If there’s one thing I’ve come to really love about Funimation over the past few years, it’s their track record for saving titles that would otherwise be left out of print in the aftermath of their previous rights holders going under. There’s still quite a few that remain up in the air, but I still can’t help but smile a little when I see older titles from the Geneon and ADV libraries back on the shelves from their efforts.
Among their more recent run of saves, they brought back this stylistic blast from the early 2000s – the girls and guns action mystery Noir.
A review copy was provided by Funimation Entertainment
The series, for those who missed it during the anime boom of the early 2000s, starts things off on an intriguing note. The plot follows its two leads – professional assassin Mireille Bouquet and the enigmatic, but equally deadly Kirika Yumura – who find themselves connected by a mystery in both their pasts. As they try and get to the bottom of this, the two go into business together as an assassin team known as Noir. As the series moves along, their efforts also get them involved with the myserious Les Soldats, who have connections to the mythical Noir concept that the two girls have taken as an alias.
That’s about as much as I can go into without giving things away and still keeping it brief. And really, the mystery is part of what makes this series keep moving. The other part, and this is a pretty big point in the show’s favor, is its sense of style. Even nowadays, Noir has a very sharp sense of style around itself in terms of direction, visuals, and action choreography. Even from the first episode, the show’s combat is kinetic and impressive to watch (again, for a good example right from the first episode, there’s a memorable sequence where Kirika dispatches of a hitman using his own necktie against him).
That said, despite the nature of these action scenes, I should warn now – the rest of the series moves at a slower pace. It does progress forward, but at the start, it can seem to take a while. There’s a fair amount of flashing back and introspection as the two assassins delve further into the mystery. If you can bear with it, the show more than rewards you on that front as you make your way through.
The other standout element for the series itself goes to the soundtrack. Further adding to the very stylized nature of everything, the series is accompanied by a moody, but surprisingly catch score by Yuki Kajiura, perhaps most remembered for the insert song ‘Salva Nos’ that accompanies several of the show’s assassination sequences. The score does admirably for setting the scene as well as providing some extra boost to the momentum when the guns come out.
As far as the technical aspects of the release go…well, let’s start with the inevitable ‘sub vs dub’ question, shall we?
As is often the case with older releases, Funi packages this with the old dub it was given by ADV back when it was first brought over here. This is one of those shows that tends to present a tricky challenge from a dubbing perspective – with somewhat more stoic leads, it creates the challenge to not make the performances overly emotional while also not making it sound like the VA is just reading the lines that were handed to them. In this regard, the show can be a little rough in the early episodes (Shelley Calene-Black starts off well as Mireille, but Monica Rial’s first few eps as Kirika are a little touch and go), but, as is often the case, the cast eventually grow to fit the roles well, also matching their Japanese counterparts well enough along the way.
About the only other downside I can say for the dub, and admittedly it’s a minor one, comes with how the series handles crowd scenes. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to tell they just left the original Japanese audio in for some of the crowd sequences, which can kind of take one out of the scene at times.
On the visual front, the Blu-Ray remaster for this show is definitely a welcome change. The DVD release wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but the Blu-Ray’s picture has definitely been cleaned up, and the color palette, which is a good aspect of some of the sequences in this show, really shines as a result of that.
Actually, in comparing the two, that is one small grievance I have with this release. In an age where Funimation releases have frequently been defaulting to doing a combination of DVD and Blu-Ray in the same set, the fact that Noir is being packaged as the two separate releases seems out of place to me. I’m not sure if this is a case where it’s a condition of the rights for the series or not, but it does feel a bit annoying after the last few releases have checked out from Funi.
Fortunately, the contents between the two releases are otherwise identical. Where other releases have had certain extras that were only found on one of the two formats, here Funimation has managed to give both sets the same extras. Said extras are also an impressive spread using many from the older ADV release, including interviews with both casts, commentaries on select episodes, Japanese promotions, and clean Ops and Eds.
Probably the strangest of these extras is a feature ADV produced for their own release called ‘Noir: The Unsoled Story’ – a parody of the series played out with sock puppets and performed by the dub cast. It’s a pretty bizarre, but funny, featurette, and I give Funimation some extra credit for maintaining it for this release as well.
All in all, this is a pretty solid rerelease for an anime that’s been out of print here for a while. Alongside maintaining all the contents of the earlier release, it cleans up for the new format nicely. If you’ve been looking to pick up a copy of the series, this is a very good way to get in on that. You more than get what you’re paying for out of this one.
Once again, I commend Funimation on these releases. They’ve been doing very well by bringing some of these titles back from the dead and I hope we can see more from them on this front in the future.
-Interesting, atmospheric action mystery with some great direction and music
-Good array of extras
-Remaster cleans up the picture quite well
-Dub is largely good, but stumbles at a few points
-Slow start and mysterious characters may throw some people
-Really not sure why this one wasn’t a combo release