- Titles: Noein: Toward Another You
- Genre: Science Fiction, Drama, Psychological, school, romance
- Episodes: 24
- Studio: Satelight
Haruka is only 12 years old but she has a lot on her plate. She has this boy she likes but he gets mopey all the time and tries to run away from home without her so she has to chase him down. It’s a bit of a pain. And her best friend is having some jealousy issues that are really not fair. Her parents separated a few years ago now but Haruka would still like them to patch things up. Oh and also, Haruka is some type of pandimensional superbeing and all these weirdos are appearing all of a sudden and calling her the Dragon Torque for some reason. Just regular tween stuff. There’s all that pressure about finding yourself, picking what middle school you’re going to go to, finding something you like so you can have a career, deciding which dimensions get to exist. It’s a hassle!
I decided to watch Noein because I liked the poster art. It looked like it was drawn with pencils and there’s a kitty in it. That’s cool, right? And it said it was a science-fiction story. All stuff I like. Pencils and kitties and sci-fi. That is the knowledge I armed myself with going into this experience. And it was an experience.
Noein looks cool. A lot of it looks pretty great and it’s from 2006. I’ve seen more than a few anime from the mid-2000s age more than Noein. But I do think the visuals might be a bit divisive. For instance, I love the character designs. Absolutely love them. Some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. But there are definitely naive art influences in the genre. The linework can get a bit messy, those boxy eyes can look weird at times. To me, that weird was amazing and kept me coming back for more. Even the backgrounds are often great as the story allows for a range of very different settings.
The animation is also fantastic. It’s the first note I took in fact. I love the way this story moves. There is quite a bit of action, characters appear and disappear with a flourish, and it’s all almost unfailingly captivating. Towards the end of the series, we finally get a good look at the main antagonist and see how they move. The choreography of those stilted movements, which plays into the character’s persona and backstory is a work of art, and the animation makes it shine. Heck, even the colours are pretty good. Not great but certainly not bad and when used thematically they are enhanced to make a point which I like.
I sound like I’m all praise but there were a few production hiccups in my opinion. The CG for one. There is some used throughout the series and it’s always very obvious and clashing. However, to me, it really looked like CG that was meant to be seamless but they just didn’t quite have the tech to pull it off. It was a distraction more than anything else. Also, Shangri-la which had been narratively built up was a design disappointment for me. I found the glimpses we got to be dull and generic and just kind of baren. Mind you thematically, Shangri-la should be barren but it makes the view not that exciting.
In fact, the climax of the series has great animation still but takes place in these very stripped-down settings. Which makes sense thematically but gave the visual impression of a production running out of steam.
Finally, I found the voice acting uneven. By that, I don’t mean that any of the actors were bad. On the contrary, I think all of them brought something to their roles. It just sounded to me like they didn’t all agree on what type of show Noein was and therefore some choices were made in line deliveries which sounded off or unintentionally hilarious at times. Like the intensity of a given character was completely disproportionate to everyone else in the scene or one of them was in a comedy while everyone else was trying to act out a serious drama. That sort of thing.
All in all, though, these are mostly nitpicks. I thought Noein was a solid production through and through. Ok, so here’s the bad news. The production aspect of Noein is the easy part. The part where there isn’t much to talk about…
Story & Characters
Noein blends a Slice of Life coming of age drama following the lives of a group of 12-year-olds as they grow up and have to cope with certain changes in their lives, and high concept science fiction which involves an all-out pandimensional war for the very existence of, well, everything! And it’s a pretty great blend.
At first glance, you would think that Noein is somewhat related to Lain. And there are a lot of similarities there. The most obvious being that it centers around a young girl discovering her true self and her power. But to me, both the visuals and some of the more soap opera elements continuously reminded me of Trigger and Gurren Lagann more specifically. In the end, though, I should say I greatly prefer both Lain and Gurren Lagann but Noein does have a few things going for it.
For one, despite being somewhat high concept and referring to a lot of real-world science, Noein is a very down-to-earth story that’s super easy to follow and understand. You will probably never be wondering what the heck is going on? It’s very accessible for the genre and I think that’s impressive.
Noein dips mostly into quantum physics and mechanics, although it does also reference theology and metaphysics. However, you can pretty much understand everything that’s happening with superficial knowledge of the Observer effect and the Multiverse theory (or many worlds theory). I feel like these are some of the most widely known concepts as they have been used in popular media a lot. Most people are already familiar with them and they tend to be pretty rational stuff. Nothing’s going to melt your brain here and you don’t need to start figuring out the math of 12 different dimensions or anything.
