Noir: Assassins and the power of yuri

Noir is an original Bee Train series written by Tsukimura Ryoe. It’s also the first part of their “girls with guns” trilogy of unconnected anime that are thematically similar. Those of you who are familiar with my previous reviews may know Bee Train as one of the studios that did the main production for Murder Princess, Phantom Requiem & Shinrei Tantei Yakumo. All of which were pretty solid works earning 8, 8 & 7 from me, respectively. Let’s see if Noir can continue that tradition of quality.

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Story:

We open with a young lady, Mireille, receiving a strange email asking her to take a journey to the past with the sender. Something about the message piques Mireille’s curiosity and she tracks down the sender, Kirika. After an altercation with some suits, Mireille agrees to help Kirika track down her past on the condition that, when it’s over, she’ll kill her. Kirika agrees and begins helping Mireille with her assassination work. They call themselves “Noir” and eventually uncover information about a strange organisation called “Soldats” an organisation which may very well hold the key to Kirka’s past. If the pair can unravel its mystery and survive the experience.

The biggest story problem with the series is that the questions are more compelling than the answers turn out to be. The whole mystery of Kirika’s missing memory is interesting, but the ultimate answer you get for it is kind of weak. The twist that comes with her regained memory is pretty good but the answer to how she lost them is weak. The mystery surrounding the Soldats organisation is interesting as well but the actual explanation for its origins is pretty generic.

That being said, the narrative leading up to those reveals is compelling and well done, even with the weak pay-offs. The ending itself is fantastic. The romance sub-plot with our leading ladies is nicely done, developing over time and ending up as an endearing element for the series. The pacing is good as well. There are some slow, tense scenes. Some fast, intense sequences and the underlying narrative slowly and effectively builds. The early episodes start by giving you small pieces of the underlying plot while Kirika and Mireille take on missions and, from there, the episodes start to have more and more to do with Soldats and the mystery thereof until the story reaches the home stretch and becomes all about it.

Characters:

The only real issue with the characters is that a particular character undergoes a heel shift for no adequately explored reason and then returns to normal pretty easily. Aside from that, the characters are phenomenal. They have personalities with verisimilitude, clear motivations, some of which shift as a natural result of character development and superb interactions. That doesn’t just hold true for the main heroines either. The antagonists are the same way. I particularly like Chloe. What makes her really interesting is that she’s an antagonist but not much of one. She likes the heroines, particularly Kirika and even aids them at times. She’s actually quite the sweet heart, wanting to be on friendly terms with Mireille and more than friends with Kirika. What ultimately puts her at odds with Kirika and Mireille is her loyalty to her superior within Soldats and some jealousy over the dynamic they share. I suggest polyamory as a solution.

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Art:

The art is pretty good. It’s not among the best out there, and it does suffer some from Bee Train’s propensity for strange angles without any reason. But the character designs are distinct. The action sequences are nicely done and the backgrounds have some nice detailing to them.

Sound:

The acting is fantastic. The best performances coming from our main heroines voiced by Kuwashima Houko & Mitsuishi Kotono and our adorable little antagonist voiced by Hisakawa Aya (who also came up in my review of Gunsmith Cats last week). The music, handled by Furukawa Masayoshi, Kaida Yuriko & Kajiura Yuki, is really good as well. The opening theme is really catchy and will be in your head for a while, but it’s really good so you won’t mind. It was performed by ALI Project, who also performed songs for Code Geass, Another & Phantom Requiem to name a few.

Ho-yay:

A lot of the major character dynamics are driven by les-yay. In addition to the budding romance betwixt Mireille & Kirika, there’s Chloe’s interest in Kirika.

Final Thoughts:

And there we have Noir. How well does it hold up? Well, the narrative build up is compelling and leads to both strong moments and some weak pay-offs. The characters and their dynamics are fantastic. The art is good. The acting is excellent. Overall, it is a great series. My final rating is going to stand at an 8/10. Next week I’ll continue girls with guns month with Upotte.

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