Noir (anime)

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People are dolls, exhausted from their dance...

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 is an artistically ambitious and highly controversial crime/conspiracy Anime, first aired on TV Tokyo in 2001.

Nineteen-year-old Mireille Bouquet is a professional assassin operating out of Paris under the pseudonym "Noir". Obsessed with the unsolved murder of her parents when she was a child, Mireille finds an unexpected clue when she receives a mysterious message from a sixteen-year-old girl in Japan named Kirika Yuumura. She flies to Tokyo to meet Kirika, and they team up, both professionally and for the investigation of their respective pasts.

Between the various contract killings that keep food on their table, Mireille and the amnesiac Kirika (who is a deadlier assassin than Mireille herself), delve into their own pasts. Discovering one confusing lead after another, they soon find themselves plunged into a dangerous world of both organized crime and international conspiracies spanning centuries of history. At the end, they will discover who they are, what they mean to each other, and the secret behind the name "Noir".

Noir is not for everyone. Despite the fact that the frequent gunplay is all but bloodless, it is still terribly violent -- there are cold-blooded murders in almost every episode, many of them committed by the "heroines" of the series. (There are jobs they refuse, and jobs they take which they regret, but for the most part, they kill coldly, efficiently and professionally.)

If you can get past the amoral employment of the main characters, though, there is much to reward you. The plot is intricate and convoluted, threaded through with history and myth, with just a touch of mysticism to add a mysterious flavor. The characters are cleanly drawn and compelling -- especially the amnesiac Kirika, who agonizes over the fact that she feels nothing about the killings she's performed and wonders if anything she knows about herself, even her name, is true. And the music is gloriously beautiful, lush and rich with surprising sources and influences -- from the simple musicbox melody that is the key to Mireille's memories to the techno-trance version of the Catholic Mass (in Latin, yet!) that is the soundtrack to every gunfight. The artwork is on the high end of average -- surprisingly good for a TV series -- and never degrades as so many other shows do. Definitely worth a look.

If you enjoy Noir, you should definitely look into Madlax, a somewhat similar (though far more mystical) series by the same animation studio, Bee Train. Sticking to what they know, Bee Train also produced a third similar series, El Cazador de la Bruja, which is more down to earth still. All three series together are also known as Bee Train's "Girls with Guns Trilogy".

On November 11, 2010 it was announced that the series was getting a live-action adaptation with Starz Network from executive producer Sam Raimi (yes that Sam Raimi.) However, in Janurary 2014, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht confirmed that the project was dead.

