As it turns out, The anime adaptation I decided to started watching for this was a sequel to the OVA Noblesse: Awakening, which I kind of feel like a dope for not realising beforehand, especially when the events depicted were obviously following from a story already told. But anime is weird and sometimes you don’t realise these things unless they’re outright stated to you. Guess I’m stupid and this entire series has fallen on its arse. But I watched the damned thing, so I might as well talk about it.
Based on the Manhwa written by Son Jeho and illustrated by Lee Kwangsu, Noblesse is a dark fantasy series that takes place in a world where a powerful race called nobles once ruled over humanity as their protectors and savours. Although a long time has passed since then and humanity has outgrown the need for its former protectors, seemingly forgetting all about them.
Where humanity were once a servile, weak species, now they’re experimenting on themselves, creating genetically engineered superhumans. Although all of these come from a nefarious organisation called The Union, whose true purpose can’t be anything but sinister based on the total creeps that make up their number.
Something I found odd between the Manhwa, the OVA and the anime series proper is that the setting and character names change from the South Korean of their source material to being Japanese for the sake of the anime. Which seems like a weird, 4kids style brand of “Americanisation” like we got back in the early day of anime imports. Except it’s for a Japanese audience in this case.
The Noblesse that the title refers to is the character of Raizel, a noble who stands above all others, having woken up suddenly in an unfamiliar present day after being asleep for over 800 years. And to be honest, he seems like a background element in his own series based on the OVA and the first three episodes I’ve seen.
The characters who get more attention and development are Yusuke; a red-headed high school student who becomes Raizel’s first friend upon stumbling back into civilised society. Although it’s difficult to really call them friends considering how stone-faced and emotionless Raizel is, he barely speak more than a handful of lines these whole episodes, just staring off into space most of the time.
It’s more like Yusuke and his diminutive best friend Manabu adopt him, as their bright and endlessly cheerful personalities seem the sort to just adopt an introverted type character and bring them into their peer group. Yusuke does seem more like a protagonist than anyone else, being athletic, caring, dopey and a badass in a fight.
The other character that gets the most attention is M-21, a white-haired, former member of the union. In the OVA he is working for them still, but betrays them and goes to work for Raizel and his manservant/keeper Frankenstein as the anime starts. He was deemed a failed prototype of the superhuman experimentations within the Union and rebelled against him when they killed the last of his brethren during the OVA.
M-21 is, by far, the most developed character of these early parts of the story. We learn his tragic backstory, his inner turmoil at being a freak and his desire to fulfil the wishes of his dead friend and reintegrate into normal society somehow and find his true name. And as a result, he’s the character I’m most interested in.
To oppose our heroes, we’re introduced to a team of superpowered mercenaries, destroying a military unit in the middle of the jungle, Predator style. After which they’re sent to Japan (South Korea) to investigate the disappearance of the coffin that they everyone’s been talking about. None of whom seem to realise that the contents of which have already emerged in the form of Raizel.
Thus the show spends the first three episodes of the anime introducing us to these two factions; Raizel’s entourage of high school friends and superpowered attendants and the forces of the Union, who at the end of the third episode are only just coming up against one another.
It’s strange because while most of this sounds pretty dark and gothic in tone based on what I’ve said, it’s actually a pretty goofy show in practice. We’re introduced to another pair of nobles who randomly show up to investigate the violence that has been happening surrounding the discovery of Raizel’s coffin. The arrogant and self-confident Regis whose character can be defined as “Napoleon complex” and his sister? his partner? the tall, taciturn beauty Seira.
Not seeming to realise that Raizel is a noble like themselves, Reigis seems more interested in the modified human, M-21, and the pair spend all of their time bickering with one another. All to Frankenstein’s despair, made all the worse by Yusuke just volunteering his house for them to stay in as they pretend to attend the school during their investigation. Something Frankenstein is forced to go along with thanks to his master’s constant cause of being noncommittal about everything.
Right now, I’m more intrigued than anything. It feels like not a lot happened in those first three episodes, although this might come as a result of it following the OVA, which was incredibly action-heavy. The show seems to have a pretty expansive cast already, most of which do the heavy lifting so that the main character can be this weird, source of comedy based on how little he knows of the modern world, but also how little he seems to react to anything.
Raizel is like the distilled version of that little Asian guy from that one Simpsons episode. You know the one, The one who just starts there during a gang fight and Homer wants to wait to see what he does, because you know it’s going to be something good. Or to to make an anime reference, he’s going to One Punch Man his way into any given situation to save everyone else from utter despair right at the last minute.
Verdict: I feel like I’ve blundered my way into continuing to watch this one
Yeah, I had to go back and watch that OVA after the fact to feel like I was understanding what was going on, but honestly, with this being the third, big Manhwa series to be getting an adaptation in as many seasons, I would be remiss to not continue it for a little while longer to be a part of the conversation. And that being said, It already feels more like a traditional anime storyline than both Tower of God and. (especially) The God of High School did.
Intrigue is my overriding emotion revolving around this series right now. I’m interested to see where it goes, and it could nosedive off a cliff and turn into garbage, but based on the OVA and the three episodes I’ve watched alone, I’m at least invested in M-21’s redemption storyline if nothing else. so let’s hope he doesn’t die in the next epsiode.