Noblesse – 1st Episode Review
Synopsis: Raizel awakens from his 820-year slumber. He holds the special title of Noblesse, a pure-blooded Noble and protector of all other Nobles. In an attempt to protect Raizel, his servant Frankenstein enrolls him at Ye Ran High School, where Raizel learns the simple and quotidian routines of the human world through his classmates. However, the Union, a secret society plotting to take over the world, dispatches modified humans and gradually encroaches on Raizel’s life, causing him to wield his mighty power to protect those around him… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Before you decide to give Noblesse a watch understand that the series is actually a direct continuation of an OVA released back in 2016, that first began adapting the Webtoon of the same name. Crunchyroll doesn’t make this clear, as this version of Noblesse and the now four-year old OVA episode, Noblesse: Awakening, aren’t promoted together on the same series page. Without having watched Awakening there’s a number of sequences that aren’t going to make total sense, particularly as Noblesse tries to squish all the details needed to understand the world we’re in, into just a couple exposition heavy scenes.
With that out of the way, lets talk about Noblesse itself. While the episode opens with brutal action, focused on a band of supernatural soldiers tearing apart a military team like they’re tissue paper, the brunt of Noblesse’ content is introducing Raizel’s day to day as he becomes familiar with man’s modern world. This stretch of the episode is actually quite endearing, although clashes with the episode’s earlier, more sinister tone. We follow Raizel about his day to day and see what his high school life is like. It’s got an almost 4-koma comedy anime energy to it as Raizel learns the life of a typical high schooler. That helps to make Raizel, his servant Frankenstein, and their new ally, M-21, a former genetic experiment of the evil organization known only as Union, fun and lovable characters.
That said, the series hints in its final moments that the super natural soldiers from episode’s start will be turning their attention to learning the truth to events depicted from the OVA. Again, this is where watching Awakening feels crucial, as Noblesse’ whole story seems to have been set in motion in that ‘prequel’ episode, and it’s such a shame Crunchyroll doesn’t make that clear for anyone who isn’t already familiar with Noblesse.
Still, what’s here really managed to grab my attention. While the tone is kinda all over the place, seeing Raizel’s awkward attempts to fit in with his classmates, Frankenstein’s shock at his master’s pedestrian wishes, and M-21’s heart of gold helps to make each immediately lovable, and already has me at least curious as to what adventures these three have in store, whether they be more comical or action based.
The one thing that has me hesitant about the series isn’t actually a fault with this first episode at all, nor Crunchyroll’s inability to set Awakening as the proper starting point for newcomers. No, it has to do with this being the third in a series of high profile Webtoon productions. Webtoon is a Korean comic service that’s had quite an explosion of attention in the last few years. Starting earlier this year, Crunchyroll began a joint-production venture, taking Webtoon’s top offerings and giving them 1-cour anime adaptations. Unfortunately these haven’t really panned out in generating top tier anime. Either from flaws with the content they’re adapting, or a rushed job where seventy to one hundred chapters are somehow adapted in just 13 episodes, both Tower of God and God of High School have ultimately disappointed. Noblesse is the third title in this joint-production, and while it’s started strong, so did both of the others. It didn’t become clear how cramped each adaptation was until half way through the season.
This gives me pause when considering whether to recommend Noblesse or not, knowing that the modus operandi seems to be turning these productions into quick, cliff-note, cash grabs aimed at audiences already familiar with the webtoon. Maybe that’s why Crunchyroll made no effort to explain that Noblesse: Awakening is necessary viewing; they’re banking that the die-hard Webtoon fanbase is who will be watching, and isn’t interested in garnering frustration from new viewers who might not be so keen on an adaptation that becomes increasingly rushed. That said, I can’t exactly ding a series for something it hasn’t done yet. So for now I’m going to be giving Noblesse a cautious Recommended; there’s fun, brutal action, some great, endearing comedy, and promise of a more tense story to follow as Raizel’s posse and the Union gradually clash in a secret war. Perhaps if the production can hold off trying to cram too much in, this series can build at a more natural pace that allows it to maintain not only the darker action, but its fun, comedic side as well.
Noblesse is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com