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Noir: The Complete Series (anime review)

NoirTitle: Noir: The Complete Series Anime Classics on Blu-ray

Director: Koichi Mashimo

Studio: Bee Train

U.S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U.S. Release Date: April 14th, 2015

Format: DVD /Blu-ray / 650 minutes / 26 episodes

Genre: Action,  Adventure, Girls with Guns

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Similar Titles: Madlax, El Cazador de la Bruja, Gunslinger Girls

Can ones past ever be forgotten and is it possible to completely deny ones Fate? If love can kill the surely hatred can save!

Synopsis:

Noir is the story of three female assassins who are drawn together because of their unknown past and through their partnership they discover the truth to their existence. Mireille Bouquet is the first of these women we meet, she is a powerful assassin for hire and works outside the bounds of any organization. She receives a strange e-mail that leads her to the next of these women, Kirika Yuumura. Kirika is a teenage girl who has no recollection of her past but does possess something that has meaning to both Mireille and her past. Mireille notices it right away and takes Kirika under her wing with a simple vow, once they discover the truth she will kill Kirika.

In their quest to find the truth they discover who is behind everything, it is an ancient group know as Les Soldats (“The Soldiers”). This hidden group have their fingers into all walks of life and see Mireille and Kirika as targets and continue to have them killed. This become more and more difficult and finally these two come into contact with the third assassin, Chloe. Chloe turns out to be both a friend and a foe who has a critical part to play in the outcome of this journey of discovery.

Commentary:

Following the Girls with Guns genre set forth by classics like Bubble Gum Crisis and Dirty Pair, Noir provides something a little more involved. The psychological drama that plays out between these strong women is the real power of the series. This is also highlighted by the minimal graphic violence shown in the series. There is very little splattering blood and most to the time you only see a hole in a victims clothing to evidence that have been shot. The emotional bond built between these women is the point and even thought Kirika and Chloe have rather monotone personalities there are those underlying emotions that as they surface have the most impact.

Honestly it has been a real pleasure visiting this older series that laid the groundwork for some more recent series that are also sure to be classics such as Gunslinger Girls and Phantom: Requiem of a Phantom. In the case of Phantom it is very easy to see the connection that Koichi Mashimo brought to it based on what we see in Noir. The loss of soul or should I say the implied lack of emotion that the girls possess is at the center of these heavy dramas and Noir displays it in a much darker fashion.

The artistic stylings may be a bit dated but it was standard TV animation for 2001 and it does a splendid job of convening the essence of the series but it does also tend to lead to some rather flat moments, but overall it fits well with the story. The music and soundtrack is much better suited for the series and both the opening and closing songs frame the series well.

Overall Grade: B+

This series proves that it has all the making of the classic moniker that has been bestowed up on it and also provides a solid drama for all those fans of the darker side of life.

When Koichi Mashimo made Noir he had the trilogy planned out and it wasn’t until 2007 that he was able to complete it so you should check out both Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja. But, if you really enjoy this style of story then you should also see Gunslinger Girls and Phantom; Requiem for a Phantom.

.hack//sign (anime review)

Title: .hack//sign Complete Collection

Director: Koichi Mashimo

Studio: Bee Train

U.S. Distributor: Funimation Entertainment

U. S. Release Date: Feb. 24th, 2015

Format: DVd/ 26 episodes + 2 OVAs / 700 minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Fantasy, Gaming, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C

Synopsis:

Tsukasa awakens inside The World, an immense online RPG filled with monsters, magic, and mayhem. When he discovers he’s unable to log out of this mysterious game, he joins forces with a colorful group of characters and begins a desperate quest to find his way back to real life. But, before he begins to find his way out he finds that this new world is what he has been looking for and not sure if he wants to leave.

Will he discover that his helpers are really there for him or is it the mysterious voice that leads him to his solitude that has his best interest in mind?

Commentary:

It is great that Funimation wants to remind us all that the concept of being trapped in a game is not a new one and that it is always, almost always fun to see how things have changed. In the case of .hack//sign I now think it should have been left in the archives to be a whispered reminder of days long past. I know that 2002-2003 may not seem that long ago, but in may ways it is a long time ago. Much of the animation styling and voice acting (dubs) still had a long way to go and most series played off the success that Cowboy Bebop and Trigun saw just a few years earlier.

.hack//sign fails to understand that there is more to the story than the plot and in the development of the characters it leaves all too much to the imagination of the viewer. After watching the first 12 episodes it became clear to me that Tsukasa was a character that I didn’t care about and the others that wanted to help him just failed to give a clear reason why they wanted to get involved. Add this to the flat english voice acting made it very hard for me to go on to the next episode.

The one aspect to this series that made me move forward was the fact the basic story was interesting enough to make want more. With the new series that take on this basic plot like Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, I really wanted to understand what the much beloved great uncle (.hack) had to offer. It interesting how this concept has taken on new meaning and at the same time holds on  to some of the limited concepts that we brought forth by the true archetype, Tron. For .hack//sign this new world has its own ideas much the same as master program did and the use of regular characters play right into the wheelhouse that was Tron himself. I just think that the sad depressed boy thing that the Japanese seem to fixate on is just a little too much this time.

Overall Grade: C

.hack//sign is a great reminder of what anime was doing at the turn of the century and how time does make a difference. .hack//sign is fun to watch just a some sort of nostalgic trip down memory lane, but if you are looking for something to something to get hooked on please do not look in this direction.

If you want to complete a collection that covers the trapped in a video game world that you will need to get this and the other .hack anime because they are an important part of the genre that can’t be overlooked.