The main concern with mixed-media promos like Synduality is that they can end up being clumsy, confusing advertisements for other products in the same franchise. The tale of Synduality: Echo of Ada makes a few late-game allusions and even a few cameos, but all you need to know about Noir’s main plot and characters — who are set some 20 years after the game — is crystal apparent.
Not that everything has been established gracefully, though. Noir adheres to a kind of science fiction world-building that enjoys using capitalized proper nouns in dialogue and defining them subsequently. That sometimes makes it possible for realistic exposition, when the author trusts the reader to follow along with the dialogue and make connections as they go. Sometimes, it simply adds too many new terms to the viewer’s mental list, cramming “Raintight” and “Amasia” in among the likes of Coffins, Spacemen, Blueshist (yes, really), and a dozen other pieces of in-universe lingo. Although completely understandable, it is by far the weakest aspect of the writing.
Noir’s lack of a strong plot is its other, more personal, weak spot. It features character arcs and a ton of unsolved mysteries regarding the titular magus and a shady organization that wants to use her special abilities. Nevertheless, those aspects hardly ever surpass ominous pre-credits moments. Instead, episodic adventures that introduce the large secondary character or involve that ensemble in crazy antics and side missions make up the bulk of this anime’s running duration. It is reminiscent of director Ysuke Yamamoto’s earlier work on Aquarion Evol in that it places more emphasis on developing character connections and dynamics than it does on addressing the more important issues or raising the stakes. The tale doesn’t begin to develop into something more complex than fighting a gigantic monster until the very last episode and its significant twist; in fact, that twist only introduces more questions to the mass of storyline lines that part two would presumably tie up.
When the show introduces a pair of recurrent comedic villains that are reminiscent of Team Rocket in episode two, it can be an alienating method of narrative and is likely to turn off some viewers. Noir is not in a hurry to become serious. It highlights a different facet of Kanata and Noir’s developing friendship in each episode, but the tone is generally always lighthearted and occasionally bizarre. If that works for you, it can be hilarious. I burst out laughing when the grandiose, masked antagonist Macht Ewigkeit was introduced in the waiting room of a high-class brothel after mistaking some rumors about the women there “taking you to paradise” for true divine sex workers. When at their best, these humor and action sequences mesh well with the lovable ensemble cast and create an addictive show about the exploits of Kanata and his friends in their fantastic robots. You will need to search elsewhere or have the fortitude to wait for the follow-up season to get to the greater plot if you want something more serious, or even just a sex comedy that is less bogged down in exclusively juvenile perspectives.
Noir is a terrific fun if you like a stealth ensemble comedy that occasionally transitions into mech combat, though. The ensemble has a strong connection that enables them to seamlessly integrate into every tale they come across, whether it be a trip to the puzzling post-apocalyptic water park or attempting to release a Magus from the equally puzzling post-apocalyptic Casino colony. Although Kanata and Noir are rather stereotypical, their sincere support for one another makes them likeable companions and useful comedy foils for the rest of the cast. But the standout characters are the supporting ones. Each character adds a little flavor and hilarity to each situation they are in, whether it is the Fujiko Mine-adjacent Claudia who will assist our gullible protagonists just as soon as she can deceive them, the robot-Idol Ciel and her search for a human spouse worthy of her confidence, or Tokio’s reckless mentorship. When it’s time for action, that chemistry is capable of shifting toward the dramatic but yet keeping each episode light and airy.
Fantastic rendering of that motion. The quick and enjoyable robot clashes in this game are the result of Studio 8-Bit’s extensive experience with CG mechs. The Coffin mechs more than make up for the terribly generic designs of the “Enders” (you’ve seen one black-purple monster, you’ve seen them all). The mechs have a modular, almost toy-like frame that at first seems cumbersome but quickly proves ideal for grounded, close-quarters combat in most clashes. The bulky shapes give each Coffin a convincing body for their heavy-handed yet graceful motions, speeding around the ground on tread-skates while having enough centered weight for both combat and aerial maneuvers. In episode seven, Ciel serenades Kanata through a battle in a scene right out of Macross, which is the program’s outstanding segment. Although the action in this scene isn’t always the most memorable, it is always amusing, simple to follow, and has the proper amount of impact.
The issue is how smoothly the series will transition into a sequel that must presumably begin addressing its unresolved plotlines. Although the main cast and their interactions are well developed, they might not be dynamic enough to support a more dramatic plot on their own. Similar to the last point, the tendency to omit proper nouns and to use cryptic foreshadowing might easily slow down upcoming plot beats and turn what was fun into a job. While the big shock in the season finale is exciting, it also drastically changes the primary cast, which may not sit well with viewers who like the warm dynamics of the first episode. Despite those lingering concerns, Synduality: Noir is enjoyable for a debut release.