Noblesse [OVA 1 & 2] – A Review


Noblesse Oblige has never looked so good.

spring15-irenesJapan and Korea (South a little less than North) have a rather rocky relationship, and in many an anime, the Japanese prejudice against Koreans and their culture shows up every now and again, and that’s on the rare chance that anything of the Korean culture gets to show up at all. One of those few times was with one of my favorite anime from last year, Akatsuki no Yona, which while by a Japanese mangaka, featured quite a bit of elements from both Chinese and Korean culture, including many of the characters’ names. While it did well, it did better in the West than in the East, and controversy did follow even it because of it’s Korean elements. The amount of Korean made manhwa that become Japanese created anime, is extremely small, and that’s pretty much one of the biggest (and really only) reasons I can think of, of why Noblesse has yet to become a full and proper series.

Noblesse was created as a webtoon way back in 2007 by Son Jae Ho, and is still ongoing. It has been immensely popular in both the East and West, and is one of the best vampire series I have read in a long time. Yes…if you hadn’t realized it by now by the visual , this series is indeed about vampires, but also, oh so much more. While a full series has yet to be released, this winter season, we have finally gotten two animated offerings that only seem to serve to whet the appetites of the series’ many, many fans.


The Awakening

Now, it’s been quite some time since I’ve kept up with the manhwa series, so I’m quite hazy on the details of the series. Thankfully, this 30-min OVA (technically an ONA, but whatever, semantics…) is an introduction to the series and so I’m able to refresh and re-immerse myself back into the world of the Noblesse.

It’s because of that reason that I put it first, even though “The Beginning of Destruction” technically was released first, but more on that later.  


We start with a old-fashioned title crawl that gives us in a couple sentences what the Nobles are and who the Noblesse is, setting the stage. A race of near-immortal, elegant creatures with incredible strength and extremely long lives, that have protected humanity from the creatures of the night for eons. The leader of and the strongest of this race of beings was called “the Noblesse” (it’s French so get used to the extra “e”, and it’s pronounced “no-bless” for those who don’t speak the language), and what do you know, even our term “noblesse oblige” comes from this ancient figure.


However, for hundreds of years the Noblesse has been asleep, only to be suddenly woken up in present day Japan (South Korea in the original material). And with his awakening, both he and us are thrown into a mysterious, dangerous, and yet intriguing world of the supernatural underground . We meet the Noblesse when he first emerges from his coffin, and his name happens to be just as majestic as his entrance. Cadis Etrama di Raizel.

Noblegi (8)

So, how many bottle of L’Oreal was in that casket? 

The moment we meet this character, even through the screen, you can feel his presence. Have you ever met a person with real power? They don’t flaunt their abilities, but instead, their authority wraps around them like a glove and you can see it in every step, in every movement. Raizel, or Rai, as they come to call him, fits that bill. A stoic character with actually very few lines in the entire thing, yet as you watch him, you realize that he doesn’t need to say much. He’s the type of man that delegates.

His walk is with complete confidence, his manner has the tell-tale elegance and gentility of his kindred.  Even after having woken up after more than 800 years of sleep, he has not lost a single step.

Noblegi (1)

For dry, red eyes….


The first thing he does is seek out his completely loyal manservant/valet, who is also looking very well for being more than eight centuries old, Frankenstein. Yes, that Frankenstein, but this is not the time for that story. Right now, Dr. Frankie has been taking up his practically immortal time by becoming the principal of a high school. It would make sense for a former mad-scientist to want to share his knowledge with the masses. However, the minute that he feels Rai’s presence, his old master becomes his number one priority and it’s as if the Noble had only been taking a little nap, rather than in a death-like impromptu coma for 800 years.


Master, I’ve been saving this tea for you for the last 800 years. It’s even still warm. 

Noblesse starts off as one part gothic mystery adventure, and one part fish-out-of-water story. Raizel turns out to be such a stoic, silent character that he pretty much requires other characters in bounce off of him. We have Frankenstein of course, but the minute he reunites with Rai, he pretty much just becomes a response board for whatever the Noble has to say. Also, even for Frankie, it’s going to be hard to get eight centuries of exposition out in order to get his master up to speed in this new modern world. So what is a series to do, but bring in the high school students of course!

