Posts Tagged ‘noir’
This isn’t really breaking news but I’ve been wanting to report on this for the last couple of days. The Hollywood Reporter has reported that cable network Starz has assembled Sam Raimi (Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Spider Man) and Rob Tapert (Xena, Hercules, Drag Me to Hell) to produce and Stephen Lightfoot (No Angels, Empathy, House of Saddam) to write a live action television adaptation of the Bee Train ‘girls with guns’ series, Noir.
Originally produced in 2001, this is Bee Train’s (and director Kouichi Mashimo) first attempt at what would later become a signature of the studio: compelling stories featuring girls doing very cool things with guns while fighting against a shadowy organization. In this particular incarnation of that, the series follows a professional assassin named Mireille working out of France. After coming across a young girl with no memories of who she is but amazing skills with a gun, they team up to unlock the secrets of her past.
So as a completely unabashed fan of Kouichi Mashimo’s ‘girls with guns’ series, I’ve found myself stewing over this all weekend. What would something like this look like? Out of the three (Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruha being the others), Noir could be the hardest to adapt. Kirika is the one who provides the least amount of comic relief as sidekicks go and I’m guessing we can forget about it still being set in France.
However, and you can call me a shameless geek if you want, I still remain hopeful that this could be good if it ever makes it onto TV. Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert have worked together to create some television gems in the last couple of decades so I’m extending a modest amount of geek trust that they will not let the fans of the anime down. This is probably going to lead to heartbreak in about 6 months but eh, live and learn. Besides, my real motivation for wanting this to be good (and, as an added bonus, successful)? I’d REALLY like to see Starz pick up the rights to turn Madlax into a super epic live action series.
Five years later this series has aged beautifully and is still a tense ride.
In the next four episodes of this series, loyalties are starting to become divided between Kirika and Mireille. In the first episode of the volume, Kirika takes up a hobby and make a new friend despite all the warnings from Mireille to stay away. The second episode gets us right back on track though as Mireille gets a surprise visit from the uncle that saved her as a child only to find out some very disturbing ties to the Soldats lie within her family tree.
The second half of the volume begins a new mini arc as the girls are hired for a job by the Soldats in Taiwan. Despite obviously being a trap, Mireille and Kirika head there to take on the job of assassinating a top member of the Triad there. It’s there that the girls start to run into more issues than just the Soldats, Kirika and Mireille have their first real test of trust when it becomes obvious to Kirika that Mireille has become blinded by emotion and revenge.
Good and the Bad
While this series reached the point of getting me emotionally invested in the story a long time ago, the first episode of this series was the first time that I truly felt emotionally invested in Kirika as a character. The story that was told was really mostly filler with a dash of character development thrown in but it was still very engaging and moving on another level. It impresses me that even around the halfway point, the staff threw in an episode that took the series to a new level despite having to pause the story to do it.
The second episode uses some very powerful storytelling devices to keep the emotional impact level of this volume at high as possible. In particular, watch for the scenes that show flashbacks to the childhood of Mireille. Once again, this series did an amazing job of getting the audience emotionally involved in the two characters that had yet to really show a vulnerable side that the audience could sympathize with.
Now within a period of two episodes, every single member of the audience is now onboard with the girls. That’s the kind of storytelling that makes you think that the staff knew that they could just throw those episodes in whenever they wanted to get the audience invested and the fact that they could do that is what you would refer to as skills.
The mini story arc in the second half of the volume is where this series continues to sell itself to a very willing audience. With this arc, we get back into the main plot with Noir attempting to figure out who the Soldats are. While the assassin, Shaoli, came across as one of the weaker villains to be introduced in this series, her preferred method of killing really made her stand out as a character that is unique to the series.
The writing remains strong throughout the volume though. Despite being filler episodes, the first two episodes did a great job of developing the primary characters on an emotional level and the final two episodes of the volume did an equally good job of bringing the main plot back to the foreground and teasing the audience with new information about what is coming next.
The music in this series remains one of its strongest selling points. I’ve mentioned the opening theme more than a few times in the past already but after hearing it performed live by Ali Project at SakuraCon my love for it has been renewed.
