Noir Vol. #1: Shades of Darkness (Regular & Special Edition) (Mania.com)

By:Dion Moses
Review Date: Sunday, May 18, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2003



The Review!
Audio:

Since I'd already seen the Japanese version almost a year before this DVD came out, I went ahead and watched this disc in English. For once on an ADV release, I was not disappointed.
For the most part, the dub version of Noir is not bad at all. The woman chosen to portray Mireille, Shelley Calene Black, did a splendid job. Her husky and sometimes deadpan voice is right on the mark. Kirika's English VA, Monica Rail, also did a wonderful job. My only real complaint is that I kept having to turn the TV up to hear Kirika - her voice comes across way too softly in the English to be able to tell clearly what she's saying. This becomes a real problem when the next scene is a blaring rendition of "Salva Nos" and you don't have time to turn the sound back down to normal levels. This isn't a constant thing, and the problem's not there in the Japanese, so I'm assuming that it's just her voice actor needing to be a few inches closer to her mic.
My only other complaint about the English version - and this is small and trifling, I know - is their constant mispronunciation of Mireille's name. Mireille even mispronounces her own name. For the record, it's not "Mi-ri-elle", it's "Mi-rei-ya".

Video:

I have nothing but good things to say about the video quality of this DVD. The action sequences are incredibly well put-together and flow marvelously. As far as I could tell, there were no noticeable breaks or pauses in the animation - everything went like clockwork. The colors are bright and vivid, and the art style truly conveys the atmosphere of the settings the creators have used. There are also some interesting lighting shots used in a few scenes, most notably the one in which Mireille sets off a flare.
Another splendid thing about the art quality of this series is the way it realistically portrays the surroundings that Mireille and Kirika are placed in. From New York to Sicily, every new location that the TV flashes up, it almost feels like you're there. If you have no use for action shows, you might almost want to watch 'Noir' for the nearly travelogue-type quality the show possesses.

Packaging:

The front cover of the DVD depicts a wounded Kirika clutching her side while Mireille poses against a backdrop of blurry bunkers set on a white background. The back cover has clips from the four episodes enclosed, as well as the lovely picture of Mireille and Kirika and the hydrocephalic white cat from the third volume of the Japanese DVD set. The DVD case is black, like the other one in the set so far, and providing a nice contrast to the white case cover. However, the real treat lies on the inside.
As an insert, ADV has included a little leaflet-type dissertation by the director and the character designer on why 'Noir' is not a 'pretty girl anime' and on the types of guns that Kirika and Mireille use. I'm always a sucker for listening to creative Japanese men gush about their favorite characters, or handguns, or booze, or in this case, Kirika's dorky shoes.

Menu:

The menus on this DVD were absolutely stunning. The main menu features a long segue down a pale blue and white hallway, eventually leading to the different selections for this disc. Between the windows of the hallway, you're able to see silhouette of Mireille fighting some random baddie. Depending on which selection you make, you may see Kirika running down the calming blue hallway at you.
The rest of the menus are rather interesting and inventive. The language menu is a picture of les Soldats manuscript burning. (if you're really bored, you can sit and read the top half of the paper in French) The extras menu is the neat, random, gold fan thing from the show's opening. My personal favorite, however, is the scene selection menu. The scenes are posted as though they were on a wall and you were at the bottom of it, looking up. I'm pretty sure that if you look at it long enough, you can achieve a wonderful sense of vertigo, but I'm not willing to try. This series is trippy enough as it is.
One thing I liked about these menus, though, was the easy access to the different episodes. Instead of flipping through a scene directory, the episodes are all on the main menu. This is something ADV has consistently done for as long as I can remember, and it's something I like.

Extras:

There aren't really many extras here to speak of. Just your standard clean opening and ending. There are a few production sketches and two Japanese ads, too, but nothing major. And, of course, those nifty ADV previews - that you probably skip through if you at all have a choice. I know I do.

Content:
(beyond this point, you're only spoiled if you wanna be)

Our sixth episode sends us to the former U.S.S.R. with Mireille and Kirika to hunt down a former higher-up in the KGB who ordered the executions of an entire minority in a Russian death camp. While this at first seems like a flimsy excuse for Kirika to frolic angstily in the snow with that bug-eyed white cat, (I have friends who are deathly afraid of that animal) it soon turns into arguably one of the most depressing episodes of any anime, anywhere. And I loved every minute of it.
The twist in the plot comes about 2 minutes into the episode, when you find out that the former KGB agent has been working for the past few decades as a charity worker, feeding the homeless and helping the destitute. Survivors of the minority he ordered executed have hired Noir to get their revenge. Kirika spends the episode coming to terms with taking out an old infirm target who has tried to atone for his sins the best way he knows how - and knows he has failed.

The seventh episode takes us to a war-torn middle-eastern country, where Kirika has botched an assassination and wound up wounded. While Mireille contemplates ditching her and making a clean get-away, the bad guys come 'round and save her the trouble. However, instead of running for it while she has the chance, Mireille decides instead to come to the bad guys' base of operations and rain down holy heck until she finds Kirika.
Kirika, meanwhile, has taken to mumbling incoherently and obsessing over her ID card... which she later uses to take out her attackers.
I think it's interesting to note that this episode has perhaps inspired more really bad doujinshi than any other in this series. After all, what more plot do you really need than "Kirika is kidnapped by a dozen men and Mireille comes to save her"?

The eight and ninth episodes are a two-parter centered around a girl that Mireille met as a small child. This girl, a purple-haired Sicilian Mafia princess named Sylvana, has grown up to lead the Greone crime family... after having killed her father and grandfather to get the position. When Noir is hired by a rival syndicate of Mexican criminals to take out one of her Dons, Sylvana and Mireille are brought face to face for the first time in years.
These two episodes are particularly interesting, as we get to see the first glimpses of Mireille's past. We learn that her father visited Sylvana's father on 'business'... so we can probably assume that her father was also a mafioso of some sort. There's also the intense rivalry between the two girls and it's intriguing to see someone who can finally make Mireille shake with fright.
Of course, there are more fun things than that in these two episodes. There's also random Mafia torture scenes, mutant Sicilian buttercups, and music that the show's creators were too ashamed to put on the two original soundtrack CDs. And let's not forget the girl-kissing!

If you're a fan of movies like "The Godfather" and "Scarface", "Noir" is a sure bet for you. If you're a fan of good plot, good suspense or action/thriller type movies, this should work for you, too. If you're a fan of pretty girlies running around in short skirties... well, I'm not sure you'll get *everything* you're looking for, but you'll definitely get most of it.




Review Equipment
Sanyo 17 inch TV, Toshiba DVD player SD-2109




Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98/44.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Noir