28 Oct 2006

Discovering Noir


It wasn’t long ago that I had no clue what anime was.

Well, I knew it was a Japanese cartoon form. My kids have watched the various duelling animes over the years, Pokemon and the like. I never considered it as an entertainment medium that could do more than replace American-style animal cartoons with badly drawn kids yelling at each other.

I think it was in 2004 that Cartoon Network showed .Hack//SIGN. I caught a little of it. Not enough to understand what was going on – but enough to find it beginning to hold my interest. I rented the series one DVD at a time from GreenCine. In fact, I think it was the reason I opened my GreenCine account.

When I started to understand the story, I found it fascinating. When I realized that it expanded into a PS/2 video game, I played the game through. I watched the four episode OVA that is included with the game.

All in all, the whole .Hack multimedia experience is highly absorbing, especially for someone who was a massively multiplayer gaming addict. All of the components bind together and build on each other, which is something I’ve never seen elsewhere.

I realized that there was something to anime beyond cute monsters beating the snot out of each other. I watched other series, including Neon Genesis Evangelion, which almost cured me of ever wanting to watch anime again. Fortunately, I also saw enough of Cowboy Bebop to know that there were series with interesting, ideosyncratic characters and plots, with stories that could be light-hearted or deeply moving.

I listened to soundtrack music, which can be extremely good. From the .Hack series, and especially .Hack//Liminality, the OVAs that accompany the game, I discovered the music of Kajiura Yuki. I bought the soundtrack CDs, and am still enthralled by them. I wanted to hear more, and I’ve made a point of seeking out series that use her music.

One of those was a “girls with guns” anime named Noir. It didn’t look especially interesting, but it was Kajiura’s first major anime, so it seemed to be a good place to start. And GreenCine is ideal for movies that may or may not be of interest.

I’m not sure that the anime itself had me hooked immediately. I think it took a couple of episodes for that. Actually, I think it was the “popcorn” scene in episode 3. But the music – from the moment the haunting music box theme morphs into the backdrop for a high-energy dance of death, with Kirika killing everyone in sight, without losing the mystical feel of the music box – you know that this is something special. Those Noir tracks are still those I like the best among my Kajiura collection.

It doesn’t take long before the emotional impact of the series catches up with the effect of the music. I didn’t rent more than three DVDs from GreenCine, because I had already decided that I needed to own them. It didn’t matter that I half-expected to hate the ending; I had to buy the set, and I’ve now watched it many times, dubbed and subtitled.

I doubt that I will ever find a series that I enjoy more than Noir, or that has as much of an impact on me. If I were to define what I believe to be the best show I’ve ever seen, I’d have a hard time choosing between: the BBC production of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Babylon 5; and Noir.

Though I don’t expect another anime ever to topple Noir from its top place in my personal listings, the series showed me that it’s possible for the medium to transcend the kids’ cartoon – in many ways.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun
(writing) “Skeptics” project

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 28th, 2006 at 6:46 pm and is filed under Anime. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Discovering Noir”

  1. […] Then I saw Noir. […]

Leave a Reply