Noein – To your other self


Summer break means fun and relaxation for many sixth-graders in Hokadate, but for Yu it means intense studying and cram school forced upon him by a mother obsessed with seeing him test into a middle school in Tokyo. Even his friends are ultimately not allowed to visit him lest he be distracted. But strange things are afoot surrounding him and especially his best friend Haruka, with whom he has considered running away. Ghostly images appear and vanish before her and time occasionally stops around her as individuals claiming to be from another dimension seem intent on kidnapping her. They claim she is something called a Dragon Torque, which is critical for stabilizing their own dimension in a future time frame, and indeed Haruka does seem capable of manifesting such an item, one linked to a mysterious entity known only as Noein, and using some incredible powers. What’s more, one of the images claims to be an alternate future version of Yu, and not all of them seem to agree on the proper course of action; some want the Dragon Torque dead instead.

Meanwhile two agents from a secretive group repeatedly keep running into Haruka and company as they try to track down the source of strange energy readings around Hokadate, ones which may have everything to do with the dimensional travelers and Dragon Torque.

Review:

In one sense Noein is a typical example of a series embedding a “the girl has special powers that make her a target” gimmick into a slice-of-life story focusing on elementary school kids, the kind of thing we’ve seen done innumerable times before. Sure, it’s considerably more serious than such series normally are, and like the recent Fantastic Children it doesn’t feel like it was written with kids in mind despite the mostly-youthful cast, but the core elements are there. To evaluate the series on that basis, though, would be to ignore how truly weird its sci-fi elements actually are and how obfuscated its underlying plot is through its first five episodes. The short and simple version is that a lot of messy business about alternate dimensions, dimensional transference, and dimension-hopping is involved.

The essence of the plot concerns efforts by a group of Dragon Cavalry to protect an alternate dimension called La’cryma, which exists 15 years down the timeline and is in danger of collapsing due to “corrosion” from something called Shangri-La. Their forays into the current-time world are difficult and dangerous, but must be done to obtain something they call the Dragon Torque, which is supposed to be able to stabilize their dimension, and this girl Haruka seems to be it. Indeed, an average of once an episode a torque which looks like a dragon biting its tail appears around her neck and in a great ring in the sky. When they appear weird things can happen, like time stopping, dimensional shifts to correct some catastrophe, a mysterious person speaking to her whom others can’t see or hear, and so forth. By implication, Haruka and this torque (or, perhaps more precisely, this Noein individual behind the torque) may be responsible for La’cryma ending up in the sorry state that it’s in, but the volume ends with a possibly more comprehensive explanation of the situation pending. Not helping matters is that it takes all of the first five episodes to even piece together this much, and that still leaves viewers without any insight as to why these two adults are investigating energy readings on behalf of an organization called the Absolute Critical Prevention Strategic Committee, whose ridiculously long name seems like just an excuse for the much cooler abbreviation “Ab-Com.”

The series isn’t all about its action-laden sci-fi elements, however. Much of the content focuses on the very ordinary activities and circumstances of 6th grade kids, whether it’s a slapfest between two girls provoked by jealousy over a boy, experimenting with a Ouija board, going out “ghost-hunting” over summer break, or dealing with a friend who’s become a virtual prisoner due to his enforced studying and cramming for an upcoming entrance exam. The extreme stress Yu is being put under, and the negative effect it’s having on him, lends a darker and edgier side to what is otherwise occasionally light-hearted slice-of-life content. His prominent use of a utility knife only furthers the impression that he is a boy on the edge, and the alternate-dimension man named Karasu, who claims to be a future version of Yu, isn’t helping matters by telling Yu that there’s nothing he can really do to protect Haruka or keep her from fading away, but hey, he should try anyway. Further making things interesting is the insane Atori, another of the Dragon Cavalry who comes to believe that Haruka, as the Dragon Torque, would be better off dead than captured.

What really distinguishes Noein from other series is its look. Character designs step beyond typical anime stylistic elements, creating designs that are sometimes familiar-looking but more often very distinctly different, especially in the way lips are drawn for women and cloaked figures of the Dragon Cavalry; Atori’s appearance in particular is an embodiment of his mental instability. The styling at times gives a distinctly manga-art feel, as if the artists were just directly animating manga panels rather than redrawing them, and this is furthered by regular use of manga-styled shading lines on character’s faces. This effect is doubtless intended to give a feeling of how the Dragon Cavalry members are disconnected from normal reality when they move to the current-time dimension, and if that is the goal, the series succeeds at it quite well.

