are performed by Kuwashima Houko and Mitsuishi Kotono; the assisting heroines Chloe and Altena are done by Hisakawa Aya and Tarako. It is not just that the voice cast is distinguished. Noir pushes these talented voice actresses to go even beyond their normally high standards of performance. Kuwashima Houko reflects that acting Kirika was very difficult, but she positively claims Kirika is a treasure in her career.While the artwork is neatly executed, there is somewhat a naive feel about it. This may discourage a new viewer, especially when watching an episode for the first couple of times. Nevertheless, the drawings have a distinct flavor which I think will grow likeable after repeated viewings.Amazon.com's own review seems not fully informed and inaccurate. Not both Mireille and Kirika are amnesiacs. Mireille's memory remains intact all the way. Not for a moment does she forget the agonizing tragedy of her childhood. A part of Kirika's memory was hypnotically hidden from herself. This was done by a design of someone, for a purpose.The unique emotional experience of Noir is opulently enhanced by Kajiura Yuki's exceptional musical scores and lyrics."
A difficult start, but avoids the "Ship of Fools Syndrome"!
Courtland J. Carpenter | Fort Wayne, Indiana United States | 11/22/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First I couldn't say that this would be everybody's type of anime. If you like fan service, comedy, or romances look elsewhere immediately. Despite fan fiction sites, that would turn the affection between the two principals into Lesbian subtext. It's not about that kind of relationship either. Noir is more about style than plot, although it does have a plot. These early episodes take a while to draw your interest. I put the first DVD into my player, and watched most of the way though episode one a number of times. I kept getting distracted, and losing interest. I was hoping this was not one of "those" series, that I just can't stand watching. I call it the "Ship of Fools Syndrome", based on my experience with that highly rated, but overlong movie. I tried to watch the Ship of Fools no less than a dozen times, mainly because it's supposed to be a great movie. To this day, I still have never been able to sit through more than an hour, and cannot recall anything that happened in that overlong, black and white film. Fortunately, Noir escaped that fate.I finally watched beyond the first episode, and the series started to grow on me a little. The introduction is a little strange; a smallish, Japanese schoolgirl with amnesia, sends an E-mail, and musical message to a highly accomplished, female, professional assassin. Questions abound as to why she sought her out, how she knew to attract her attention, (somehow piquing the interest of something in her forgotten past). The little Japanese girl is an incredibly talented killer in her own right, and seems to have a lot of people trying to kill her for unknown reasons.The girls form an uneasy, temporary alliance, and start calling themselves Noir. Noir apparently refers to a legendary pair of assassins from French history. Mireille Bouquet, the contract killing professional, is from Corsica. She agrees to take on the little girl, who may or may not be named Kirika (from a school ID card in her possession). When she finds out some answers, she promises to kill her. Together they begin taking on some of Mireille's regular contract jobs.The second episode just demonstrates the incredible efficiency this pair has in their profession. Its action for the sake of action. On about the third episode, some of the series plot starts to unfold, the mission is compromised, and we learn how really good Kirika can be as a killer. The final two episodes in the first five, show more about someone else working in the background, to set up this new incarnation of Noir.I will repeat this anime is more about style than plot, and the action does become enjoyable. The music is excellent, it reminded me of the style music in .hack//sign, but somehow seems much better. Beware, the music often plays in the background, long after watching the series you'll find it playing repeatedly in your head. Art and animation are very good especially the action sequences. Some of the details were a little off. I found it interesting, that they both observed the Japanese custom of removing their shoes at the door, even though Mireille is a Corsican who lives in Paris. The good news here is, after a slow start, I leave the first five episodes wanting to see more."