Ah, high school, the go to setting for pretty much 80% of anime out there. With his servant serving as head of such a school, Rai takes advantage of the opportunity and becomes a student there in order to learn about the world. I have to say that while I never want to put Noblesse and Twilight on the same continent, much less in the same sentence, I kind of have to bring up that they both have the same issues regarding this trope we’ve seen far too often. The immortal in high school has been done many times before, but usually the immortal can blend in. Here, Rai, like the Cullen tribe, sticks out like a sore thumb no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise. Pale as death skin, eyes the color of blood, and the fact that he looks like he should be in college at the very least? Yeah, that doesn’t stick out at all.


Yes! perfectly normal high school teen. No supernatural creature here!

Also, if Rai really wanted to learn about the world, I would have sat him down for an hour and taught him how to use a computer and the internet, then put him in a library and let him explore for hours. The guy knows how to use books at least, let him gain knowledge the way he’s used to: the old fashioned way. But if we didn’t have the high school, we wouldn’t have the young students that allow a very silent Rai, to be able to interact with the world. And so we meet Yusuke Tashiro, Emi Iwata, and Manabu Kaze (or Han Shinwoo, Yuna Suh, and Woo Ik-Han in the original material, the anime actually changes their names to Japanese ones because of the little cultural matter that I mentioned earlier), who provide our supporting cast. They seem to make friends easily with Rai, and he finds them interesting.


But Emi happens to see something she shouldn’t and it leads to a whole lot of danger for all three. We are introduced to M-24 and M-21, who are experimental human-mutant slaves that have been ordered by a mysterious group called the “Organization” to find Raizel’s casket. However, the two have other plans, and while both are a little rough and tumble around the edges when you first meet them, these two who haven’t even been allowed proper names, much less human rights, earn both your sympathy and your support.


Both have been treated like unwanted trash and tools to be used and abused by their sadistic and cruel handlers, Jake and Marie, and all they, and those like them want above all else is their freedom. They figure they can do this with the power of the Noblesse, but I doubt they, nor any of those that sent them, truly knows what it is that they are messing with. Yet, when the kids are kidnapped in a ruse to draw out “the 4th student”, Rai indeed answers the call, but in a way that they more than likely didn’t expect.

I have to say that the animation that Production Studio I.G. employs is just beautiful, the colors, the movements, the shading, the choreography of the fight scenes is fantastic. Watching Frankenstein vs. Marie was a short, but delightfully amazing experience as you just want to see these rather handsome, powerful beings take out the trash. The voice acting is also very well done, even though most of the voices are 2nd tier seiyuu, with Hisafumi Oda and Tasuku Hatanaka doing especially well done jobs.


I am mad scientist. It’s so cool! Isn’t it, sonuvabitch?

M-21 and M-24 have great scenes too and you can feel their friendship and the emotion in the air as they fight for their very right to live and for their desire to be free.

And yet, as amazing as Frankie and the others are, they are nothing compared to the titular character, who shows why he holds the authority he does. Not moving from his spot, not even when the perverse and barbarous Jake gets waaayyy into his personal space, he doesn’t even bother to acknowledge him. Instead, with a disdain and an arrogance that is completely warranted, he orders the other to simply “Kneel”.


Dude…personal space.

And to everyone’s surprise except Rai’s–he does!


I guess he’s been taking lessons from Loki, and he even added some improvements!

It’s at this point that you really get a taste (and I do mean simply a taste) of what the lord of the Nobles is capable of. Not breaking a sweat and barely raising a finger, he strikes with swift and fatal justice, that even causes the ruthless Jake who enjoyed hearing the screams and pleas of his victims to beg for his life in the end. But the Noblesse gained his reputation and his name by protecting the weak and defenseless, and those who prey on them should expect no mercy from him. And so, with only a single swift move, Raizel destroys Jake and makes the sky rain red with his blood….literally.

Noblegi (6)

I call this, my “middle finger” attack.

