The last volume of "Noein" ended with Haruka and Karasu being whisked back to his world, in another dimension.
Now that it has introduced the main characters, as well as the idea of other dimensions and Dragon Knights, this unique anime series really kicks into gear -- it's got post-apocalyptic worlds, blazing battles, and a trip back in time for one of the supporting characters. It keeps getting better.
When they arrive in La'cryma, Haruka is taken prisoner and Karasu is jailed and tortured for his defiance. When Haruka manages to escape her room, she finds that La'cryma is a devastated wasteland, with a handful of survivors living underground. And when she ventures outside, she finds the remains of her own town.
Worst of all, the scientist running the project is an old friend -- and all her friends are hardened and battered from their war with Shangri-la. Their last hope is to use Haruka -- the Dragon Torc -- to protect themselves from Shangri-la's bizarre ships. And to harness her power, they may have to kill her.
But Karasu escapes, and whisks Haruka back to Earth. She hides him in her spare room, barely managing to keep his existance a secret from her mother (though not from her dog). Meanwhile, Yuu has a fight with his mother over her obsession about his future, and he runs away. As the past and future versions of Yuu clash, the Dragon Torc activates -- and forces Yuu's mother to confront her own lonely past...
The first volume of "Noein" was pretty oblique -- we didn't know much about the Knights, the threat, or why La'cryma was so hell-bent on getting ahold of the Dragon Torc. In the second volume, we get plenty of answers to our questions.
The plot is actually pretty balanced between the sci-fi wars and the characters' problems. One entire subplot is devoted to Yuu's mom; the wistful look into her teen years explains a lot, and wraps up much of her story. And we get to see what Ai, Yuu and Isami have all become in La'cryma.
And there's an amount of character development for Karasu, Yuu, and Haruka. Yuu's angst is mostly over his mom, but the relationship between Haruka and Karasu deepens when she sees his world. And it's a sign of how well-written this is that Karasu's unwavering adoration for a twelve-year-old -- even under torture -- never seems icky.
At the same time, we also get some brilliant special effects -- including the Torc shooting around Haruka's house -- and a kinetic battle between the Knights and those wacky guru-ships. It almost makes up for the hand-drawn animation, which is spare to the point of simplistic.
The second volume of "Noein" answers some questions, raises others, and reveals the terrible war that's coming for Earth. It only gets better after this.