Noir-Volume 1: Shades of Darkness (2001)

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Released 12-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Gallery-production sketches
Credits-clean opening
Credits-clean closing
TV Spots-original Japanese promos
Trailer-ADV Previews (4)
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 121:58 (Case: 125)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kouichi Mashimo
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Yuki Kajiura


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking Yes, rare
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode teaser

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Le noir, ce mot désigne depuis une époque lointaine le nom du destin.
Les deux vierges règnent sur la mort.
Les mains noires protègent la paix dex nouveaux-nés.

Noir — it is the name of an ancient fate
Two maidens who govern death;
the peace of the newly born, their black hands protect.

    Noir is the French word for the colour black. It's probably most often seen on this site in the context of cinema noir, a particularly kind of film that takes a rather black view of life. This series is inspired by cinema noir, but it seeks to define something new. It's stylish, elegant, and seductive. The music uses classical instruments to make contemporary music that I can't describe — save that it reminds me of the theme to Angel. I've only seen one volume, and I'm already hooked.

    The episodes on this disc are:

1 Maidens with Black Hands Two lethal ladies meet, and don't kill each other
2 Daily Bread They earn their daily bread by being very good at killing
3 The Assassination Play Noir takes a contract, but fulfilling it is more difficult than it seems at first
4 The Sound of Waves The Atride Corporation specialises in coups d'état, but someone wants them stopped
5 Les Soldats A source of information is cut off, and Noir investigates

    This show gets off to a quick start. An attractive blonde responds to a mysterious e-mail, and finds a brunette school-girl waiting for her. She leads the way into a construction site where they are set upon by lots of men in suits with guns. Both ladies, we discover, are highly effective killers. The blonde, Mireille, is an established free-lance assassin. The brunette, Kirika, has no idea who she is, or how she came by her lethal skills. She's looking for help from Mireille to discover her background. Mireille offers to help her find out before she kills her (interesting offer!). The one reason Mireille is willing to help is a haunting tune, played by a watch in Kirika's possession.

    The two team up as Noir, freelance specialist assassins. They kill for money. These are not blushing innocents, but it's easy to get fond of them. They don't completely trust one another, but they do protect one another.

    The production sketches (which are well worth looking at) show the attention to detail that has been lavished on this show. Not only do the central woman each have their favourite weapons — Kirika's is a Beretta M1934, while Mireille prefers a Walther P99 — but all the guns used by their opposition are shown in meticulous detail, including specification of the number of rounds each holds. Only Gunsmith Cats was this detailed, but it stuck to guns and a car; this show is equally meticulous about many other details: cars, locations, clothes. It's interesting to note that some people would refuse to call this show anime: there are no strange hair-dos in outrageous colours, no women with eyes that cover half their faces, no giant robots, no magic. This animated series is firmly grounded in reality. The drawing is still stylish — this is not Final Fantasy — but the drawings are of real things.

    The locations used are unusual, and a delightful change from the Tokyo settings we've seen in so many anime series. Paris is home to them, but they'll take jobs elsewhere — Episode 4 is set in South America, for example.

    If you like anime, and enjoyed, for example, Nikita (the film, not the TV series), you are likely to enjoy this laidback and very stylish effort. Strongly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's part of the style that distinguishes this show — it aims to be more like a movie than a TV show, and succeeds.

    The image is crisp, clear and sharp, with beautifully hand-painted detail. There is no film grain, and no low-level noise.

    Colour is bright, fully-saturated, but most emphatically not garish; everything is coloured rather naturally except the opening and closing sequences. Some of the flashback sequences are a touch over-bright, but that's common practice in anime for designating flashbacks. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no film artefacts of any significance. There's virtually no aliasing (impressive!), no moire, and no MPEG artefacts. There is some interlacing visible in paused scenes, or when advancing frame-by-frame, but it's utterly invisible when playing normally.

    We're provided with two sets of English subtitles, one just covering signs, the other giving full dialogue as well. I watched the full dialogue subtitles, and they are easy to read, and seem well-timed and accurate. As usual, they don't match the English dub, because they translate the Japanese fairly literally, while the dub has been adjusted to better match the mouth movements.

    The disc is single-sided and dual layered. I didn't see the layer change. The first three episodes are on the first layer, while the last two are on the second layer. The layer change isn't visible in the lag between the third and fourth episodes. Very nice.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, the optimal choice for anime. Both are Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround-encoded. I watched all five episodes in English, and four in Japanese. The soundtracks seem to be identical except for the language.

    The English dialogue is sparingly written, and matches the animation well. It is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear enough. There are no obvious mismatches of sound and mouth movements in either language.

    The score, from Yuki Kajiura, is beautiful and distinctive, with some passages sung in Latin (the music is too modern to call them Gregorian Chants). The catchy opening theme (also used as the trailer), Coppelia's Casket, has lyrics by Arika Takarano and music by Mikiya Katakura. The closing theme, Beautiful Emotions, was written and performed by Akino Arai.

    These are pure 2.0 stereo soundtracks, with very good stereo imaging, but no use of the surrounds or subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are better than they sound.

Menu

    The menus are animated with music. The main menu is styled after a corridor running diagonally — while a little disconcerting, it is easy enough to use.

Gallery — Production Sketches (14:18)

    This is is a free-running gallery (with music behind it) containing a huge number of sketches (I lost count). They've used two angles so you can choose to view the sketches with or without a translation of the annotations into English (do switch angles to see the translations — there's an impressive attention to detail). It was interesting to see the detail that went into the guns, in particular: a Beretta M1934, Walther P99, SIG PRO SP2340, Desert Eagle 44 Magnum, and Ingram M10 are shown.

Clean Opening (1:30)

    The opening theme and animation shown without credits. This is pretty much what has been shown as a trailer.

Clean Closing (1:31)

    The closing theme and animation, also minus credits. An interesting contrast to the opening.

Original Japanese Promos (2:20)

    The various TV spots that advertised this show on Japanese TV. I was surprised to learn that it originally screened at 1:15am — I wonder how many people were up at that hour?

Trailers — ADV Previews (5:45)

    Four trailers that play one after the other:

Booklet

    Although this is only a piece of paper with two folds, it has some interesting pieces on it: two Staff Talk pieces (Shigeru Kitayama and Ryoe Tsurikimura), and two Noir Production Notes. Each is quite a decent chunk of text, printed in quite a small font (I'm guessing 8 point). All four pieces are well worth reading if you're interested in background information.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released in February 2003. It has the same episodes, the same front cover artwork, and pretty much the same extras (the R1 may not have the ADV Previews). The one big difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 discs is that the Region 1 soundtracks are Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes, while our Region 4 soundtracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 — straight stereo. I'm amused to read that at least one reviewer would have liked the Region 1 to have the original stereo soundtrack.

    By reports, the R1 transfers are as good as the R4, so I think you could be happy with either.

Summary

    An attractive and stylish new animated series on a high quality DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are good, with the production sketches a particular stand-out.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, March 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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impulsegamer.com - Tory Favro

Comments (Add)
Whoops, there is suppose to be a 5.1 soundtrack? -
5.1 sound track -
RE 5.1 soundtrack - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?) REPLY POSTED
Noir vol 1 remasters available -
I have the 5.1 remastered DVD -