Noein – to your other self: Volume 1

Space and time is a tricky thing. For every decision made, an infinite amount of alternate dimensions, other realities, exist, following other possible outcomes from that one simple decision. This is called “many-worlds interpretation” and is just one of many theories regarding quantum mechanics in which the world of Noein thrives. Sound complicated? It really isn’t and is just part of what is inside the heart of Noein – to your other self. Haruka Kaminogi and her friends are about to embark on a journey that will test the limits of friendship, from present day to the final stand of mankind. The fate of the future lies within a 14-year-old girl and the Dragon Torque hidden around her neck. Manga Entertainment brings director Kazuki Akane’s (The Vision of Escaflowne, Escaflowne the Movie, Heat Guy J) newest original creation to America with Noein – to your other self: Volume 1.

DVD: Noein – to your other self: Volume 1
Release Date: 10/17/2006
Release Studio: Manga Entertainment
ADR Production: Media Concepts

MSRP: $19.98
Audio: English 5.1 DD, Japanese 5.1 DD, English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Episodes: 5
Runtime: 125mins
Extras: On location with Japanese voice actor and director (part 1), Alternate Opening #1, Alternate Opening #2, Original Japanese promos, Clean Opening & Closing credits.

Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product. Preview audio clips are available.

Haruka Kaminogi is your average 14-year-old Japanese girl. She has friends, a loving mother, and a heart of gold that allows her to see the good in people. Summer has just started for the children of Hakodate and it’s time to play… except that Yu Goto’s mother is forcing him to stay indoors to study for entrance exams. The  rest of the kids talk of going ghost hunting and manage to get Yu to skip out on a night of cram school to join in the adventure. Up on the mountain, something strange is going on. Around town ghosts in black capes have been spotted, but it’s this lucky bunch who are going to have a real encounter from the other side. As the kids run away, Haruka notices that she is actually the one who is being chased. As she ducks off into a graveyard, Yu follows along trying to make sure Haruka doesn’t end up in danger. Yet there is something odd about the caped ghosts who appear human. Yu tries to protect Haruka, but one of them seems to know the kids better than they know themselves.

The first episode sets up the multiple storylines that can be found within Noein. Fifteen years in the future, enhanced humans defend the surface from alien attacks. Mankind has been forced underground while black-caped men and women use their special powers to destroy each assault the land of La’cryma recieves from above. In present day Hakodate, Haruka and her friends plan to go wandering among the gravestones on the mountain to find the ghosts that are being spotted all over the city. Haruka goes out later that night to meet with Yu after his cram school class. The sad boy wants to run away from home, but Haruka comforts him when she notices that time has stopped moving. The next day she explains the odd occurance to her best friend Ai, but it isn’t really that believable. The group go on their ghost hunt only to find something that isn’t exactly a ghost.

Episodes two and three allow us to get a better backstory on the caped figures who are searching the town for something called a Dragon Torque. Karasu locates Haruka and Yu trying to escape. Confronting them, Karasu realizes that the Dragon Torque they need is in human form. As he gets ready to capture Haruka, another caped figure named Atori approaches. A highly unstable individual, Atori botches the mission and all the caped soliders are recalled back to their own dimension in the future. Karasu tries to reconcile the reality that a past very similar to his own holds the key to saving their own dimension and all other realities which are individually held together by an unseen balance in the shape of an uroboros. In present day Hakodate, Yu and Haruka decide to run away, but the pair only get as far as the observation center at the top of the mountain. The evening rolls in and the two settle in for the night before continuing on to Tokyo when the La’cryma soliders return. Unfortunately, the first one to find Haruka and Yu is Atori and he isn’t in a good mood. Meanwhile, a quantum mechanic, Ryoko Uchicha, and her investigating partner, Kyoji Kooriyama, are picking up strange readings in the area as they do field research.

Our final two episodes look into a more normal life. The gang try to convince Mrs. Goto to let Yu come out and play, but she isn’t budging on her stand to make Yu study all summer. Haruka and Yu’s best friend, Isami Fujiwara, try to come up with a plan to get Yu out of the house again. Ai, who has a crush on Isami, spots the two talking and assumes the worst of the situation. Meanwhile, Atori convinces the other La’cryma soliders to break rank and return to Hakodate to destroy the Dragon Torque. Karasu has no choice but to take on his former comrades before they do something that may destory everyone’s chance at a peaceful future.

Noein – to your other self is a deep and thought-provoking show that is probably the closest we will ever get to seeing a Terry Gilliam-type anime TV series. If this isn’t already on your must-see list for 2007, put it there now. The combination of a great storyline, tremendous beautiful 2D/3D animation, and an outstanding cast makes this a must-have series without a second thought. Casting is simply stunning for both audio tracks. Haruka Kudo provides a wonderfully-played Haruka through all her various emotions and the complicated events happening in her life. Equally powerful is Kazuya Nakai’s Karasu whose mopey, desperate actions take on a new life through the smallest of words. For the English production, Media Concepts has been brought in for what is easily their best work in the booth. Veteran director Richard Epcar provides brilliant direction to a well-written and well-performed dub to fit an already superb title. Melissa Fahn captures Haruka’s “heart of gold” while playing against Yuri Lowenthal’s troubled Yu Goto and Crispin Freeman’s dark Karasu. The supporting cast also brings some of their finest performances to make your first choice in which track to listen to very difficult.

Noein – to your other self: Volume 1 is a title you need in your collection. Manga Entertainment has provided a finely-crafted DVD containing five episodes, pristine video, and a flawless subtitle track to enjoy. The extras on Volume 1 are on the heavy side with interviews with the Japanese staff, original Japanese promos, clean opening and closing credits, and alternate versions of the opening sequence. The first run also includes a holofoil slipcover that is worth keeping an eye out for. Noein director Kazuki Akane calls this “Anime’s version of Stand by Me” and he isn’t very far off. The mention of “quantum mechanics” involved with the storyline should not deter you from checking out Noein, and any fan of director Terry Gilliam movies like Twelve Monkeys and Brazil will already know that this is something needed for their own collection.