Category Archives: My Reviews

Review: Argento Soma (2000)

argento soma anime dvdIn 2054, an unknown alien life form fell from the sky. The destruction began and the United Nations government was forced reorganise the army to oppose them and to defend the Earth. This combat action was dubbed ‘The first encounter action’. In 2059, after five years, the battle is still going on.

Takuto Kaneshiro is a young scientist, currently completing his studies at a prestigious aerospace university. His girlfriend, Maki Agata, is also a young scientist, currently working with Prof. Noguchi to decipher more about the mysterious aliens. Their current project is a gigantic alien iron life form that fell from the sky. They finally managed to piece the patchwork giant up again and now hope to resurrect it.

But the experiment to awaken Frank, or Extra-1 as the military designates it, goes horribly wrong. As the facility known as Morgue crumbles around his ears, Kaneshiro can only watch in horror as the monster Extra-1 crushes his beloved Maki and Prof. Noguchi.

Somehow Kaneshiro’s life is sparred, but he is left horribly scarred and disfigured. As he lies recovering in the hospital bed, a mysterious man with red-hair approaches him. The man proposes a deal. If he gave Kaneshiro the power to destroy Extra-1, will Kaneshiro become his tool? With hatred burning in his heart, Kaneshiro accepts the stranger’s offer. He awakes to find himself with a new face, a new name and a new identity. Ryu Soma.

He joins up with the elite military anti-alien task force known as Funeral. Using their advanced weaponary such as the Sarg Mecha and the Mistel carrier, Funeral wage a non-stop war against the alien menace. Ryu fights alongside them, but his only real opponent shall ever be Extra-1.

Argento Soma is a very stylish artistic anime title. The stories are well told, the use of imagery nicely done and the music nicely presented. The ideas being portrayed are interesting and so you feel that this series should be a good package. Unfortunately it isn’t. It’s not bad, but the pace at which the story unfolds is so badly handled that you find yourself wishing the series would end already, that is, if you have continued watching it so far.

As mentioned before the story is relatively interesting. Aliens have invaded Earth and the military have scrambled to stop them. A special division called Funeral is established, and utilizing advanced mecha and machinery, are in charge of stopping the alien incursions. A pathwork alien falls in their hands and becomes their tool against the aliens. However, the main character, Takuto Kaneshiro loses his girlfriend as well as a part of his face when they revive the patchwork alien, known as Extra-1. Kaneshiro, pushed by a mystery man, assumes a new identity of Ryu Soma and joins up with funeral. The story focuses on the hate relationship between the two and how this is eventually resolved. The character, alien and mecha designs are all first class and the storytelling is very well done, but the series is let down by horrible pacing.

The animation on Argento Soma is very nicely done, with movements being very fluid and realistic. The aliens take on the same feel as those in Neon Genesis Evangelion, something instantly recognizable to Evangelion fans. The music is atmospheric and the anime has a beautifully melodic opening track. However, the end track sounds kind of out of place, so I usually skip listening to it.

Overall, you can see that the director was trying his best to put forward a polished and artistic piece of work. It would have succeeded too, if it only hadn’t been for the poor story pacing. If you enjoy a good drama and some mecha action, then you might enjoy Argento Soma. Just don’t expect to watch the series all in one go though.

argento soma anime

(Historical Note: This was written back in August 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Golden Boy (1995)

golden boy anime 1Oe Kintaro, age 25. A professional wandering spirit, he withdrew from Tokyo University Law School before graduating, but only after he had already completed all the requirements for graduation. Ever since, he has travelled the highways and byways of Japan, trying out new jobs and positions, and learning about life to the fullest. Riding his favourite bike, the Mikazuki 5, he keeps moving forward, always on the lookout for new knowledge and adventure.

In tip top physical condition and sparkling mental health, his hobby is studying the world (and the girls) around him. And who knows, someday perhaps he may just be destined to save Japan – or even the world.

Or then again, maybe not.

