Cidolfas's Anime Reviews: Noir
Noir is sort of an anti-anime. There are no fuzzy sidekicks, no humorously exaggerated expressions, no laser/magic weapons of coolness (in fact, no magic at all), it does not take place in Japan, and there are no characters with long technicolor hair. This makes for a refreshing change of pace, but Noir doesn't quite manage to deliver the power punch it has the potential to.
Here's the setup: A teenaged Japanese girl wakes up one day in a strange bed with no memory of who she is or, in fact, of anything at all, other than two names: Mireille Bouquet, and Noir. In a drawer she finds a gun and a watch, and hanging nearby is a uniform containing an ID card with "Kirika Yumura" on it; she then goes out to find out who she is. On the way she discovers something unexpected after being chased by thugs: she's an extremely skilled and cold-hearted killer. (Sounds a bit like The Bourne Identity, but this is a very different creature.)
Shift to the aforementioned Mireille, a beautiful Corsican assassin whose work environment consists of a PC on a billiards table in a rather Spartan apartment in Paris. By coincidence, her nome de guerre is "Noir". She and Kirika eventually team up in an attempt to find out who Kirika is, why she has a watch intricately bound up in Mireille's past, and why the people trying to kill them both seem to all have connections with a mysterious and ancient organization. Said people all die in the droves (and strangely bloodlessly, too; there isn't any of the spurting blood that other animes seem to revel in).
Noir has very little dialogue, no comic relief at all, and not much action, believe it or not (although the existing action is pretty cool). Mireille's inscrutable smile and Kirika's dead eyes say more than words generally could. The excellent soundtrack and the beautiful locations are just as much stars of the show as the ones in the speaking roles. This conceit doesn't always work (the silences are sometimes too long), but when it does it's truly profound.
Noir starts off very promising. It presents an intriguing look into the life of a killer. How it must be to have people's lives and deaths hanging off your hand. How to pick who to let live and who to destroy. Is it all about the money? What's a "good person"? Do even "bad people" have people who'd miss them?
There are two major downsides to Noir. The first, rather major, fault is the single trait it did glom off anime, which is the unfortunate tendency to, around the halfway mark, jettison all that is neat about a show and replace it with ponderous, overwrought mishmash. All the great feelings I had about the first 11 or so episodes had pretty much dissipated by the end. The second is the blandness of every main character other than Mireille. The incidental characters are varied and intriguing, with well-defined pasts and stormy presents. In its eagerness to keep the mysteries mysterious, though, Noir fails to imbue most of the other major participants (and there are only four in total, all women) with any sort of interest or motivation. The nebulous organization I mentioned never really has its goals defined (unless there's something I missed or was lost in translation).
Noir is not an easy anime to watch. It's serious, serious, serious, and while in the first half this is a good thing, in the last half the thought-to-screen time ratio becomes very, very small. The questions are nearly always better than the answers. It certainly has its moments (and those moments are often quite amazing), but I found myself glad it was over. If you are going to watch it, make sure to catch the English version; Mireille turns in a great performance (though the rest are lacklustre), and having the international episodes each with their own accent puts a realistic touch on it that we can't get by watching Japanese.
Favorite Character: Mireille
Overall Rating: 7.0