Noir (ノワール, Nowāru?) is a 26-episode Japanese anime television series produced in 2001 by the Bee Train animation studio. Kōichi Mashimo directed Noir, it was written by Ryoe Tsukimura, and the soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kajiura. The DVD version … see full wiki
Mireille Bouquet runs a private business as an assassin for hire. She receives a message to meet up with a girl who appears to be suffering from amnesia named Kirika Yuumara. Their encounter leads them into a gun battle with an unknown outfit, and here, Kirika is revealed to be a well trained killer. The two soon form an uneasy alliance and begin calling themselves Noir. Later, they're consistently harassed by gangster types. They seek to learn the identity of their attackers and put a stop to it, but there is far more at work here than they both realize. -summary
I tell you, Noir has indeed left its mark in the anime genre after its 2001 release. Its influence can definitely be felt in series such as Canaan, and at one point it was pretty much copied from top to bottom by the inferior Madlax. However, its influence pales in comparison to the presentation. This series is the definition of mature anime; not from the perspective on how today's anime fan would see it, in which, mature to them is boob grabbing, loads of fan service, and buckets of blood. No, it's mature in the way a viewer with a rational mind set would see it. It doesn't rely on such weak gimmicks. The series works well to its strengths with proper character development, engrossing story, suspenseful plot, style, and elegance. To go with all this, the series maintains a consistent serious tone from start to finish, and it better had to, when looking at the content it deals with; assassinations, mafia hits, underground crime organizations, only to name a few. Needless to say, that the addition of a comedic relief had no place here at all. Noir is definitely among my favorite anime series, and it's by far my favorite in the "Girls with Guns" genre. If you don't have this in your anime collection, then you need to fix that soon. Anime like this today is a rare breed indeed.
The series follows Mireille and Kirika as they're hired by different benefactors to perform hits on targets ranging from crooked judges and cops to retired military officers who seek to make amends for their bloody past. More often then not, these result in very heated and stylish gun battles. In the beginning, the series follows a pretty repetitive formula which is something I usually can't stand. I can tolerate it here because for one, the action segments are just too cool, plus there are various story elements revealed to push the suspense factor of the plot. The gun-slinging duo quickly become the hunted, when they learn an organization with a mysterious background called the Soldats have given orders to have them sanctioned.
The connection between the two women run very deep, and their connection with the Soldats may be deeper. The story takes its time building up into something big, and when all of the plot twist have come around and secrets revealed, Noir turns out to pretty much be a fulfilling series. The characters are a strong point for sure, and it's impossible not to fall in love with Kirika especially. The girl is a demon in battle and everything is a weapon to her. I thought the budding relationship between the two was done very well and was pretty believable. I found the drama to be done pretty well all around and I felt for the characters as things became clearer.
Noir does a very good job with its story, but as great as it sounds this series is not without its flaws. There are a couple of weaker stories and it does tend to slow down a bit. The slower paced stories may differ from person to person if they bought into the characters, however, the action crowd may find some of these moments to be tiring. Also, even though it works into providing background for the characters and even development, there are just too many flashbacks that interferes with the pacing and at times it just feels like padding. Some may find the lack of gore to be an issue; this wasn't an issue with me at all, there's a time and place for over-exaggerated blood squirting and I just don't think this was one of them.
Noir puts the production values to good use for the most part. The animation has moments were it can be very good. The action scenes don't rely on shortcuts most of the time, and there is a good amount of choreography during the quick paced gun and hand to hand fights. The use of close ups and quick swipes during some fights are used artistically at times, but during others, it's clear they were meant to manage the budget. The backgrounds and landscapes may be the strongest feature concerning the visuals. There are some gorgeous moments of the hazy red sunset producing an ominous feel over the sin-filled cities, along with eerie, dark shades of night time blue. The use of lighting and camera work was used very well inside of mansions, caverns, and monasteries when creating an atmospheric feel.
The animation is far from perfect though, and surprisingly, the flaw lies in the backgrounds. There are far too many stills. Many scenes feel way too awkward with only two characters moving around and talking, while everyone else is in a frozen state. These moments are too hard not to notice and for me, it's indeed a blow against the visuals. Something else that always bothered was the characters mouths. When characters are speaking with the side of their faces pointing towards the screen, their mouths would be on the side of their faces, while the front of their lips aren't moving. I just couldn't help but laugh at that.
However for some, the soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura could be the real standout in terms of style. She's a master at her craft when orchestrating some very nice guitar, violin, and piano pieces. The instruments mesh so well together creating some beautiful yet intense pieces. The music works very well with practically everything that takes place. My only gripe is that the music is played during times when silence would have been golden. In regards to the voice acting, I think the English cast matches up pretty well against the original. I prefer the English cast, mainly Monica Rial for Kirika, because I enjoyed her vocal range with the look of the character. She channeled the right amount of energy when portraying her different moods.
Noir is very far from perfect. The pacing and animation issues are hard to ignore, the former more than anything else. Still, it is what I would consider to be a great anime. There are too many good things going in its favor to make up for the bad, such as tonal consistency and the complete lack of childish fan service. Personally, girls with guns haven't looked better before Noir and they haven't looked better since. If you happened to overlook this title at some point, then backtrack and give it a shot. The series is 26 episodes with a 10 hour run time.