Noein has an audience-friendly approach to the concepts and ideas it sends out without talking down to the audience. I enjoyed this thoroughly. I do think it’s extremely difficult to pull off so I have to applaud it for that.
However, Noein is also, if not more so, a personal coming-of-age drama. And well, it can be a bit much. Yu is the deuteragonist and that guy is just a walking bummer. Every third line of my notes is, Yu dude…are you ok? Need a Kit Kat? And the alternate dimension of Lacryma is basically all like that as well. It gets dramatic for drama’s sake at times. Even the climax is all about feelings and being accepted.
At its core, Noein is most concerned with existential angst. Over and over we get lines about how someone or something doesn’t really exist. How they are theoretical. How entire universes can just stop existing. And there’s this urgency about proving that you are real. That you aren’t a dream. I do enjoy stories with existential themes. They are some of my favourites. But I think part of that is because I don’t have much angst about it. Like if I found out that I was just a figment of someone else’s imagination, I would think cool. If I found out I was in the matrix and everything I had ever experienced is a simulation, I would think: cool! To me, existence is pretty much all sensory information and how you interpret it. And that’s magic and wonderful. The relative concept of reality just isn’t all that important, to me. So I appreciated Noein’s existential angst as a theme, but I couldn’t emotionally resonate with the pain of it.
There’s this central message in Noein about community. Basically, that existence is only realized through recognition from others. And I’m not sure I agree with that. It sort of implies that everything you are and do only has value if it’s acknowledged by other people. You can’t just acknowledge yourself and do things for your sake or their own sake. I’m not saying that this message of life and existence finding value through community and bonds is wrong necessarily. It simply doesn’t appeal to my personal world view which made the series a bit less fun for me.
Ok so before I wrap this up, I want to go on a few little random tangents. These really don,t have anything to do with how one might enjoy Noein or not. It’s random stuff I made note of and I don’t have anyone to talk about it with.
One: the denizens of Shangri-al really reminded me of the Lunarians for Land of the Lustrous. That’s it. There were visual and thematic similarities and I thought it was striking.
Two: these type of time travel stories with strong romantic elements create weird dynamics and I’m not sure how to feel about. So Haruka is a 12-year-old girl. She meets Karasu who was in love with the Haruka from his dimension who is now gone. There is absolutely nothing sexual or inappropriate between the characters but there’s definitely this sense of romantic feelings. But she’s 12 and he’s 27. So it’s weird. But he’s not in love with 12-year-old her, he’s in love with 27-year-old her so it’s normal. But she’s still her and… What I’m saying is that these little moral rollercoasters do come up in time travel stories fairly often. And despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of time travel stories and have seen a lot of them, I still haven’t made up my mind about this particular trope. So far I just know it exists!
Alright, I think we can all agree I’ve droned on for too long already. What’s my final verdict. I liked Noein. I didn’t love it which was a bit of a letdown as I usually adore these types of stories. But still, I found some things to love in Noein and I think it will appeal to a lot of people.
You might like this anime if:
You enjoy science fiction with a more human element. You thought Steins:Gate was a’ight but some of the science was a bit boring and you wished there was more classical school slice of life stuff.
My favourite character:
It’s Toby. I really liked Toby. But you know Atori grew on me so much. Like his character arc is possibly the best in the show. Also, Miho has some epic moments. It’s still Toby, I’m just saying that the supporting cast is fun.
- Every time time stops – take a sip
- Every time Yu’s having a tough time – try to cheer him up (kit kats don’t work)
- Every time the torque becomes visible – take a sip
- Every time Yu has a blade – worry
- Every time anyone says “Dragon Torque” – switch to water
- Every time there’s a bird motif – take a sip
- Every time Haruka sees/hears things no one else does – maybe you’ve had enough
- Every time we see Biron – cheer!
- Every time the CG of the house is weirdly intense – take a sip
- Every time there’s blue snow – take a sip
- Every time Haruka takes a bath – wipe the condensation from your glass
- Every time Miho or Lily get shiny glasses – take a sip
- Every time we see Miss Yukie – take a sip
- Every time Noein (mask) shows up – take a sip
- Every time anyone’s an illusion – take a sip
- Every time anyone says “Reizu” – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.