First Look: Norn9: Norn+Nonet

norn9_1

Game Adaptation by Orange
Streaming on The Anime Network (remember them?) | Hulu

Premise

About 10 bishounen (and 3 girls) are aboard a floating ship that may or may not be going anywhere in particular. Each character is gifted with an undefined magical power which they need to use at some point for some reason, probably. Also they might all have to kill each other someday, I’m not too clear on that either. For now though, they’re just picking peaches and going fishing.

Artemis’ verdict: Lacking In Both Focus And Discernible Plot

First impressions of Norn9 leave me vaguely curious but mostly just confused. For every good point I could say about the premiere there was also a corresponding bad one; it’s like Norn9 knows how to be at least a decent title but is almost willingly sabotaging itself at the same time. Some quick examples to show you what I mean:

Good – the artwork is actually rather pretty with a whimsical, watercolor kind of feel to it.
Bad – the animation is terrible. Clearly the budget here is all but non-existent.

Good – there’s only a little in the way of exposition, and this is delivered in short, isolated moments.
Bad – I didn’t have a damn clue what was going on this whole episode. I mean, I know they’re on a ship but why are they on a ship? Are they going someplace specific? Is it the only place they can survive now that terrible things have happened to the earth? Are we even on earth? Do they have any kind of ultimate goal? It felt like Norn9 was trying really, really hard to be deep and mysterious but ended up going way too far in the process.

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Good – the cast is big and everyone gets some screen time, which means if you don’t end up liking one or two characters it shouldn’t matter overmuch.
Bad – the cast is way too damn big, at least for one episode. Introducing them all within the space of a couple of minutes was probably not the best move, as I’d already forgotten nearly everyone’s name right after I finished watching.

Good – there’s some lovely music here. It’s emotive and dreamy and fits the tone of the show really well.
Bad – the single standout scene of the episode came towards the very end when the music came on. I finally sat up and started paying attention… right before the episode finished up. Whoops.

As a result of all this, I still have no idea how I feel about this one and am even pretty ambivalent about whether or not I want to watch a second episode. It could be an impressive show (… okay, it could be an impressive show comparative to its source material and genre), or it could be a confusing mess the whole way through. Given how little focus there seemed to be, for all I know even Norn9 itself has no idea how things will turn out.

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Iro’s verdict: Plot? Look behind you, it’s a bunch of hot guys!

I never thought I’d be asking for an infodump in the first episode, but damn. Norn9 is incredibly tough to follow, because almost nothing is given any context. Why are they in a big flying biodome? Why do they have superpowers? What is going on with the state of “The World”? Who cares! Look at these hot guys! Honestly, everything about this intro just screams “visual novel trying way too hard to be cryptic as fuck”. We’re expected to care about these characters because… they’re the only people around, I guess? That’s not enough to earn a second episode.

Marlin’s verdict: Sky Shoujo and The World of Bishounen

This show is an absolute mess. At first it looks like an otome game, but then you see there is more than one girl, but then later you see there is like a 4-1 gender ratio and it slides back into otome-ness. It’s hard to describe much else about the show as it tries to be so obfuscating about its plot that it is nigh impossible to follow and ends up feeling bereft of meaning entirely. I still don’t get why so many otome games seem to require some kind of weird supernatural element to their romance stories. Did Key just ruin that for every visual novel? Thankfully, the utter nonsense makes this a pretty easy drop, and the otome genre is still yet to produce its Amagami-SS.

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