A lot of CG work has gone into this one, whether it’s animating vehicles and water waves, depicting a giant Ouroboros-shaped portal, animating a giant alien ship, or playing around with its frequent perspective-shifting shots. The 2D animation is good enough that normal movements look smooth and lend effect energy to its dynamic, high-strung fight scenes. The 2D/CG integration isn’t flawless, but it’s one of the better efforts to date outside of a Gonzo production. Kudos to Satelight for producing one of the year’s more distinctive and memorable looks.

The fully orchestrated musical score certainly doesn’t lack for dramatic flair during the more dramatic scenes, even slightly overdoing it at times. The opener and closer are both pleasant enough numbers but neither is especially memorable. More impressive is the English dub, which feels right on the mark. Every performance hits the right tone, effectively conveying scenes with appropriate emotion and flair suitable to English speaking style, and most of the voices are very good matches. The English voice of Haruka’s friend Ai sounds a little raspy, but that’s a minor complaint, and the accent given to the female Ab-Com agent is handled well. The script stays close enough that it shouldn’t generate major complaints, although its choice of words in some places is debatable.

Despite five episodes, Manga Entertainment has also included a significant number of Extras. The most prominent is the 14-minute first installment of a travelogue about the real-life Hakodate featuring the Japanese director and lead seiyuu, who explore various locations used as the artistic inspiration for settings in the series. Watching this makes one appreciate exactly how much attention to real-world detail went into accurately depicting the settings, even for minor scenes. Also included are two alternate openers, clean opener and closer, and Japanese promos. In an unusual move, not only does the disk include both regular and Dolby 5.1 versions of both the English and Japanese language tracks, but it also includes Spanish subtitle options in addition to American ones. It also features some of the more user-friendly and easy-to-navigate menu designs. The case itself also comes inside a foil-embossed slip cover. Somewhat tacky is the quoting from “fan reviews” on the cover, which naturally sounds like overblown hype.

While the fan review comments go overboard, Noein does have enough going on to draw one in and hold one’s interest. It is not a series you can watch idly, as it is a bit deeper and a lot more involved than it may appear to be at first. An interesting visual style, edgy action scenes, and distinctive characters all contribute to an opening volume well worth checking out.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B

+ Bold and interesting artistic style, good English dub.
− Plotting is initially unclear.

Karasu whisks Haruka away to La’cryma while Yu panics and her friends and teacher, who don’t know what’s going on, frantically look for her. In La’cryma Haruka gets to see what this (from her viewpoint) alternate future dimension looks like and why the Dragon Knights have been going on about its devastation by Shangri-La. She also discovers that, in this future world, some of the faces are strangely familiar. While the leaders of La’cryma wish to call upon the power of the Dragon Torque to protect their crippled world from Shangri-La, Karasu has other ideas. Unable to get over the death of “his” Haruka, he vows to protect this one at all costs and flees back to the past world with her, where her friends wait with lots of questions. The Dragon Knights aren’t about to let Karasu go, however, and the mad Atori is still in that world seeking to destroy the Dragon Torque, not caring that his actions could have calamitous consequences.

In addition to the extradimensional intrigue, Yu still has his own serious problems with his mother’s overbearing emphasis on his upcoming entrance exams. But might the truth coming out about why she pushes him so hard be the ticket to improving his situation?

Review:

The main strike against the first volume of Noein was that its plot was so obfuscated that it took great effort to make much sense of it. That problem is corrected in episodes 6 and 7, where not only is enough information revealed for a viewer to finally understand much of what’s actually going on with this whole dimension/time-hopping business, but it’s accomplished without feeling like you’ve been subjected to the kind of “info-dumping” normally required to explain something like this. With that out of the way, the story is free to become a thoroughly engrossing mix of hard-core sci-fi and very ordinary dramatic elements.

A common plot device in sci-fi stories across all forms of media and all nationalities is the individual from a dystopian future world traveling into a past world to seek a solution to/prevention of future problems. The slight twist Noein puts on this concept is that the person who is the “solution” is taken 15 years into the future to do her thing, rather than the future individuals trying to deal with matters in the past. And what an unpleasant place La’cryma is, with its shades of Twelve Monkeys, fights against alien invaders on a devastated surface, and bugs as a main source of nutrition. Given how bad the situation is, it’s no wonder that Karasu’s fellow Dragon Knights have a problem with him trying to protect the one girl who could possibly save them all.

