L/R Vol. #4 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: L/R (Licensed by Royal)

L/R Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     May 20, 2004
Release Date: May 25, 2004

L/R Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Jack disappears while investigating into DTI leaving Rowe all alone to deal with their new assignment- to protect Noelle while she prepares for her Crowning confirmation ceremony. The intense media attention is difficult enough, but old royal power struggles and an ambitious agent create an overwhelming task! As Noelle prepares to use the ceremony to make a stunning revelation about DTI and the royal family, L/R receives a chilling new mission- assassinate Noelle during the ceremony!

The Review!
Bringing the 15 Year Princess storyline to a climactic conclusion, L/R manages to weave an engaging tale and provide a satisfying if vague ending.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to these episodes their English dubbed format. 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 early 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.

Almost like a faint watercolor picture, we get a really good shot of Jack and Rowe in Jack's car while looking over their shoulders at the viewer. The color style is minimal but it works really well here, particularly with the dark green of the strip below it. 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 green 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 sketch that stretches across both panels with an image of Rowe in his standard outfit protecting Noelle. 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. Since they used the color scheme from the cover, the selection bar was difficult to see since it's a dark purple throughout most of the menus, which was problematic as we kept selecting the wrong items. Selections are accessed along the bottom with fast access times and quick loads to the submenus even with the brief transitional animations.

The final volume only has one extra and it's a ten minute interview session done with the series director and one of the producers from their visit to Otakon in 2003. It's a fun little interview that runs about ten minutes but it doesn't really get that informative until the producer, Matsuda, takes over. When he gets a question, he's got a detailed thought on it and avoids the usual stammers and pauses that are prevalent in so many interview sessions these days. Matsuda thinks quick and answers with a lot of detail, making the second half of this session really good. And it's good to know that neither of them think American fans are "weirdoes".

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final three episodes of Licensed by Royalty take a slightly odd turn compared to the rest of the series as the Fifteen Year Princess comes to claim her right while those who are assigned to guard her are given strange tasks in the run-up to it.

With DTI having secured exclusive rights to the broadcast of the Princess' ascension and legal claim to the throne, the event is fully underway to happen pretty much at midnight when she turns fifteen. No time to be lost according to the people who have the most to actually lose by this. As we continue to learn more of the past and how the previous Prince's brother had conspired and been manipulated by the DTI president, the darker everything is starting to look for young Noelle. She's going on with her new life fairly oblivious to the threat that's looming in regards to her life, but she's a smarter person than most people give her credit for. The time we've spent with her previously when she first walked onto the show gave hint that she's very swift and picks up on things fast.

For the L/R duo, things aren't all that hot at the moment. Rowe's pretty much the only one really "active" as we go through these episodes as Jack is out with a "back ache". Since there's so much history to what's going on, people who served the former Prince and the DTI president are continually manipulating Rowe, but he always comes back to wanting to protect Noelle more than anything else. Rowe ends up dealing with someone rather nasty though that seems to be working against the Royal Houseguard in conjunction with DTI. Introducing himself as Jude McManus, he's been brought on board to deal with the Princess problem for DTI after he proves himself capable of working under their terms. Rowe becomes his target pretty frequently in these episodes and the two end up in an amusing head to head situation as things move towards the climax.

Much of these three episodes is all about that climax, rushing up towards the time when Noelle accepts her heritage as one of the Royal Family and the true successor of the throne. That critical point then leaps forward into a few different directions as the fallout from it spreads across just about every character and changes the face of a small nation. These episodes were pretty exciting I have to say. I loved watching Noelle get up there and be who she is, facing her people and speaking the plain truth to them even though it implicates many people, including her own family. It's one of those moments you wish you saw more of in real life. Watching all the assassination plans move forward to that moment is also rather engaging as each of them has their own snags and hitches.

Probably one of the best moments though is just the couple of quiet ones when Rowe's sitting in the L/R base of operations having dinner with Claire. The time the two of them spend together is relaxing and very comfortable and hits just the right note when after he receives the bad news of a new assignment, he leans back and looks up and she's there for him. While their relationship hasn't been blunt in previous episodes, it moves forward very nicely here and even though it's a small thing, it really just fit well into this arc as a sense of beginning and closure as well.

These final episodes bring a lot of the past to the forefront and you get the feeling that the mistakes of the past generation are being brought out once more so they can be properly corrected so that the country can move forward again. This feels a bit awkward at times since it gives more emphasis to the more managerial level of the L/R group, people who haven't had enough time to really become familiar to us. And the characters themselves are a bit stiff and "refined" as well, which adds to some standoffishness about them. But as it all comes together, this series ends in a way that both excites and disappoints ? and with a lot of unknowns.

In Summary:
L/R was a series I was highly interested in since the original promotional material in Japan came out with its harkening back to the old classic Bond style mentality. With its mix of Lupin-esque nature, solid character designs and a low-tech realistic approach to gadgets and case solving, L/R appealed to me immensely. The series suffered heavily from a very bad introductory episode (made even worse when you find out that it's the directors favorite episode since he also got to write it) but once past there, it became a solidly paced story that works towards a climactic goal and pays off immensely well. Even better, this series works out much better with the English language version than the Japanese. With the setting being a place that very much feels like a former British colony, L/R's more worldly feel with the English accents and more give it a much more authentic feel. It's something that the Japanese track simply cannot achieve.

L/R's certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and that first episode still haunts me, but if you're looking for a series that has a goal of telling a single story over the course of thirteen episodes and ends with that storyline, L/R is the way to go. This series is just a hell of a lot of fun. Very recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Creator Interviews

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 Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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