Noir Vol. #4: Death Warrant - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Noir

Noir Vol. #4: Death Warrant

By Chris Beveridge     July 01, 2003
Release Date: June 24, 2003


Noir Vol. #4: Death Warrant
© ADV Films


What They Say
In a world where no one is what they seem, faith and trust become the key objectives and ultimate goal. Driven by the machinations of the mysterious Chloe, Altena and an all new crime family, Kirika and Mireille must fight for their lives both at home and abroad as the action explodes across the globe. Yet even as the mystery surrounding the origins of Noir slowly begins to give up its clues, the two assassins find themselves being driven apart, both by conflicting emotions and by conflicting goals. The survival of Noir is at stake in the fourth tension-filled volume of NOIR.

The Review!
The fourth volume of Noir brings some of Mireille?s family past into the picture and things start becoming much more interesting.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The 5.1 does an excellent job of bringing out the warmth of the great music score and in providing some really sharp clear moments of vocal directionality, but very little seemed to go to the rear speakers during these episodes. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we noted no distortions or dropouts. As we learned previously, the 5.1 soundtrack was created by the Japanese but has as of this writing, not been used or released onto a home video format in that country.

Video:
The transfer looks very close to what I?ve seen on my region 2 copies of the series, which means it has lush colors, no cross coloration and hardly any aliasing that I could see. The color palette of the series is very well done for this series, in that they gave it a very definite color shading and feel, where there?s a number of very solid colors making up areas that almost look grainy but really aren?t. Watching this on the HDTV was just a real pleasure as there wasn?t anything I could really find flaw with. Watching it in letterbox mode on the non-widescreen sets is interesting as well, as the bars definitely give it an interesting feel, almost more like miniature movies than a TV series.

Packaging:
I continue to really like the covers here, this time with a nice four person cast shot with everyone in their dark clothes except for Kirika set against that milky white background. The back cover is much more vibrant as the background is covered up with lots of shots from each of the. The discs summary, features and extras are clearly listed. The spine continues to be the only place for volume numbering, but the episode numbering and titling has changed for the better. Whereas before it would just say how many episodes were on the disc, the pictures from the show contain the episode number and title just above them, and I?m quite glad to see that change. The insert has the full artwork from another Japanese TV volume and opens up to many panels that have production notes for a few episodes and several staff notes.

Menu:
Done in anamorphic widescreen as well, the menu layout here is a bit confusing with the remotes in moving around. The opening menu features an angled hallway with episode selections being marked by each window and the discs features below it, but navigating to where you want to go is a bit awkward at times. Access times are nice and fast with a quick transitional piece of animation playing, but returning from submenus is faster without that. The layout is pretty standard fare but looks good with its striking colors and motifs from the opening sequence of the series.

Extras:
There are a couple of good extras here in this volume. The main one that I got the most out of was the seven minute or so video interview with Kotono Mitsuishi, aka Mireille. She talks about the character, how the guest actors were dealt with and other amusing aspects of the production and what lines meant the most to her. It?s a good little piece that provides a good amount of information considering the short length. The promos and production sketches sections provide new material for their respective areas while the opening and closing sequences get another shot at being shown in their textless form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After all the fun of the previous volume with the introduction of Chloe and the additional information gained about the Soldats and the way the storyline is starting to shake down, things move back to the central duo of Kirika and Mireille for a bit here.

The opening single story here is a rather nice one that lets Kirika get a bit of time in on things. Through her usual wanderings in the city of Paris, she ends up coming across and older gentleman who?s sitting alongside the riverbank and is painting the view. She ends up sitting alongside him and the two talk in trivialities a bit. But this chance encounter inspires her to try and pick up a hobby of her own, something that she?d be able to do to express herself. Mireille approves much of this, trying to get Kirika to be a bit more normal something positive. So the setting shifts again to Kirika coming down to the river to paint it herself, and having the gentleman arrive again, and the two talking while they paint.

While this does become the primary storyline of the episode, the subplot is an interesting one that brings a part of Mireille?s recent past back to haunt her. Originally believing someone she had gone after was in jail, she learns through one of her friends that he?s actually alive and has come back to town to extract revenge on Mireille. We end up seeing a couple of encounters where he tries to take her down but fails and then the desperation sets in through them. It?s played out not too differently than past gunplay encounters, but it?s all to set up a more tragic ending, one that plays with some of the best and most memorable lines of the series.

While that touches on some of the more recent past issues of Mireille, the follow-up to it goes into more detail as Mireille?s uncle Feyder has returned to Paris. Through his return, we get some flashbacks to when he left Corsica, taking Mireille with him to Paris where they tried to re-establish their lives. Seeing the young Mireille deal with the loss of her father to the other Syndicate and then having to flee to a foreign land and then deal with the problems of all of it was interesting though lightly touched upon. In the present, Mireille reflects on it quite a bit with fondness, telling Kirika how it was her uncle who taught her the trade that she?s now in and how much she owes him. Of course, when he starts inquiring as to what she knows of Noir, you know nothing good is going to come from it. While it does play out predictably, it does so in enough of a way to not leave any questions about peoples fates or the resolve of the characters involved. It?s cold blooded, but there?s a certain warmth to it at the same time that gives it a much darker feel.

To round out the disc, a two part storyline is brought into play that has quite a bit of crossing and double crossing going on as the Soldats apparently have hired Mireille and Kirika to go to Taiwan to do a job there. Though they do go, not to perform the job but to get answers, they get wrapped up in a tale where various elements are working together to undo the other, particularly the new female assassin who coats her fingernails in poison. The storyline is pretty minimal and a bit of it feels like it?s forced to stretch over the two episodes, but there are some really excellent sequences, such as when the captured Mireille is being walked down the steps outdoors by about fifty goons only to have Kirika staring at them from the bottom. Her simple walking and shooting movements, combined with the chaos that Chloe introduces to it, is a fun action sequence to watch, though you have to really believe that the goons are complete freaking morons.

While things settled down a bit over the previous disc, which was very tight due to the introduction of Chloe, these were a lot of fun to watch. I ended up having my in-laws at the house while watching it, their first time seeing Noir or really watching anime in general, and they were quite interested in it by the end (though I did get the comment of ?it would have been better in English? from one of them). Noir certainly doesn?t play out like they expected a cartoon would and it likely helped change their perceptions a bit.

Noir continues to be a fun stylish show with just the right amount of substance to help things move along without being overly laden with exposition or other distractions.

Features
Japanese Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Kotono Mitsuishi,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animation,Original Japanese promo spots

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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