Of course, it’s also not hard to see why Karasu would want to protect her, given who he was in the past and how utterly likeable a character Haruka is. She may be on the spunky side but is not overly cute, energetic, smart, mature, or anything else that is normally done to excess in anime characterizations. She is a balanced and believable girl who is surrounded by equally balanced and believable friends. Yu’s tendency towards stress-induced anxiety is partly remedied once his mother is finally forced to confront why she is pushing him so unreasonably hard, a sequence of events which takes up the better part of two episodes to play out but never for a moment feels boring or like the sci-fi story is being interrupted. In fact, it’s consistently amazing how effectively the story can tuck all this very normal real-life stuff in amongst the extreme sci-fi elements and get it to work. It is not something a lesser series could pull off.

Although the action scenes are strictly a side event rather than the main focus, they are not given any lesser attention. The vivid imagery used and way the movements are handled makes them stand out in an environment normally replete with shortcuts like isolation shots and stills. The animation and artistry do an excellent job of giving them distinct looks and making them feel exciting. Even the power-up scenes feel fresh because they are kept short and don’t have people standing around marveling at them, unlike in most major shonen series.

The other visuals are great, too, although the overall artistic style is a marked departure from the norm for anime. The all-CG Shangri-La ships/creatures are exquisitely-detailed marvels on the level of a Gankutsuou, and the vision of the alternate future of La’cryma is suitably industrial and unpleasant. By contrast, the backgrounds of the present-time Hakodate are very realistic recreations of actual locations, as elaborated upon in the Extras. The character designs are a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing, with Karasu being the weakest design and Yu and Haruka the strongest. The color palette used also distinguishes it from most other anime; while not at all muted, it’s not the bright, cheery color set one normally sees in recent anime titles. CG is used very extensively, especially for vehicles and trolleys; its integration with the 2D animation is moderately good, but there are better examples.

The one minor weakness to the second volume is that its dramatic musical score gets thoroughly overwrought at times. Its balance is better on other occasions and it is most notable by its absence on still others. The opener and closer continue to be bland numbers.

The English voice acting, which was one of the highlights of the first volume, continues to be top-rate. Nearly every actor is well-chosen for the role and performs it admirably; even scenes where two characters are clearly drunk are handled well, with appropriate amounts of slurring and adjustments to tenor. The English script strays enough for the dialogue to sound good in English, and does make a few minor changes in places, but the adjustments are never enough to be a problem.

The main extra this time around is the 16-minute second part of the travelogue on Hakodate begun in the first volume, where the director and Haruka’s seiyuu explore various locations used as the basis for the background art in the series. Viewing this leads one to appreciate more fully just how accurately the background artistry represents the actual locations. The only other extra this time is a set of “player cards,” which is nothing more than shots of key characters. As before, a Spanish subtitling option is included along with the standard English sub. At a base price of only $19.95 for five episodes, it’s also one of your more economical first-run anime values.

The title character of the series, the mysterious otherworldly Noein, makes no appearances at all in these five episodes, and the Dragon Torque only appears infrequently, but that doesn’t matter. While not a pure sci-fi endeavor, it is nonetheless a distinctive and engrossing entry into the sci-fi genre with a high level of merit across the board. If the first volume didn’t hook you, this one almost certainly will.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+

+ Excellent writing and English voice work, great balance of sci-fi and character drama.
− Music is sometimes overwrought, bland opener and closer.

In addition to securing the Dragon Torque, the Dragon Knights must now deal with renegade Karasu, who has resolved to do everything in his power to protect Haruka, even if that means battling an old friend to the death. Wild card Atori must also be dealt with, but another even more dire threat looms in the background: the mysterious masked being who calls itself Noein, and the menacing aliens of Shangri-La who seem to be working with/for Noein. Through it all Haruka struggles to learn more about the power of the Dragon Torque she possesses and the ability it gives her to perceive and cross over to other dimensions, an ability which may have more frighteningly powerful potential than she ever imagined.

Meanwhile Kyoji Kooriyama and Kyoko Uchida delve into the explanations of quantum mechanics as they relate to alternate dimensions and decide to hunt down a particular scientist to discuss their concerns over a potentially very dangerous project dealing with that subject, a man who also happens to be Haruka’s father. And Yu struggles to deal with his jealousy over his older self’s apparently tight relationship with Haruka.

Review:

The above synopsis does not even come close to describing all that that happens in this volume, partly because of some genuinely surprising twists the story takes but mostly because there’s just too much going on through these five episodes to describe everything without giving a lengthy dissertation. So much happens that each episode feels longer than it actually is (and at more than 25 minutes per episode, they are already a little longer than the norm for broadcast animation), yet the pacing never feels rushed. Even with all its plot development and sci-fi goings-on, the storytelling still somehow finds time to delve into character development and lots of explanatory exposition and throw in great action scenes, too. Most series could not accomplish all that this one does in half again the same length of time.

