What They Say:
From the director of the classic fantasy epic Vision of Escaflowne and the studio that bought you the stunning sci-fi visuals of Macross Frontier comes a story of warring parallel dimensions and the one girl who could control them all.
When summer break begins, Haruka is only thinking of hanging out with her friends until one fateful night she learns that she’s the keystone in an interdimensional battle for not only the Earths future, but the very survival of all existence across the multiverse. She will have to trust not only herself, but multiple versions of her friends from parallel dimensions. One of these visitors identifies himself as the future version of her troubled childhood friend Yuu. Karasu swears to protect her from the god-like Noein who wants to use her to collapse all reality. When Haruka learns she has the ability to not only see, but influence every possible future, will she be able to protect infinite worlds along with her own?
For a series that is over 10 years old and seems quite niche, there was a lot of work and care into this release especially with the audio as we get a rare series that has a 5.1 release in both English and Japanese (actually two Japanese 5.1 tracks, one with English subtitles and one with Spanish subtitles) – I watched half of it in English and Japanese to compare – and with the Japanese release I did have to raise the volume a little from my default settings, however there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, and the atmospheric nature of the show showcases the music, voice acting and sound effects all perfectly coming through on the Blu-Ray – considering the high drama this series has, combining intense action with intelligent conversation, this works.
Video is set in full screen format for this review – standard ratio settings, no issues with syncing in with the sound or with the video quality – there was no shading with pausing for example, though with this being an older series, the noticeable difference of animation vs. CGI comes through much clearer on the Blu-Ray which actually is more of a negative – however considering this series uses a ton of styles animation wise this is a strange but exotic looking hybrid of a show ranging from standard to strangely line drawn to the CGI effects (this is showcased well in one of the extras) – it is one of those shows where like Gankutsou, you have to get used to the animation. I found it at times a bit off-putting (strange because I got used to Gankutsou’s style quite quickly) but overall it works for the type of show it is.
There was no packaging for this test release.
3 discs have the same menu on them, all of them have shots of the series in the centre covering most of the screen, whilst on the bottom is an easily navigational menu of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on the third disc extras. Like most Blu-Rays, it has a popup menu which you can select in-show if you wish to change things (useful if like me, you wish to switch from English to Japanese and vice versa), easily selectable and fast acting.
Nothing major, but as always they do the job.
There are quite a number of extras on the Blu-Ray – not with the test release but if you purchase the special edition you will also get 8 art cards.
On the set, the big extra is a segment called On Location with Haruka Kudo (the voice of Haruka) and Director Akane Kazuki – it is basically a research trip to Hakodate, the setting of Noein – set back in October 2005, it is basically a material gathering, combined the initial plane trip with bus journeys, taking photos of signs, locations and showing Haruka a lot of the spots her character goes to (the hill, the houses, the cable car, the school, etc) – questions are asked to both the director and Haruka throughout from why pick Hakodate for Akane to how Haruka compares herself to her character. They do a lot of touristy things as well from food and travel, to having a friend cosplay as Kurasu whilst discussing the origins of the story. Told in 3 parts, is nice to have this sort of inspiration of the location being revealed and how it is discussed.
The next extra is called Noein: Art Edition which is almost like how the animation is created but in reverse – the complete animation is shown and then backtracks to key frame animation and storyboard movement – it shows the clips of the show, then about 70% complete, and then to basic line drawings of the scenes but with movement. There are various cuts of it and lasts a while showcasing particular scenes so it is a good showcase how it went from A to Z in the animation.
We have a Japanese commentary on the final episode with Haruka Kudo (Haruka), Saeka Chiba (Ai) and Kaori Nazuka (Miho) – this isn’t a huge in-depth look at the episode and more of a friendly get together – they do talk about stuff from the episode, their characters, the effects but despite the episode it is quite a comic commentary from the three ladies (Kaori is particularly happy about Atori being a good guy by the end almost like a schoolgirl crush) – they talk about how they worked in the booths and then watching them with the big mesh of art styles the show has throughout the episodes whilst also forgetting some of the characters names but have their favourites – they do talk about their favourite moments, how the themes are so unique but also react to the episode whilst watching it (especially during the scarier moments) so definitely not your informative commentary but fun to watch nonetheless.
We get some bloopers for the dub – some legit, some done on purpose but always snicker-worthy – we have some promotional videos (basically trailers with descriptions, characters, actors, staff involved), commercial collection (all the Japanese commercials with voices of characters introducing the DVDs/CDs for sale), the clean opening and ending, the US Trailer with the dub and trailers for the following series; Darker Than Black, Eden Of The East, Danganronpa, Black Lagoon, Ghost In The Shell: Arise, Selector Infected WIKOSS, Terror In Resonance and The Future Diary.
