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Anime / Noir

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People are dolls, exhausted from their dance...

Le noir, ce mot désigne depuis une époque lointaine le nom du destin. Les deux vierges règnent sur la mort. Les mains noires protègent la paix des nouveaux-nés.note 

Noir is an action-conspiracy anime which first aired on TV Tokyo in 2001.

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 16-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 emotionless 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, even though Kirika eventually begins to doubt whether even her own name is true. 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. The source of all this is the organization called Les Soldats, and a high-ranking member, Mistress Altena, sends waves after waves of hitmen to accomplish a mysterious plot. At the end, they will discover who they are, what they mean to each other, and the secret behind the name "Noir."

This series takes inspiration from the Film Noir genre, but should not be confused with it. It was created by studio Bee Train (and made it famous effectively overnight) and was followed up by two more Girls with Guns series — Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja — though these are more Spiritual Successors than sequels.

This show provides examples of:

  • Amnesiac Resonance: A lot of Kirika's drama derives from the fact that she is a perfect killing machine who murders people with practiced ease and doesn't feel bad about it, yet has no idea why she is so well trained and conditioned and feels that it's just wrong.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: Les Soldats, who are more or less an organization of Knights Templar that have made their mission to defend the weak by killing the strong for about a millennium.
  • Anyone Can Die: Most of the characters meet an unfortunate end.
  • Arc Words: "Noir... It is the name of an ancient fate. Two maidens who govern death; the peace of the newly-born their black hands protect." This is recited at the beginning of every episode.
  • 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 she clearly stumbles a bit from the impact) but unfortunately doesn't protect her from neck wounds.
  • The Atoner: Nazarov in "Lost Kitten," who decades ago used his position as officer in a gulag to massacre members of an ethnic group that wiped out all of his own people except him. Now he's an anonymous good Samaritan for the poor.
  • Badass Adorable: Kirika is an almost perfect example of one. She is a cute teen girl who also happens to be one of the best assassins around. 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 Les Soldats foot soldiers stupid dedicated enough to try and surround them.
  • Big Bad: Mistress Altena, leader of a faction within Les Soldats who sends various hired killers after them in order to bring about the Grand Retour; that is, to train them so she can use them to cleanse the organization of corruption.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Specifically, despite all the gunplay and Chloe's status as a Psycho 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's Adventures in Wonderland. And since Chloe caught the reference, this is a quirk of Kirika's, not a product of Noir training.
  • 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.
  • Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: Promo art of shows that, yes, the assassin duo take showers with their guns within reach.
  • Catchphrase: A minor example, but the director told Kirika's voice actress to insert "There we go." whenever she thought it fit.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Three times, twice to Kirika and once to Mireille.
  • Cool Guns: Kirika was given a Beretta M1934 because they didn't want her to have "the James Bond gun". In reality, a Beretta M1934 is vastly more reliable and a lot less complicated than a Walther PPK.
  • Combat Parkour: Kirika is one of the two most lethal human beings on Earth. Her sheer ability to dodge bullets, and general use of acrobatics, enter her into this category.
  • Companion Cube: The houseplant, possibly inspired by The Professional.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Happens frequently, but very explicitly in Episode 3 where they are lured into a trap with a false job. The rest of the series is them killing their way through various rival assassins who also have orders to kill them. It's actually a Batman Gambit by Les Soldats to make them the best assassins and kill those they see as corrupt.
  • Creepy Child: More than one, but especially the teenaged Lady Silvana.
  • Cutlery Escape Aid: Chloe swipes a silver dessert fork after having tea at Mireille and Kirika's apartment, keeping it as a memento of Kirika, on whom she has a massive girl-crush. In the finale, Kirika has to kill Chloe with that very same fork when Chloe successfully disarms her and then tries to Murder the Hypotenuse (Mireille).
  • Dark Action Girl: Mireille, Chloe, Lady Silvana, and Kirika (both her normal self and her "True Noir" mode)
  • Dark Messiah:
    • Mistress Altena rejects the legacy of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and Sexual Revolution. She thinks that the best way to get the rest of the world to stop "overflow[ing] with wickedness" (which, in the show's moral universe, it obviously is) is to kill everybody, because people can't sin if they're dead.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: Whoo boy.
