Today sees the release of Noein: To Your Other Self as a blu-ray collector’s edition by All The Anime. Manga Entertainment previously released this title on DVD in October 2007; the English dub was produced by Manga Entertainment’s US counterpart. This blu-ray release used FUNimation’s disc masters, but in a rigid case with a digipack and 8 art cards. Despite being a blu-ray, there are no proper HD masters for Noein. Like the Japanese blu-ray release, FUNimation, and therefore All The Anime’s release contains an upscaled version of Noein. This still allows for a massive improvement over the dated DVD, with higher quality audio, less visual compression, and original frame-rate playback. This final point is of greater importance in the UK, as Noein was released as a PAL DVD.
Noein was animated by Studio Satelight, the studio responsible for titles such as Aquarion, Symphogear, and later parts of the Macross franchise. Recently, they have animated the first season of Log Horizon, Lord Marksman and Vanadis, and The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. Director Kazuki Akane is best known for his work on the classic series Escaflowne, a title I look forward to trying when All The Anime release it on blu-ray later this year.
Noein employs the school of thought that time is a dimension that resonates with other time-spaces. Additionally, the story uses multiple interpretations of quantum physics, including the Many-Worlds Interpretation, in which the universe branches off into an infinite number of possible states of differing probabilities, and the Copenhagen Interpretation, in which an observer or measurement is important in determining the probability’s loss of coherence. As you can probably tell already, Noein contains a complex story and is not light viewing.
Noein’s story focuses on a twelve-year-old girl, Haruka, and how she fits into an interdimensional battle fifteen years into a possible future that threatens to destroy not only the two it involves, Shangri-la and La’Cryma, but the very existence of everything in the multiverse. Haruka learns early on in Noein that she is the Dragon Torque, the key to saving reality. La’Cryma’s elite are sent to find the Dragon Torque in possible pasts (the present for us viewers); Haruka and friend Yu are considering running away from home when they run into Karasu, a possible future Yu. Rather than sacrifice her to save his dimension, he vows to protect Haruka. As the series progresses, Haruka has to deal with the consequences of her being the Dragon Torque, across multiple time-spaces, and sometime even alternate versions of her friends. Haruka is, effectively, the “supreme observer”, enabling her to determine the outcome of an event merely by observing one of the possibilities, as per the Copenhagen Interpretation, This ability becomes increasingly more important as the story progresses and we, as an audience, question the very meaning of existence. The story is easily one of the most enjoyable anime stories I have experienced; that it made me really think unlike most of the anime I watch was a pleasant, much-needed change. I admit that going in, I knew little about the series, being primarily drawn to it by the beautiful cover art All The Anime chose, but I’m very glad I spent the last week watching Noein. I would’ve liked to have binged through all 24 episodes in a day or two, but it needed spreading out over a week with around 3 episodes per day to really take in what was happening. The 24 episodes tell a complete story, making for a series that will be easy to come back to and rewatch once the specifics start to fade from memory.
The visual quality was decent, being an upscale and all, but not as impressive as All The Anime’s Baccano blu-ray release that contained a pretty extraordinary upscale. That said, I expect it’s a marked improvement over the visual quality of the DVDs, especially the more action-packed scenes. The picture is consistently soft, but could possibly have gotten away with being mistaken for a really soft native HD picture if there weren’t an abundance of shots featuring CGI; at these points, it really is blindingly obvious that it isn’t true HD. The animation itself, however, is beautiful, albeit hampered, once again, by CGI use throughout. I opted to watch with Japanese audio and English subtitles, which provided a thoroughly enjoyable experience; the Japanese track even has surround sound for a change, though the rear channels aren’t used as much as they could be. Subtitles are white, and easy to read at all times. I only switched over to the English track once or twice, not finding the voices for Haruka and Yu to possess quite as much charm, but I expect the English track will have made better use of the surround sound capabilities. There is also a Spanish subtitle track available should you wish to use it. Neither the opening or ending track are anything special, but the ending, Yoake no ashioto, will grow on you as you make your way through Noein.
When it comes to extras, this release has a wealth of them on the third disc, alongside the usual staples. The first of these extras is “On Location with Haruka Kudo and Director Akane. There is also “NOEIN Art Edition”, a feature that compares Complete Animation, KeyFrame Animation, and Full Frame Animation for several scenes from Noein. There is an episode commentary for the final episode, as well as English dub bloopers, promotional videos, a Japanese commercial collection, and the US trailer for the Noein blu-ray. The standard textless opening and closing sequences are present. Being a FUNimation-authored disc, we also get treated to an assortment of US trailers, though all of the titles present are actually available in the UK, or due for release soon. Darker Than Black Season 2, Eden of the East, Danganronpa, and Ghost in the Shell: Arise have all been released by Manga UK. Black Lagoon and The Future Diary have been released by KAZÉ. All The Anime are to release Selector Infected WIXOSS and Terror in Resonance in the coming months, subject to any delays.
The packshot for this collector’s edition release can be seen below.
Noein has a rather complex plot that needs to be followed with 100% of your attention focused on it. With impressive, though sadly not true high definition, visuals, it will easily hook you from the get-go. However, with so much happening within it, binging is a difficult task. I found spreading the 24 episodes out over a week-long period to provide the perfect viewing experience. While not as good an upscale as the Baccano blu-ray they released last year, this release from All The Anime is easily worth picking up.