Noir: Complete Collection (Thinpak) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Girls, guns, and a mysterious organization controlling the world... do they form a winning combination?

What They Say
A cryptic message. A mysterious organization. A girl with a missing past. These are triggers that launch professional hit woman Mireille Bouquet into the ultimate odyssey of death and vengeance.

Joining forces with Yuumura Kirika, a young girl with deadly skills and a forgotten identity, Mireille finds herself thrust into a secret world where the only law is kill or be killed, and where your closest friend could turn out to be your worst enemy. Two female assassins embark on a journey through the ultimate darkness.

The Review!
Audio:
I listened to the original Japanese audio for my viewing session.  It is a solid 5.1 track with good effects across the soundstage.  There were no noticeable defects to detract from the listening experience.  The only oddity encountered was the level of the volume between discs.  Some seemed mixed louder than others, but the quality did not suffer from having to adjust the volume up or down.

Video:
Noir receives an excellent transfer free from any noticeable defects.  From the sunny streets of Paris to the dark gloom of a forest, the colors are rich and deep providing a stunning visual experience.

Packaging:
Seven thinpak cases are housed in a sturdy chipboard box; the box features a gorgeous wrap around piece of art featuring Kirika, Mireille, and the themes that tie their lives together.  Cover art for the cases remain unchanged from the previous releases; the disc details are in a clean, readable format.

Menu:
The catchy hook from the opening theme plays over the main menu; the menu is rendered as a long hallway.  Moving around the menu items is not immediately intuitive but does not hinder movement between the sections much.  Transition delays are minimal, but the overall look is a bit spartan.

Extras:
The extras across all discs are nearly identical.  You can view a slideshow of production art, a clean version of the opening, and a clean version of the ending.  From disc three to disc six, there is an interview with one of the Japanese voice actors.  The final disc includes interviews with the English dub actors.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shortly after Noir was first announced, I checked out a preview of the first episode.  It managed to pique my interest with an incredibly catchy and unique opening theme.  The story itself also had me curious; Mireille Bouquet is an assassin who finds an unusual email waiting for her.  It tells her to meet someone so they can go on a journey to find their past; Mireille prepares to summarily dismiss this message but finds the snatch of music attached hauntingly familiar.

A short trip to Japan and a running gun fight through a construction site brings Yumura Kirika into Mireille's life.  Kirika appears to be an ordinary school girl but possesses the extraordinary ability to effortlessly kill anyone.  She also is conveniently an amnesiac wanting to find out who she really is.  She has enlisted Mireille's help for this goal and shows Mireille a musical watch, one Mireille knows quite well.  Mireille agrees to help Kirika uncover her past, and they prepare to embark on a journey to learn the truth about their past.

Well, I was certainly impressed by the first episode but did not take the journey with the pair at that time.  With ADV's recent release of the entire series, I could finally take the time and see where their journey took them.  However, I was surprised and slightly disappointed to find the pair doing little towards their goal for the bulk of Noir.

Initially, the episodic nature of the series was welcome; there was a certain languid feel to the pace of the stories that just worked.  They would receive a contract for a hit and execute it -- little muss or fuss about it.  As the series continued, this pacing lost its appeal; we were promised a grand journey to uncover some mysteries.  What caused Kirika's amnesia?  Why did she possess a watch that had a close personal tie to Mireille?  Random hits are fine to a point; they allow the pair to build trust in each other in preparation for the journey.

Yet, they seldom show any concern for the task that brought them together.  Eventually, the mysterious world-controlling organization Soldats is introduced as playing a part in their past lives.  Do they pursue this lead vigorously?  No, they mostly sit back waiting for new jobs and hoping a member of the Soldats will knock on their door and inquire if they would like to subscribe to their newsletter.

Their journey does not begin in earnest until the third act; Altena is a grape growing prophetess seeking a "Grand Return" for the Soldats organization.  This requires the fulfillment of the Langonel Manuscript, a document that only she possesses, the rest conveniently expunged over time.  Two maidens must join together in a ritual and become the true Noir, merchants of death to bear the sins of man.  Altena's plans involve Kirika and Altena's close protégé Chloe.

There is plenty of action throughout the series and more so in the end game.  But the third act showed what the series could have been from the start, a good mystery involving conspiracies, intricate plans, and lots of bloodshed.  By the time we have reached the meat of the story, I simply could not care much how it ended; I just wanted it to end.  If the characters were so unconcerned with their past, why should I be intrigued and glued to the screen?

Despite the entire plot not meeting my expectation, Noir is a solid, entertaining action series with plenty of visual and musical style.  The running gun battles were always a treat featuring some fluid, graceful dances of death one might see in a John Woo film.  Though, I was always wondering where Mireille managed to keep her extra clips in that outfit.  There are some great character moments also that may not have tied into the Soldats plot but allowed them to gain depth beyond their assassin persona.

In Summary:
Noir left me with mixed feelings about the series; it was an entertaining, stylish action series the entire way.  Every episode featured either an amazing fight sequence or a poignant character moment.  However, the series promises a grand journey right from the start but meanders too long before delivering on that promise.  The languid pacing and ambivalent attitude towards their goal kept me from being completely engrossed.  Noir is a good series that could have been so much better.  Still, this is a series worth picking up and watching at least once, if only to learn how to hum that entire opening theme.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: TV-14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 89.98
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Noir