The background music composed by Yuki Kaijura continues to really enhance every scene. ‘Salva Nos’ remains one of the strongest (and most frequently used) tracks from the soundtrack and even halfway through the series I do not get sick of hearing it. It’s just one of those tracks that could’ve been disasterous if it had been inserted improperly to the series but it always provide that strong emotional tie for some of the tenser scenes of the series.
Dub vs. Sub
Certain actors in this volume really need to be pointed out for their cameo roles and I’m going to start with Jay Hickman because let’s face it, when is it not entertaining to hear a Jay Hickman death scene? He plays a role in the first episode of the volume and does a great job. I’ve lost count with how many times he’s been killed thus far in the series but I believe it’s around four.
Other notables from the dub cast include Kelly Manison as Shaoli in the second half of the volume and Hilary Haag once again absolutely rocking the role of Chloe.
There are a few extras on this volume that are worth referring to. Besides the standard clean animations, original art work and original Japanese promos there is one other extra that fans will want to check out. The interview with Kotono Mitsuishi (Mireille in the Japanese cast) is interesting to check out if you’d like to hear the seiyuu’s thoughts and impressions of the series thus far.
The final extra worth checking out is another hidden Easter egg. The egg can be found during the third episode of the volume (episode 15) when Saoili is touching her fingertip to the man’s forehead (at the 18:20 mark of the episode), hit up on your remote control ten times to be taken into a hidden commentary track featuring Matt Greenfield (ADR producer and Writer), Shelly Calene-Black (Mireille), Monica Rial (Kirika), Hilary Haag (Chloe) and Tiffany Grant (Altena).
More than halfway through the series, I am continually finding new reasons to enjoy this series and all that is contains. With constantly tense action scenes, a mysterious plot that fans will love to pick apart and characters that really make you want to learn more about them, this series remains a strong pick up even five years after its initial release.
Final Grade: 89% – B
A new character creates some desperately needed drama and intrigue in this series.
In the next three episodes of this series, Noir is hired to take out a corrupt cop but when he is taken out before they can complete the assignment they move onto the second half of the job of taking out a corrupt judge. When it turns out that everyone thinks that they were the ones who killed the cop though, they both begin to wonder who really did it and why does everyone think it was them. The answers come in the form of a mysterious girl named Chloe, an assassin whose weapons of choice are throwing blades.
When Mireille and Kirika receive a mysterious phone call and package though from someone claiming to be loyal to the Soldats, they are drawn further into the mystery. Finally, Chloe receives a job to assassinate a former Soldats general who has taken to living a peaceful life in the mountains.
Good and the Bad
With this volume the series takes a quite different turn in their story telling. Gone are the single episode plots, this series spends three episodes introducing a character that is certain to play a pivotal role in the upcoming interactions between Noir and the Soldats. On that note, Chloe is an interesting character. While the design and some of the mannerisms remind me of ‘Raven’ from the series/comic ‘Teen Titans’, I never remembered Raven killing people with throwing blades so easily.
While in these initial episodes it’s really easy to see Chloe as a very flat character, the nuance that is added to her in just the first episodes is amazing. She’s also a character with very few lines, especially in the more action and espionage related scenes which makes her a little more difficult to get to know but the mystery absolutely hooks the audience into wanting to know more about her.
Speaking of the action scenes, I really liked how the staff took some of the focus off the action during some of the gun fights on this volume. In the second episode of the volume in particular I loved how the staff featured close ups of Mireille and Kirika’s eyes. Those shots were very well done and even though they are short, the expression does wonders for character development and I’ve always believed that a well placed shot of characters eyes while they kill someone will tell the audience vastly more than a hundred witty phrases ever could.
The pacing of this series is continuing to move a very slow, deliberate and methodical pace which is certain to frustrate some of the audience who are seeking very quick payoffs to the mysteries introduced thus far. I, personally, am quite enjoying the slow pace that this series is moving at but I can understand the frustration since I am also really anxious to find out what happens next and what role Chloe is going to play within it. The foreshadowing is already there though for what will be an epic battle between Chloe and Kirika.
The first episode of the volume had some strangely out of place music during the night scenes in the alley but I also was a little thrown by the odd guitar theme that played while Kirika and Mireille were heading to their meeting. The music on this volume was pretty much all over the place in terms of quality but there are some fabulous themes for Chloe on this volume which plays beautifully out of context.
