Noir

NoirType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Action / Drama
Vintage: 2001

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 21 Dec 2005

Grade: B

Despite treading precariously close to self-indulgent pretension at times, this series gets away with it thanks to its style and amazing soundtrack.

Plot Summary
“Noir – it is the name of an ancient fate. Two maidens who govern death. The peace of the newly born their black hands protect.” Meet Kirika Yumura. Cute, unassuming Japanese schoolgirl with a secret… she wields a mean Beretta pistol, and can kill with unnerving precision. Kirika has come to Paris seeking one Mireille Bouquet, a skilled hitman in her own right, who never lets fashion sense get in the way of her work. Kirika has brought with her a proposal for Mireille… a chance to take “a voyage to your past and mine”, and a pocket watch with a melody that links the two somehow. The problem is Kirika has no recollection of her past, but with this watch and the help of Mireille, they may both find out where their pasts lie.

The Review
Noir is a 26 episode Yuki Kajiura music video.

Well, not quite… Noir walks the very delicate line between artistic flair and self-indulgence by director Koichi Mashimo. The plot is almost secondary, as the show relies on setting, shot composition and execution (no pun intended), and Yuki Kajiura’s stellar soundtrack to carry it. Thankfully, the story holds together well over most of the series, only losing focus towards the end for a bit, but makes a good recovery in the final two episodes.

Noir is a story about the past, so it’s not entirely surprising that it is built around a flashback. In the beginning, we only see a tiny part of the event that would eventually lead to where the series takes place. As the show goes on, Mireille and Kirika discover more clues, pieces start to drop into place, and the flashback becomes more and more complete. By the end, we (the viewer) as well as the characters now know what is going on.

The show works in a couple of ways. For most of the first half, it takes the form of a “hit of the week” show, and it works very well. The larger story of Mireille and Kirika’s past is alluded to, but does not yet take over the story. When a few more major characters are introduced, this is when the main story comes to the front. The soundtrack does a near perfect job at capturing the feel of the show, which is split between European flavor and the moody atmosphere when Kirika and Mireille are doing what they do best. Every shot (the cinematic kind, not the bullet kind) is composed with great care, which brings the series to somewhere between ‘art-film’ and pretentious. A few times it gets very close to crossing the line into self-indulgence, but never quite does. It is also worth noting that despite all the gunfire in this series, nearly every death is off screen, and most are bloodless.

I only have two real criticisms of Noir: First is the setup for the finale… which follows the storyline logically, but was done in a way which (to me) seems to have come from nowhere. The second is the eyecatch, which is one of the most grating things my ears have heard in quite a while. Admittedly, this second one is minor, but I still cringe in the middle of every episode.

The wobble the story takes near the end is what holds the show back from being near-perfect. As it is, Noir is very good and definitely worth anyone’s time. Give the series a C if the soundtrack does nothing for you. Otherwise, Noir is a great example of cinematography and musical score used to capture a mood and tell a story.

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