Tropes used in Noir (anime) include:
  • Absurdly Sharp Student ID Card
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: The "Cold-Eyed Killer" does one guy in with toxic fumes from an incense burner, to which she's completely immune.
  • Action Girl: Mirielle, Kirika, Chloe.
  • Almighty Janitor: The most ruthless, efficient killing machine the world will know is...a Japanese schoolgirl. With abandonment issues.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Kirika comments that even when she was "normal", everything felt wrong. Mireille directly refers to this trope, and as Kirika stares at her in astonishment at her wise words, Mireille admits Hemingway came up with it first.
  • Almost-Lethal Weapons: Very, very averted.
  • Amazon Brigade: Altena's priestesses.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Les Soldats.
  • Arc Words: "Noir… It is the name of an ancient fate. Two maidens who govern death."
  • Armor Is Useless: Partially averted at the end, when one of Altena's priestesses wears a Bulletproof Vest. It allows her to take multiple chest shots without injury but unfortunately doesn't protect her from neck wounds.
  • Anti-Hero: Type IV or V.
  • The Atoner: Nazarov in "Lost Kitten."
  • Aya Hisakawa: Chloe.
  • Badass Adorable: Kirika is an almost perfect example of one. Mireille, although very pretty, doesn't quite make the cut, being neither as approachable nor in need of a hug as her partner. Chloe is more of a...
  • Little Miss Badass: What with her having a vaguely nasty streak.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Kirika and Chloe slaughtering the Soldats footsoldiers stupid dedicated enough to try and surround them.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Specifically, despite all the gunplay and Chloe's status as a Knife Nut, the most blood we see is from Kirika's bullet wound in episode 7. The bloodlessness is really odd in some circumstances. This was the result of the original TV network on which it aired only allowing a limited amount of blood, and the production team initially planned to add it back once it was on DVD, but decided they liked the effect and changed their minds.
  • Book Dumb: Kirika, though not in the usual sense. Her skill in killing things is unmatched, and she's fluent in multiple languages, but her knowledge of literature is virtually nil - to the point where she couldn't recognize a reference to Alice in Wonderland. And since Chloe caught the reference, this is a quirk of Kirika's, not a product of Noir training.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Kirika, from episodes 21 to 25.
  • Break the Cutie: Kirika and Chloe.
  • Broken Bird: Everyone, but especially Altena.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Done very often, usually by Kirika, but Mireille and Chloe have used meat shields as well.
  • Bullet Sparks: Depending on the episode's budget, this is either played straight or averted very nicely.
  • Bury Your Gays: Chloe.
  • Catch Phrase: A minor example, but the director told Kirika's voice actress to insert "There we go." whenever she thought it fit.
  • Cheerful Child: Young Mirielle.
  • Click. "Hello."
  • Close-Call Haircut: Three times, twice to Kirika and once to Mireille.
  • Companion Cube: The houseplant, possibly inspired by Léon: The Professional.
  • Contract on the Hitman
  • Creepy Child: More than one, but especially the teenaged Lady Silvana.
  • Cry Cute: Kirika-chan. Aww poor baby.
  • Dark Action Girl: Chloe, Lady Silvana. Arguably Kirika in "True Noir" mode as well.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: Episode 3.
  • Death Seeker: Nazarov in "Lost Kitten."
  • Dark Messiah: The True Noir become veritable saints in the eyes of Soldats' followers: Holy Warriors on a crusade to destroy injustice in the world...by any means necessary.
    • And then there's Altena. She rejects the legacy of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and Sexual Revolution; this is good. She thinks that the best way to get the rest of the world to appropriate her message is to kill everybody, because people can't sin if they're dead; this is not.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Assassination Mission" doesn't feature either of the protagonists at all. The episode is all about Chloe. She even does the intro at the end of the credits, which is different from the intro that is normally spoken by Kirika.
  • Defusing the Tykebomb: Mireille does this to varying degrees throughout the series. As a result, in the climactic episodes, she manages to break Kirika's brainwashing at the last second.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Chloe, twice. In Moonlit Tea Party and Assassination Mission. OK, so she isn't a "monster" exactly but Mireille would agree.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Altena takes this to new heights. No mere Emotionless Girl, she has an aura of gentle motherliness and regal tranquility. Her theme music is among the most powerful, least melancholy pieces in the entire soundtrack, and an exercise in undiluted awesome at that. Did we mention she is the Big Bad?
  • Dramatic Wind
  • Eldritch Location: The Manor. Said to be be "between France and Spain" (Protip: It's not Andorra), but Kirika gets there by walking from Paris. Its entirely normal (for rural areas in western European countries) landscape--it has fields of grapes and is covered with Roman ruins--manages to come across as profoundly unsettling even in bright sunlight. The main building seems to be bigger on the inside and is set over a live volcano.
  • Elite Mooks: The Knights of Paris and the Soldats High Priestesses are both highly trained Badass armies - yet they're dispatched as easily as any of the several dozen nameless minions the protagonists have killed thus far, rendering their "elite" status something of an Informed Ability. To be fair, one Priestess did have to be shot repeatedly to no avail due to the armour she was wearing and finally took a blade to the back of the neck, which is about as elite as anyone whose name isn't Mireille, Kirika, or Chloe gets in this series.
  • Emotionless Girl
  • Enfant Terrible: Kirika, Chloe, Silvana.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment: Averted in episode 3. Kirika wastes no time in relieving an enemy Mook of his machine gun and Night Vision Goggles.
  • Expy: Shao Li, the poison-nailed Cold-Blooded Killer of episodes 15-16, bears a striking resemblance to one Faye Valentine.
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: As one fan put it: "Kirika isn't a ninja, she is a witch."
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Episode 3.
  • Fan Service: Surprisingly little, given the setting and characters.
  • Flashback: There are Flashbacks in flashbacks in this series, done completely straight.
