Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Frustrations of the "Slow Build-Up" - My Review of Noir

I am typically not a fan of the slow build-up. Mostly because the payoff rarely ever makes the build-up seem worth it. If I spend twenty episodes of a twenty-six episode series still trying to figure out who the main characters really are or the first two hundred pages of a book trying to figure out when the plot actually starts... well, I typically get frustrated and move on to other things. 

That's not to say that the slow build-up can't work. It works great for the show Gungrave and for the movie From Dusk Till Dawn. I'd say it also works for a lot of gangster movies like Scarface, The Godfather, and Casino. Stephen King also typically puts out books with a slow build-up and they are generally worth it although The Tommyknockers is notorious for being especially slow. 

It really all chalks up to personal taste, I suppose. 

Noir is a story about two assassins. Mireille is an international assassin and makes a fine living out of it. Kirika is an amnesiac with no memory of how she became so skilled at killing people or why people are hunting her. The two characters meet up at the very beginning of the series and eventually go into business together under the code name "Noir." But Noir has a deeper meaning in the criminal underworld and it is one that bounds Kirika and Mireille together with a peculiar and covert group called the Soldats. The Soldats are after Kirika and Mireille for reasons neither of them seem to know, but the truth behind it all is one that apparently goes back centuries. It goes back to the original meaning of Noir. 

Noir is a very slow-moving show. It's almost too slow. That's not to say there isn't action because there's plenty of that. The two main characters pile up enough bodies to give an undertaker three months worth of overtime. However, the action has a very minimalist approach and there is not a lot of blood. Almost none, in fact. The two main characters (Kirika and Mireille) are also very detached from us from the very beginning and only ever so slightly are we introduced to them. It really takes forever to get to know them and by the time we do we like them, but at the beginning they seem to be just there and going through the motions. 

The villains are also incredibly frustrating because it is tough to say who the villains really are because they are essentially different factions of the same group. They call themselves the Soldats, but some want to kill Kirika and Mireille while others seemingly want to help them. Later on the ones who wanted to help them want to kill them and the ones who wanted to kill them now want to help them. It's a very frustrating dynamic that drove me crazy for most of the show. 

That's not to say this show isn't good. I did appreciate how the show wrapped up (with a typical ambiguous ending) and I'd say the show's slow build-up was mostly worth it, but it is a show you have to really stick with if you want to enjoy it. But this show is not great and it is not my favorite. Just good. 

I also want to point out that this show was the first of Bee Train's "Girls With Guns Trilogy." Bee Train is the production company that was involved with Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom and one can kind of see how Noir influenced Phantom but the two shows are very different and Phantom is not even part of the Girls With Guns Trilogy even though there are certainly stylistic similarities. The other two shows in the trilogy are Madlax and El Cazador De La Bruja. Those two shows are more like spiritual successors to Noir than actual sequels and are only similar in terms of certain themes and elements. I've never seen them, but I'm curious to see how they different from Noir and if they are in fact closer in style to the fast-paced Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.

P.S. - There's a seven minute extra on the DVD collection that features the characters (with the same English voice actors) as sock puppets. That alone is worthy of purchasing this collection. 

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