Noein is, in my opinion, something of a buried masterpiece. Prior to watching this series, I had little to no expectation from Satelight, the studio responsible, nor the director, Kazuki Akane, despite both having made a respectable contribution in their lengthly track-record. This is mainly because Noein isn’t an adaptation from an existing manga or light-novel, unlike the majority of anime. However, after watching the premiering episode, I knew immediately that this series was going to be special. There was something distinctly unique about both the production and the script. I suppose, ultimately, what I aspire for the most is when something endeavours to break convention, and Noein achieved this in spades.
Even though Noein is an action science fiction series, it manages to avoid all of the cliches found in such a genre, and offers something refreshingly different. The plot, upon first glance, seemed rather conventional, lending itself to common themes and yet, quite conversely, is exceptionally creative in how these are executed. I found the idea of different dimensions existing for every choice, with the you in your dimension going down a different path, fascinating. Through a myriad of plot twists and realisations at every turn, the series remained unpredictable, but in a good way. The story-telling never felt overly cerebral in its presentation and was relatively easy to understand. Despite the seemingly mind-boggiling story-line, Noein managed to maintain a layman’s thought process throughout, which is definitely a good thing. However, contrary to the former, due to the heavy nature of the story-line, I suspect that some viewers might find it difficult to digest every nuance upon first viewing. I guess, given that I enjoyed this purely at face-value, the underlying motifs presented were only truly appreciated after I saw this series a second time, at which point I could pick up on all of the intricacies addressed regarding existence and what it means to be ‘alive’.
Similarly, the pacing was difficult to predict. During one episode, it would remain noticeably slow, while the next would happen at such a rapid rate. Still, each episode was relevant and covered the necessary ground, not feeling rushed or uncovered. It was an unusual but welcomed change. I would come out of each subsequent episode with a different reaction, although always positive.
However, what distinguished Noein, above all else, was the well-developed cast. If anything, this is where the true substance of the series lied. Every character had purpose and responded to the situation in a realistic and believable way. My personal favourites weren’t the main two (Haruka and Yuu), but rather Ai and Isami. They were both equally adorable and endearing to watch, especially as they tried to hide their feelings for each other. Ai, being the typical fiery red-head, whilst Isami was your average male.
This was supported by an excellent musicial score by Hikaru Nanase (Masumi Ito), who is incidentally one of my favourite anime composers. The choral soundtrack played alongside the battle/action sequences was fantastic and set the mood perfectly. The animation, likewise, was beautifully produced by Satelight. There were a few inconsistencies from time to time and you could easily tell that they had different teams assigned for each episode, but on the whole, the animation and character design was uniquely presented. In fact, some of the most interesting animation I’ve seen in a while, especially for a non-OVA.
Aside from all this, Noein was far from flawless, even though I still believe its qualities far outweighed its weaknesses. Haruka was a very strong protagonist that managed to overshadow the otherwise minimal development of the remaining cast. I also accept that I can be biased toward series of this ilk (Serial Experiments Lain, Paranoia Agent and Texhnolyze remain as firm favouries of mine) and as such, whilst I may favour Noein’s for all of its pseudo-science, I accept that it can be rather confusing and something of a turnoff for other viewers. The same can be applied to the animation and character design, which is rather unusual and unorthodox for those more accustomed to the typical style employed by the majority of anime.
So, in conclusion, Noein was definitely my favourite during its season and certainly one of for its year. This is in account of its highly interesting premise, cast and production. Even if you’re not one for mind-bending story-lines, this series definitely has enough action and battle sequences to appease to the casual viewer. In that sense, it’s not a requirement to understand or pay full attention to all of the intricacies to enjoy this series. This is an anime series that everyone should at least watch.