In the end, you’re like M-21 and can only look at this being with awe and amazement, and you just want to find out more about this male who possesses such power and authority, as well as more about his race, the Nobles. Also, who and what is this Organization and what exactly are M-21 and M-24? Are there other Nobles around, and what have they been doing all this time? Are there other creatures that go bump in the night as well? So many questions, and we can only hope that Japan might decide to take a chance and create a real anime series out of what they started.

And thus, we are introduced to the world of Noblesse, and while it might have seemed slightly rushed, it was only the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t had this much fun and enjoyment out of a vampire series in years, and I have to say that it’s high time.

Noblegi (7)


The Beginning of Destruction

Prior to the release and translation of Awakening, there was actually another OVA for Noblesse that was released. At first, I wasn’t going to cover it  for, well, two reasons. 1) it had not been subbed into English, and 2) Beginning of Destruction IS a prequel of Awakening, and yet it’s really meant for viewers who are more familiar with the material as it introduces characters and situations that really requires prior knowledge of the series in order to truly get the most out of it. I myself didn’t think I had enough of that knowledge in order to understand, and I was also worried about spoilers. But as of a day or so ago, someone finally subbed the thing and I decided to take a chance on it. I am so glad I did.

There are a couple of things you notice right off the bat. There’s of course a sizeable downgrade in animation. This OVA was made, not by the Japanese Production I.G., but instead by the Korean Studio Animal. Also, you’ll probably note that the voices while still in a foreign tongue, probably sound off to you. That’s because they’re not speaking the familiar Japanese that we’re used to, but Korean. It takes a little getting used to, but you get used to the slightly more harsh and guttural tones.


The story takes place 820 years prior to Awakening, and we meet Raizel once again, but this time looking just slightly younger. Living in his hidden mansion with Frankie, we get to meet his one and only friend (not surprising, considering that he’s a man of very little words) and an introduction of another familiar species of the night, the lord of the werewolves, Mujaka.


Okay, how exactly do any of you go out in public? You’re as subtle as a bulldog…or make that a wolf.

In many a supernatural story, vampires and werewolves go hand in hand, and Noblesse is no different. Mujaka is the wild and more outgoing of the two, while Raizel is way more subdued and solitary. As you watch their relationship as it’s presented, there’s not a lot to chew on. Mujaka talks and Raizel listens, they talk about the world, both that of the humans and their own, and Mujaka talks proudly and lovingly of a little girl that he’s taken in and is currently raising named Ashlyn. Ashlyn is a pretty, feisty thing that immediately develops a crush on Rai when he visits, and thinks of the werewolf lord as an uncle/big brother figure.

And from the minute that the episode starts, you know from beginning to end around what will play out and how this is only a tragedy in the making. Vampires (or Nobles in this case) have a long history of not getting along with Lycan. And you can feel that this friendship won’t last. Yet, sadly, you also know that you’ll sympathize with both sides and understand where both are coming from. You also know from her first appearance that this girl will be the catalyst of it all.


I brought him here hun, to invite him to dinner, not for you to start getting crushes. Besides, he’s way too old for you.

There’s a lot going on politically, and we are in the dark medieval times at this point, so plenty of war, sacking, and pillaging. The creatures of the night, both Noble and Werewolf have decided to stay out of human affairs and their wars. However, some of them don’t agree and have begun to make shadowy deals with equally shadowy humans. I won’t pretend like I really knew much of what what going on. That would be where your previous knowledge of the series from the source material would have helped. However, what really matters is that in the end, despite trying to move her to a safer spot, war comes to Mujaka’s doorstep, and while he is out hunting, Ashlyn finds herself confronted by enemy soldiers.


She holds her own, and I was happy to see that. However, it only serves to build up false hope as, rather than a human, it’s a Lycan that aims a crossbow at her back as she runs away, and quickly snuffs out a young life. You can only imagine the depth of the werewolf lord’s pain and sorrow when he returns. Rai, having heard of the battles coming his friend’s way, comes but arrives too late.



