[14 August 2007]
Noein: To Your Other Self, Vol. 4 is an anime revolving around a 12-year-old girl, Hakura, and her best friend and classmate, Yuu. Hakura quickly finds herself inadvertently caught up in a struggle between otherworldly forces vying for possession of her. It is explained to her that she is what is known as the “Dragon Torque”. a nexus of energy which has the ability to warp dimensions and afford the user a degree of temporal mobility.
Her protector quickly becomes Karasu, an ex-“dragon knight” from the dimension La’cryma. Karasu is actually Yuu in 15 years in one of many futures (Noein appropriates a branching theory of time in which many possible futures coexist in different dimensions). Eventually other dragon knights defect from their cause (capturing Hakura to bring to La’cryma to save the dimension) and become a full cast of guardians.
Meanwhile, the capital nemesis is Noein, a disembodied consciousness from the future who is attempting to collapse all dimensions. Why? Well, Noein is Yuu in another future who has found that Haruka brings Yuu pain in every dimension by dying. Therefore, he is (in slightly counterintuitive fashion) attempting to implode the dimensions into his own, in hopes to create Shangri-La where there is no suffering (and no corporeal being). Throw in prolix discussion of rays, particles, strange applications of relativity, and sweeping scientific interpolation and you have a good feel for the show.
If this sounds at once childish and pedantic, I fear it is because I omitted one key point: Noein: To Your Other Self, Vol. 4 completely kicks ass. Dragon Knights have the ability to transform their bodies and capes into their weapons. Therefore, fights take the form of aerial melees with the knights shifting from amorphous black masses into diving anthropomorphic shapes surrounded by darting black tendrils. The rendering masterfully handles these acrobatic duels flying through and around the characters smoothly. It is beautifully executed and as the action intensifies the characters speed into pencil sketches as if the battle is so taxing on their forms that colors and outlines cannot keep pace. Dragonball Z-esque energy tug-of-wars also populate the conflicts often consuming the entire frame in pulsating light and summoning a white-green gravity to the situation.
Don’t worry that when the frenzied, abstract action ceases you will be lost in a morass of sci-babble and speculative physics. Although there are many such discussions, their particulars do not matter to anyone but the characters themselves. As long as you remember that there a multiple dimensions representing multiple futures, and through clever uses of energy one can traffic these dimensions, you’ll be just fine.
That said, the dialogue is exceptional. The cast of children, although alarmingly precocious, perfectly channels the mix of youthful bravado and adolescent anxiety present in the average 11-and 12-year-old. The dragon knights and antagonists affect grave portentousness in every syllable but retain a warmth that makes the audience remain aware of the stakes. Every character is full and like-able rather than one-dimensional soothsayers.
It may be said of Noein: To Your Other Self, Vol. 4 that the plot’s momentum is spiraling from a wide matrix of dimension and interests into one inevitable conclusion: the final showdown with Noein. This circling, converging trajectory is only appropriate for a world in which the characters are fighting against the condensing of dimensions. Noein: To Your Other Self is the suspense-ridden chronicle of the iterations of the shrinking circle getting alarmingly near to each other.
The last of the dragon knights abandon their cause, La’cryma takes what may be its last breath as a dimension, and Hakura is finally kidnapped for Noein. Every second is a joy ride and absolutely compelling. New viewers should not be afraid to wikipedia the back story and start with this volume as that is what I did and I feel that I understood the story with a good measure of clarity. (But skip the extras, which include only still galleries and a single, lackluster interview.) Noein: To Your Other Self, Vol. 4 will serve as an excellent buy for both fans of anime and fans of compelling narrative.