Noblesse

3 out of 5

Directed by: Shunsuke Tada

covers season 1

The same things that stood out in the fantastic lead-in OVA remain true in Noblesse’s first season, again from studio Production I.G.: fantastic characters; some laugh-out-loud moments; extremely well choreographed action; and a well distributed animation budget. The latter is interesting to see played out at length, but proves how not every show needs to be hyperdetailed and smooth to work: Noblesse’s “sets” are generally fairly open spaces, and character animations are fairly stiff, but the show’s animators put the work in to where it matters, giving those settings a clear identity and geography – you know what they are; you know where you are in them – and animating characters in ways that matter, such that personalities and silhouettes are immediately identifiable, and sparingly using fluidity in the action sequences. The show is thus never a letdown to watch, whether it’s just characters chatting or our noble gods a’brawling. Unfortunately, one of the more unique elements of the show – that it’s lead, recently awakened protector god of the people, Raizel is so confidently overpowered that he need not break a sweat during any scuffle – also ends up damning it to a degree, as it seems like the writers (possibly due to however faithful to the source manwha they remain) couldn’t figure out a good way to escalate the plot, leading to a sensation where things start but don’t really go anywhere or conclude; that nothing really ends up happening.

The overpowered lead is nothing new, of course, but anime / manga usually unleashes similarly overpowered bosses to go up against, and that’s not the case for Raizel: he is the recognized leader, and only those who are unaware of his status even try to fight ‘im. Otherwise, Raizel is content hanging out at high school with his newly acquired human friends, learning their customs while his manservant, Frankenstein, grins at his boss “stooping” to do commonplace things out of amusement. Raizel is an intriguing character, as is his relationship with Frankenstein, as is the evolving nature / personalities of his friends and the other super-powered hanger-ons we gain as the season continues. This is the bread and butter of the show, exploring how these people are brought together, and is what makes it so enjoyable to watch. But then there’re these other things – a violent faction of mutant-types; mysterious pasts; the other nobles – that are also all individually interesting, but, again, due to Raizel’s insouciant nature, there’s no sense of urgency in dealing with them. The show becomes an action show randomly; a drama sporadically. When the high schoolers keeping learning of Raizel’s true nature and then have their memories repeatedly erased, it drives home the sensation that the story has no need to evolve.

Again, the oddity of this is how enjoyable the show nonetheless remains, due to its strengths, which are strengthier than most of their peers’; if you’re going to get something right, characters are probably a smart choice. And while I’m pitching it as sounding cluttered, that same lackadaisical vibe prevents it from becoming so. Still, there’s some sharper version of this that iterates off of the concise feeling the OVA provided, instead of just sort of spreading it out across a season – I do hope we get some more seasons to see that version envisioned, because despite its flaws, I still looked forward to each new episode of Noblesse.