Genre(s): Mystery, Drama, Action
Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (People get shot up a ton each episode, but no blood? Mild language)
Platforms: Funimation, YouTube (Funimation’s YT channel has whole series)
TheAwersome Rating: 6.0 / 10 (If you’re feeling nostalgic, sure)
Premise: The French assassin, Mireille Bouquet, is contacted by a mysterious Japanese girl, Kirika, inviting her on a journey to their past. Upon meeting Kirika, Mireille finds that she is very adept at combat, even better than herself. Kirika reveals that she has amnesia; all she knows is how to kill people effectively, and the name “Noir.” A pocketwatch in Kirika’s pocket triggers a flashback to when Mireille’s family was murdered, and she decides to team up with Kirika until they can uncover the mysteries of their pasts.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: I was quite pleased coming back to this one. The story is intriguing, and the overarching plot proceeds at a slow burn pace, with it gradually getting hotter the further you progress. The soundtrack is extremely good, there’s only one song really that I kind of got tired of hearing, but the rest are gorgeous. The action gets somewhat tedious about ten episodes in, I think the animators just got lazy / were underpaid, as the fights go from exciting dodging and hand-to-hand combat to just everyone kind of standing still and shooting at each other with the two heroines single-handedly dispatching squads of 10s and 20s repeatedly and coming out unscathed, so the tension gets lost quick. In general, the animation isn’t too great on this piece. While the beginning has little of the overarching plot, each episode has its own mini-story of the hit that they’re taking out that day, so it at least isn’t boring. I found myself quite invested in the story by the end of the series, and one episode got me a little emotional. The show isn’t too dynamic, each episode has a similar rhythm and pace, but it’s not bad for having come out in 2001.
I was actually surprised to learn that NOIR came out BEFORE .hack//SIGN, despite being made by the same studio, same music, etc. Just about everything in NOIR is better than .hack. The episodes aren’t boring (the action gets boring, but there actually is some in the first place, it isn’t just a background to a conversation) despite it being a slow burn. Kirika does have somewhat of the same sad-forlorn quiet attitude that Tsukasa has in .hack, but I didn’t hate it as much. I feel that NOIR does a good job of “show don’t tell” when it comes to character emotions and development, whereas .hack//SIGN would take a painstakingly long time to show, and then ALSO take the same amount of time for the characters to talk about it. It’s kind of like watching a movie with someone who makes you stop and pause the show every 5 minutes to explain why X is happening.
In all, there is somewhat the vibe of this trying to be an “edgy” show for 13-year-old kids to flex on their peers by saying “Oh, I don’t watch that Shonen, super power stuff, only the gritty realistic guns, etc.” because the excess of people getting shot and killed without any blood felt…odd. My guess is it was a rule for certain ratings and they wanted to air it on specific channels at the time? If you don’t want a lot of blood that’s fine and I respect that, but don’t animate bullet holes on people and flying through them, etc., with it being perfectly clean. Artistically avoid that, or have it be actually gritty with some blood. It was kind of like how the subtitles I had for Kill la Kill hardly had any swearing, despite it being from a character known for being crass (nobody says “bat-crap crazy” now, come on).