Golden Boy is based on the manga written by Tatsuya Engawa (who even makes a cameo in episode 6). It is an extremely funny 6 part OVA that takes a look into the life of Kintaro Oe, a professional wandering spirit. Kintaro is a free spirit, moving from job to job whilst travelling throughout Japan on his trusty bicycle. Kintaro is a very bright, athletic and healthy boy, though one wouldn’t say so from watching his actions. Kintaro is a good man with a good heart and will go out of his way to help others without them even realising that he is helping them. Coming across as an idiot and a nobody, Kintaro uses this to his advantage to learn more about the world around him. All his experiences are jotted down in his trusty notebook, his crib notes for life. Kintaro’s only weakness is his eyes for beautiful girls. Kintaro is a bit of a pervert, who can’t stop thinking about sex and pretty girls. Although never doing anything about his perverted visions, Kintaro does have one strange vice – the weird obsession with hugging and drinking from the toilet that a pretty girl has used.

The OVA follows Kintaro through six of his adventures, all involving a host of pretty women. He works as a software house janitor, a noodle maker, a swimming instructor, a house boy, an election campaigner and even an animation production assistant. And in each job he finds some girl that needs his help – even if she doesn’t know it yet. The stories are all funny and charming, with one sitting on the edge of their seat to see how Kintaro resolves matters right at the last moment. The only problem with the series if there is one, is that the stories all follow fairly the same plot. Kintaro finds job, Kintaro sees girl, Girl has problems, Kintaro solves them before running off into the sunset. However, given that this is only a six-part series, it gets away with it just fine.

The animation for this title is excellent. The use of facial expressions to emphasize the humour couldn’t have been better done. Every time you see Kintaro doing or thinking something stupid you can’t help but laugh. The women are all sexy and well-proportioned and the action sequences are fluid and exciting. The colours look a bit washed out, but that may just be the copy I watched. The voice acting for both the Japanese and the English versions are good, though I must say that the English version brings across the blithering idiot character of Kintaro across far better than its Japanese counterpart. The opening sequence animation and score aren’t up to much though it must be said.

If you are looking for a good ecchi laugh, the Golden Boy will deliver. A truly funny anime, it is a must see for all serious guy otaku.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in October 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Get Backers (2002)

getbackers anime 1Mido Ban. The man possessing the Evil Eye. Amano Ginji. The Thunder Emperor. These two men make up the retrieval specialist group known as the Get Backers. You lose something, they will get it back. And their success rate is nearly always 100%.

Unfortunately their luck with money isn’t quite that good. Forever penniless, these two unlikely partners have to try and make do with what they have while they wait for their next request.

Mido Ban is from Europe and possesses what is known as the Evil Eye. The ability to make people see dreams that he controls. He can do this three times a day, but never twice on the same victim. He also has an incredible grip known as his snake bite. Capable of exerting over 200kg of pressure, nothing can free itself from his grip. He is known as a battle genius and is as cold-hearted as a snake.

Amano Ginji on the other hand is a loveable person, with a naive air about him. Friendly to all, Ginji looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly. But he hides a dark past that still haunts his soul. Inside the mysterious city slum known as the Infinity Castle, he ruled the undercity as the Thunder Emperor, leader of the strongest gang there, the Volts. But this person, capable of generating huge volts of electricity throughout his body, escaped that life, and is now making a new start with his best friend, Ban.

Together with all the other characters they meet along their jobs, Ban and Ginji are living their lives as they see fit. They are the consumate professionals. They are the Get Backers!

Get Backers. Mido Ban and Amano Ginji. Two of the most unlikely partners in the most unlikely sort of job. Retrieval Specialists. Get Backers is an entertaining romp about people with super abilities, usually ending up battling each other.

The stories aren’t bad and the missions are always entertaining. There are some pretty good storylines, backed up with a number of witty once off episodes. Overall, the characterisation of this serious is pretty good, and it is pretty much the interesting characters that make the show what it is.

While watching it, you can’t help but be reminded of a super hero comic book. Everyone has these awesome abilities. The series tries to mix action, drama and comedy, and succeeds pretty well. Though the comedy does at times feel a little forced.

The musical score and voice acting is spot on, making for a very enjoyable watch. The animation is of high quality, with a lot of detail going into the characters.

