This week we'll be looking at Noir. This 26 episode anime series was directed by Kōichi Mashimo (Dirty Pair: Project Eden, many .hack// series), written by Ryoe Tsukimura, produced by Bee Train, and released domestically by ADV.
Mireille Bouquet is a professional assassin who goes by the name "Noir." One day she receives an email from a young girl named Kirika Yuumura, who seems to have some connection to her past. Mireille hunts her down, but the two of them are attacked by unknown assailants. After dispatching them together, Mireille learns that Kirika has amnesia. She knows nothing about her past, but does have a familiar looking pocket watch that plays a familiar sounding tune...one that Mireille knows very well. Having seen Kirika's incredible skills with a gun, and seeing her as a connection to her past, Mireille decides to team up with the mysterious girl in an attempt to unlock the secrets of both their pasts. As they dig deeper into the secrets of an underground world, controlled by the mysterious group known as the Soldats, they discover that they have much more in common than they thought. They also discover what it truly means to use the codename "Noir."
For one of the top assassins around, Mireille's not that great. She's a really good shot, but that's about it. Kirika, some random, amnesiac girl she picks up in the street, is 10x the assassin she is; and she doesn't even have any memories to back up her obvious training. In fact, compared to Kirika and another young assassin they meet later, Mireille kind of sucks. Kirika, on the other hand, is a complete badass; 5 years younger than Mireille, she manages to make the woman look like a complete novice.
Animation is average for...basically anything that moves. It's clear they had some amazing scenic painters (backgrounds and environments are detailed and beautiful), but the animation is mediocre at best. For a show from 2001, it's not that impressive visually. They do pay a lot of attention to the eyes, but only on closeups. And for a show filled with so much violence, death and shooting...there's almost no blood. That's possibly an aesthetic choice, or something to keep it in a lower rating (so it can air during the day); but it is a little odd, and it makes it hard to tell when the main characters have been injured (or how serious the injury was).
The plot is drawn out, predictable and dull. You can see every plot "twist" and reveal coming from a mile away. By the time they get to the moment of some great "secret," it's not interesting anymore. In fact, the entire story in general is not even remotely interesting until disc 4, and then it comes and goes. There are too many episodes; really could have been half that and it would have been fine. 13 instead of 26. I found myself fast forwarding through some of the really slow parts (and ceaseless flash backs) out of impatience. It somehow made me think of Ryoko's Case File...and how I'd rather be watching that instead (even though there's really nothing related about them; it's mostly a genre thing). It's not that I hated it, because I didn't; it was just...uninteresting.
The music is by Yuki Kajiura, who I've mentioned before in my Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle review. I'll say the same thing I said then: her music is beautiful, but it's all basically the same from show to show (or game to game). Actually, in the case of Noir, it really overshadowed the show.
English voice acting is average. I've heard some of these people in other shows, where they did better jobs. Neither vocal track is really notable, other than some pretty outrageous accents in the English dub.
DVD extras include production sketches, clean credits, and interviews. DVD menus are uniquely designed, but they're kind of a pain to navigate.