To Your Other Self - Volume 1

Starring (voice): Haruka Kudō, Kazuya Nakai and Fujiko Takimoto
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 19 February 2007

A dimensional war is being lost. The dimension of La'cryma is fighting to save the earth but is loosing to the Shangri-la dimension. Their last hope lies fifteen years in their own past with Haruka and the recovery of the Dragon Torque...

Noein, directed by Akane Kazuki, originally ran for twenty-four episodes in 2005. To be honest, whist it's a good show, it throws you straight into the action without any explanation - meaning that a lot of what happens has to be taken on faith until more information is provided. It makes for quite an unsettling experience. For most of the earlier episodes you have absolutely no idea what is happening. People fight and you have no idea who they are and things go weird for no apparent reason. It's great to look at, but utterly confusing. Thankfully, if you stick with the show, it all slowly starts to make sense.

Disc one contains episodes one to five, as well as three clean opening and a closing sequence. The gem on the first disc is a kind of fifteen minute travelogue with the director and one of the female Japanese voice actors who travel to Hakodate, the town in which Noein is set. It's an unusual extra but a great one none the less.

There's a smorgasbord of audio options with both Japanese and English stereo and 5.1, with subtitles. The 5.1 is impressive, especially in the sequences using the full orchestra, it brings a cinematic feel to the show. The show is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Disc two contains exactly the same episodes as disc one, though with DTS audio tracks and a bunch of trailers for five other shows.

Episode one, Blue Snow, and it is summer break. Haruka thinks that she is seeing ghosts, something is defiantly wrong when your world goes all weird and neon. Worse yet, her friend Yu is a troubled teenager who thinks he is going mad. Around the school there is a lot of talk about ghosts and men dressed in black capes who disappear. The kids decide to investigate. Sounds like a great idea, until Yu and Haruka are confronted by a dark spectre. Meanwhile, a pair of operatives is tracking the trans-dimensional anomaly.

Runaway, and it is the day after the revelation that the weird dude (that everyone is seeing) is actually Yu from fifteen years in the future. Yu is still being pressured by his mother to cram for exams he doesn't care about. Yu and Haruka decide to run away from home; Haruka to find her divorced father, Yu to get away from a mother devoid of emotion. On the mountain top they start to see the past, future and present all at the same time.

In Hunted, Yu and Haruka are being hunted by, as yet, unnamed bad guys. A lengthy fight and flight ensue, which is infused with real tension and excitement. Eventually Yu's future self turns up to rescue them, but can Yu get over his natural cowardice to save his own skin?

Friends, and Haruka find herself caught between the two trans-dimensional forces. It finally dawns on Haruke that, whoever the creatures are, they are not after Yu after all. The confrontation draws the attention of the agents, who nearly run Haruka over.

Both discs end with the episode And Then, by which time the show has given up enough of its secrets to make the audience feel that they are getting to grips with the overall concept. Finally the penny has dropped and even Haruka's friends are starting to understand that weird things are happening around her.

The show is a little odd, the backgrounds have depth and detail, the CGI is impressive. So, why did Kishida Takahiro, the character designer, have the main characters drawn, initially, with so little shading or detail? It's not as if they are not distinctive, it just looks like they should be in another show and then bang in the next scene they are fully detailed. The show seems to have as many styles as it has scenes. Although it's annoying at times, it's a great way of keeping the audience unsettled and glued to the show.

If you're willing to put a little effort into following the show you'll be richly rewarded. Sure, it's a little different, but then after watching a slew of repetitive fight shows this is like a breath of fresh air. Pity about the repetition between the two discs though.

Charles Packer

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