At times, the series did feel a little boring, but as you get further into the series you begin to enjoy it quite a lot. Humorous, action-packed and dramatic, this show keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing as to what is real and what isn’t. It isn’t a bad show and you will probably enjoy it if you like a little light-hearted action.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in February 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Great Teacher Onizuka (2000)

great teacher onizuka anime 1Meet Onizuka Eikichi, former leader of the notorious Onibaku Motorcycle Gang from Shonan. 2nd Dan Black-belt in Karate, Eikichi is as strong as he is vicious. Known as Evil Eikichi, the dauntless Onizuka was known for fighting and decimating his opponents. He obeyed no rules except those he made himself.

Six years ago, Onizuka and his fellow gang member, Danma Ryuji, gave up that life and moved to Tokyo. Ryuji attended professional school and now manages a motorcycle shop. Onizuka is studying to be a teacher – albeit so that he can get closer to all the pretty schoolgirls in short skirts. His path has been opened to him. He will strive to be the greatest teacher ever.

His chance finally arrives when he is accepted at the prestigious private school, Holy Forest Academy. He’s been assigned the school’s most problematic class to deal with, but that shouldn’t faze him too much. Using his unique approach to life and applying it to teaching, Onizuka strives to make school a fun place for all of his students. And as many lessons as he has to teach, he has to learn as well.

No matter the problem, no matter the wall, Onizuka will break it down – and allow people to begin helping themselves. Truly he is: GTO.

Great Teacher Onizuka was one of the biggest hits on Japanese television. It follows the exploits of a gangster-turned teacher Onizuka Eikichi and the lessons he learns and teaches to his students. Although Onizuka is the most unconventional teacher around, he is also the teacher with the biggest heart. He’s naivety and belief in the goodness of the people around him is refreshing, and he willingness to face certain death in order to save his students is inspiring. Plus his general perverted nature is just fun to watch.

GTO introduces an interesting and complex group of characters, and follows the story of how Onizuka is accepted as a teacher at the Holy Forest Academy and subsequently assigned to the school’s most problematic class. They specialise in terrorising and driving out teachers. It would appear that something in the past occurred to break down their teacher-student relationship. And it is up to Onizuka to try and solve this as well as chase away each problem child’s personal demons.

The stories are wonderfully and powerfully scripted, each story arc flooring one with a wonderful moral. But it is the journey to uncovering this moral that makes GTO such a pleasure to watch.

The animation for GTO is quite brilliant. The style is crisp and clean, and is able to switch to the totally ridiculous faces and expressions at any time. For prime examples of this, watch any scene involving Onizuka and vice-principal Uchiyamada.

The musical score for Onizuka is brilliant. There are two great opening and three closing titles for the series. But the real winner is the uplifting music played when any problem finally gets resolved. Guaranteed to leave a lump in your throat everytime.

Overall, GTO is one of my favourite titles of all times. Hilariously funny, it manages to balance its extreme humour with extreme seriousness. GTO is a must see for all true Otakus. Grab your motorcycle and join the legend.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in November 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Mouse (2003)

mouse anime 1Setarai. The High School Yamanou is one of the city’s proudest and largest institutions, churning out many a fine student into society. Muon Sorata is a college student in the Fine Arts Department, but is also a recognised teacher of Fine Arts in the high school. However, he is forever tardy, something three of the school’s teachers are forever ragging him on about. But Muon Sorata, Momojono Mei, Kuribayashi Yayoi and Kakio Hazuki hide a little secret.

For four hundred years the world has played host to the greatest thief of all time. That thief is Mouse. Capable of stealing anything he wants, Mouse never turns down a challenge. Known for his daring thefts in broad daylight and his habit of leaving call card warnings, Mouse is the police’s most wanted thief.

And this generation’s Mouse is none other than Muon. With his three sexy helpers he is willing to take on any challenge – after all, there is nothing that Mouse can’t steal!

Mouse is a silly little show designed to be silly and provide a lot of fan service. The story revolves around the super thief Mouse and his three sexy assistants who are capable of stealing anything they want. Mouse always warns his targets of his impending theft attempt – and always gets away with it. The bungling police force assigned to detective Onizuka is always one step behind this elusive thief.

