Noein Vol. #4 (of 5) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 22, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, June 26, 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.
Dimensions begin to interact more with each other as Haruka realizes what powers she may really have.
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.
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.
With a heavy push on purple for the filter this time, the murky nature of the cover works well as it contrasts the various dragon warriors in the background in their dark garb while Yu and Haruka are brightly colored in the foreground. 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. Unlike previous volumes, a technical grid is provided with everything presented in a very clear manner. This is a big turnaround from previous releases and it looks great. Runtimes are accurate, language presents are clear as are subtitle and aspect ratio listings. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.
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.
The extras are pretty mild here on this volume which isn't a surprise. All that's included this time is an image gallery and a clean version of the opening sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the confusing early episodes and then the middle section that built up a much more fascinating story, Noein hits its stride once again with this set of episodes. Much of what has come before takes on a stronger meaning as events build towards the finale and action is required by the characters. Noein's involvement is growing as is the impact of his various manipulations to bring Shangrai-la everywhere.
One area where watching this show with so many episodes at once is in being able to try and get a handle on the various dimensional shifts that seem to occur. The generally happens with Haruka as she's still searching in some ways for the perfect dimension in which to live. With her ability as an Observer to be able to finalize things as she sees them, her quest sometimes brings about interesting variations. Though they mix it with a sense of déjà vu and possibly dreams, Haruka is able to cover some of the recent events of the series such as when Karasu first arrived in her world but seeing it occur in a different manner. This ability to shift perspectives and the threads of time shows some fascinating small but key differences but also the way things seem to almost always follow some familiar paths.
Haruka's growth through these experiences as well as her encounters with Noein help to solidify her stand on reality however. After Noein's attack on Fukuro and the way he seems to be trying to manipulate her reality in subtle ways, she's firmed up her belief in listening to Karasu and wanting to not end up like they have in La'cryma. In the end though, these kids are all only twelve years old after all so a good bit of the time spent throughout these episodes is them going through normal summer life. The ties to the storyline are engaging though, such as having Haruka trying to remember her past as she's now afraid that she may finalize herself right out of it. The sense of a lack of permanence is brought up in a couple of ways, such as a deceased grandmother and a friend she left in Tokyo. The atmosphere for these moments as she tries to recall her own past and deal with the way memories grow soft over time is both chilling and eerie.
Though there is a good deal of dialogue and introspection going on during these episodes it's not short on the action either. Kosagi has fallen to the "real" world now with the intent of making sure that Karasu ends up dead even if it's not by her own hands. Noein is manipulating things in order to cause the right kind of mischief to help further his agenda. That pushes Kuina into taking action after his true love Kosagi fails to return through the pipeline. Kuina's an interesting character in that he loses so much of himself through the attacks he's involved in all for such a personal reason. His belief that La'cyrma is doomed yet he performs his duties as a dragon warrior seem to conflict with each other but it all revolves around the deal he's managed to make with Noein. This keeps him focused on the goal to the exclusion of all else which in turn makes him irrational and prone to mistakes. Those events lead to some great scenes though, particularly when the Shangri-la ships make a venture into Haruka's reality to retrieve her.
Noein has a lot to offer and its style of storytelling has worked far better later in the series than it did at first. Those first episodes are still difficult to deal with in the way it's told but seeing them through different shifts in this volume as well as having the history to them brings about some new appreciation for it. While Kazuki Akane has plenty of detractors out there of his works, I continue to find him doing some of the more enjoyable works I've seen in the last ten years. From Escaflowne to Heat Guy J to Noein, his dealing with original works rather than churning out manga adaptation after manga adaptation is a huge plus. So many series seem to be by the book these days that when something original does come out even the weakest ones tend to be far more entertaining. Noein has its issues and it took me a good number of episodes to warm up to it, but once it has its hooks in you it's something you can't help but to recommend to others. Noein is a challenge to watch but so far it has paid off handsomely.
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Still Gallery,Clean Opening
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
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2