a.k.a. Noein – To Your Other Self
The lives of Yuu and Haruka, two simple kids from a Japanese town, are turned upside-down when they meet a time-traveler named Karasu. He and his companions from the future are fighting a desperate struggle against invaders from another dimension called “Shangri-La.” Only an object called the “Dragon Torque” can help them win their fight, and Karasu believes that Haruka is the key. But Karasu has one more secret: he claims to be Yuu, only from 15 years in the future…
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Fresh and exciting in plot, artwork and music; great action choreography
Lows: Inappropriately paced at times; antagonists not fleshed out; rushed ending
Elementary school kids as protagonists? Time-travel and alternate dimensions on a regular basis? Quantum physics as the main element of drama?! This is not your run-of-the-mill action anime, this is Noein. From the first minute, this series tries its best to set itself apart from the contenders in its genre. Most of the time, it even succeeds at doing that.
The plot, while at first a seemingly simple “good versus evil” setup, quickly develops into a grand display of intrigue, heroism, betrayal and destruction. The almost philosophical questions that are raised along the way make the entire story unique and exciting. On the technical side, the excitement doesn’t stop, either. The orchestral soundtrack carries both action-heavy and quiet scenes masterfully. The artwork, while a little odd at first, is an intriguing mix of CGI objects and seemingly hand-drawn, hand-animated sequences that, surprisingly, work well together. Add to that an absolutely stunning action choreography worthy of a much bigger screen than the good old television, and you have a guarantee for excitement.
Noein‘s overall dramaturgy is handled well, at least most of the time. Unfortunately, a few moments are absolutely inappropriately paced. Though it can be helpful at times to slow down the plot with a quiet episode following up a big action slugfest, here the switch between high-adrenaline action and slower moments happens too often, up to four times within a single episode. Noein also spends quite some time developing its protagonists and side characters, which is a good thing, but it hardly has a scene to spare for the true antagonists of the story. Questions like “Where does Shangri-La get those cool flying heads from?” remain unanswered just because there are no scenes left for the bad guys. Consequently, everything that happens between the main cast and the supporting cast has much more impact than the actual struggle the story revolves around.
The pacing problem would still be a mostly minor issue if it didn’t also concern the ending. After building up to a great climax, everything is resolved within a single episode, and the entire resolution is essentially a single sentence that sums up the philosophy that Noein has developed up to that point. After that, all is resolved, everybody can go home and the bad things are over. That at least two important personal issues to the protagonists remain unsolved do not seem to matter any more. What this series needs is two more episodes, just to give the ending a little time to unfold.
Fortunately, even with these flaws, Noein remains a dramatic production well worth watching. With a whole cast of characters far from stereotype and one of the most surprising hooks for an adventure plot (quantum physics, just in case you forgot), there’s hardly a boring moment. The high production values make it a feast for the eyes and ears, and the drama will keep you hooked until the end. Avoid this one only if you’ve always hated the technobabble of Star Trek. Noein is full of it.