Mouse’s three sexy assistants wait upon him hand and foot. They are will to do anything for him and their greatest desire it to please, and be pleased by, him. Forever half-dressed or stuffed into super sexy clothing, the three girls are always trying to get some loving from Mouse.

The series basically highlights Mouse’s various thefts and tells the stories of how the three girls came to call Sorata their master. The humour is pretty much ecchi-based for this series.

The characters funnily enough are actually well developed through the run of this series. Each character has a past and a motivation for what they do. Even detective Onizuka becomes a little more three-dimensional than most antagonists.

The animation quality is high and the colours are bright and vibrant. The opening theme is nice and catchy and the in-show music is well suited to the mood of the series. The character voices are also good, with the girls’ voices oozing sexiness.

This is a very silly little series and only if you enjoy a good dose of fan-service in the form of bulging breasts and cute panty shots should you give this series a try.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in August 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Packt Publishing: Instant Fancybox – Why, oh why?

packt publishing logoA while ago I was approached via e-mail and asked to review (and thus publicize) an e-book via my site by a representative (Dyson D’Souza) of Packt Publishing. (Packt is apparently a UK based publishing company specializing in focused IT books.)

The title in question was Instant Fancybox, authored by a Kyle Diedrick.

Now I’m particularly fond of the fantastic Fancybox jQuery plugin developed by Janis Skarnelis, and have of course mentioned it on numerous occasions in my code-related posts, which is why I guess I was asked to provide a review in the first place.

First of all, I have to say that I was rather surprised to learn that someone had actually bothered writing a book covering the usage of a single jQuery plugin. Sadly this thought rang true as I quickly flipped through the downloaded e-book and realized that my initial reaction had been correct – there really isn’t much point in writing a book about how to use the fancyBox plugin, as all you are really doing is rehashing all the usage/implementation documentation already present on the plugin’s primary download page.

So a pointless exercise then in other words.

Sadly this wasn’t actually the thing that left a slightly bad taste in my mouth. FancyBox is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license. It is still essentially free to use for personal, non-commercial projects as long as you correctly attribute the plugin back to fancyApps, i.e. Janis Skarnelis.

Now for decency’s sake, shouldn’t an e-book that is essentially attempting to make money off Skarnelis’ work at least acknowledge him somewhere in the text?

I would have thought it good manners to do so. (Because of this, I’ve decided not to physically link back to Packt – seems fair to me.)

So in summary, (and while I’m sure Kyle Diedrick is a great guy) this e-book really isn’t worth paying for – and it’s 7.99 UK pounds for 72 pages mind you. The reason? Well, you require familiarity with HTML and jQuery to get something out of this title, but the reality is that if you are familiar with HTML and jQuery, then the existing documentation and usage guides on the primary FancyBox download page is actually more than enough for you to achieve what you need to achieve.

My recommendation: skip in favour of a something more advanced like an in-depth guide to jQuery.

Review: Platinumhugen Ordian (2000)

Platinumhugen Ordian anime 1Kananase Yuu is just an ordinary high school student. Inexplicably possessing the knowledge to pilot mecha craft, Yuu is recruited by the International Military Organization (IMO) as a potential test pilot for the new class of mobile armour, the Ordian. However, Yuu is not the only one who has been selected with the potential to pilot the Ordian. Other young recruits, including one of his classmates, have also been recruited, meaning Yuu must now strive to prove that he is the best.

But the IMO is not as transparent as what it first seems. The secrets it holds are many. And then there is the shadowy organisation that is currently locked in open combat with the IMO. Just what is the Ragnarok system and what is the secret behind Ordian?

Platinumhugen Ordian is another mecha show following in the vein of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Lots of mecha, lots of fighting, and lots of confused grandiose writing which leaves viewers more confused than enlightened. It’s a pity, because the mecha and character designs are pretty nice and the show starts off well for the first half of the series. It is the second half of the series where the plot goes slightly awry and begins to get so existential that in the end no one can understand what the show is trying to say.