Werewolves are known to be much more emotional beings than their pale nightwalker brethren, and here, Mujaka is no different. His sorrow turns to anger and rage, and he lays the blame completely at the humans’ door. Raizel tries to calm him down and to make him see past his pain at what his actions would cause, but Mujaka is inconsolable. When he admits to his friend that Ashlyn was in fact, his daughter, and that he’s just lost the one thing that was his and the one things that brought his life meaning, you completely understand and what to be angry with him.

You can even see how he could descend into madness like he does, and decide to take his anger out on the one person barring his path from completely annihilating all of humanity–Rai.

noble217noble218 noble229 noble237

Adamantium rage!

Rai can see his friend’s agony, but he also knows that he cannot let Mujaka do as he pleases. With his anger and his power, he could destroy all of humanity. And the Nobles are not only pledged to protect humanity, but they are basically compelled to.


What results is another amazing battle as the Noblesse fights the Maduke of Werewolves, and the display of power is beyond thrilling. Even more so than with Awakening, we see Raizel’s vast power on display, and how Mujaka’s power, reinforced by his rage, is more than enough to combat it on equal terms. It all ends in one bombastic finale as their combined power covers the whole area, and Rai, who is mortally wounded from it all, can only place himself in a restive sleep while he cries tears of blood for the male that was once his friend.


And in that sleep he stays…for the next 820 years.


I had a lot of fun with both of these offerings, and I can’t show how excited I would be to get a real series of Noblesse in the works. I was reminded of why I loved the series when I first tried it out and it draws me to go back and check it out. However, with the possibility of Japan actually greenlighting an actual anime, I might just continue to hold off for a while. But Japan better not take too long. I honestly would rather it come from Japan rather than South Korea, for the access to larger budgets, more resources, and the fact that I’m more used to the Japanese tongue. Even if they change the name, I guess I’m okay with it. Japanese names might be longer, but it’s what I’m used to. Besides, it really doesn’t change the main points of the series all that much. Let’s just hope that this OVA, especially the one by I.G., is a positive omen for what is to come.

But, until then, we can always enjoy the more than impressive original material.


A Chicagoan biochemist, teacher, and an aspiring virologist, with a love for science only rivaled by my love for movies, animation, and anime. Both a lover of action/adventure and romance, I'm a girl who walks the entire spectrum. Mecha, Sci-Fi, Psychological Thriller, Romantic Period Piece, if it's has a good story, I'm there.
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19 Responses to “Noblesse [OVA 1 & 2] – A Review”

  1. BlackBriar says:

    Going by Awakening’s intro, a Noblesse (I feel honored they’re using a French term) is a noble among nobles.

    P.S: I’m tempted to use this post to initiate a full blown vampire discussion. 😛

    As I was not expecting anything vampire related for some time after getting what was left of what I could last season, this proved quite the pleasant and welcomed surprise for one of my venue.

    I took a crack at the manhwa’s first entry but was reluctant to continue due to difficulty absorbing the reading format, especially knowing there were more than 300 additional chapters. However, with the adaptation, I gained a good feel of this series’ world and immediately got pulled in. Production I.G did an amazing job in the animation department. What eluded me was the knowledge of another OVA being released, of which I’ve yet to see. Should Noblesse ever become a full-fledged series, it would already have my vote and I, another vampire series addition to my library.

    Regardless of being a reserved lead, Raizel exudes an aura that compels respect, a feel he’s more than human. I’m not going lie about: appearance-wise, he’s reminiscent of Vampire Knight’s Kaname Kuran. The details prior to re-emergence I must confess are a bit extreme. Waking from an 820 slumber… Even for a vampire, that’s kind of pushing it. That must have been the Sleep of the Dead.

    A good set-up in announcing the antagonist group “the Organization” that’s shrouded in mystery and showing what they’re capable of in making M-21 and M-24 what they are, resulting in the desire of wanting to know what their endgame is. They truly do seem to be a despicable bunch looking at the flashbacks of murdered test subjects. Which in turn will be all the more satisfying when retribution finally comes knocking at the door.