The most amazing things about the series – and this volume in particular – are the successful melding of dramatically different story elements and nonreliance on traditional anime elements. Its children actually behave like children should instead of the normal goofy animated take on their behavior (and note that I did not say “anime” for a reason), and from that comes the volume’s few light-hearted moments. While allowing the kids to express themselves, it also delves into explanations of some of the fundamentals of the extremely complex theoretical world of quantum mechanics and how it relates to the dimension-hopping themes of the series; a point of particular relevance to the plot is the notion that mere observation of an event can have an effect on the event, which in this case is extended to mean that Haruka can make alternate realities actually happen just by using the Dragon Torque to see them – a scary notion. This isn’t your normal sci-fi technobabble, as all of what Uchida explains in episode 11 and elsewhere is based on actual philosophy and science. By extension, this means that the entirety of the series and its dimension-hopping mechanics is, in fact, based on actual philosophy and science rather than just the fantastic musings of its creator. As a nice touch, the visuals accompanying Uchida’s explanation in episode 11 include a sly reference to the famous Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment, which will probably fly over the head of all but the best-educated viewers. Despite much of the cast being kids, this is definitely not kiddie fare.

As with previous volumes, this one further explores some of the underlying psychological elements. What does it say about a person who’s jealous of an older alternate-dimension version of himself? The writing also continues to delve into the “what is reality and what is an illusion” mode of thinking, and while most people wish at some point that they could revisit the past and look for ways to have seen events play out differently, Haruka actually subconsciously has the power to do that. But is she old enough to understand and appreciate it?

Coming up more prominently in this volume than the previous ones is the creepy side of the story. We have all seen horror and/or supernatural stories about phones that are supposed to be disconnected and nonfunctional suddenly ringing, allowing the listener to communicate with people from different times and places than should be physically possible, but the gimmick gets used quite effectively here. Most series also could not pull off having a CG-created alien which looks thoroughly ridiculous (think of a giant seahorse with a hand on a tentacle) and yet also still carries an aura of menace, but this one does. The reappearance of Noein, whose role in the scheme of things and connection to Shangri-La (and also what Shangri-La is) is finally made somewhat clear, adds the final bit of edginess.

The highlight of the visuals is unquestionably the boldly stylish action scenes, which use distorted graphics and a pulse-pounding musical backing to give a strong sense of the kind of frenetic movement one would expect to see in fights like this. The lowlights are a few thoroughly unappealing adult character designs and irregularities in visual quality. The series retains its unique look while continuing to heavily employ CG artistry in its aliens and perspective-shifting shots of buildings. Background art, as before, meticulously recreates the real-world settings used for the series, and the animation supports the series well, whether dealing with the action scenes, more fantastical visual effects, or the exaggerated reactions of some characters.

As with previous volumes, the musical score normally works quite effectively but can get a bit too heavy and overly melodramatic in key scenes. The opener and closer remain unchanged. The styles of delivery for the English cast may not always match up perfectly to those of the original Japanese cast, but one would have to get quite picky to find fault with the accuracy of the casting relevant to the characters; Melissa Fahn and Yuri Lowenthal are especially good choices for Haruka and Yuu, respectively. No fault can be found with the quality of the performances, either, beyond possibly Ai. (And she has few lines in this block of episodes anyway.) The English script also sticks relatively close to the original.

Included with these five episodes is part 3 of the location-scouting documentary seen in previous volumes, an image gallery of screen shots, and a “NOEIN: Storyboard to Screen” feature, which takes clips from all three volumes and breaks them down into one-after-another comparisons with their components parts; a nice inclusion for those interested in the animation process. As with previous volumes, this one also has an Easter Egg, which can be accessed by selecting the “Noein Volume 3” circle on the main menu. It provides a collection of humorous alternate dialogue outtakes, many of which are actually quite funny but most of which are definitely not PG-rated in content. Set-up options include Spanish as well as English subtitles. This volume also comes with a very economical list price (MSRP of only $19.99), making it a great bargain.

