Noein Vol. #2 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, January 18, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007



What They Say
After Haruka's mysterious disappearance with Karasu into the La'cryma dimension, Yuu frantically scours the city in serach of his friend. The terrifying war-scarred world of La'cryma, where humans live underground, shows a bleak future... but is it preventable? Haruka's remarkable adventure raises many questions about her furure world and the important role she and her friends will play in the inter-dimensional battle and struggle for the Dragon's Torque - an object whose magnificent power Haruka is just beginning to understand.

Contains episodes 6-10.

The Review!
Settling into its plot a bit more, the present and the future are explored in more depth and threats appear all around.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. While not too unusual, Manga has created a 5.1 mix for the Japanese track but does provide the original stereo mix as well. The 5.1 mix is decent and it provides a much fuller sounding forward mix, but it isn't a show that was designed to use a 5.1 mix heavily so there isn't all that much of a full surround feeling to it. There is a fair bit of action along the way here and it is well represented as is dialogue, which finds some good placement as the scenes shift around well with the cast. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Visually, this series is well designed and well animated though some of its designs may look like they're done to be minimal and on the cheap. The lush backgrounds in many of the locations within the town look fantastic and maintain a lot of detail while some of the character designs, particularly those from La'cryma, have an almost minimalist feel to them in terms of detail. This is true of the human cast as well but they're able to cover it up a bit more with varying clothes and simply be being more familiar. The slightly alien feel given off by the La'cyrmaians works in the shows favor though. Colors are vibrant and rich, black levels look great and the show is free of cross coloration and aliasing. There are a few visual tricks used to change the look of the show at times and these maintain a very strong feel and don't break-up or macroblock at all.

Packaging:
The cover artwork for this installment has a much smaller set of characters on it which is a plus. Focusing on Yu and Haruka, the two are hand in hand while the background features the dragon and Karasu in some good looking shades of blue that give it a sense of danger. It's not a stand out piece but it's not the worst thing I've seen either. The back cover fares better with some character artwork lining around the edges as well as several shots from the show itself. The quibbles with quotes is a non-issue here as they're from reputable places. The summary for the show is decent though it gives away a bit too much I think and there is a listing for the discs episode numbers and titles along with all the extras. As usual, there is no technical grid here and information is all over the map. On the plus side, the runtime is better than past Manga releases as it's much closer to reality in that they go off of twenty-five minute runtimes instead of thirty. I wish their technical information was listed more cleanly though and in line with other anime, Hollywood and Japanese distributors. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
The menu layout is very nicely done though it can be a touch difficult to navigate as it uses a circle formation. While the background alternates between different background shots from the series itself with no characters visible, the actual selection area is made up of some of the computer graphics from within the show and the symbols have English selections laid over those. With a bit of heavy choral music and some sound effects, the menu fits in very well with the theme of the show so far and sets a heavy mood right from the start. Access times are nice and fast and the disc properly read our players language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras are a bit less this time but that's not much of a surprise. The main extra is the second installment of the "On Location" piece with the voice actress and the director going about town and other aspects of the production. Similar to the first, it runs about sixteen minutes in length. The only other extra included is the next round of "player cards" which are basically stills from the show. I don't know whether to be amused or afraid that on the back cover it lists English and Spanish subtitles as "bonus extras." .

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first installment of Noein was one that was visually quite engaging but it left me rather unsure in the story side of things. The mythos that's being built up around this storyline is certainly intriguing but it is one that, like many other Kazuki Akane shows, is one that isn't quite so well done at first and rather disjointed. The first five episodes gave no easy answers and played with timelines, parallel worlds and a host of fascinating but confusing visuals.

The storyline in this set of five episodes solidifies a bit more as the characters are more clearly defined in some ways now. Kurasu and Haruka have ended up in La'cyrma which allows us to get an idea of how these people work in this future alternate timeline. Karasu's actions have not gone over well so he's being punished rather well in what appears to be his debriefing, but Haruka finds herself making out much better in terms of treatment. At least initially. The entire concept of being tossed not only into the future but some different place called La'cyrma her has her full of disbelief at first, but once she manages to make her way outside and realize that she's close to where her home once was it all starts to sink in. That alone would be enough to make anyone want to go home but the fact that those around her are trying to eliminate her only make that impulse stronger.

Haruka's time in La'cyrma is quite fascinating to watch but it's the moments when she's not involved that are the most intriguing. There is one fight sequence, where one of the men similar in power to Karasu, deals with a problem by turning into a massively tall creature of light and simply tears it apart. From the visual presentation of it to the music that heightens the scene, it's a very strong moment that really gives the show a sense of power. That entire sequence is then shifted to Karasu's escape attempt with Haruka that brings her back to her own reality where everyone is frantically looking for her. The time in the present is just as interesting to watch though it lacks some of the power in terms of visuals that the La'cyrma segment does. A lot of time is spent just in acclimating everyone to what's happened and coming to terms with it but there is a fair bit more.

Two areas prove to be more interesting when it comes to the present time. One of them is watching as Atori and Tobi try to deal with living in this time. With Atori's intent to destroy the Dragon Torque, he's just biding his time until he can deal with that but he's becoming increasingly unstable and intent on staying where they are. This is a fairly slow progression through these episodes but it caps off quite well in the last episode as the storyline hits a solid peak. The other one that turned out to be a real surprise is when Yu's mother ends up coming to Haruka's house to get her and ends up spending the afternoon drinking with Haruka's mother. It's through this that we start to see more of who she really is, someone more than just a shrill mother intent on her son getting into a good school. Her past starts to open more questions though but it does a wonderful job of really explaining motivations. Having her be something more than just a cardboard cutout with no real past of her own only has this becoming even more fleshed out..

In Summary:
Noein in its second installment manages to capture my attention more than it did in the first. The story isn't exactly linear because of the timelines and parallel worlds but the storytelling is much smoother. With the initial cast now set and motivations becoming clear, it's moving forward in capitalizing on the visuals, designs and overall setting that was laid out in the first volume. While the first volume wasn't awful it was the kind of show that left me really enjoying the visual eye-candy but it wasn't easy to connect with the characters. This is where it all starts to come together and really begins to get engaging.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Behind-The-Scenes: On Location with Actors and Directors,Textless Opening and Ending,Original Japanese Trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Manga Entertainment
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Noein