The animation for the show is good, with the characters and mecha having a lot of design and detail put into them. The colours are a bit dull though, detracting rather than adding to the show’s overall look. However, some of the imagery and visual sequences are simply breathtaking.

The characters are well designed and developed through the series and the voice acting and musical score is of a good standard as well.

If you are a fan of confused anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, then you will probably enjoy Platinumhugen Ordian. However, this is a mecha anime aimed at hardcore fans of the genre, meaning that the casual anime watcher probably won’t get as much out of the series as was intended.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in August 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Samurai Deeper Kyo (2002)

samurai deeper kyo anime 1It has been four years since that crucial battle in Sekigahara in 1604. Kyo became a legend as the ‘killer of a thousand men’. But, he is still alive…

…inside the medicine man, Mibu Kyoshiro. When Kyo awakens within Kyoshiro an unknown history will unfold.

Yuya Shiina is a bounty-hunter by trade. Pushed forward by her past, Yuya searches for the killer of her older brother. When she captures the wanted Mibu Kyoshiro on charges of food theft, she is drawn into a world dominated by two men: Mibu Kyoshiro and Demon Eyes Kyo. Both souls share the same body. Both souls are fighting one another for complete control. But when the outside world discovers that Demon Eyes Kyo has returned, someone is going to have to die.

Samurai Deeper Kyo had the potential to be a great series. It starts out with the correct amount of action, humour and suspense. An intriguing storyline is unveiled and an interesting cast of characters are assembled.

But somehow it fails to grab you. When you finish one episode it doesn’t seem to demand that you immediately watch a second. Part of this for me was the way action sequences were handled in this title. Fights would be invariably short, and much of the action would happen in still shots – as if the animation director was purposely trying to save himself some work. Also, the title being rated 13 meant that little or no blood was ever spilt. So the supposed viciousness of the attacks never seemed quite so vicious. I’m not saying there should have been more blood, but more could have been done to emphasize the power of the fight scenes.

The story also fails in that too many twists and turns are thrown in. Characters are forever battling someone, and then the very next episode will have switched loyalties. Also, characters would often perform actions that are completely out of character for that particular person. It sometimes became frustrating when someone was doing something and you are thinking that they would never have done it because that’s not the type of person that they are.

Still, the characters were all pretty cool in this show. Credit must go to the character designer. A credible group of fighters and supporting characters were developing, each with a unique personality and style. From the carefree Benitora (Hidetada) and Yukimura to the dark Shindara and Demon Eyes Kyo.

It was nice to see the story kind of center on the character of Yuya Shiina, even though she turned out not to be integral to the plot. In fact, when looking back over the story, her only usefulness appears to have ended after the first couple of episodes.

The animation is very nicely done. The characters all have very clean lines and are nicely animated. A very vibrant selection of colours are used throughout the series. The numerous and varied characters reflect this, each being instantaneously recognisable when standing in a group. CGI light effects were also nicely employed throughout the series, but care was taken not to overuse these.

The voice cast were okay, though Yukimura’s voice was a bit misplaced. Although he is meant to be a military general, his voice is Unmistakably that of a woman.

The soundtrack to the series on the otherhand is really good. Good songs and beats add to the tension of the battles and the drama, but you get a feeling that the sound director didn’t know when to stop. Often a battle would long be ended but the music would be continuing. Small things like that lessened the overall impact that the scene might very well have had.

Overall, this Samurai Deeper Kyo wasn’t a bad series. It just could have been so much more.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in May 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Princess Mononoke (1997)

princess mononoke anime 1In a remote mountain village far away in Northern Japan, Ashitaka, the last young warrior of the dying Emishi clan, is forced to kill a monster to protect his village. Too late, he discovers that the boar-like creature he killed is a protector-god of the forest. The god had been driven insane by a small iron pellet, found deep inside of its body. Although the villagers immediately lay the body to rest, they cannot escape the dying creature’s words. The day of the human is coming to a close.

In killing the demon boar, Ashitaka has brought upon himself a curse, its sign a twisted scar on his right forearm that is slowly spreading. The village elders can do nothing for him, and the only chance Ashitaka has means he has to be banished from his village, never to set foot there again.