Dub vs. Sub
Hilary Haag as Chloe was wonderful and I was really impressed with how much Hilary was able to get out of this character in just the first volume of her introduction. The third volume in particular ends with a great scene of Chloe and Hilary absolutely nails the instant mood change and I bought into it completely.
Besides clean animations and original promo spots, there is one extra really worth noting. The first of which is an interview with Houko Kuwashima (Kirika) where she gives her thoughts on the series. Her answers tended to be a bit short so the interview isn’t the greatest but it’s still worth checking out.
While it is a little frustrating that the mid point of this series was put onto a three episode volume, the new character adds a brand new dynamic to the series that it was seriously lacking until now. With a face now firmly attached to The Soldats, the audience now has someone to identify as their villain and someone to root against while attempting to learn more about them. It may be short but this series just completely reinvigorated my interest. Recommended.
Final Grade: 88% – B
In the second volume, the girls continue their search for their pasts and Les Soldats.
Mireille and Kirika are still searching for their pasts, who or what exactly is les soldats and what links the two of them together. On this volume, four more episodes play out with the girls going after a former KGB agent, who has dedicated his life to peace after retiring; a group of revolutionaries out for revenge after their leader was assassinated by Noir and the Italian mafia.
Good and the Bad
I was absolutely ecstatic when this volume came to me because after the first volume, I badly wanted to see what happened next and get some more answers to the questions that had been raised previously.
Instead what I found on this volume was much of the same that I found in the first volume only less so. What I mean by that is that the writing on the first volume was very good. While episodic, the first volume did a great job of establishing a primary plot and get the audience interested in who Les Soldats are and what link to the past do they hold for Mireille and Kirika. On this volume we learn very little about Les Soldats or the history of the girls.
In the first volume there was tons of action that had me absolutely glued to my seat because I didn’t want to miss a moment. There is action on this volume but not nearly as much. I will give credit though for the battles that were on this volume as all of them were very well done. The fight in the final episode of the volume was particularly fun to watch.
The most disappointing thing that I think was lacking from this volume though was the sheer amount of time that could’ve been spent developing the characters more. Kirika and Mireille are obviously very mysterious characters but there is still so much about them that the audience can learn without learning the juicy bits that I’m sure we’ll learn later.
While the first episode of the volume managed to develop Kirika a little and the mini story arc involving Mireille and the Italian mafia managed to develop her and show us a side that we hadn’t seen yet, I wanted more. With more than half the series remaining, I’m aware that the characters are going to be developed later on but this pace of development is certainly a chore for me as an audience member since there’s so much more to learn and it already is starting to feel like there isn’t going to be enough time to figure it all out.
The animation on this series still has a very dated look to it. The colors aren’t nearly as sharp as I have grown accustomed to. It seems unfair for me to rag on the animation of this series though since it is five years old and in technological terms, that’s already pretty old.
I noticed some drops in audio quality during episode eight. It wasn’t major, just a fading of sound quality but it is little things like this that can really take an audience member out of the moment. I’m hoping that by the end of the series I will have gotten to watch one volume where I didn’t ever feel like I was taken out of my entertainment flow by a drop in sound quality.
The soundtrack itself was great though. I did hear a couple of musical choices in the last two episodes that I had to chalk up as questionable but I forgot to take notes about them and so I’ve already forgotten what they sound like to describe them to you. That just proves that even though the musical choices were flawed, they weren’t bad.
Dub vs. Sub
Shelly Calene-Black and Monica Rial continue to do a marvelous job of carrying this cast. As the only recurring characters of the series, these two had a massive amount of workload when it comes to characterization and exposition but these two have carried it off perfectly thus far.
Besides the production, clean animations and original Japanese promos there is only one Easter egg on this volume for the audience to find. In the first episode of the volume (episode 6), hit up, down and left when the old man comes to get his kitten back (around the 10 minute, 55 second mark). You’ll see an extended interview segment with Shelly Calene-Black and Monica Rial talking about their careers. If you’re unfamiliar with the actresses the interview segment is fabulous and if you already are fans, the interviews are still fun to watch.
Despite how short my review of this volume is, I really did enjoy the volume. While the first two episodes of the volume really stood alone in terms of the story, the final story arc did a great job of bringing the audience back to the main point of focus while also managing to show new sides and facets to the psyche of Mireille. Filled with action, danger and mystery this series has long since won me over.
