Noein Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, April 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2007



What They Say
As the dimensional battle rages, the sides have blurred. Karasu and the others believe that Yuu and Haruka's dimension should be saved from the mysterious force Shangri-La. If they can save their world, just maybe they can save themselves and their own future.

Contains episodes 16-20:
Out of Sync
The Battle
The Wish
Memories
Shangri-La

The Review!
Shangri-La is getting closer to Haruka's dimension but there are other issues that must be worked out first.

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'cyrmian's 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 block at all.

Packaging:
With a heavy push on green for the filter this time, this installment has a real sense of forboding to it as it features all the black clad characters along the bottom. Karasu is along the top while the torque is through the center where the series logo is. 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 are 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 about the same as the previous volume this time around. The main extra is the third 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 thirteen minutes in length. A stills gallery is included for this volume as well as a really intriguing storyboard to screen sequence. About seventeen minutes in length, it compares the final animation to the original storyboards and key animation sequences. There's a certain raw fluidity to all of it and it only serves to impress all the more what goes into making these kinds of shows.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Noein has been something of a difficult series to get into with how it presented itself at first. The second volume went a long way towards clearing things up and putting it all into place which made it a lot more enjoyable. There was still some difficulty to it though as elements from the first volume needed to be seen again in order to put it all into place. With this volume that brings us through episode fifteen, Noein simply clicks perfectly and hits some amazing high notes with it.

With there being five episodes here, the show works through a couple of layers of plot that make talking about much of it difficult without giving away huge sections. Noein isn't shy about throwing math and science at the viewer and does so right from the start as it attempts to have Uchida explaining to everyone's favorite cop what quantum mechanics is all about. Her perception about what may be occurring within the Magic Circle Project is something that she believes Professor Mayuzumi may have been aware of before he resigned six months earlier. She attempts to go through the explanations in the most basic of terms for the cop to understand, which makes it easier for the audience to understand as well. The importance of what's going on and the way it could play out is key to the shows tension.

The first half of these episodes is focused around the main confrontation that's slowly been building for several episodes. The tension has revolved around the attempts to bring Haruka back to La'cryma as well as trying to deal with Karasu and his defense of her. Fukurou and Kosagi have been making most of the attempts but Fukurou's relationship with Karasu is one that it makes it difficult to simply attack outright. After a series of misfires on this, the pair end up going at it at the Hakodate Docks where they simply don't hold back. The sequence runs for some time and with an almost rough key animation look to it, it's highly fluid and stunning to watch. Even better is that the 5.1 mix associated with it gives it such a rush of power that it stands out as one of the best moments of the series to date.

Haruka over the course of the series is someone who has been pulled from event to event while needing to be protected. This doesn't change too much in this volume but with her greater knowledge of what's going on and the acceptance of who everyone is gives her a far more interesting role. Her visions into other dimensions, which will become reality for her at some point, places an enormous pressure on her. At the same time that she sees dark events ahead for people like Karasu, she also tries to look back in time to key events in her own childhood to see if they can be changed. There are some great moments here as well as some realizations about how time and space really work. The multiverse concept is something that I've been fascinated with since the mid-eighties and Noein plays with it all to great effect.

Haruka isn't the only one to change in this volume as both Atori and Tobi become much more interesting people to follow. The pitched battle between Fukurou and Karasu brings Atori into it and the events change him dramatically. His personality is drastically altered which allows him to view things in a very different light. With the help of Tobi, who is nicely expanded here as well as he is able to interact with everyone without Atori's insanity hampering him, Haruka and the others are able to start truly understanding the threat of Shangri-La. This also brings some nice tie-ins with Uchida about the Magic Circle Project that starts to highlight how this particular dimension is following the same path as many others.

In Summary:
Noein has gone from a series that I feared would be a chore to watch to one that the next volume can't get here soon enough. The arc that runs through this volume closes out part of the initial storyline and ends on an amazing high note. The next arc kicks off with some very good character insights that helps to expand our understanding of just who these kids are and who they've become in another dimension. Mix in some interesting new material regarding Haruka's father and a clearer understanding of Shangri-La and Noein is quickly becoming one of the best original stories out there in recent memory. Very recommended and worth the effort if the earlier episodes were hard to get into.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,On Location with Japanese Voice Actor and Director Part 3, Photo Gallery, Storyboard to Screen.

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: A-
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