    • Right off the start of the second episode, a French police inspector, alongside his wife and sons (the younger who's a baby) are blown up in an assasination attempt.
    • There's also the moment when the Soldats attacks a village Kirika happens to be in, and killing everyone in it. Earlier on, Kirika is shown making friends with a bunch of villaige kids, so...
    • From Mireille's flashback, the Once More, with Clarity! scene revealing Kirika killing Mireille's family, including her baby brother.
  • Death Seeker: Nazarov in "Lost Kitten." When he sees Kirika pointing a gun at him, he simply closes his eyes.
  • 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." At that point it isn't clear if she's an enemy or not; all Mireille and Kirika know is that a highly deadly member of Les Soldats has dropped by for a cuppa.
  • 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.
  • Dying Candle: Used in the final episode where right after Chloe dies Altena is seen with three candles that represent the three "saplings" i.e. potential candidates for Noir, and when one goes out she not only seems to realize what it means but which sapling it was referring to. This is just one of the things Altena does that makes her seem vaguely supernatural.
  • 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. It's entirely normal (for rural areas in western European countries) landscape — it has fields of grapes and scattered 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 an active volcano.
  • Elite Mooks: The Knights of Paris and Les 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. Then there's the 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: Kirika feels nothing about killing, which quite distresses her.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: In the flashback to Altena's childhood, she carries a battered doll. The camera focuses on it in the scene where she is raped by a soldier.
  • Enfante Terrible: Kirika, Chloe, and Silvana were deadly assassins even as little girls, and were raised to be such.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: President Hammond of Atride is an amoral bastard who makes a living by inciting unstable countries to civil war, so it's not a surprise that he's divorced from his wife and greeted his daughter Rosalie with a slap. Still, he apparently takes their picture with him to his job sites and tries to make amends with Rosalie by letting her stay and getting her a birthday present.
  • Exclusive Enemy Equipment: Averted in Episode 3. Kirika wastes no time in relieving an enemy mook of his machine gun and Night-Vision Goggles.
  • Flashback: There are Flashbacks in flashbacks in this series, done completely straight.
  • Foreshadowing: The two maidens shown on the watch and in the opening bear a resemblance to Kirika and Mireille. This proves important in the finale, where they become the True Noir.
  • French Accordion: As the show is set in Paris, Yuki Kajiura had unsurprisingly used a lot of accordion for its soundtrack, with the tracks "Fake Garden" and "Solitude by the Window" standing out the most.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted, and also justified. Mireille's apartment isn't too implausibly large for Paris and only has one room with a divider between the bedroom and living area and a galley kitchen, and it's heavily implied that she's fairly wealthy from her inheritance, assistance from her Uncle Claude (who lives in a friggin' mansion) and from the jobs she gets, which are implied to be fairly high priced for assassinations. If anything, she's probably living below her means.
  • 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 degrees.
  • Gauls with Grenades: It's very subtle. In one episode Kirika and Murielle are hired by the GIGN to do some off-the-record dirty work. In another, Kirika befriends a former member of the French Foreign Legion.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Whenever Mireille is shown as a kid in flashbacks, she's holding a teddy bear.
  • 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: A career assassin looking for answers and revenge against a larger group of assassins with the help of another, albeit less than willing assassin.
  • Gun Fu: Kirika-chan's elegant and deadly primary style of combat, with a lot of Gun Kata.
  • Hidden Eyes: Kirika as her "true Noir" personality begins to re-emerge.
  • 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.
  • Killer Outfit: In the first episode, Kirika grabs a mook's tie and snaps his neck with it.
  • Knight Templar: Altena, to the point that the rest of Les Soldats think she's dangerous. She wants to rid the organization of corruption, by killing those she deems responsible- in the dozens, at least.
  • Kung-Fu Jesus: The True Noir are a particularly dark and disturbing twist on this trope, protecting the weak by killing the strong.
  • Lovely Angels: The title duo of assassins.
  • Mafia Princess: Mireille used to be one, before her family was killed for defying Les Soldats; Silvana could very well be described as one.
  • Meaningful Echo: Two lines, both spoken by Kirika: the first from Episode 1 when she first meets Mireille and kills the Soldat operatives that attacked them and later on in Episode 25 after she kills Chloe.
    Kirika: (from Episode 1) I can kill people. So easily. But then why... Don't I feel sad?
    Kirika: (from Episode 25) I can kill people. I kill and it saddens me.
  • 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.
