Twice the Agents, Twice the Action and Twice the Fun!
Differing opinions make the world go around. Judge Bryan Byun previously reviewed Volume One of L/R (Licensed by Royalty) and found it lacking. Word on the street says that opinion is well founded. Many people have commented that the first few episodes are a poor introduction to this series. Thanks to Judge Byun for taking that bullet so that I could start the series with Volume Two, which was enjoyable. Whereas in Volume One, "The basic elements of an exciting series are all here, and yet it never quite jells," Volume Two does jell a bit.
These three episodes detail the continuing adventures of Jack and Rowe, private special agents on retainer to the crown. The DVD starts on a gritty note with a spectacular assassination reminiscent of The Professional. Jack and Rowe are asked to stop this accomplished sniper before he gets his next victim. The way they go about confronting the sniper is unexpected and a little bit cold, involving a little girl and a fish. It is a nice beginning with action, cunning, and meaningful conversation.
The next two episodes are linked, and the web is intricate indeed. The basic plot revolves around the agents working to stop a bomber who threatens to invite anarchy. By the time the episodes are finished, the web extends to corporate corruption, warring political factions, grass roots rebellion, and a lost royal figure. Episode six is particularly tricky because all signs point to one resolution, though the truth is actually quite different. There are some risquè moments here, such as when Jack rejoins an old flame and gets pleasured while he analyzes data on his Palm Pilot.
This series really shouldn't work. The premise is obviously a ripoff of James Bond. The main characters have a Miami Vice vibe going on. But Bond and Miami Vice were wildly successful for a reason. This meshing of the two formulas will raise some eyebrows, but once the initial surprise is past, the series can stand alone.
The opening song had my toes tapping before the episode even opened. It is definitely incongruous, but it set the mood. Performed by an accomplished singer, it's an unexpected bonus of homogenous anime vocalists.
I first watched in Japanese with English subtitles, which was fine. I then flipped to English for the second episode. Everything immediately clicked. It works so much better with British accents that it is like night and day. These accents are overwhelmingly British, but if you've ever heard the "American" accents in English dubs, you'll find this par for the course. The point is, the show is about British agents and deals with current British themes. Having the characters speak the tongue works so much better, particularly when they go to the Island and get a rougher form of the Queen's English thrown their way by the natives.
Visually, the show presents some annoyances. Many moments of anti-aliasing cause the outlines to pixelate. The colors shimmer with splotchy pixilation, which is due either to compression or to digital noise reduction. The backgrounds didn't always fit the style of the rest. Fortunately, there was no edge enhancement.
The extras in Volume Two are pretty weak: Japanese and English trailers that are virtually identical, plus an art gallery. At least the gallery offers a different style than the show, but it hardly counts as meaningful.
I'm a huge James Bond fan. I recently picked up James Bond's London: A Reference Guide to Locations and took a trip across the pond. While there, I checked out Dunhill and saw the lighter James used, and picked up a handmade silk tie from one of the shops along Saville Row. I recognized many of the outfits in the series from my sartorial expedition. As a Bond fan, I would cry out against this imitation Bond anime, but overall it's a pretty good homage.
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