Having approached another landmark figure, I tend to do something a bit special on these occasions. For article No. 50 I wrote about my favourite anime, Gurren Lagann. When I got to No. 100 I wrote about the tragic story of the never made series Feline & Lupine (an article that went out on 1st April). For No. 150 the special feature for this series is its origins, because this did not come from a Japanese comic. This is Korean.
Although not as well-known as Japan’s manga industry, South Korea too also has a growing reputation for making comics, known as “manhwa”. Noblesse began near the end of December 2007, and is released as an online comic or “webtoon”, written by Son Jae Ho and drawn by Lee Gwang Su. In February 2016 the Japanese anime studio Production I.G. turned the first story arc of the manhwa into a single, half-hour long Original Video Anime (OVA) episode called Noblesse: Awakening, which was released with English subtitled on the streaming service Crunchyroll. As it is made by a Japanese studio and the anime is released with Japanese dialogue, this does make it an anime.
Noblesse begins with a coffin that was buried at sea, which is opened when the Moon shines upon in. Out of the coffin emerges Cadis Etrama Di Raizel, who has been asleep in the coffin for 820 years. Raizel manages to track down is old servant, named Frankenstein, who now works as the principle of a Korean High School. As Raizel has no knowledge of what has happened during the centuries he has been away, he decides that being educated will do him some good, so he becomes a student at the school. He quickly becomes popular with the students, who nickname him Rai, and becomes good friends with three classmates: sporty Shinwu, computer game lover Ikhan, and Yuna, a girl that Shinwu is in love with.
While walking back home from school they are attacked by a strange monster, some form of modified human, which is part of a group called “The Organisation”. Other members of The Organisation appear to have vampire-like qualities, or can grow their fingernails into razor-sharp claws. While they survive the initial encounter, the next day Shinwu, Ikhan and Yuna are all kidnapped, and thus Rai and Frankenstein have to free their friends from the hands of these creatures who are willing to kill them.
As there is just the one episode at the time of writing, the first episode feels a tad rushed. However, this stand-alone anime has plenty to keep the viewer interested: the quality of the animation is good; and it has a pleasant soundtrack, especially the theme tune which has a cool, jazz quality to it.
Most of this episode contains plenty of fight sequences. There is a lot of blood being shed, by which I mean it literally rains blood at one point. It is therefore not an anime for the squeamish, but it is not something you liked to get bored of when you watch it.
However, perhaps the most notable aspect of Noblesse is the fact that this is a series that started as an online comic from South Korea. It is nice to see a Japanese anime studio adapted a Korean manhwa, especially given the fact that this involves a working relationship between two countries that often do not get on. See for example, the controversy of trying to depict a stereotypical personification of South Korea in the WWII-based anime Hetalia: Axis Powers (No. 26). It is always interesting to see how anime adapts stories from outside of Japan, as the Shakespearean anime Romeo x Juliet (No. 33) or the Arabian Nights-inspired Magi (No. 67).
The ending of Noblesse is clearly open-ended, so hopefully we will see more of this series being adapted as well.
Noblesse is available to stream from the website Crunchyroll.