Movie: Pioneer is one of my favorite providers of anime. I wish I got to see more of it but they do provide a diverse set of series and for that, I applaud their efforts to bring over the good stuff. Last month, the company changed its name to Geneon but they still release a host of titles that are a bit different from that of their competitors. One title that is just about to come out is L/R: Licensed By Royalty 1: Deceptions.
I knew nothing at all about the title going into it and found a bit of originality that is not typical for the current anime market (which is largely driven by very young demographics). It's a series about a couple of private agents that are not officially linked to the government but act on its behalf whenever the royal family needs protection (usually protection from scandal more than anything else but in the high stakes world of the protection business. The team is comprised of a slob guy, Rowe Rickenbacker, and a tidy guy, Jack Hofner. Being straight, I identified more with Rowe but that's just me. In any case, the two compliment one another in a number of ways, usually keeping that sort of male bonding kidding going on at all times, especially when things look bad. The country they work in seemed patterned after England but that's a logical leap since we're all familiar with James Bond and the British Secret Service through the movies. Here's a bit on the episodes which I'll follow with a wrap up giving my overall feel for the show's first DVD.
Episode One: Be Traced:
The first episode was well done and centered on some con artists who attempt to cheat rich collectors (and a museum). I think the purpose of this one was to set up the premise and introduce the characters more than show clever writing (although it had that too). Rather than have a splashy opening, the series opted to use the first episode this way and that takes guts; shooting for an intelligent audience rather than one needing a quick fix of eye candy.
Episode Two: A Taste Of Secret:
The team is out to rescue another agent from the hands of a criminal syndicate and a mastermind, The Hornet. They allow themselves to be caught in order to work the mission much in the manner James Bond was always walking right into the lair of his opponents. In short, displaying a pretty brassy style. They use a host of different devices, again like Bond, in order to effect their escape.
Episode Three: A Girl Goes To City:
A potential heir to the throne is put in the custody of the team after it has been established that she's not really royalty. A princess has been missing for years and the team is trying to keep the latest rejected candidate safe amid the reporters and others that'd use her to discredit the crown.
Episode Four: Sweet Enemies In The Same Desert:
In some desert ruins, the team has a mission to recover some stolen royal family jewels. Lucky for them, there are several other groups looking for the jewels so finding them won't be a problem, just holding onto them will be. The end result was a mishmash of silly antics, which didn't really fit in well with the other episodes but worked well as a stand-alone episode.
Okay, the basic premise is sound, using a tried and true formula made popular by the Bond films and a host of other series over the last three decades or so. The episodes themselves paid a bit of homage to a number of specific films but in such a way that the ideas were reworked enough to call them original. The characterizations of the leads were solid and even the supporting cast was good. Minor quibbles about mistakes like wheels squealing on a desert (as if there had been pavement underneath) or some of the issues with inappropriate sound effects (admittedly few and far between) aside, a lot of care was used with this one. Further, the music was well done and contributed to the "movie" feel of the episodes, making me think this one was worth a rating of Highly Recommended. I look forward to future volumes.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color and looked very crisp and clear. The colors used seemed a bit subdued but that seemed to be intentional and worked well with the content of the feature. I didn't notice any dropouts, artifacts or other problems with the DVD transfer.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with a choice of either the original Japanese or dubbed English. There were also optional English subtitles for those who prefer them to learning Japanese (or, I guess, English). The vocals were clear and distinctive as was the excellent music.
Extras: The only extras were the clean opening and closing and some trailers as well as the paper chapter listing included in the DVD case. I hope more extras are forthcoming in later volumes but I'm told there is a special edition of this volume with a case (I have no idea what is in it or how much more it costs).
Final Thoughts: This is an excellent release by the folks at Geneon. It combined a number of superior facets into a release well worth your time. The music alone was well above average but so to was the writing and anime style here. If you're looking for something a bit more advanced than the latest kiddy fare, try this one out as it won't disappoint.