Fanart Friday returns, ready to take a lousy paycheck for a snoop job, but not at all ready for all the double-crossing and murderous mayhem that follows. Last week, we took a look at the cyberpunk genre, but this week it's all about NOIR! Specifically called "film noir," this genre deals in stark chiaroscuro (contrasting black-and-white visuals), morally-ambiguous storytelling and characters, and an ineffable noir "feel."
In fact, Wikipedia cites that "film noir" is very difficult to accurately pin down. There's a lot of truth to that--film noir elements can be seen not only in seedy urban stories about down-on-their-luck private eyes, but also in spy and espionage tales, superhero adventures, cyberpunk stories, and mecha punch-ups. Don't be surprised if you see characters who aren't explicitly noir-styled in this installment! Now let's get started!
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Speed Grapher is--at least to me--the epitome of noir anime. It's dark, it's mean, its "hero" is barely that, and you have a very hard time feeling good about much of what goes on in the series. It's great stuff, but it's not particularly fun to watch.
On the other hand, Veronica Mars actually is pretty fun to watch, and plays all the noir tropes in a San Diego high school. It also started my whole thing for Kristen Bell.
We'll talk about Batman in a little bit--I think Daredevil, the Man Without Fear, actually does a better job of the whole "noir superhero" bit. Batman occasionally fights off cosmic or supernatural threats, while DD almost always has to deal with the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen.
Want more moral ambiguity in your superheroes? There's always Watchmen, which despite the constant accolades it receives as "the greatest comic book of all time," is--again--not very fun to read. Its twisting story about flawed, sometimes downright sociopathic "heroes" goes to some pretty dark places.
Games like Hotel Dusk: Room 215 are part of what cement my love for the DS. I want more noir-styled murder mystery games like this! Hell, I appreciate it when BioWare lets me do investigations in its RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect--it's fun!
Whenever you mention Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, it's kind of a given that people (myself included) won't shut up about Jessica Rabbit. What we all seem to forget is that the movie is also a great noir story, dealing in double-crosses and a conspiracy that will end the lives of a lot of people toons.
I shouldn't be surprised at how often The Big O pops up here on Fanart Friday. I remember back when it was airing on Toonami how people would ask me if it was made by the same people who made Batman: The Animated Series (it wasn't) for its distinct style.
Speaking of distinct art styles and an almost overpowering feeling of "pure noir," Sin City hits all the right notes. You really should follow the byline and check out the finished inks for the piece, which really captures the style of Frank Miller's comic.
Hey, so how 'bout that Black Lagoon? A bunch of washed-up killers and thieves hanging out in the worst place on Earth, taking jobs nobody else will do?
I'm not sure how many of you remember the cartoon Sam & Max: Freelance Police--I actually got my introduction to these two maniacs from their first LucasArts adventure game. These guys are more a parody of the genre, but I've always thought that you have to play pretty faithfully to a genre to properly parody it.
I would like to thank all the readers who suggested Noir for our NOIR-themed installment. It's not just in a name, either, as Noir is--you guessed it!--full of morally-ambiguous characters and plotlines. Honestly, though, Kirika and Mireille are more straight-up "good guys" even though they're assassins.
by HasFun READER SUBMISSION!
I never watched the anime for Phantom: Requiem of the Phantom, but I do remember Phantom of Inferno, the visual novel it's based on. It was released in the US by Hirameki over a decade ago. Whatever happened to them?
EDIT: Somehow, I missed doing commentary for this one! Darker than Black lives up to its name--and the noir feel--with a complex story and brutal action. Sure, a lot of these characters are superpowered "Contractors," but they're still a dame on the run, an assassin flip-flopping between his real life and his professional life, and a gruff oldbie who's getting too old for this shit.
Between levels in the original Max Payne and Max Payne 2, we'd get a gritty graphic novel-style cutscene with Max's overdramatic narration. I was kind of sad to see it go in Max Payne 3, which traded Jersey grit for the sun-drenched noir of City of God. God, Max Payne 3 was an awesome game. "Yeah, you'll walk--with a limp!"
Okay, I'll be honest: I haven't watched Un-Go yet. But it looks cool! It's on my queue!
Want the most noir video game around? Go and check out L.A. Noire, which drops you in 1940s Los Angeles investigating a variety of crimes, from simple fraud to a rash of brutal killings. The game wasn't without its problems, but I think it was a huge step in the right direction for games as a whole.
Cowboy Bebop regularly shows up here, and it even showed up two weeks ago in Spirit of the West Edition. But can't a western be noir? Or looking at it another way, can't a noir story also have a western feel?
And here's another title from a previous installment--Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex showed up last week! I mentioned how this and Psycho-Pass are both very clearly cyberpunk stories, but both of them are also very gritty noir police procedurals.
I got my introduction to film noir through two things: The Big Sleep (you can see one of my favorite scenes at the start of this column) and Batman: The Animated Series. Batman as a character is unlike a lot of noir heroes--he's not particularly flawed other than his shitty personality, he is very clearly on the side of good, and it's never a question of whether or not justice will prevail, because he's Batman and he usually does. But Gotham City is such an oppressive, dark place, and out of all the DC universe's heroes, Batman's one of the few who can handle it and come out with his sanity (mostly) intact.
A Hong Kong cinematic style of noir is called "heroic bloodshed," and while timeless films like The Killer and A Better Tomorrow really capture that style, the video game Sleeping Dogs did a much, much better job than I expected. Everything is right--the action, the escalation, the atmosphere--you even have to handle the knife-edge tension of being undercover and having to please both the cops and your criminal "friends." But what happens when they start becoming your actual friends?
by Ryan Stegman
I'm not a big fan of anthropomorphic characters or designs, but one of my all-time favorites is the Spanish-made, French-published noir comic series Blacksad, about a down-on-his-luck . European comics don't get nearly enough love--Blacksad and Largo Winch are some of the classiest, coolest books around.
And that's a wrap for this week! What are your favorite noir titles? There's no way I could've included everything--sound off in the comments for titles or characters I might have missed!
Always remember that your work is welcome here on Fanart Friday, regardless of your skill level or experience. If you want your work included, just send me a PM with a link to your work, and I'll be sure to include it in a future installment! Since it often takes longer than a week to put together a piece, here are the next three installments of Fanart Friday!
-Next week, on AUGUST 4th, we're revisiting an old favorite--BRICK HOUSE EDITION returns! THIS IS THE ONLY THEME I'M TAKING REQUESTS FOR THIS WEEK!
-Then, on AUGUST 9th, we take a look at our favorite DETECTIVES! Just like not all noir stories are detective stories, not all detectives are noir!
-On AUGUST 16th, we follow up on Brick House Edition with the return of TOTAL STUDMUFFIN EDITION!
Thanks again for coming to check out Fanart Friday! Have a great weekend, and we hope you drop by next time!