Noein is a series that I knew of back when it came out, but when looked at, it wasn’t at the time a series I was particularly interested in. It seemed very sci-fi and it isn’t a genre I’m particularly fond of even to this day. Of course, this was mostly just initial impressions and reviewing a series can easily make you have a different opinion of what was something over a decade ago. Considering how confusing this series can be, you definitely need to have your science head on for this, but saying that, it isn’t as brain inducing as I feared…but does it make it good?
The first episode sets the tone – we are introduced to several friends, but the two that hold the most relevance are Yu, a rather depressed young man who is controlled by his mother and his best friend/love interest Haruka, a seemingly normal yet peppy young girl who is the one that tries to help him out the most. So on this particular day, during a test of courage, they even suggest running away (though Haruka’s life is definitely a lot better despite being with her mother alone due to a divorce).
Cue stuff happening. Haruka sees something that is dubbed blue snow – which then brings in the appearance of someone named Karasu, a member of an elite military force known as La’cryma. The only problem is…he is from 15 years in the future where is there a war happening between them and another group Shangri-La…from another alternate timeline in 15 years time. Basically, the first thing about Noein you need to get your head round is the fact it relies heavily on the ideas and theories present in quantum mechanics, most notably the idea that there are an infinite number of parallel universes, with a new one created with every decision we make. This makes the basis of the series as Haruka is apparently someone in Karasu’s future who died and needs to be protected and Karasu is heavily focused on that, as Haruka is called the Dragon Torque who has this ability to change timelines. However, other members of La’cryma actually want to kill Haruka as they believe that would save their dimension. So why is Karasu saving her?
Turns out he is a potential Yu in the future. Oh, and Shangri-La has the mysterious Noein, he entity behind Shangri’la who is intent on bringing her into his timespace to end all universes.
O.K, so your head is wrapped round that – this is pretty much something you have to figure out through the first half of the series. However, it had to be explained now otherwise a lot of everything else would make no sense. The concept basically is Haruka has the ability to change potential futures whilst initially unaware of this power, it pretty much is the central consensus to the plot, and the fact that many of her friends she will meet through these future selves (with different names) and very different characteristics. When her powers are activated during a fight between Karasu and popular maybe villain Atori, this drives now the need for Karasu to protect her due to his previous relationship with her as Yu, and several friends also conflicted by their role of killing her as a way to stop the post-apocalyptic wasteland their world has now become. On top of that, Haruka is still only a 12-year-old girl so she has a lot of personal things as well as she is wrapping her head round it. Weirdly, though, even a lot of typical things can fall into this, for example, her best friend Ai is obviously in love with another of their friends Isami, but he seems to like Haruka. Haruka actually is able to activate the Dragon Torque to see what could happen if Ai is left on her own when something is thrown away – so instead, she goes to help her and the two reconcile. The theory of this is that every action could change the future, and the alternate futures that are represented by the two other future factions’ means Haruka slowly has to realize what she is capable of.
This is also added by Karasu being stuck in the present time and space, with other travelers like Atori, a young man who is very feminine looking but keeps the psychotic Atori in check, and Fukuro, a likeable samurai like person who seems kind of familiar, and does seem to feel regret in trying to go after Haruka…this is all helped as well by two people – Ryoko, a quantum researcher who acts as the exposition for a lot of the complicated talk in this series, and Kyoji, the every man who acts as her bodyguard and is pretty much the audience surrogate in trying to understand everything. Add to that the aforementioned teen problems (Yu’s relationship with his mother and why she pushes him to unreasonable levels is a constant theme in the first half of the series, also when Haruka’s father gets introduced, he is surprisingly integral to the second half of the series and the final plot). The big thing is when Haruka is taken to La’cryma and sees a lot of similarities not just with the new town, but also of the people as she realizes a lot of her old friends are there but are quite…different. Whilst regret is shown, only Karasu wishes to actually save his old friend – which also puts him in conflict with present Yu, because of just how polar opposite they are.