While there is so much more that the staff could’ve done with this volume to make the series more accessible and engaging to the audience, it’s still worth getting through this volume so that you can see the rest of the series. There’s not a lot that you’ll miss if you skip it but why would you?
Final Grade: 83% – B
The series that fans have to thank for being the predecessor to Madlax.
In this story, our main character is Mireille Bouquet, an assassin for hire working out of
Seeking the truth about their pasts, the two women team up in an uneasy alliance under the code name “Noir” under one condition: Mireille gets to kill Kirika as soon as they figure out what it is in their pasts that they can’t remember and what it is that links them together. But soon the hunters become the hunted and the pair must figure out who it is that is trying to kill Noir.
Good and the Bad
Just from the opening credits I knew that the animation was going to look slightly dated which disappointed me. I found very quickly that those suspicions were accurate. While not bad by any stretch, the animation in this title really does look dated by today’s standard which is ironic since the title is only about five years old. I never noticed any particularly bad points such as spots on the animation; it just had an older look which stood out. It’s not distracting though so viewers are naturally going to be able to take this observation for what it’s worth to them.
The similarities in character design between this series and Madlax is obvious. This is more points that should be taken off of Madlax but Mirielle looks very similar to Madlax and Kirika looks very similar to Margaret.
After that, the characters really manage to stand out on their own. I like how each assassination is laid out with plan details instead of typical action fare which seems to just involve the characters jumping into a battle and shooting wildly with no real plan. The writing in this series really paid attention to detail when it came to the girls going out on their missions.
On top of that, the action scenes were very well choreographed. I really felt myself get into them and never felt like I had to suspend my disbelief too much in order to enjoy it. Instead I found myself more really getting into the battle sequences and when Kirika quietly picks up an automatic assault rifle and blows away a half dozen men without blinking, I don’t think my eyes were anywhere else but on my screen absolutely glued to the action.
This first volume goes a long way towards proving that this anime is more than action though. While the first four episodes are very episodic and do very little to delve into our primary story, the fifth episode really starts to show the audience what this series is striving to become and gives the audience a great idea of what kind of story the staff wants to tell.
Additionally, this volume really had excellent pacing. Every episode moved at a very brisk pace with no pauses or gaps. Even the slower scenes were well delivered and never felt like the momentum of the series had been disrupted or the flow had been hindered.
I acquired the soundtracks to this series a long time ago and so I’ve been in love with the music from this series for a very long time. Yuki Kaijura composed an absolutely phenomenal soundtrack for this series. Every song is just as powerful as you would expect and fits the scenes perfectly. In particular I loved the battle themes.
Not everything about this series is a hit though when it comes to sound and music. Even though they only last for a couple of seconds, the guitar chords used during the eye catches sound terrible and I also noticed a short drop in audio quality at the start of the third episode.
It’s possible though that the audio drop I heard was more just an example of speaker directionality. Sometimes, such as during episode 5, the background music would be louder than the dialogue making it hard to hear what was going on when listening to the English track.
Dub vs. Sub
Monica Rial as Kirika and Shelly Calene-Black as Mirielle absolutely own this series. Their performances were phenomenal throughout this first volume and I can’t wait to hear more from them. Observant fans will also want to pay attention to Jay Hickman getting killed at least once per episode.
There are a number of standard extras on this volume including clean animations and original Japanese promos but that’s not what people care about… people care about hidden Easter eggs and this series has tons starting with…
~ To see a nude production artwork sketch of Kirika, highlight ‘clean closing animation’ in the extras menu and hit left, down, left, down, enter. To see a naked sketch of Mireille, pick any episode from the main menu and hit up, down, up, down while the man is being shot.
~ The last egg on this volume is when you start chapter 4 of episode 3. Upon the start of the chapter; hit left, left, right and you’ll see a special backstage interview with Shelly Calene-Black and Monica Rial.
This series has a very positive reputation behind it. While many people aren’t going to get into the whole ‘chicks with guns/spy thriller’, this opening volume sold me. Filled with intrigue, gun battles and intriguing characters this series is not even close to its full potential yet but now that the seeds of a primary story have been sewn, I can eagerly await the rest of this series. I can’t say that this opening volume is a good reason to recommend the series but I’m sure that volumes two or three will do that for me.
Final Grade: 91% – A