Manga Entertainment, a company which never shies from licensing and distributing thought-provoking sci-fi series, has done an excellent job with this one, too, with one exception: the three freakin’ month wait in between volumes. Hopefully this is not a sign of the future. Otherwise this volume has a lot to recommend it: intense, stylish action, involving storytelling, complex explanations, and surprising plot twists. If the first two volumes didn’t convince you that this is one of the best of recent sci-fi anime series, this volume should.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ Dense writing capably brings together diverse elements, spectacular action scenes.
− Three months in between releases, some artistic quality control issues.

The Magic Circle Project, intended to give humankind a greater mastery over quantum mechanics, proceeds apace despite the protestations of numerous individuals over the danger it represents. The home dimension of Haruka may also be in the first stages of its convergence as Shangri-La makes more incursions, while La’cryma’s status grows increasingly unstable. Haruka views slightly altered versions of her own past and life at the instigation of Noein but ultimately returns home, only to once again become the target of Kosagi and, later, Kuina – but it seems that Kuina has other motivations than trying to save La’cryma. When events land Haruka, Yu, and Karasu once again in both La’cryma and Shangri-La, Yu’s life proves to be at stake.

Meanwhile Uchida and Kooriyama try to piece together what exactly is happening and where their priorities lie.

Review:

The content of Noein is such technical, mind-trippy stuff that, once again, the Synopsis above only begins to do justice to what all goes on through these five episodes. The quantum mechanical foundation of the whole dimension-hopping and dimensional convergence structure was firmly-established last volume, so the plot of this one runs with it further by delving even more into stable vs. unstable quantum states, defining everything in quantum terms, determining reality by perspective and observation rather than empirical measurements, alternate realities, branching futures, and complex technobabble slipped in once the writers feel that the audience is too flummoxed by the details to notice. It is heady, high-concept stuff on a degree not normally found in anime outside of titles with “Ghost in the Shell” in their name. It is also to the immense credit of producer Satelight that everything actually makes sense if you carefully pay attention and think about it a bit afterwards. Too often series which attempt this kind of approach get so bogged down in their technicalities that they hopelessly muddle their stories, but not here.

As with earlier volumes, this one strives to achieve balanced storytelling by mixing the freaky sci fi elements with the very normal travails of impending middle school students trying to enjoy their summer break. The drama involving Yu’s overstressed behavior and his mother’s ironclad insistence on him concentrating on his studies officially passes with this volume, resulting in a more relaxed Yu than we have previously seen but also leaving a gap in the storytelling that is only partly filled by Haruka’s concerns about forgetting people from the past. More of the character drama instead falls to the adults, who have to deal with concerns about the Magic Circle Project, personal motivations, and Atori’s returning memory.

Although the series would not be what it is without its character drama, the sci fi elements are still what truly power the series. Haruka’s ability, as the Dragon Torque, to finalize unstable existences based on her observation gains a frightening new dimension when it becomes apparent that she can, in some circumstances, even use the ability to cheat death. Also in this volume the true natures of La’cryma and Shangri-La get revealed, more spectacular fights take place, lots of dimension-hopping goes on, and science applies to interpretation of existence in existential ways. In other words, just what you’ve come to expect from the series if you have been watching up to this point.

The irregularities in visual quality mentioned in the review of the previous volume have thankfully not continued, allowing the artistic quality to return to the level seen in the first two volumes. Some of the adult character designs are still unappealing, and the way character talk and smile may strike some as very odd, but the intricate and imaginative beauty of the CG designs for the Shangri-La entities and vessels more than compensates for disappointments elsewhere. The CG work combines with the sense of motion in the action scenes, the unusual style of the character designs, and other impressive feats of coloring and CG effects to create a unique look which not only stands wholly apart from normal anime visual styles but ranks as one of the most visually striking and original looks this side of Gankutsuou. It may not work for everyone but certainly can be impressive.

The soundtrack plays milder through this stretch of episodes, occasionally using the dramatic operatic themes heard earlier in the series but not overdoing it so much, and is better for it. The English dub also stays solid through this stretch, with strong performances in key roles and an English script that does not engage in needless alteration to the original. The English version of Noein (who gets more lines here than in any previous volume) does not quite achieve the chilling menace seeped into the Japanese performance, but that and a few lines involving the operation of La’cryma’s dimensional transfer system not being included at all in the dub are the only minor flaws.

Volume four offers a much skimpier selection of extras, this time including on an art gallery containing a limited number of screenshots and a textless opener. The Easter Egg seen found on previous volumes seems not to have been continued with this one. The Set-Up does still include Spanish as well as English subtitling options, however, and it still carried an economical base price for five episode of animation.

