Every so often a show comes along which resets an entire subgenre’s expectations. This week and next we’re going to tackle two of those in the same genre. Chronologically, even. While this isn’t my favorite subgenre, I can enjoy it if the right show comes along.

What is it?

Noir is a 26-episode anime from just after the turn of the millennium.

What kind of story is it?

It’s a Japanese take on a European-style spies-and-assassins tale, featuring young women as stone-cold killers.

I recommend laughing about Mireille’s last name (Bouquet) out of range of her hearing.

Why do you like it?

Noir’s strengths are its action, its style, its soundtrack, and the “unraveling the schemes of a secret organization” plot structure. Piece by piece, job by job, the protagonists work their way toward understanding who they work for and why. Along the way we’re treated to some exceptional fight choreography and animation work.

Third wheel or MVP? You decide.

Composer Yuki Kajiura wasn’t new to anime & video game work when this show came along, but it could be said that this is what really put her on the map. The soundtrack CDs are arguably a better purchase than the actual anime discs.

What might one not like about it?

While the music is of the highest quality, you will in fact get tired of a couple of the pieces because they get used at least once in every. Single. Episode. Usually to highlight a particular episode’s ever-so-slight progress toward uncovering the ongoing mystery behind “Les Soldats.” Oh yes, and the reveal of that mystery takes the bulk of the series, so be prepared to settle in for a lot of repetition with slight additional material, over and over.

(This music-and-animation re-use is a bit like the “transformation deck” in a magical-girl show: It’s a budget-saver. Even as high-end a production as Noir had to cut corners.)

And, let’s be clear, one of the primary characters is basically a blank slate. It’s the “highly capable amnesiac” trope, which if you want to gripe about that then you shouldn’t watch the Matt Damon Bourne movies either.

Not sure who’d win, Kirika or Bourne. I’m sure someone’s argued about this on the Internet somewhere though.

Other thoughts about it?

Lest you think I’m damning Noir with faint praise… you’re right. It is a classic in its own way but most of what I get out of the show is the inventive action sequences and a lot of great music.

It did signal the arrival of a brand of more-realistic “girls with guns” style of show, thus redefining an already poorly-defined subgenre. And it earns its place as a classic with some of the innovative action sequences.

It’s better to light a candle than to curse the grimdark.

Supposedly the two shows produced in sequence after Noir are part of an official “girls with guns” trilogy. I couldn’t really get into Madlax (despite the solid soundtrack) and didn’t even try El Cazador de la Bruja. If you finish this and are interested, well, by all means please feel free to try the others.

Where can I watch it?

There are a few options, Crunchyroll among them.