Warning does contain Episode 1 spoilers
The initial premise of the story is actually very good, Kirika wakes up one day not knowing anything apart from a name - Noir, a pocket watch, a , and a school uniform and ID. Oh and a great skill in assassination. She contacts Mirelle, another assassin with whom she makes a pact to find out who this Noir is and what has been controlling their lives. Being a big fan of mafia and spy movies, the premise sounds great, but from an early stage I could feel this early promise slipping through some horrific sub-plots and plot gaps. For example the first thing that Mirelle asks Kirika is about how she found out about her (With Kirika being in what I'm guessing is Japan and Mirelle working in Paris it’s a fair question) to which an answer is never given, thinking we will overlook this as Kirika has amnesia and probably knew in the past I let this first one go.
Secondly, Mirelle promises to kill Kirika when she's done helping her find out about her past since she knows her face, a huge matter of importance for an assassin. However this secret identity swiftly goes out the window by the third episode which has the pair assassinating a crime boss in broad daylight at a party with hundreds of guests without a disguise. Then a couple of episodes later they are worried about a crime boss having seen their face again, consistency is something that this anime is severely lacking in.
Thirdly, I guess I should clear up that this is most definitely a girls with guns anime, not anything realistic or assassin related, men in this anime are confined to the same fate as the red shirts in the original star trek, even when the pair are in a position where it seems unlikely that they could at least not be injured, the incompetent men seem to be able to spray everything around them, even after just taking out their previous target with some nifty sharp shooting. This left any conflict in the anime a joke, you could have scripted in generic mass of men with guns, somehow surround/capture one of our heroines, other heroine kills everyone without breaking a sweat.
All this is actually quite sad, because once you get past the dull storylines and into the proper story (about episode 18), the story suddenly begins to live up to itself. The last 8 episodes merit a much higher score on their own than when included with the previous 17 episodes, with the story actually getting down to the nitty gritty stuff and making headway. Unfortunately this comes far too late in the anime, with over half of the episodes done very poorly, the scoring has to be way down. This could have made an excellent 12 episode anime, with the events until the 18th episode could be summed up in at most 4 episodes in terms of any actual story and scene setting.
The animation is pretty good actually, the backgrounds are especially impressive, Paris looks like Paris and Corsica looks like Corsica. The animation style is typical early 00's so looks slightly dated now, but there’s no problem with that, as it does not hinder the story telling.
My main gripe with the animation is the lack of blood in the anime, not that I think any anime should be smeared in huge amounts of blood, but it does look bizarre when someone is injured and holding there arm like its bleeding, only it’s not... also anyone killed just seems like they are having a lie down, this is further impressed by Mirelle’s flashbacks from her childhood which contains characters with blood, it seems odd to have it there for one scene and then not for the rest of the anime, again consistency is the main problem.
The sound is another very good part, the soundtrack has won the composer some acclaim, and the title track is really good, however a slight few of the scores really grated on me, especially the tata one (you’ll know it when you hear it), managing to be the most irritating noise in the animation and usually came on in scenes which really would have benefited from the same excellent music in the rest of the anime. Apart from that gripe, the characters are often silent through thought and the music played at these times usually does well to add to the mood of these scenes and enhance the understanding of the characters. The other good point with the sound, is the pronunciation of the French and Italian words in the animation, which is spot on. Recently I have cringed at Japanese attempts at English (Revy in Black Lagoon's English for example), and it’s really refreshing to hear them get it spot on.
I only consider Mirelle and Kirika to be main characters in this anime rarely do any of the other characters which are introduced last more than one episode. The exception to this being Chloe and Altena, of whom I consider to be main supporting as they do not get enough character development on the whole to consider them main characters.
Both of the main characters are well written, and the way in which both of the characters feelings are portrayed throughout the anime, lets you into the characters well and you can actually see their pain about what has happened to them. My main criticism on this point is again going back to consistency, with some of the characters reactions to various situations changing throughout the course of the anime where there has been no character development which would influence them in these situations.
Both the main and supporting main characters could also perhaps have done with a greater look into their pasts, for Kirika – what happened before she got amnesia and ended up in Japan with Mirelle – what she did between leaving Corsica and living in Paris (although this is briefly touched on). For there to be such a small group of main character in a long anime series, it would be expected to investigate all the major time periods that build up the characters into who they eventually are in the present time, which is done to an extent, but at the end I was still looking for more answers about the characters.
Unfortunately this ended up a bit of a slog to watch. The story telling for the first episodes was terrible, and it also took me a while to connect with the characters and by the time I did understand them more, the bland scripting of the first episodes had reduced me to not really caring too much what happened to them and eventually, it was a case of watching because I had started.
There is a very good anime here screaming to get out, the decision to run for 26 episodes was a huge mistake in my opinion, with more than half the episodes being below par in terms of storytelling and enjoyment. As put in the story section, this would make a great 12 episode series, without detracting anything from the story itself. However if you like girls with guns, don’t mind a bit of Character Shielding and can put up with some crass storylines, you’ll be treated to a very good closing sequence with an ending which is the envy of much better told stories.