Review of Noein: To Your Other Self (2005)

Moving picture, 10 hours

Seen in 2013.

Five twelve-year-old friends have their own problems in a slightly alternate or near-future Hakodate, where primitive quantum computing has arrived. The children may be diverging for junior high, like universes in the many-worlds hypothesis. A strongly anthropocentric version of that hypothesis is true, for the present. In the near future of the multiverse, a figure called Noein is striving to collapse the infinite number of worlds into a single utopia, which he calls Shangri-La. On a possible Earth 15 years ahead, a few survivors of the inter-universal warfare are holed up in a bunker beneath Mount Hakodate, searching for something they can use to save themselves.

The Female Man’s thoughtless games with quantum physics and dystopia, plus the plot of Twelve Monkeys (1995) with a magical girl instead of a virus. This is apocalyptic SF applied to children in a pleasant slice-of-life setting, but it’s rarely serious about the mix, and the implementation isn’t great. The otherwise acceptable 3D models are overused, including the main character’s entire house’s exterior.

There are attempts to describe some implications of quantum physics, but nothing is invested in these explanations: they’re just “muzukashii hanashi”. It’s obvious that the writers do not really understand or care about the science, and fully expect the audience to be disinterested. Ultimately, nothing in the plot depends on any idea from quantum physics, which is supplanted with a fantasy physics based on an invented elementary particle called reizu, acting as typical magical energy. The anthropocentric influence of emotions on quanta is made explicit in episode 9. Personal feelings dominate the story. The tedious superhero combat is empty flash on top of that, but much of the scenario could still be rescued into a Delta Green campaign. On that note it’s a welcome elaboration on the motif, seen in Prince of Darkness (1987) etc., that survivors of a holocaust send a warning into their past to prevent that holocaust.

Episode 22 is a brilliant departure from the general mediocrity of the show. In this episode, the looming threat of the group of friends growing apart from each other is realized in a mode of remarkably realistic horror, including the stereotypically energetic Miho growing up to be bullied, becoming a shut-in and pondering suicide in a few touching vignettes. Not many TV shows in Japanese animation from this era dare to make even such minor connections to reality, but Noein ultimately does not realize its ambitions.

References here: 12 Monkeys (2015).

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series