    There was this one notable thing employed by M-24 I always find fascinating in the vampire element: The ability to peer into a target’s memories by drinking their blood as I’ve seen in the Underworld movies which is a personal favorite series of mine. It shows to be indispensable and basically nullifies the need for interrogations. Why listen to a bunch of lies when the journey to the truth is so much sweeter?

    • IreneSharda says:

      Noblesse is very interesting at least from what I have read about it. It reminds me of the series that brought me into the world of the vampires, a romance series called the Carpathian(aka Dark) Series by Christine Feehan.

      Like in that series, there’s actually a difference between a “vampire” and what Rai and his people are, which are known as “Nobles” The Nobles are interesting in that they are actually compelled to protect humans by their very nature, they cannot resist the pull if one is being harmed right in front of them. Because of that, you can understand why in the Destruction OVA, back in those Dark Ages, they basically completely separated themselves from humanity. That need to protect could get really aggravating, especially if the humans you are protecting would just as easily turn on your own people.

      As for the Organization, I think they are a group that thinks they know everything, and yet know very little. They think that Nobles are vampires, not knowing that an actual “vampire” is the term for a disgraced Noble that drank human blood.

      I do remember M-21 and M-24 from the manhwa, and I remember having the same sympathy for them there as I did here. If I remember right, this one OVA did cover quite a bit of ground in the series, as they rushed through pretty much the entire first arc.

      As for the whole 820 year old thing, yeah, the Nobles live for a very long time. But can you blame him for sleeping that long? That fight with Mujaka injured him so badly that Rai was actually gushing blood and bleeding internally. And he doesn’t seem to have the amazing regenerative ability that the werewolves have.

      The question is, how the heck does Frankenstein, who’s not a Noble, live this freakin’ long? He looks the exact same as he did all those centuries ago. Must be all that human experimentation he was doing.

    • IreneSharda says:

      Oh, also, if you haven’t gotten a chance to see the second OVA, I think you’ll like it. It’s lower quality because of the studio, but you do get an idea of the history of the Noblesse and how they lived in the Dark Ages. It also introduces werewolves and their relationship with humanity and the Noblesse. You also get a better idea of how much power both the Noblesse and the Lycan actually have.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Do you know any site where I can download it? I’m not a fan of streaming because I can’t stand buffering when watching an episode of any series.

  2. BlackBriar says:

    I have to say that while I never want to put Noblesse and Twilight on the same continent, much less in the same sentence, I kind of have to bring up that they both have the same issues regarding this trope we’ve seen far too often. The immortal in high school has been done many times before, but usually the immortal can blend in. Here, Rai, like the Cullen tribe, sticks out like a sore thumb no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise. Pale as death skin, eyes the color of blood, and the fact that he looks like he should be in college at the very least? Yeah, that doesn’t stick out at all.

    Yes! perfectly normal high school teen. No supernatural creature here!

    Chalk it all up to the work of modern rationalism as science continues its desperate attempt to justify everything in the world. Because most things are set out to be explained, no one will pick something out and jump to a huge conclusion.

    Modern rationalism in face of moments like that will be the death of people much like it was for most of the villagers in Shiki. How did Sunako get past Seishin’s curiosity when he noticed she’s only active at night? She had a disease where she’d get sick if she’s exposed to ultraviolet light. Brilliant and scientifically sound justification.

    Well, in most vampire portrayals, said vampiric characters are made out to look like teens to young adults so the most inconspicuous place would be to hide in plain sight in a school. In Dance in the Vampire Bund, there was a survey where 30% of youths (students, mind you) answered “Yes” to the question “Do you want to become a vampire?” Their reasoning for eternal life.

    Something I remembered Edward Cullen (Standing near a huge picture frame filled with graduation caps) saying in the first Twilight movie that made total sense when given some thought. Under cover, the younger you make yourself out to be in a place, the longer you can stay there. In theory, when people notice something is amiss and the appearance remains the same, the best and probably only option is to move so as to avoid suspicion. And I’d imagine a few decades would need to pass before going back so no one would recognize you.

