In an alternate dimension, Judge Adam Arseneau enjoys human sacrifice and dogs and cats living together.
To your other self.
Noein continues on its merry way with its unique blend of quantum mechanics, multi-universe theories, and adolescent drama in Noein: Volume 3, neither raising the bar nor tripping over it compared to previous installations. One gets the distinct impression the show is building towards something, like a snowball hurtling down a hill, and that some craziness lies just beyond the horizon. But, oh, when will we get there? I admit that after three volumes, Noein's lackadaisical pacing is beginning to bore me.
To recap: In an infinite multiverse scenario, there are infinite realities with infinite people populating them. Haruka, a young teenage girl, has a special gift. She is the Dragon Torque and has the power to see all of these realities and, in doing so, stabilizing them as her own personal reality. For the La'cryma, dwellers of an alternate world whose dimension is being destabilized by a mysterious force known as Shangri-La, the Torque represents the key to saving their existence. For Haruka, it is more inconvenient and confusing than anything else, since she is unable to control the power.
Ex-Dragon Knight Karasu has severed himself from the rest of Lacryma and has committed his existence into this dimension, where he tasks himself with protecting the young Haruka at all costs. Fukuro leads a band into the dimension to retrieve the Dragon Torque at all costs, even if it means destroying Karasu. Haruka and her friends are still struggling to comprehend their new reality surrounded by danger and dark men in cloaks, while Haruka continues to develop and come to terms with her newfound abilities. Meanwhile, Atori keeps being a gigantic freakazoid.
If you haven't been checking out Noein, you have been missing out on a seriously good time. You get dimensional-hopping sci-fi, freaky Matrix-style battle sequences, and teenage angst, all rolled into one attractive package. The multiple levels of conflict between the protagonists are downright nifty, made even more interesting by the whole "alternate reality" thing. Stick with me here. You have conflict between Haruka and her young friends, between Karasu and his La'cryma comrades, and between each character and their alternate dimension counterparts. Subtle nuances between friends in one dimension end up repeating themselves in alternate dimensions, playing out multiple times, like the grudge developing between Yu and Isami as youngsters in Volume 3. This same grudge manifests itself between Karasu and Fukuro in the alternate world, but then feeds back on itself like an ouroboros between Yu and Fukuro; Isami, and Yu, Karasu, and Yu; and Isami and Fukuro.
This whole notion of Noein "eating its own tail," so to speak, is the sandbox in which Noein plays, so to speak. Like the symbol of the Dragon Torque itself (an ouroboros), the show circles around and around, crossing borders and devouring itself again and again. It is repetitive, but not in a bad way; the show brings together multiple dimensions into the same story and then compresses the hell out of them, repeatedly thrusting the same individuals into the same room and letting them fight things out. It's all quite the vicious little circle.
The five episodes presented here are good ones, full of nice action and plot development, if maddeningly slow overall. The best fight sequence in the series thus far happens in Volume 3, ending with a surprising twist that ends up raising more questions. The mysterious masked shadow figure Noein keeps popping up and we still really have no idea what he's all about. The more I see of Noein, the more I like it. It is a mash-up of genres unlike any other show I have seen, a weird mix of technology and magic, of teenage drama and unexpected twists. It's a bit melodramatic at times, exploring back stories behind characters, deep secrets, dreams and imagery, and whatnot, but it's nice to see this level of character development in an anime.
So far, I don't feel that my investment in the show has been a waste of my time. It is hard to pass an overall judgment on the show at this point, but I like what I see so far. Volume 3 is pretty much more of the same as previous episodes, except heavier on the action. Really, I'm okay with that.
Technically, Noein: Volume 3 is virtually identical to its predecessors, in that it reeks of absolute awesomeness. The animation style, as always, is splendid, a colorful and pleasant blend of hand-drawn and CGI backgrounds. Fight sequences are done in faux-sketch style full of thick black lines and fluid motion, both outrageous and original. Colors saturation is vibrant, detail is sharp, and black levels are solid. A plethora of audio modes are available, both 2.0 and 5.1 surround tracks in both dubbed English and native Japanese. I prefer the native, but the dub does the job well enough. It gets corny in spots, but no more so than any other Manga Video-produced title.
Extras are on par with previous installments. The only substantial offering is a small featurette, part three of an ongoing documentary chronicling the director and voice actors traveling to Hokaido to record their dialogue. Not a bad idea, splitting the feature up over the discs, but I would have liked to see more substance. Beyond the feature, we only get a still gallery and some storyboards.
My only gripe thus far is the pacing issue. We're what, 15 episodes in? To be honest, as a viewer, I don't have much more idea what is going on now than I did before. The show is compelling enough that I'm going to stick with it out of curiosity rather than tenacious stubbornness, but Volume 4 better start dishing up some explanations. Plus, I'm starting to lose my patience with Yu. The dude's a whiner, and he never stops. He…never…stops.
Pacing issues aside, I fully admit I'm hooked on Noein. It is rare to find an anime series as thought-provoking as it is heartwarming, as action-packed as it is meditative. It takes a lot to get me interested in a new anime these days, so that's saying something. Noein is good stuff, but any time the show's ready to start picking up steam is fine by me. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Manga Video
• On Location with Japanese Voice Actor and Director (Part 3)
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