  • French Jerk: Averted.
  • Gangsta Style: Kirika, though in many cases the gun is only tilted a few degrees to the side, rather than the full 90° or even 45°.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Kirika's eyes become more like Chloe's as she comes under the True Noir's influence.
  • Gratuitous French: Just look at the title.
  • Grey and Gray Morality
  • The Gunslinger: Mireille.
  • Gun Fu: Kirika-chan's elegant and deadly primary style of combat, with a lot of...
  • Gun Kata: ...thrown into the mix as well.
  • Guns Akimbo: Cold Blooded Killer Part 2.
  • Gun Stripping: Mireille and Kirika clean their guns pretty regularly.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: Cited by Bee Train studios as one of the main sources of inspiration for this series: Just switch Chow Yun Fat and Danny Lee from The Killer with Kirika and Mirelle respectively and you'll have a John Woo film starring beautiful girls.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Mireille and Kirika. If it isn't Les Yay to you.
  • Hidden Eyes
  • Hillary Haag: Chloe.
  • Honor Before Reason
  • Houko Kuwashima: Kirika.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Justified by Altena's goal.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills
  • Improbable Weapon User: Kirika. In addition to her gun, she has killed with forks, her student ID, a necktie, and a disassembled toy truck. She has also used a man's sunglasses and a popcorn machine as tools in her missions.
  • Joisey: Part of the Intoccabile Arc takes place in the Skylands region of New Jersey.
  • Kill'Em All: The show ends with two thematic gunshots, creating debate in the fanbase of whether the pair actually did get shot.
    • It has also been suggested that the sound effects used for those two gunshots were the same ones used specifically for Kirika and Mireille's pistols, not those used for the weapons of the generic grunts, adding to the potential for alternate interpretations.
      • It's accepted by the fanbase by now that this is the case. Berettas and Walthers have quite distinct sounds, and somebody actually bothered to do sound analysis of this. Given that both guns were gone at this point this seems to put the Kill'Em All into doubt.
  • Kirika and/or Mireille Is About To Shoot You in much of the artwork.
  • Knight Templar: Altena.
    • Don't forget the entire Soldats organization, as explained in Episode 20. They formed out of a desire to destroy injustice and protect the weak by killing the strong.
  • Kotono Mitsuishi: Mireille.
  • Kung Fu Jesus: The True Noir are a particularly dark and disturbing twist on this trope.
  • Kuudere: Mirielle can be interpreted as this.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Kirika.
  • Laser Sight
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Mireille, depending on how much you read into the Les Yay.
  • Lovely Angels
  • Magic Skirt: Especially Mireille's.
  • Mafia Princess: Mireille used to be one; Silvana could very well be described as one.
  • Meaningful Name: Chloe's name sounds a lot like "Kuroe" or "Black" in a Japanese accent. "Kiri-ka" is very similar to "one whose job is to kill."
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Almost all of the Mooks seen are men, and the few female villains tend to be a lot tougher and harder to take down. A level of Fridge Brilliance when you take into account Altena's plans.
  • The Men in Black
  • Mind Rape: It's heavily implied that this was a major part of Kirika and Chloe's training.
  • Mini-Dress of Power
  • Moe Couplet: Mireille and Kirika in their happier moments, especially early in the show.
  • Moe Stare: Rosalie Hammond in Episode 4 and fake!Kirika in Episode 1. This expression is symbolic of innocence about to be shattered in Noir.
  • Monica Rial: Kirika in the English dub.
  • Monochrome Casting: Sort of. It can be kind of hard to tell with an anime, but it seems that every single extra in France is white when 20% of the population of Paris wasn't even born in France.
  • Multinational Team: Sort of.
  • Mysterious Past
  • Myth Arc
  • Odd Friendship
  • Off-Model: The show's low budget really shows at times, and it's very clear when different animation teams have done episodes. How Mirielle's hair was drawn in particular seemed to shift a lot, sometimes looking like this while other times like this.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: When the choir starts singing "Salva Nos", rest assured that the body count is about to skyrocket. Bonus points for the chanting actually being in Latin.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Mostly averted. Kirika gets shot a few times over the series, and it seriously compromises her ability to pull off her usual feats of death-dealing. In one episode, she has to tape her gun to her hand since an arm wound has rendered her incapable of gripping the weapon properly.
  • Panty Shot: Or, more accurately, the lack thereof.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mirielle's parents are dead. Nobody knows what happened with Kirika's. And when she found herself as an amnesiac schoolgirl, nobody posed as a parent, despite her having an apparently forged picture depicting them. This makes the "abandonment" feeling worse.
    • Chloe's parents are also never mentioned, but she considered Altena to be her mother figure. It is implied that Kirika had done the same before her amnesia.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Silvana.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Mireille is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned Corsican. Not entirely impossible, but there's no way Silvanna looks even remotely Sicillian.
  • Playing Against Type: Tarako usually plays Moe characters. She plays Altena here. Uuuuh...
    • Fun fact: Mashimo Kouichi, during recording, referred to Tarako as "Altena-chan". I swear.
    • Same with Tiffany Grant, her English VA, who is best known for Asuka and other young characters. The voice director, who happens to be married to Tiffany, said that he knew she could pull off Altena when she spoke in her sleep about putting a body on the table.
    • The entire English cast. During an interview with the cast (on the last DVD) the director asked the actresses why they think they were cast for the roles. They all looked at him quietly before throwing that question back into his face and promptly talked about how each character was different than what they were used to playing. Hillary Haag spoke on length on how hard Chloe was for her.
  • Professional Killers: Mirielle and Kirika.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Chloe, possibly Silvana.
  • Rape as Drama: Altena's Start of Darkness.
  • Red String of Fate: Except it's black.

