A mysterious globe floats in the sky. A girl with a strange ability who has forgotten her own name finds herself drawn to it by an organisation known as ‘The World’. On board the globe ship, known as Norn, she meets other young people with abilities just like hers, who are all on a secret mission to protect the future of peace and harmony. She may have found a purpose at last, but after being alone for so long, will she find someone to confide in? And who is the young schoolboy who somehow arrives on board after following the voices of a long-haired pale girl?
Norn9 aired with 12 episodes between January and March 2016. Produced by Kinema Citrus (Barakamon, Made In Abyss, Is This Order A Rabbit?) & Orange (Land Of The Lustrous, Dimension W) and directed by Takao Abo, Norn9 is an adaptation of the visual novel series of the same name. Adaptations of visual novels are often rather hit-and-miss for me. Among my favourite adaptations are Amagami, Little Busters! and Kanon (both the 2002 & 2006 adaptations). Why not Clannad? Well, I am one of a rare breed who has not actually seen it yet. I’ll say straightaway, though, that it feels kind of odd seeing the protagonist as one of the 3 girls, and not the 21st-century schoolkid who somehow finds his way on board, like in the game this show is based on.
Our show begins with our rather clueless young girl, Koharu (we never know her real name), being told that ‘her time will come’ when a ship will take her away from the lonesome world she has always known, and it’s just lucky that one of the 9 rather handsome guys (out of the total of 12 onboard) happens to fall into her arms. Kakeru uses his charm, his wit and his abilities (controlling plant life) to win over her very naive heart. With the ship’s inhabitants mission of securing peace and harmony for future generations in place, nothing can go wrong, right? Of course, everything, in theory, should go wrong. But the thing is…the plot in the show is so all over the place, and none of them are actually people you can grow to warm with and idolise; when something eventually does happen in the show at around the halfway stage, you as the viewer can be forgiven for having that ‘meh’ feeling. You’d also think that a single flick of hair from any of these pretty boys would make some viewers swoon, but there is just no looking beyond the two dimensions here, and in time, these characters seem to blur into one.
Aside from the charming Kakeru (who just always seems to be everywhere), we have 8 other pretty boys to choose from, all with varying levels of frustration: from the rough, violent and obligatory edgy guy Akito to hikikimori Senri, from super energetic and moe Heishi to…umm…Ron who, for some reason, refuses to take his sunglasses off. And while the other two girls, tsundere class prez-wannabe Mikoto and super kuudere/secret ninja Nanami clearly do their best to bring some emotion to the show, the artwork (which is actually quite impressive) and the score (which is actually quite awe-inspiring) aren’t quite enough to make Norn9 win any awards.
However, I will forgive them for this; it’s just that the whole story in the game series is so large and expansive that squeezing as much as you can in the space of 12 episodes means cutting and trimming a lot out. It almost seems like the writers of this adaptation could not decide whether to write a simple, all-boxes-ticked otome game adaptation or create a massive sci-fi universe, so they ended up doing both, meaning holes left, right and centre. If it sounds like I’m throwing a lot of mud at this, please don’t think that my picky tastes mean I disliked this entirely because Norn9 is, in fact, a very pretty show to watch and to listen to. The team at Kinema Citrus and Orange (this was a co-production) have done a good job in terms of the visuals, almost echoing what the game series itself looks like. The design of the ship Norn has been done very well to make it look like an ultra-futuristic utopian paradise, and there is enough of a fantasy setting in this sci-fi world that actually makes you want to hope that ships like this really do exist. If you think the soundtrack comes from something from an iconic Final Fantasy scene, well Australian composer Kevin Penkin worked with the Final Fantasy soundtrack maestro himself, Nobuo Uematsu, and singer/songwriter Nagi Yanagi (who also voices in the show) for the game’s main theme music, so I for one got the feels as a Final Fantasy fan. The opening theme is “Kazakiri” by Nagi Yanagi, and the ending theme is “Zero Tokei” by Oda Kaori.
I wish I could find more redeeming factors in a show like this which showed a lot of promise when it originally came out in 2016. However, the otome game lovers will enjoy this, I can guarantee you that much. Even if the game’s main protagonist (21st-century kid Sorata) appears less than I thought, the couples that appear in this show are enough to keep them satisfied and entertained.
Both the artwork and soundtrack is very interesting and fascinating, but the character design and plot leaves you questioning why these young kids, in particular, had to be the chosen ones, and not anyone believable...or likeable for that matter. An adequate and just about watchable otome adaptation, but there are others that are way better.
This release was reviewed using a DVD review copy provided by MVM Entertainment.