    • IreneSharda says:

      For the people in Shiki, to be fair, they all looked weird anyway. I mean have you seen that hair?! 😛

      The Nobles actually do come in a range of “ages” you see everything from teens to older ones, both male and female. I think they are born rather than made, but I’m not sure about that. I know that they can have kids, so they can breed. But if that’s so, then that means they grow, however slowly. In the Destruction OVA, you do meet the Noble Leader prior to Raizel, and I think it’s indicated that Rai becomes leader right before he goes into his long sleep and that the fight between him and Mujaka is what ultimately causes the death of the previous leader as well as many others. Rai only survives by putting himself into that deep sleep.

      At that time 800+ years ago, he’s already powerful and have the reputation, though the way the other Noble talk of him, the seem to considering him to be about the age of a “young man” in their years.

      • BlackBriar says:

        For the people in Shiki, to be fair, they all looked weird anyway. I mean have you seen that hair?!

        Aside from having voids for eyes like Sunako and Chizuru (enhanced by a red center when the impulses kick in) that couldn’t be ignored. Hairstyles of various shapes. What had me was that not only did the slain villagers revive with the gift/curse of immortality and bloodlust, some came back with an increase in fashion sense. Megumi Shimizu is one of that group. Read the manga’s final chapter and see what Seishin was rocking after he was made one of them. I mean it, you’d have a difficult time believing it’s the same person.

  3. BlackBriar says:

    Ah, high school, the go to setting for pretty much 80% of anime out there.

    ANN article: Why Do So Many Anime Take Place in High School?

  4. BlackBriar says:

    Now, it’s been quite some time since I’ve kept up with the manhwa series, so I’m quite hazy on the details of the series. Thankfully, this 30-min OVA (technically an ONA, but whatever, semantics…) is an introduction to the series and so I’m able to refresh and re-immerse myself back into the world of the Noblesse.

    I heard a lot of chapters were crammed into this 30 minute timeline. As someone who was a frequent reader now refreshed on material knowledge, did you think the adaptation was rushed? As I pointed out in a previous comment, I’m not really a reader and therefore don’t know much of the Noblesse world. While it did feel fast paced, it doesn’t seem much was missed because I get the impression everything has merely just begun. And recalling what little recollection I have of the first chapter, it seemed pretty drawn out.

    • IreneSharda says:

      I was actually able to follow it very well, though I can see why people felt it was rushed. There WAS a lot crammed in here. If I remember right, the first chapter ends with Rai waking up out of the coffin and that’s it. And that was only the first couple of minutes of the anime.
      The only parts that I remember they kind of cut out was more fish-out-of-water hi-jinks between Rai and the kids and how basically he dispels from the very beginning that Nobles don’t have any of the weaknesses of the a stereotypical vampire (i.e. they can go out in sunlight, they have a reflection, a stake doesn’t work, and garlic does nothing), also they took out some of M-21 and M-24’s background and some of their scenes in general. But I remember the fights being just as awesome and that while Rai is very silent, he is very OP as well.

  5. BlackBriar says:

    I think this goes well with Raizel’s badass nature. All “Kizoku” is Japanese for “Noble”.

  6. Di Gi Kazune says:

    *whispers Twilight Vampires lurk here*

    • BlackBriar says:

      Starting a baseless rumor that incites a wild goose chase will lead to being lynched. Keep that in mind. 😉

    • IreneSharda says:

      I guess it’s time for the torches and pitchforks. No sparkly “vamps” allowed!

      • skylion says:

        I always thought that the “sparkly” bit was a “not horrible” narrative device. Note, that doesn’t make it a “good” one. This is all moot as the only example we’ve seen so far is “laughably wretched”.

        • BlackBriar says:

          Not “laughably”, just wretched and I’m not laughing. It’s a scourge, a blight on the concept and identity of the vampire genre and because of that, the genre’s taken a large and nearly irreversible blow. The epic feel and admiration one had years back, now muddled by a toxic add-on.

        • Di Gi Kazune says:

          Actually it’s not the sparkly bits that was horrible. It’s always the angsty bit.

          This is how it should have ended:

      • BlackBriar says:

        Don’t worry! We have more in stock than we need. Some would call it overkill but it’s for a justifiable, noble cause. This is a crusade!!!

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