Karasu has been vowing for the last several episodes that he'll protect Haruka with his life. Now he's in a crunch.
And things take a shocking turn in the third volume of hit anime "Noein," as the Dragon Knights experience injuries and death, and the villain starts being really villainous. The last episode here is a bit anticlimactic, but the others are pure gold -- and throw us some shocking twists.
Karasu has abandoned the mission of the Dragon Knights -- to capture the Dragon Torque -- so he can protect Haruka. But now he's challenged by his oldest, closest friend, Fukurou who happens to be a future version of Isami. On one stormy night, the old friends both acknowledge that soon they'll have to fight -- and it's going to be to the death.
Then Haruka has a terrifying vision, and rushes to stop the fight between the two Dragon Knights. She stops the brutal battle that has left them both wounded, only to be interrupted by an increasingly crazed Atori. The old friends join forces to defeat Atori once and for all... only to have the malignant Noein appear.
The battle leaves Karasu horribly wounded and dying, and with no way to heal himself. Desperate to save him, Haruka enlists the help of her friends and Tobi, to take Karasu to the only place where he can be healed. But the jealous, angry Kosagi is standing in their way, determined to capture the Dragon Torque and kill Karasu.
There's another episode to the story, which has Haruka exploring her parents' divorce in other dimensions. But when she has a day out with her father, strange things begin to happen -- Karasu, Tobi, and Ryouko find a gateway into Shangri-la, and Haruka is alone with a stranger disguised as Karasu...
If this volume has a weak link, it would be "Memories," a slightly jarring "quiet" episode that pales besides the taut, dramatic episodes that precede it. Those ones leave you wondering just who is going to live and who is going to die, and the answers are actually pretty surprising.
There's a lot more action in this one -- Karasu and Fukurou do a lot of leaping around, stabbing, slashing, and Karasu even loses an arm. One Knight dies pretty horribly, and another gets cut to ribbons. But there are some beautiful moments as well, such as Karasu floating on a cloud of raizu particles, speaking to his dead friend.
And while there are many bittersweet moments, there are humorous interludes too. Isami provides some comic relief ("Shut up! Shut up! I can't take all this negativity!"), and there's a cute subplot about Atori -- who is now a childlike amnesiac -- bonding with Miho, whom he mistakes for his dead sister. But even in the cute moments, we don't get to forget the danger all the characters are in.
And a lot of the characters go through turning points here -- Karasu shows how strongly he feels about Haruka, Fukurou explores his childhood, and Yuu makes a life-changing decision. Haruka herself reaffirms how much she cares about Yuu/Karasu, and looks at how the other dimensions can sometimes not be too different from what she knows.
As always, the voice acting is simply magnificent, especially from Crispin Freeman -- the raw, deep vocals he uses here are perfect for the haunted Karasu. And he's backed with some great work from Eddie Frierson and R. Martin Klein, as well as Melissa Fahn and Yuri Lowenthal as the preteen leads.
The third volume of "Noein" is a taut, thrilling adventure, with a few interludes of quiet reflection. Just be prepared for a cliffhanger...