Ashitaka journeys to the land of the iron forging Tatara clan where he hopes to uncover the mystery of the curse before it takes his young life. Along the way, he becomes involved in the bitter fight between two warring factions of humans and a race of forest-gods trapped in the middle.

During one battle, Ashitaka sees San, the Princess Mononoke, a young woman raised by wolves, who is prepared to die to defeat the humans. She and her wolves will stop at nothing to kill the Tatara village leader, the regal Lady Eboshi. Against his will, Ashitaka is drawn into the struggle between man and nature, trying to persuade the two sides to find another way, one that will halt the endless circle of killing. He seeks a middle ground where forest creatures and humans can live in the world in peace together.

But man’s greed truly knows no bounds.

Princess Mononoke is perhaps one of Hayao Miyazaki’s strongest pieces of work. An epic tale, Princess Mononoke details the ongoing struggle between nature and mankind. The central character Ashitaka serves to try and show us that perhaps there is a way in which nature and humans can co-exist without destroying each other. Moral lesson aside, the storytelling in Princess Mononoke is nothing short of superb. It is a simple story, but crafted so elegantly and potently, that one cannot help but receive the message put forward by Miyazaki.

The animation is lush and vibrant, with the characters and locations all colourfully rendered. The movements are very fluid, and the attention to detail is astonishing. The designs of the forest spirits are very well conceived, something we have come to expect from Miyazaki.

The soundtrack is filled with hauntingly beautiful classical music scores, which adds beautifully to the unfolding story. The voices are spot on, and the sound-effects for the various creatures is nothing short of superb.

Seeing Princess Mononoke’s success in Japan, the second movie to ever break $150 million at the Japanese box office (the other being ‘Titanic’), Miramax Films decided to release a dubbed version to Western audiences. The film was very well received and paved the way for such future cinema releases of Japanese animated feature films.

Overall, Princess Mononoke stands out as my personal favourite piece of anime of all time. I cannot find any fault with it at all. The story, art and soundtrack are sublime. This is anime at its zenith. If you have not yet seen Princess Mononoke, then I suggest you make a plan to see it as soon as possible.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in June 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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Review: Noir (2001)

noir anime 1Present day Europe. Mireille Bouquet is Noir, one of Europe’s most deadliest assassins. However, her life is uprooted when she comes into contact with a young girl named Yuumura Kirika. She has no past, but she has knowledge of Noir. And she knows how to kill.

But it is the clock that she possesses that binds Mireille to her. Both have dark histories that shouldn’t be remembered. Mireille needs to find the truth of hers, while Kirika needs to discover just who she is. Together, they must make a pilgrammage to the past.

But they are being watched. There is an organisation so secretive, so powerful, that to know their name is to invite death. They control the world. And they hold the key to Mireille and Kirika’s search. They hold the knowledge of the true Noir.

They are… Soldats.

Noir is one of those must see anime titles. Set in Europe, Noir follows the story of two assassins who team up to uncover the secrets of their past. A mysterious and powerful organisation appears to be pulling the strings, and Mireille and Kirika find themselves going up against it.

The story builds up to a crescendo, the action is intense and the drama sublime. Always keeping you guessing, Noir is indeed a superbly crafted story.

The characters are all interesting, with both the villains and the heroes getting enough motivation and characterisation.

The animation is very good – stylish and fluid. Although there is a lot of death in this title, there is almost no blood. In an effort to keep the age restriction down, Noir depicts very little bloodshed, despite the massive amounts of violence. However, this is done in a way that doesn’t detract from the title at all. The backdrops of all the locations are beautifully rendered, with each country or location depicted perfectly.

The music of Noir is awesome. Keeping with more emotional and evocative music, Noir’s soundtrack draws you into the show. One song in particular is always used for the action sequences and when it starts, you can’t help but get goose-flesh of excitement.

Overall, Noir is a solid package. An intriguing mystery story, great action, brilliant animation and superb music, Noir is one of those classic anime titles that you simply can’t miss. A powerful piece of work indeed.

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(Historical Note: This was written back in February 2004. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

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