Noblesse: Awakening

5 out of 5

Directed by: Shunsuke Tada

This is a smartly bite-sized ONA.

Original Animations are normally a little wonky to me. The ones I’ve seen come up mid-season for shows (like post cour), and tend to amount to filler, not really functioning in any special way that a regular episode wouldn’t. And I mean, this is kinda by design: OVAs are “bonus” episodes, generally from the home video / bluray releases, or with ONAs, only distributed online. Not being part of the regular broadcast, it’s probably not right to include much life-altering content, but still, they tend to feel rather flighty and wholly inconsequential.

Noblesse: Awakening appeared in the middle of Noblesse’s webtoon run (which, for the record, I haven’t viewed), so by all means, ONA writer Shun Fukudome and chief director Shunsuke Tada could’ve gone the flighty, inconsequential route and given us something fan service-y for the manhwa followers. Instead, “Awakening” goes for adaptation, and starts at the beginning, with the vampiric, god-of-gods Noblesse awakening from his coffin after multiple centuries, and settling in with his manservant, Frankenstein, who now runs a high school, giving us a cute hundreds-year-old teenager out of water comedy. Ah, but not at all: for it’s actually focused on the super-powered “Organization’s” attempts at controlling humanity via this uber-powered Noblesse weapon, which they’ve not yet realized is a person, giving us a showdown of escalating magiks. Ah ah, and then there’s tension in the ranks, with the Organization’s slave class’s upstarts – just named as numbers, M-24, M-21 – trying to overthrow their bosses by getting to this Noblesse thingamajig first…

Does this seem like a lot for 30 minutes? It is, and yet it’s paced rather masterfully, eliciting guffaws at Noblesse’s puzzled attempts at blending in to high school; eye-open attentiveness at Production I.G.’s animation during wildly staged – but clear, and followable – action sequences; and then earning viewerly investment by delivering interesting, rounded characters, voiced with personality. Further credit certainly goes to the source material for working beyond the cliches of the various concepts mixed together here to produce original and intriguing content, but it’s also on the ONA’s creatives at having pulled it altogether so well in a compact format.