  • The Men in Black: The hordes of mooks sent after Mireille and Kirika; actually referred to by "knights" by the other Soldats.
  • Mind Rape: It's heavily implied that the "mundane" version was a major part of Kirika and Chloe's training.
  • Multiple-Choice Chosen: Only two female assassins can become Noir, but there are three candidates: Mireille (who developed outside of Altena's influence), Kirika (who was partially raised by Altena but then let out into the world and got Laser-Guided Amnesia), and Chloe (completely raised by Altena). This is complicated by the fact that there are multiple choosers in Les Soldats: Altena prefers Kirika and Chloe, others prefer Kirika and Mireille, and the male leaders want to scrap the whole Noir thing completely and kill all three. In the end, it is Kirika herself who chooses Mireille as her partner, and then both abandon the Noir ritual.
  • Mysterious Past: Kirika's is one of the driving forces of the plot.
  • Myth Arc: Connecting all the smaller arcs together is Mirielle and Kirika’s battle against Les Soldats, and the mysteries surrounding them.
  • No Name Given: Kirika, despite being called Kirika throughout the entire show, actually has no real name. This is discussed a few times in various episodes, and it's not even known whether she truly has a name or not. All that is known about her name is that when she finally came to, she found a student ID card with her picture and the name "Kirika Yuumura" written on it.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Mireille does not speak in a French or Corsican accent, not even in the English dub. However, the reason for this was because ADV Films wanted to avoid confusion to those unfamiliar with the Corsican language.
  • Nun Too Holy: The Les Soldats nuns, who are members of an Ancient Conspiracy.
  • Odd Friendship: Amiable, savvy, and cynical Mireille Bouquet and the amnesiac, near silent, and more child-like Kirika Yuumura.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mireille'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.
  • 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.
  • Professional Killer: The leading duo.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Chloe, possibly Silvana.
  • Qurac: The unnamed Middle Eastern nation in "The Black Thread Of Fate".
  • Rape as Backstory: Part of Altena's reason for her villainy is that she was raped by a soldier when she was a kid.
  • Red String of Fate: 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."
  • Screw Destiny: Mireille, near the end of the series, rejects the idea that Chloe will become Kirika’s partner in the True Noir, and ends up killing her.
  • 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 Leon's in The Professional. Likewise, her backstory is similar to Mathilda Lando.
    • 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 the Wu-Tang Clan symbol on it, for no apparent reason.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Altena is 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.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Kirika resorts to machine guns a few times, though the creators specifically made her usual gun being fairly low caliber.
  • Spanner in the Works: Mirielle completely destroyed Altena’s plan to have Chloe become the True Noir with Kirika.
  • Sound-Only Death: The family of the Mafia boss being tortured in the next room by Silvana aka Intoccabile, which just makes it more horrific.
  • Take My Hand!: The ending. "I'm begging you to live..."
  • There Can Be Only One: Only two True Noir may be chosen- the "loser" of the contest is considered completely expendable in the grand scheme of Soldats' Ancient Conspiracy.... and poor Chloe becomes the loser.
  • That Liar Lies: The response to Chloe telling Mireille that Kirika killed the rest of the Bouquets.
  • Troubled, but Cute: The sad but adorably cute Kirika.
  • Trigger Phrase: "Receive the final guidance. (gunshot)"
  • 20 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.
    • In Episode 6 a current newspaper article about the 2000 Presidential Election is visible on the screen.
  • Tyke-Bomb: Kirika, Chloe, Silvana, and possibly Altena were raised to be assassins since they were little girls.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The show is essentially Hamartiology: The Anime, with 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.
  • Villain's Dying Grace: Altena is spared by Mirielle 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.
    • 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 Valor: In the final episode, several of the Soldat nuns put up a surprisingly valiant fight against Kirika and Mirielle, but ultimately are defeated.
  • Waif-Fu: Kirika and Mirielle are never shown using firearms which require rifle rounds (which are much larger than the pistol rounds that they do use).
  • Wham Line: "The person who killed your parents, though I do not know her real name, is currently known as... Kirika Yumura."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The couple Kirika was living with in Japan never has their fate clarified, and it's unknown if they're still alive or who they really were, though it's fairly obvious they worked for The Soldats in some manner.
  • Wolverine Claws: "The Cold-Eyed Killer's" method of execution is a scratch with poison nails.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kirika.
  • 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.