Wow, there’s nothing like taking a step back a few years to really appreciate both what went before and what we have now. I recently sat and rewatched the volume with the most awesome episodes of Sailor Moon (106-109, in case you care) and on the train on the way to a professional conference, I rewatched Noir Volume 5 for the first time in many moons.
Volume 5 of Noir is not high art. It makes the art of Madlax look stunning by comparison, but story-wise, it’s pretty much the lynchpin moment, the moment at which the entire story alters.
It begins with one more foray into Mirielle’s past where she learns the horrible truth about herself – that she is a child of the organization who now hunts her. Turning away from her own past, she now decides to focus on Kirika’s. Kirika, in the meantime, when faced with a choice of knowledge about herself, Noir and Soldats, or saving Mirielle’s life doesn’t hesitate to chose her friend over herself. I say “friend” here, because it seems that that alone is enough of a revelation for both of them, that they might, perhaps, be becoming friends.
When Mirielle reminds Kirika of the promise that they made – that when they both understand who Kirika is and what, exactly Soldats wants, she will kill the younger woman, there is a edginess to it – we can see that that promise is now a lie, even if they can not.
Just as they start to deal with this change in their relationship, it all comes to a crashing halt. Chloe, who has been stalking Kirika from the beginning, shows Mirielle, in an impressive and incontrovertible display of skill, that she and Kirika are the True Noir. Her explanation of what Noir is, and why Noir is, only serves to highlight the gulf between Mirielle and her partner. When Kirika begins to respond to words that Chloe utters, it becomes obvious that Mirielle has lost the battle, if not the war.
This is a very “having loved and lost” kind of volume. We watch Mirielle gain knowledge of her past, but lose some of her understanding of what her childhood meant to her. She gains Kirika as a friend, but loses her as a partner. And she gains understanding of Soldats and Noir, but loses herself in the process.
I found the Noir/Soldats manuscript lines just as silly this time as the last, but somehow – and really, I don’t know how – it all sort of seemed to make perfect sense. Above all, the sense of loss that Mirielle was experiencing at the very end was very poignant and very powerful. And because El Cazador de la Bruja has already begun, I found myself hoping that I care half this much about Nadie and Ellis by the end, as I do about Kirika and Mirielle.
What makes the story here so interesting, is watching Chloe take everything that Mirielle has fought so hard to gain. What makes the rest of the series so interesting is watching Mirielle fight even harder to get it back.
Art – 4
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 4
Service – 2
Overall – 7
I still think Chloe’s character design looks weird and out of place, but I guess that kind of works…