Mireille: "The thread that binds you and I is the color black, of this I am sure. Blacker than pitch...blacker than night...blacker than the darkness itself."

  • Schoolgirl Lesbians: Chloe's affection for Kirika, though it's one sided.
  • Screw Destiny: Mireille near the end of the series.
  • Shout-Out: A visual shout-out to Zardoz of all things: the word 'Noir' in print (diegetically) is often 'bubbled' across the screen in the same way that 'Zardoz' was.
    • Mireille's potted plant is reminiscent of Léon's in Léon: The Professional.
    • In an early episode, Kirika and Mireille walk into a shop. We can see the shop name backwards in the window. "Bee Train."
    • In a bizarre digression in the second episode, when Kirika is chopping vegetables in Mireille's kitchen, she's wearing an apron with...uh...the Wu-Tang Clan symbol on it. We're... really not sure why.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Kirika resorts to machine guns a few times, though the creators specifically made her usual gun being fairly low caliber.
  • Sound-Only Death: The family of the Mafia boss being tortured in the next room by Intoccabile, which just makes it more horrific.
  • Take My Hand: The ending. "I'm begging you to live..."
  • There Can Be Only One: Well, only two True Noir actually... the "loser" of the contest is considered completely expendable in the grand scheme of Soldats' Ancient Conspiracy.... poor Chloe.
  • That Liar Lies: The response to Chloe telling Mireille that Kirika killed Mireille's parents.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Chloe saves a man she has been sent to kill from assassins sent by an old enemy of his because killing him is her job.
  • Tiffany Grant: Altena in the English Dub.
  • Token Yuri Girls: Kirika and Mireille are not shown being physically intimate, but they share a bed and by the end of the series are emotionally dependent on each other. Also, Chloe exhibits a rather warped (and mostly frustrated) desire for Kirika.
  • Troubled but Cute: The sad but adorably cute Kirika.
  • Trigger Phrase: "Receive the final guidance." * gunshot*
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: While made in 2001, internal detail indicates the series is set around the year 2010. Not that it's actually noticeable and overall it seems fairly contemporaneous.
  • Tyke Bomb: Again, Kirika.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Chloe.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Do you enjoy digressions into the history of the Mafia, ethnic minorities in the former USSR, the nature of sin and redemption, how to make wine with medieval technology, all sorts of Author Appeal about the Catholic Church, and more? If so, Hamartiology: The Anime is the show for you!
  • Villain's Dying Grace Mireille decides not to kill Altena in the end, though Altena forces Kirika's hand. And then, dangling over the Lava Pit, Altena sacrifices herself to throw Kirika into Mireille's reach.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Altena is mostly seen in the beginning of the series...picking grapes, writing letters, and taking walks in the sunshine. This has the effect of making her more creepy than the previous mafioso punks and thugs.
    • And while she's one of the protagonists, the first thing you see of Mirielle is her out in sunny Paris, doing her grocery shopping and motoring back to her apartment on a sunshine-yellow scooter. Then you look over her shoulder as she opens her e-mail. For her job. As an assassin.
    • Kirika and Mireille enjoying a spring day, eating ice cream cones in the park... while planning their next hit.
  • Villainous Valour: In the final episode, several of the Soldat nuns put up a surprisingly valiant fight against Kirika and Mirielle, but ultimately are defeated.
  • Wolverine Claws: "The Cold-Eyed Killer's" method of execution is a scratch with poison nails.
  • World of Action Girls: Not is only almost every member of the cast some kind of badass assassin, but most of the cast are also women.
  • When She Smiles: Kirika-chan, Over Nine Thousand in sheer cuteness when she smiles for the very first time in Episode 6.
  • X Meets Y: Word of God calls this anime a Gender Flipped version of The Killer by John Woo, with Kirika as Chow Yun Fat and Mirelle as Danny Lee.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: For some, Altena. She's very beautiful, motherly, soft-spoken, sincere about what she believes in - but considering what she is so dedicated to, she's also creepy as hell.
  • Yumi Touma: Silvana.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Most characters have natural hair colors. And then you have Chloe, with her violet Peek-a-Bangs, for whom the Curtains Match the Window, no less.
    • Also Intoccabile with her blue-gray hair.