In an alternate dimension, Judge Adam Arseneau can throw a Volkswagen a whole half block.
To your other self.
Noein: Volume 1 was a perplexing marriage of a teen adolescent drama interwoven with mysterious black figures, alternate-dimension hopping, and multiple personality problems so large as to be intimidating. Here's hoping Noein: Volume 2 gives us more of the same.
Having been abducted (or rescued, depending on your perspective) by Karasu and taken back to the dimension of La'cryma, young Haruka is now stuck in a world she does not recognize. The planet has been destroyed by massive machines from a world called Shangri-la, spreading across dimensional lines, consuming everything in its path. Humanity now lives underground, and hops through dimensional lines like an Olympic hurdler, battling to save their world. The mysterious Dragon Knights reckon that Haruka is the Dragon Torque, a yet-unnamed force that holds the key to rescuing their world.
However, Karasu begins to suffer some serious emotional problems when forced to give up Haruka. Apparently the removal of the Dragon Torque will be fatal, and Haruka's resemblance to an individual in their collective past causes him (and others) great strife. The decision he makes will have grave consequences throughout his and Haruka's dimensions…
Noein finally takes the time to clue in the viewer—albeit in bits and pieces—to what the hell is going on. For an anime targeted at a teenage audience, there are some fairly profound and complex theories about parallel dimensions and space/time conversions going on here, much of which is deep, fascinating, and rooted in some fairly advanced mathematics.
For example: In an infinite world hypothesis, all words exist in parallel states converging into infinity. No action taken in one dimension will affect another, because the point is moot—eventually, they will all collapse into each other. By removing Haruka from her dimension into La'cryma, the Dragon Knights hope to save their world and pay little regard to the effect on Haruka's dimension. But Karasu sees things differently—he failed to protect Haruka in his dimension, and is obsessed with protection this new Haruka, believing her dimension is actually La'cryma in the past. By saving her in the future, he hopes to undo his actions in his present. Got all that? Karasu's colleagues think he's crazy, but that seems to be a recurring dimensional theme.
Things can get a bit muddled with similar incarnations of characters showing up in parallel dimensions, to say the least. La'cryma needs the Dragon Torque in order to prevent their own dimension from being destroyed, but there is concern that the dimension of Haruka is in fact La'cryma from a different vantage point along the time continuum. If that is the case, then things are going to get very complicated, very soon. I love the reoccurring themes in the multiple timelines intermixed with the generational gaps between children and parent that seem to duplicate themselves again and again, like Yuu and his big sack o' crazy mother.
Production values stay high for this second installment, with huge baby-faced monsters tumbling from the sky like gigantic EVAs from Evangelion and fluid, kinetic, distortion-warping animation style that manages to be hilarious and scary at the same time. The 2D and 3D CGI animation melds together seamlessly, and the faux-fisheye lens shots create some of the most outlandish, wildest animation you will ever see.
Like Volume 1, the transfer is slick as a baby's backside with vibrant colors, solid detail, and a near-perfect transfer. Black levels are solid and there is hardly a blemish to be seen. Both English and Japanese 2.0 and 5.1 sound fantastic, with good use of the rear channels that never overpowers the dialogue. The score is powerful and operatic with plenty of faceless choir people howling into the background. Bass response is solid. The dub is of average quality, but the annoyingness of Karusa and Yuu's English voices are starting to tick me off.
Extras are mild, but a continuation of the previous: we get part two of the featurette with the director and Japanese voice actress on-set, as well as a still gallery. I like the "part two" aspect of the featurette—it gives a nice incentive to the collector who has all parts to the series—but this disc could have used more supplementary features. Alas, such is the burden of the anime connoisseur.
Fantastically stylized with strong character development, methinks we have a lot to look forward to in future installments of Noein, a show that balances so well between provocative science fiction and personal drama that it rapidly flies up my favorite anime series list with every passing episode. Final judgment shall be reserved for the conclusion of the series, but so far, so good.
Personally, this Judge can't wait to see where this is all going.
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