An extremely mixed bag....,
This review is from: Noir 1: Shades of Darkness [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
<some mild spoilers>
A relative of mine recommended this series to me, so I gave it a look.
This is a very odd anime series that keeps the viewer (this viewer, at least) in the dark for quite some time about both what exactly is going on and how the two main characters feel about what they learn (and what they are forced to do).
The two main characters (the title `heroines' doesn't really seem appropriate) are young women named Kirika and Mireille who are both assassins and team up under the name `Noir'. Kirika has lost her memory, although she has retained her skills, while Mireille has painful memories of her parents being murdered before her eyes when she was very young. Obviously, these points are developed over the course of the 26 episodes comprising this series and I won't spoil them here.
I did feel that the writers took their sweet time getting there, since there really wasn't enough story to their personal histories to fill so many episodes. And very little of the rest of the plot ultimately matters, I felt. The legend behind the concept of the `Noir' assassins always remains vague and sketchy, as if the writers wanted to keep their options open. (Having to listen to those sentences from the Noir legend over and over again at the beginning of each episode became quite annoying after a while, I felt.) The same goes for the `Soldats', who have a very ambiguous back story that varies from them being noble Robin Hood types to simply being mobsters.
Because the animation is rather coarse, even for Kirika and Mireille, it took me some time to realize that Kirika is supposed to be a teenager (and Mireille as well, perhaps). And a teenager who has been an assassin for quite some time, as well... At that point I realized that this was really the central drama of this series: since Kirika is already an incredibly well trained assassin at the start of the series, that begs the question who trained her. And who drafted her into the life of taking lives for a living in the first place... Probably the same person, I thought, but I won't spoil if my suspicions were correct. But just let this sink in for a moment: someone forced or tricked a very young girl into becoming an assassin... And quite a sensitive, caring girl as well.
Can there really be any justification for that? I couldn't think of any. In fact, I felt this kind of thing screams out for bloody revenge against whoever has this on their conscience. And, perhaps as a result, all the plot twists about the `Noir' legend and the back story of the `Soldats' just felt empty and redundant to me. And to the writers as well, I suspect.
After the full horror of the crimes committed against Kirika and Mireille sank in with me, this series left me wondering for a very long time how these two young women felt about it. Angry? Sad? Indifferent? For a while, I even wondered if both protagonists had been brainwashed and really could not be considered as independent characters at all. I'm glad I was wrong there: their feelings eventually do get put into words, albeit a bit late.
As already commented on at length by another reviewer, the vast majority of the fire fights depicted in this series fail laughably. Too often, Kirika and Mireille seem completely impervious to gunfire and hence generally do not even bother to take cover when returning fire. This left me with a completely unreal impression. Why would an anime focus so strongly on fire fights and then be so poor at portraying them in a convincing manner?
Another thing that mystified me was why this Japanese series would be set in Europe and choose to utilize European words and names, but do such a poor job of pronouncing them correctly. `Noir' generally comes out here as `Noh-wahrrr' and the name `Chloe' is completely Japanized into `Kurowe'. I mean, why not get it right when you decide to use foreign words, even the one used as the title for the entire series?
On the plus side, the music is nice. And the Japanese voice actresses do a commendable job of portraying some intense emotions (when the characters are finally allowed to have them, that is).