There is a lot that this series has to get through. You get the link between present and future, Karasu trying to save Haruka but Haruka knowing a lot of the futures and trying to save it (a rather sad one is that one of the better of the villains Fukuro is seen in a future to be killed, so Haruka interrupts a fight to stop him dying…only for ANOTHER timeline to still kill him when Noein actually emerges) – Haruka having to basically adapt in three different timelines, seeing what her friends become and trying to stop that in the present timeline as well as the future ones. This ends with the infamous Noein trying to manipulate her into bending her desires into what she wants, which in turn, would actually destroy her. This is made even more shocking when you learn who Noein REALLY is in another timeline and just why he became this way. Haruka does get to see all potential futures, and has to decide though if she can keep to what is at the moment, especially as it is told that Haruka dies by the timeline Karasu is from anyway…
This is a series I will admit takes a while to actually grow on you. It is amusing at first when you see Haruka’s power and can use it just for things like mending her friendships, but when it hits the fan; it becomes rather dark and depressing very fast. Seeing how her friends break in one timeline, and then visit the future when one of them actually tries to kill her despite some real regret on her face, you have to remind yourself Haruka is a 12-year-old girl who has just been thrown into this realm of power. Combined with the interesting art style, the futuristic action scenes, and the rather stretched theory of quantum physics it is one that can get over your head. I compared this to Gankutsou as a series that if you aren’t used to the style in the first couple of episodes, this series will not be for you. And to be honest, I did feel like it wasn’t going to be for me compared to how Gankutsou immediately grabbed me in despite its unique way of telling things and art style.
However, to its credit – it does slowly make more sense in its own way. The characters of Ryoko and Kyoji are godsends as a combination of exposition and audience, and surprisingly there is some good character development. The two in particular is the story of why Yu’s mother is constantly controlling him – the story of her sister is quite tragic and Haruka helps her out with her powers, and also when Atori seems to lose his memory and becomes nicer, and even when he seems to recover, his friendship with Miho combined with his past with his sister makes him much more likeable and relatable (combined with his other helper Tobi becoming a quite vital part of the story by the second half of the series). Plus all of the La’cryma future selves are quite sympathetic so you do wish for their lives to improve (seeing Miho’s daughter Lily seems like a fun moment…until you learn Miho is now blind) yet at the same time Haruka is very likeable so you are conflicted with who you want to side with.
Yu himself is also a character that goes through good character development – from a rather emo kid who contemplates running from home and even suicide due to his controlling mother, he slowly becomes Karasu in his own way just without the badass abilities his future self has. Initially, he is afraid of his future self (and perhaps envious) but does team up with him to save the time spaces from Noein and is a big component in the finale. He’s the only one of Haruka’s friends who seems to understand her powers due to a strange bond which verges on psychic (he seems to always be able to sense her by the latter half of the series) and after the part with his mother is dealt with, he is much more integrated and seeing who he wants to be.
The main thing that weakens the series other than it can get complicated is the fact a plot seems to be thrown together nearer the end just for a humans can be bad if they get control of power plot. Granted this is mentioned via Ryoko as she is a member of a group known as the Magical Circle Project and her job is to research any phenomena revolving around the quantum physics based ideologies – she later learns from her research if the project processes, it would destroy all existence so when by the end of the series this does happen, it is all for corruption and money. Granted it does give us a badass moment with Kyoji when alternate versions of people arrive including him, but it felt it gave us a normal bad guy whose motivations were money and such which just felt tacked on considering the alternative future plotlines were already huge – I guess it was just something to use Ryoko as exposition I guess, but it really felt out of place.
Noein is a monster of a series – it is complicated, smart, is hard to get into, but can be worth it for the most part. The characters are well written (even all the side characters get their moments), the timelines are well explained and shown for the most part, the exposition is needed (though the way to get it feels tacked on), the animation is very unique and can get used to but if you do, you will enjoy it – it is not a series I recommend for newcomers to anime, and even veterans will need a couple of watches (I watched it twice – once in English and Japanese to figure it out hence the lateness of the review) because of the fact of how much you need to wrap your head round it. It is definitely not a bad series, though, it is one you need to appreciate, and then it becomes one you can enjoy.
Noein is a real cluster cluck of a series – whilst it has two interesting leads in Yu and Haruka, the enjoyment is seeing the alternate timelines, what they and their friends become, and the question of if your actions can change things, do you change them? Whether it is seeing if your parents can get back together or if you can stop people being killed, all these questions can be answered…but lead to more questions. This is pretty much this series in a nutshell. It does well enough to get the complicated stuff out the way, and gives you a deep story where you really have to contemplate a lot. Because of this, it isn’t a gateway series and one that is hard to recommend, but it definitely isn’t a bad series – on the contrary, it is one you need to get into. And if you do, you’ll find it very rewarding.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, On Location with Haruka Kudo + Director Akame Kazuki, Noein: Art Edition, Episode 24 Commentary, Bloopers, Promotional Videos, Commercial Collection, Textless Opening, Textless Ending, US Trailer, Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Anime Ltd
Release Date: March 28th, 2016
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.