Noir-Volume 4: Death Warrant (2001)

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Released 10-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Menu Animation & Audio
Interviews-Cast-Kotono Mitsuishi (6:30)
Gallery-production sketch montage (6:57)
Credits-clean opening
Credits-clean closing
TV Spots-Japanese promos
Trailer-ADV Previews (3)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 97:31 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kouichi Mashimo
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Houko Kuwashima
Monica Rial
Kotono Mitsuishi
Shelley Calene Black
Aya Hisakawa
Hilary Haag
TARAKO
Tiffany Grant
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Yuki Kajiura


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode teaser after closing credits

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

Plot Synopsis

Noir — it is the name of an ancient fate
Two maidens who govern death;
to ward the darkness from the nursing babes
their black robes serve as shields.

    Another variation on the recitation; this one precedes episode 14 (and is read by Mireille, rather than Kirika). If you haven't been reading along as I've reviewed these discs, I strongly recommend that you begin by reading my review of Noir Volume 1: Shades of Darkness. You might care to follow that with Noir Volume 2: The Hit List., and Noir Volume 3: The Firing Chamber.

    The episodes on this disc are:

13 Season of Hell Kirika becomes friendly with a painter; Mireille is threatened by a past target's associate
14 A Bouquet of Flowers for Mireille Mireille's uncle Claude is in town, and she's happy to see him
15 The Cold-Blooded Killer, Acte I A new job, for the Soldats, leads them to Taiwan, and an expected trap
16 The Cold-Blooded Killer, Acte II Unexpected assistance — how many sides are there?

    Back to four episodes, which is good. I guess they wanted to be sure we got both parts of The Cold-Blooded Killer on this disc (and just as well!).

    These episodes share one thing: Noir is a target (alright, Noir is two targets!). And that's a huge mistake. I guess if you had a terminal illness, and wanted a quick death rather than drawn-out suffering, then maybe it would make sense to try to kill Noir... These episodes offer more scenes involving significant numbers of men (usually in suits), all armed, with firearms ranging from pistols to sub-machineguns, all trying to kill Mireille and Kirika. These ladies are clearly improving the gene pool (well, you'd have to be stupid, right?).

    We learn more of Mireille's past, including how she got out of Corsica. And we get a tantalising hint about Kirika at the end of the last episode. I'm pleased that there are fewer lengthy flash-backs — they do get tiresome — and a lot more action. We get to see Kirika being a bit more assertive — she doesn't necessarily do what Mireille tells her to do.

    I was surprised to learn that Mireille is only 18 — I'd have sworn she must be in her mid to late twenties. And she really likes that red top and little black skirt — seems to be her preferred working outfit.

    The locales on this disc are easy to identify: the first two episodes are set in Paris, while the last two are in Taiwan — no challenge this time.

    As a side note, I wouldn't want to be a voice actor on this series and be paid by the word — there's not a lot of dialogue.

    We are halfway through this series, and we still don't know a whole lot about what's going on, but that's OK — it's a treat to watch.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. This show was framed for widescreen from the beginning, and it shows.

    The image features sharp character animation over softer backgrounds, and it is really pretty to watch. This disc is particularly good, with the image limpidly clear, yet not too sharp. There is no film grain, and no low-level noise.

    Colour is superb — there are a wide range of subtle colours, some of them really deep and rich. Serious attention is paid to lighting effects, and how they modify the colour of objects. You won't see many series using colour with such care. There are no colour-related artefacts, although there is a patch around 4:15 in the first episode which is deliberately very bright (simulating glare on water), and another around 5:44 in the second episode (bright sunlight glaring into a darker room).

    I saw no film artefacts. There is next to no aliasing on a progressive system, but on a more basic setup you'll see a few scenes with noticeable aliasing. There's no moiré, and no MPEG artefacts. This is an impressively clean transfer.

    We're provided with the usual 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 — possibly formatted RSDL, but I don't know. The layer change is located between episodes 14 and 15, making it essentially invisible, because there is a slight pause between every episode.

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, as we expect for all good anime. Both are Dolby Digital 5.1, running at 448kbps.I watched all of the episodes in English, and again in Japanese. The soundtracks sound essentially identical, except for the language — listen to whichever you prefer.

    The dialogue always sounds clear. The English dialogue is easy to understand, even with some less-than-successful attempts at French accents. The Japanese is probably easy to understand if you understand Japanese (I don't).

    Yuki Kajiura continues to provide some of the best scoring for an anime series.

    I experimented, briefly, with turning the soundtrack into stereo; I was surprised how much difference it made. I only noted one directional sound cue (around 16:30 in the third episode), but the surrounds are constantly working, quite subtly, providing ambience and depth to the sound. The subwoofer gets more gunfire than usual in these episodes, and an explosion, too.

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

Extras

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.

Interview — Kotono Mitsuishi (6:30)

    An interview with the voice actress who plays Mireille on the Japanese soundtrack. She describes the series as "a blade wrapped in velvet" — quite an interesting metaphor, and apt. I liked how she explained that the director would open each recording session by apologising to the guest actors (because they were going to get killed off).

Gallery — Production Sketches (6:57)

    This is the best extra — it features sketches from the episodes on this volume in a free-running montage. This time they've put the English annotations on Angle 1 (the opposite from previous), so they come up by default, which is helpful.

Clean Opening (1:31)

    The opening theme and animation shown without credits. As on the first three volumes. Umm, seen it...

Clean Closing (1:30)

    The closing theme and animation, also minus credits. As on the first three volumes. Maybe we could get something different? Please?

Original Japanese Promos (2:45)

    Long and short TV Spots for the first three DVD and VCT (I guess that's Video Cassette Tape?) versions released in Japan. Interesting to see that they only got 50 minutes per disc or tape, half of what we get.

Trailers — ADV Previews (4:02)

    Three trailers that play one after the other (all of them new — that's good!):

Booklet

    Sadly, there's no booklet this time. That's a real shame, because I've been enjoying them.

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 June 2003, so the gap between their release and ours is increasing (sniff!). It has the same episodes, the same front cover artwork, and most of the extras (they miss out on the ADV Previews, as far as I can tell).

    By reports, the R1 transfers are as good as the R4, so I think you could be happy with either. I buy the local product, but that's because I like to support the team who go to so much effort to bring so much anime into Australia. It doesn't hurt that the R4 is rather cheaper, though!

Summary

    The next volume of a beautiful and enigmatic anime series on a high quality DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are good, but I miss the booklet included in previous volumes.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, September 11, 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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