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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007



What They Say
The space/time battle comes home when Haruka's friends are trapped in Shangri-la and she is forced to witness their tragic futures. But even if Haruka can make the sacrifice that may save them all, what shocking secrets will still be revealed?

The Dragon's Torque is activated, the dimensional convergence will begin, and mankind will face the ultimate suffering. In a world where human existence is an unstable illusion, who will now possess the power to finally destroy Noein?

Contains episodes 21-24:
Illusion
To the Future
The End
The Beginning

The Review!
As the dimensions begin to converge, various forces act to try and prevent things but can they stop the wishes of a young girl?

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:
The murky nature of the cover works well for the content itself but as a selling point it's definitely not going to attract much attention. The split image of Karasu along the top in a defensive mode while the bright imagery, if you can call it that, of the Dragon Torque along the bottom provides some of the key elements to the storyline here. The artwork for this series hasn't been the best in general but for those that are watching each volume it'll do fine. 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. The included technical grid which was absent from some of the first volumes is done well here again. Runtimes are accurate, language presents are clear as are subtitle and aspect ratio listings. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

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 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)
The final four episodes of Noein have the unenviable task of taking what's both a simple story and a complex setup with the characters and bringing it all to a satisfying conclusion. With so much that has come before and multiple versions of characters running around, the looming threat of everything being destroyed and rebooted into something different leaves a lot of what may happen up in the air. To make matters even more unpredictable, everything is left in the hands of a confused young girl who has seen nothing but pain in the future.

Due to the diversity of the cast, there are so many smaller storylines running throughout here that it does seem like most of them don't get the full attention they deserve. Miho and Atori for example have some very good moments together as everything starts to race forward, but the pair deserved more of these moments. Tobi fairs even worse he's only useful in providing access to the dimensional information and setting Uchida on the right path. Uchida and Kooriyama make out decently however as they finally meet up with Haruka's father and really get a grip on what the Magic Circle project is all about. Through their meeting with him they're able to really push the dangers of what's happening and how it could affect the multiverse that he believes so much in.

As the dimensions begin to converge, we get to see a lot of the periphery characters come into play, generally other dimensional versions of the core cast of characters. When things begin to harmonize, we see everyone on La'cryma trying to either hide more or get above ground to watch the Dragon Torque at work. These are all very emotional moments that really help to enhance the mood and build on the tension. Seeing the older versions of some of the characters deal with it head on and without fear speaks a lot of how they've had to deal with things in their world but also of their core personalities. Similar occurs on the primary dimension we've seen in the series as the parents of the children are facing such a bizarre series of events that seem to be turning their world upside down.

Not too surprising is that the bulk of the focus is on that of Haruka and by extension Yu and Karasu. Noein has managed to use a number of sweet words and phrases to draw her to him as he needs Haruka in order to achieve his goal of destroying everything so it can begin anew in a better way. Haruka is still resistant to the idea since the loss of her friends and all she loves would be far too painful. Noein's ability to open up views to other dimensions provides a fascinating look at the tragedy that most of the characters face in different dimensions based off of their own choices and the choices of others. Of course, since there are an infinite number of dimensions there are plenty of tragic ones to pull from. Haruka's age and overall lack of understanding makes it easy for Noein to take advantage of her and use her emotions to get what he wants.

Noein's conclusion is satisfying enough in a sort of predictable way but there was a hope for something a bit more profound based on the kinds of concepts being played with here. Seeing the various dimensions shown to Haruka and the older versions of the characters, there is a desire to see them really move above and beyond those tragedies. Those dimensions likely weren't a majority of the infinite possibilities though and the chance that most of them would just grow up in an unexceptional way is far more probable than anything else. The core storyline of dealing with Noein and the changes in relationships between the group of friends that are about to embark out of elementary school is solid enough however to provide a conclusion that doesn't make you want to walk away from all of it. In fact, if makes me want to go back to the beginning and reassess those early episode that just didn't appeal to me.

In Summary:
Noein was never an easy series but it was one that challenged the viewer and played with fascinating concepts in a manner that was intelligent and non-condescending. Kazuki Akane has long been one of my favorite creators in Japan and Noein, though shaky at the start for me, paid off in spades in the long run. While his works may not run to all tastes, what I've found is that he typically tries different things and avoids repeating themes and concepts too much. Noein is an impressive work when taken in total and Manga Entertainment's release does a solid job through and through. The series became quite the surprise and is the kind of title you pull out and thrust at people who say there isn't anything good out there to watch anymore. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Outtakes,Image Gallery,Clean Opening

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: 19.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Noein