Overall this volume may not be quite as strong as the previous one, but it still provides five more episodes of quality entertainment. The three-month wait for this volume to come out will not leave you disappointed.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+

+ Involved writing combines diverse elements well.
− Fewer Extras than past volumes.

While the Dragon Knights and elementary school gang try to locate the missing Haruka and Yu, Uchida, Kooryiama, and Professor Mayuzumi come to an agreement that the Magic Circle Project must be stopped, lest it trigger a dimensional collapse. Such a collapse is precisely what Noein wants, however, and it is he that Yu and Karasu must contend with in Shangri-La. He shows Haruka the most unpleasant futures for her friends in an effort to manipulate her into working his will, but none are more unpleasant than his own. With a disaster that could cause the quantum collapse of the universe at hand, it falls to an intrepid few and one Dragon Torque-endowed 12-year-old girl to stop Noein’s nihilistic plan.

Review:

At turns intense, ominous, spectacular, confusing, and even emotional, the final four episodes of this convoluted exploration of quantum physics and existential philosophizing never get dull. Though the writing resorts to sci-fi standbys like doomsday plans, branching alternate realities, potential futures, and madmen twisted by tragedies in their youth, its creative application of quantum mechanics, effective characterizations, and talent for staging incredible action sequences (mostly) prevents the series from losing steam going into its conclusion. The grand climax in the final episode does not carry quite the dramatic punch one would hope for given the build-up, but few will walk away from this one feeling disappointed.

Whether or not fans will walk away understanding everything is another story, as even intense concentration may not succeed in piecing together all the details; this is not a block of episodes you want to watch casually. Fortunately the series can fall back on the stabilizing influence of its steady character development, and this time Atori gets the feature treatment. By the end of volume four he had already showed signs of regressing from the dramatic personality change which afflicted him in volume three, but the way he interacts with, and is affected by, Miho (and why) shows both a newer, more integrated personality potential and thoroughly enjoyable character by-play. The set-ups for the tragedies afflicting the future versions of the elementary school gang resonate remarkably well for as time-worn a gimmick as they represent, and their resolutions provide an emotional punch which may catch viewers off guard.

And yes, the series finally resolves the longest-standing mystery in Noein: the true identity of the old guy with the straw hat, who keeps appearing to Haruka but never introduces himself, gets revealed. The definitive identity of Noein also gets revealed, although claims to that effect were made at the end of the previous volume.

Little can be said about the artistry and technical merits that has not already been mentioned in previous reviews; by this point the series’ unique look either works for you or it doesn’t. The CG renditions of the living Shangri-La airships still amaze with their exquisite detail and near-flawless integration with the regular animation, and the 17-year-old designs for the elementary kids (the only truly new artistic element) stay convincingly consistent with their younger designs. Action scenes never disappoint with their detailed motion and fluid movements, and the CG animation is flawless, but the emphasis on exaggerated movements can make the regular animation look jerky, especially in this volume.

Little more can also be said about the dramatic but effective soundtrack, which uses a few minor new themes but mostly still relies on its core orchestration and vocals. Music director Hikaru Nanase, whose other credits include notables like Chrono Crusade, Galaxy Angel, and Scrapped Princess, never overcomes a tendency to lay it on a bit thick, especially in action scenes, but some novel sound effects by the Shangri-La airships balance out that minor flaw. The English dub performances also maintain the standard of the last couple of volumes: the performances of Haruka, Atori, and Uchida are gems, the rest of the cast stays solid, the pronunciation of Haruka’s name varies from VA to VA, and preferences will generally fall along normal sub/dub lines. The English script varies a bit more than it should at times but never becomes a major problem.

The only normal Extras are a textless opener and a brief gallery of screenshots, but as with some previous volumes, an Easter Egg can be found by pushing “up” on the remote control while the cursor is on Play on the main menu page. Select the “Noein Volume 5” circle and you get several minutes of audio cuts featuring bloopers and often-crude alternate dialogue, some of which pokes fun at the pronunciation issue. Spanish subtitles also remain as an option.

The quality of the writing may slide a bit, but the final volume still delivers. To its end one of the most economical dubbed series of the year remains a great and entertaining view.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-

+ Characterizations, action scenes, CG visuals.
− Can be hard to follow at times, relies too much on sci-fi stand-bys.

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About animemidwesterner

I started watching in 2010. After the cruel and unusual treatment I received via silence from my conventional American culture journal(s), I decided upon an anime Japanese approach to meet new people and have otakus comment. I can finally emulate pursuit of happiness in some fashion. Pursuit of happiness wasn't happening in dead silence. myanimelist.net/profile/renegadeviking
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