Noir sets the standard for anime thrillers. It is often imitated but rarely equaled. There are many shows that are darker or bloodier, but few that are as exhilarating to watch.
English, Japanese with subtitles
26 Episodes on 7 DVDs (1 thinpak box set)
Minako Shiba, Satoko Miyachi and Youko Kikuchi
Hitoshi Konno, Yuki Kajiura, Yuriko Kaida
TV Tokyo, 2001
Region 1 Publisher
Many commentators list this as an example of yuri anime, but that seems wrong to me. There is no suggestion of sexual attraction in the relationship between Mireille and Kirika. This is more like the female equivalent of a “buddy movie” (and as with traditional buddy movies, there are always people who will imagine a homosexual relationship, even if there is no evidence of one on-screen.) In the final episodes it is implied that Chloe has a crush on Kirika, but her feelings are clearly not reciprocated.
This is a very violent series. The violence is stylized and mostly bloodless and most of the people who get killed are unsympathetic types who probably deserve it. Nevertheless, somebody gets killed in every episode. In most episodes a LOT of people get killed. (Every week director Koichi Mashimo would bring in a group of new seiyuu to the studio, bow apologetically and say “I’m sorry, but you won’t be coming back next week.”)
Most teenagers can probably handle this, but it seems very inappropriate for younger viewers.
Premise and Characters
When Mireille Bouquet
was a little girl growing up in Corsica her parents were murdered by persons unknown. After that she was brought to Paris and raised by her uncle, a successful gangster. Now she makes a living as a contract killer, and she is very good at it, but she is still haunted by the memory of her parents’ death.
One day she receives an email that says simply (in English) “Make a pilgrimage for the past with me.” Mireille is about to discard it until she hears the audio attachment: a haunting melody played on a music box.
Mireille traces the email to a Japanese schoolgirl named Kirika Yuumura
–except that probably isn’t her real name. She decides to go to Japan to get some answers.
When Mireille confronts Kirika on an empty street, Kirika says only that her name is “Noir”…
…and shows Mireille an ornate pocket watch with a built-in music box that plays a haunting melody when the cover is opened. Mireille recognizes it as the watch that was left on the scene when her parents were killed.
At that moment the two of them are attacked by a large number of black-clad gunmen. Mireille and Kirika manage to kill all of their assailants. Kirika does most of the killing, gunning them down with cool, emotionless efficiency.
When the last gunman is dead, Kirika says “I can kill people…so easily. But then, why don’t I feel sad?”
Not long ago, Kirika explains, she woke up alone in a large, well-furnished house, unable to remember who she was or why she was there, or indeed much of anything other than the name “Noir” and the fact that Mireille Bouquet is a reliable assassin for hire. Searching the house she found a student ID card with her picture and the name “Kirika Yuumura.”
She also found a gun and the musical pocket watch.
Since then she has been repeatedly attacked by mysterious gunmen, but she has always managed to kill them. In desperation she decided to contact Mireille, hoping that she holds the secret to her lost memories.
Mireille doesn’t much like Kirika but she can’t help thinking that Kirika may hold the key to the mysteries of her own past. She offers a deal: “You know what I do for a living. I cannot let you live. You know that, don’t you? All right, I’ll team up with you. They are sure to come after us again. There’s something I want to ask them. When that’s over, I will kill you.”
“I’ll be waiting for that moment,” replies Kirika enigmatically.
Mireille and Kirika go back to Paris and go into business together as assassins for hire, operating under the name “Noir.” The name is chosen because Kirika remembered it, but it seems oddly appropriate because “Noir” is also the name of an old legend of the Paris underworld:
“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” gradually gains a fearsome reputation. Mireille tries to pick cases that appeal to her sense of justice. Kirika kills with calm, deadly efficiency. Their targets include powerful crime bosses, warlords, lawless businessmen and corrupt government officials, so their work is very dangerous.
They start to find clues to the mystery, including suggestions that it involves a secret organization called Les Soldats
They meet Chloe
, another accomplished assassin who calls herself “The True Noir.”
From her estate in the Pyrenees, Altena
tracks the adventures of Mireille and Kirika with great interest. “Noir,” she murmers, “it is the name of an ancient fate. Two maidens who govern death. To the depths of Hell’s fire, their black souls lure the lost children.”
ANN encyclopedia entry.
Wikipedia entry (spoilers.)