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Noein – And so we reach the end

I feel like I’ve been watching Noein for years now and writing this entry is daunting. Complex multi dimensional time travel, heart breaking tragedy and gut wrenching friendships. Here is a series bursting with ideas and without breaking into an essay length review, it’s hard to do justice to the sheer narrative majesty of Noein.

I marathoned the last 6 episodes tonight and I’m now lulled somewhere between admiration and confusion. There is no denying Noein was heavy on time travel techno-babble and I’d be lying if I said I understood it all, but still – what a ride! I was first attracted to this series because of its unique art and the final couple of episodes are a total blur of world sweeping conflict and hulking gangly monsters. Experimental is a word I’d use to explain how a lot of this looks- there is a real speed and physicality about the action in Noein, often the character designs contort and take on new styles, but it’s always exciting. We feel every punch, fly alongside Karasu and watch his cape ripple in the wind every time he takes on another crazy opponent.

Almost all of the characters turn out sympathetic yet flawed, and essentially human. Of course at the heart of Noein is the relationship between Yuu and Haruka, but the rest of the cast are just as important (if not more so). For example Atori is such an insane, heroic bundle of pent up emotion, by the end of the series he will surely be everyone’s favourite; the lovable eccentric, tinged with a tragic war torn past and an attraction to self sacrifice, his transformation through out Noein encapsulates my growing attachment to most of these characters. The “flashback” to La’cryma’s younger versions of Miho, Isami and Hasebe was a harsh and gruelling example of utterly captivating characterisation.

The underlying theme of Noein- that no one should try to deny their future (or change the past) – was conveyed with fairy tale elegance. Things never get too dark or depressing, and there are enough laughs and stupid moments to lighten the tone and offer up some rest from the sometimes unrelenting onslaughts of mind bending time travelling theories. The story may suffer from spending a bit too much time meandering in the every day angsty lives of young teenagers but this is merely a passing complaint- when anime looks as exciting as this, and grasps your heart as well as your mind, it’s a winner. Noein is a winner.

Skewed tastes of the otaku

With blogger hubs like Blogsuki and the AnimeAntenna cropping up, now is as good a time as ever to gauge how the tastes of the hardcore anime fan often differ from that of the general anime buying public.

According to the stats provided by Blogsuki, the most popular shows currently being blogged are Mai Otome, Fate/Stay Night, Shakugan no Shana, Kashimashi and Jigoku Shoujo. And judging by it’s furious debut, I expect we won’t have to wait too long for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to gatecrash that list too.

On the other hand, typical shounen adventure anime like Eureka 7, Ergo Proxy and Noein appear to be floundering. Perhaps that’s a harsh way of putting it, but these are a shows tipped for the very top, flashbang animated and designed with an obvious broad appeal. What do they lack that turns off the otaku audience?

Is it that obsessive quality that otaku are famous for; no matter how well it’s animated, you can’t very well idolize an emotionless vase of a character like Real Mayer of Ergo Proxy in the same way as the always huggable “cute hell girl” Enma Ai of Jigoku Shoujo. Plushies and wallpapers of the weird looking kids from Noein are never going to be as fluffy as the girls from Otome.

It’s not all about aethetics though- the most blogged series, like Otome, appear to invite fandom, to encourage disection of every facet of their show. Noein and the rest are great examples of story telling- but perhaps too good in that we are often left with little to discuss, such is the quality of story that watching becomes an almost one way experience, there is little to discuss when all the loose ends are everything but tied up anyway.