Noein: To Your Other Self (Volume 3)

Noein: To Your Other Self (Volume 3) (2006)
Manga Entertainment
Extras: Featurette, Animation Tests, Still Gallery

Question: Where do you see yourself in 15 years? More specific question: What would you do if you met up with your other self from 15 years in the future? Well, in the futuristic world of "Noein: To Your Other Self, " such remarkable feats occur as two groups engage in a battle that will determine that fate of all time and space. This intriguing anime series is being brought to DVD by Manga Entertainment, and it looks to be one of the best offerings that I have yet to see, not only in its beautiful imagery, but in its intricate and puzzling story as well. Even though my formal introduction to this series is being provided by Volume 3, I can't help but be sucked into the complexities of the drama and the relationships between the characters.

Fifteen years into the future, groups from two alternate dimensions, known as Lacryma and Shangri-La, stand on opposing sides of an interdimensional war. Shangri-La has set out to wipe out all existence in every dimension. To thwart this evil plot, a group known as the Dragon Calvary is dispatched from Lacryma, but in order for them to succeed, they must find the Dragon Torque. At the center of this battle is Haruka, a 12-year-old girl in contemporary Japan who somehow has come into possession of the Torque, which has given her the ability to see into other dimensions. To obtain the mystical instrument, Karasu of the Dragon Calvary enters her dimension. The kicker is that Karasu is apparently the future version of Haruka's best friend, Yuu.

What is all this talk about multiple dimensions, you ask? It all has to do with the theory of quantum physics. Don't know what that is? Neither did I, that is until two scientist characters in this series conveniently sat down and explained it for me in one episode. Actually, one scientist explains it to a clueless one who only seems capable of responding by repeating everything she says. I must say, this scene reminded me a little of the much-derided ending of Hitchcock's "Psycho" in which Simon Oakland comes out and sums up everything that just happened. On the other hand, I probably would not have any clue as to what was going on had this not happened. You see, according to quantum physics, there are an infinite number of dimensions containing every possible occurrence that could transpire in each individual's existence. There is no such thing as destiny, and we are but small particles among endless versions of ourselves in time and space. Yeah, it's mind-boggling to me too, so I won't take up anymore space writing about something I hardly understand.

What I do understand is that "Noein" sets up an extremely complex premise, and for the most part, it delivers on it. Having not seen this series from the beginning, it is not easy for me to say exactly how far it has come, and I am still not sure who many of the characters are, but what I did see has certainly grabbed my attention enough that I am seriously considering picking up the two previous volumes to see what this is all about. It's that good. Part of the intrigue lies with the character of Karasu, the mysterious and quiet warrior. So mighty and powerful, he is simultaneously fragile and introspective. Yuu, his younger personality, displays these latter traits, and it is fascinating to consider how he grows up to essentially become a new savior. Haruka is also a formidable heroine, so young (like all anime heroines) and yet wise beyond her years. Providing energetic support is a group of typically manic characters who range from able-bodied companions to comical foils.

Manga Entertainment's third volume of "Noein" contains episodes 11 through 15. In order, they are: "Out of Sync," "The Battle," "The Wish," "Memories," and "Shangri-La." Each episode is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen TVs. Image quality is very good, with a very clean and smooth picture. The gorgeous animation has been given a deliberately muted appearance with a pale color palette and somewhat hazy mis-en-scene. Accordingly, Manga seems to have rendered the image faithfully, with some nice detail and rich black levels. I did notice some slight combing every now and then, but it was not heavily evident. This misstep keeps the image quality from soaring, but it nevertheless looks very good.

Audio is presented in alternate English and Japanese 5.1 tracks and English and Japanese 2.0 tracks. The 5.1 tracks are strong, sending the more explosive sound effects to the rear speakers during the action scenes while keeping voices clear and audible in the front. Music is balanced well with the rest of the sounds, neither overpowering nor being overpowered by the sound effects. As readers of my other anime reviews should know by now, I am not a fan of English dubbing. I watched one episode in English, and while the voice acting comes no where near the level of artistry as that of the Japanese actors, it is serviceable enough for those who simply can't stand reading subtitles. Naturally, subtitles are provided in English as well as Spanish.

The first extra on this disc is a delightful featurette called "On Location with Japanese Voice Actor and Director (Part 3)." We follow director Kazuki Akane and voice actor Kudo Haruka (the voice of Haruka) as they tour the actual locations in the Japanese city of Hakodate where "Noein" is set. In this third installment (I presume the first two appeared on the first two volumes), Akane and Haruka take a ride on a trolley, walk through a famous cemetery, and visit a coffee shop. Haruka, who is very cute, seems to be genuinely fascinated by the trip, and most of the attention is given to her. This 13-minute feature may actually be a bit more revealing about the director and star than about the locations than it intended to be, but it is a pleasant viewing.

Next up is an 18-minute look at some animated sequences in their rougher forms. While this feature is called "Noein: Storyboard to Screen," we don't see any storyboards at all. Rather, six animated sequences are shown, first in their complete form, then in what is called a keyframe form, and finally in fullframe form. This is quite interesting, especially for those interested in animation, though it did overstay its welcome a bit for me after the first three sequences. Bringing a close to this DVD is an image gallery featuring 20 stills from the show.

I was left very much intrigued by "Noein: To Your Other Self," one of the more intelligent science fiction stories I have encountered in a while. For anime buffs, this one comes highly recommended, not only for entertainment, but because it will get you thinking as well. This is definitely one series that must be seen from the beginning in order to fully grasp, and it also must been seen through to the end. I believe there are only two more volumes after this one, so this would be a relatively short series to collect and view. Manga has done a great job with this release, providing some fun extras to go along with a smart and solid OVA. Don't miss it!