Noir continues, as the girls combine work with their efforts to find out more about events of the past - an investigation that rarely goes smoothly, as every effort to learn more about the mysterious Soldats seems to draw another attempt to kill them. Trying to get their hands on an ancient contract draws the strongest response so far, when Mirielle cross sword with the Mafia...
6 - Lost Kitten
The girls' latest target lives in a country devastated by war - he's a former KGB agent, Nazarov, who in his past life was responsible for the cold-blooded murder of hundreds, maybe more. He's been off the radar since he left that life behind him - now, he's a nameless old man who spends his time helping others, asking nothing in return. But for all the good he does now, there are those who remember his past deeds and want to see him pay for them, which is why there's now a contract on his life. A chance encounter allows Kirika to get to know their target, though, which makes her job that little bit harder. Although it seems that nature may soon save her the trouble...
7 - The Black Thread of Fate
Sometimes, you can be too successful - Noir's latest victim was "revolutionary leader" Balsan. One man's revolutionary is another man's tyrant, though, and those persecuted by Balsan's actions had hired Noir to assassinate him, without ever really knowing who Noir was. The hit was successful, of course - but Kirika foolishly failed to make sure that her first shots killed her target, giving Balsan time to make a damn good attempt to take his killer with him, and Kirika is now seriously injured. With the pair on the run from Balsan's followers, and with Kirika's identity now known after she dropped her student ID at the site of the hit, Mirielle's faced with a choice: should she kill Kirika now to save her own life and protect her identity, or should she protect her new partner..?
8 - Intoccabile, Acte I
Don Lucio Greone is a Mafia boss in New York who's growing ever more concerned at the encroachment of rival syndicates onto his territory. He's right to be concerned, as he's also Noir's latest target - but after completing the hit, Mirielle and Kirika stay in the city to complete another task. Don Lucio's family is also rumoured to have connections with Soldats, and that's enough to make the girls interested in doing some digging around. Unfortunately, the late Don's family is also keen on revenge, and has summoned the intoccabule, a crack assassin, from Sicily to do unto Noir as they did unto Don Lucio...
9 - Intoccabile, Acte II
Mirielle and Kirika have retreated into the New England forests - Kirika is carrying an injury, and Mirielle's just plain scared, meaning they're in no fit state to take on Silvana again. Silvana, meanwhile, has returned to Sicily to inquire further into the contract that Noir were trying to get their hands on. For reasons best known to herself, Mirielle decides that Sicily is a better place to take on Silvana anyway, and so she and Kirika travel there for round two. When Silvana realises they're there, though, she challenges Mirielle to a one-on-one challenge...
First two episodes are filler of the usual Noir type - identify target, do a bit of a story around him (which in Nazarov's case is a good bit more touching than most), then finish the episode by finishing off the target. So far, so normal.
It's the final two episodes where things get interesting, as they bring into play not only the Soladts connection, but also events fron Mirielle's past that genuinely do have an effect on the current story, as her past meeting with Silvana has repercussions down the line. There's still a lot of gunplay to the story - it wouldn't be Noir otherwise - but there's more real character work put into these two episodes than in any other story in the series so far, and that's very welcome to see.
Running throughout the disc is the idea that, despite the cachet that that the name "Noir" gives them, Kirika and Mirielle are human and as likely to screw up as anyone else - Kirika through foolishly holding on to her Japanese student ID (I suppose a fake past is better than no past at all), Mirielle through having someone that she's genuinely, uncontrollably frightened of. They both also show flashes of compassion, an emotion that you maybe wouldn't expect from someone in their trade and a quality that helps make them more human and approachable to the viewer.
Overall, then, the qualities that make Noir what it is are still there, while the first signs of a proper over-arching story are beginning to make themselves felt - maybe then we can get away from the hit-of-the-week for a while and into something a bit more meaty. I do like some substance with my style - but in the meantime, I'm happy to continue enjoying Noir for the girls-with-guns fun that it is. Definitely worth a look.