L/R Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Release Date: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

What They Say
The royal family often has "special" jobs that require intervention and can't be directly linked to the government. For these impossible missions, they often call upon their most trusted agents in the private sector: Cloud7. No job is too big, no danger is too great, and no fiend is too difficult for them to handle with their customary style and wit! They are sometimes known as "L/R" - Licensed by Royalty, but they will never admit which one is "L" and which is "R"...

The Review!
With the phrase “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, a generation of anime fans are introduced to a series of words they’d never heard put together quite like that before. For those who had, they caused a fair amount of interest in the show.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to the first two episodes in the shows original language of Japanese and the final two episodes in their English dubbed form. Both language tracks are presented in a solid stereo mix with some excellent moments of directionality during the varied action sequences. Through regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions and enjoyed both mixes quite well.

Originally airing in January of 2003, L/R is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and looks nearly flawless. The print used here shows off a great amount of detail, particularly in the dark areas while still having no bleeding or over saturation in the more vibrant areas of the program. Cross coloration is essentially non-existent here and only the slightest bit of aliasing was visible. While the show lacks some of the vibrancy of a lot of other more current shows, this one achieves the intended look beautifully.

The design and feel of the cover here is reminiscent of a theatrical poster more than the usual anime cover, with the extended “Pioneer Entertainment Presents” tagline along the top and the hazy collage background of villains and action sequences. The red stripe across the lower bottom with the black outline images of the two leads against the series logo also works heavily in this direction. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and a large action image as well. The features are nice and clearly listed and the summary gives a nice little premise tease about what to expect. Episode titles and numbers are listed along the back while volume numbering hits the spine and front cover. The insert uses the same red coloring with the opening page providing more shots from the show and listing the chapter stops and the extras included. It opens up to a nice side by side shot of the two leads done in sketch form that stretches across both panels while the back panel provides a storyboard shot from the show.

There’s just something in the style of Nightjar menus that I can figure out which ones are theirs quite easily. The main layout here uses the various colored blocks with shots of characters sliding in and out of them set to music from the show. Selections are accessed along the bottom with fast access times and quick loads to the submenus even with the brief transitional animations.

The included extras are fairly minimal but enjoyable here. The original Japanese opening and ending sequences with the Japanese text are included as well as textless versions of both. It’s interesting to see how closely mimicked the openings were done for the U.S. release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I first heard the phrase “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, I was instantly reminded of some of my original James Bond DVDs that came out when the DVD format was starting to pick up speed. In one of the very early ones, from the Connery 60’s era (the best Bond period ever), there was a section on the international appeal of Bond. The time spent showing how big the franchise was becoming in Japan was noted by how the genre was being called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, an allusion to the entire beautiful women and fast gun fights that Bond partakes in. Finding that phrase surfacing again after so many years put me on notice with this show. And having Pioneer Entertainment as one of the producers of it also highlighted some interest, to see what they wanted to be involved in the creation of.

L/R is an intriguing little show that appeals to a number of areas for me. The concept is that we have two special agents working for the government of Ishtar. Ishtar is a kingdom that isn’t really set anyplace specific early on yet, but it has a very heavy British feel to it with the architecture and overall design. It’s easy to believe that this is a former colony of some sort that has evolved into an interesting small nation after the English retreated back home and ended their colonial dreams.

The purpose of this particular team of agents, part of Cloud 7, is to deal with a variety of issues that could potentially damage the dignity of the crown and how they’re perceived. We don’t get to know anyone from the Royal Family in these episodes, but we do learn that there is something called the Fifteen Year Princess. Some time in the past, the Princess had gone missing, no explanation of how or why, and there is the continual hope that she’ll resurface some day. Throughout this year, many fifteen year old girls are brought in and none have been verified as the actual Princess, but hope lingers on.

The L/R team is made up of Rowe Rickenbacker and Jack Hofner. Rowe is the more roguish of the two with more unkempt hair and that look that shows he’s someone who likes a thrill ride. He’s also the better of the two when it comes to disguises and the ability to become someone else. Jack is most definitely the more suave of the two, almost always seen wearing his off white suit and slicked back hair. Both of them work almost perfectly as a team, the kind that jokingly gripe at each other during the tense times but always know that the other person is at their back and ready to do anything.

With the first four episodes, we pretty much get four standalone stories that slowly introduce the world of these characters. We get to see the people who they work for and handle the various intelligence and mission assignments, we see various parts of the countryside and get a feel for the natives. We also get an amusing look at some of the other agents in the service of the kingdom as well as getting an introduction to what looks to be the main villain group named Hornet. Each of the stories builds upon what comes before, but they can be watched out of order.

To an extent, I’d almost recommend that. The first episode, while a good little murder mystery con job on board a zeppelin, is probably one of the worst first episodes I’ve seen in some time. The opening to a series is one of the hardest things to do and this one just blows it completely. It’s a good story, but it’s much too slow and doesn’t let you really get a feel for the leads until the last five minutes or so of it when they manage to move past the deceptions they’re playing. Visually, it’s great because it gets you in tune with the British influenced nature of things and the differences of this particular world, but there isn’t a solid hook.

Once past that though, it moves on well. The second episode is much better, as we have Rowe and Jack setting off to a mansion to retrieve an operative that was kidnapped by Hornet and who may give out valuable information about a conference that’s going on in the area. The Hornet villain here, though fairly stock for the most part, works well in introducing the enemy and setting their stage up a bit. Rowe and Jack get to do various Bond style moves to get into the mansion and there’s lots of little deceptions going on to various characters, some nice action sequences and a good ending.

My favorite episode here though is the fourth one, where the two of them find themselves competing with three teams of other agents to find a piece of jewelry at the bottom of a ruin on the outskirts of the country. Each of the other teams of agents are amusing in their own way; you have M/R, which look like college aged versions of L/R since they consider them idols, you have Grand Murder, the “old couple” who have been in service to the kingdom for decades and then you have the cross dressing agent and his two female associates, all of them in the same skimpy outfit. Watching them all try to outwit each other to try and get the prize and the contract that goes with it just played out great, providing a number of laughs.

One thing I really loved with this show is the music. This has to be one of the best new scores I’ve heard in quite some time that actually uses a number of vocal tracks as opposed to the same instrumental piece. Add in that the songs are actually quite good and fun to sing along to (sadly, since they’re in English, they are not subtitled, so if you’re hard of hearing, you’re out of luck) and we were just bopping along to the track.

With this being worked on by New Generation Pictures, I wanted to check out how their dub was since I liked a lot of aspects of how they handled Hellsing, and this has some similarities in tone. I’m really waffling on saying which I liked better, since the addition of the quasi British accents really does add a new layer to the show that you can’t get through in the Japanese language track. I don’t think I heard anyone in the last two episodes that I didn’t think fit their character and pretty much enjoyed their performances a lot.

I also will admit that, having followed Pioneer Entertainment for quite some time now, I was rather amused and pleased to see Henry Goto’s name shift from its usual place on the English production side to the Japanese production side.

L/R comes from a genre and owes much to franchises like James Bond and Lupin the 3rd, but tries to put its own spin on things. It manages in some respects, but there’s a feel that it should be more than what we get here. There’s some great flashes throughout and the overall premise is good. Hopefully the execution improves more as the series goes along, much like the improvements that are visible in just these four episodes alone.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Japanese opening & closing,Textless opening & closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98/34.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: L/R (Licensed by Royal)