"Which is the L, and which is the R?" That's one question Jack Hofner and Rowe Rickenbacker of the duo L/R hear much too often. Employed by the Royal Family as secret agents, it's their job to carry out various agendas to protect the good of the people of Ishtar. With Jack's suave manner and Rowe's rebellious attitude, there's nothing that can keep them from their goals - whether it be helping restore a long-lost princess to her throne, racing against time (and a laser-shooting satellite) to find treasure within ancient ruins, or discovering the identity of a mysterious terrorist called Angel.
British accents, secret agents, cool cars, sexy women, I can't help but think we've been down this road before in film and anime, despite that L/R is quite entertaining and has a nice original twist to the old plot. Story - 6/10 The series is a mix of Live and Let Die and the original Casino Royal. With the fictitious Ishtar as the setting, Jack Hofner and Rowe Rickenbacker (Lovingly named after the instruments played by the Beatles) must protect the young Noelle, find out who has been terrorizing the city and complete the tasks sent forth by the Royal Family, all within 13 episodes. For the first few episodes this tends to be quite interesting. There's a stand alone episode in there that ends up being the best episode, but all the others tie in together. Once finding out who the princess is things take a kind of convoluted twist to the point it seems (possible though a mistake by casting the English version as British or possibly on purpose) as if the whole series is based off supporting the IRA in Great Britain. It could be taken as a story supporting the little guy against the heavy hand of tyranny, but the fact the terrorist Angel is from "Ivory Island" and Ireland is known as Emerald Isle, and the IRA's penchant for bombings, it could be misconstrued (or again purposely thought of) The last episodes are also a bit of a change from the fun secret agent type ones of the first half, they become more of the typical ramblings of someone fighting against big business and evil corporations raping the land and blah blah blah. The biggest downside of the series was their pacing and time management. They'll spend 10 minutes discussing a topic then have an action sequence take place in 20 seconds, which would be ok if the previous 10 minutes was used properly or was entertaining, but many times if felt like filler. Animation - 6/10 The character and scenic design are nothing to write home about, but sometimes, as in this case, simple can be good. There isn't much flashiness or surprises in the shows animation, so we get very plain looking characters with very beautiful backdrops. The scenery for the towns are very good interpretations of England, and the objects within the scenes, the cars used by L/R (An Austin Healey and a Jaguar E Type), guns and other gadgets, also have much more detail than the characters themselves. It's hard to criticize the animation in the series, as I can only assume they were on the same rushed deadline I'd think the terrible script writers were on. Sound - 7/10 Though not something I could listen to on repeat like the GTO, Trigun or FLCL soundtracks, L/R does make use of some of the best music in anime and they make sure to use it at the right moments, though they could use more than the 6-7 songs given. The opening song is a great New Orleans Jazz style song by the late Billy Preston. Much like the aforementioned GTO, this song serves as a great opening and pace setter for the series. The soundtrack for the rest of the show, which often plays throughout along with the Opening song, consists of songs that resemble a Japanese versions of popular rock music. What comes to mind when you hear some would be Japanese Beatles, U2, or Billy Joel. The downside of the music is the continued use of a song made to further the plot. "Angel" or whatever the song is, gets played ad nauseum and it is terrible. The singing is annoying and the lyrics, while connected to the story, seem to be lost in translation at some points. The only thing worse than the song is the song in Japanese, I tried switching over to see if it was as bad and it was somehow worse, with the "singer" being all over the place with the key and pitch. Characters - 5/10 The characters aren't what you'd call original, but they are still likable and people you would like to see a successful series built around. The two main characters, Rowe Rickenbacker and Jack Hofner, are typical James Bond clones. Charming, handsome, great with a gun and always puffing a cigarette. Where they split from the original super spy is in their seriousness. Where Austin Powers turned James Bond completely on his head, L/R just gives him a bit of a jolt, adding comedy and light heartedness to every story. The L/R gang are supported by their Q, is a pudgy scientist named Dez. There M. the former spy known as Mister, or to the team Holden Pennylane. His daughter Claire serves as the teams Moneypenny figure. Rounding out the group is the head of the Royal House Guard, Ms. Camille. Throughout the series the team is entrusted with protecting a young girl named Noelle, for various reasons that would spoil the series I won't explain why, they build a nice story around her, but in the end she's still a pretty dull character. Since the whole show ties into itself there are few villains within the show. Evil corporate meanies (such a predictable boring plot point) Director Frost and assassin Grey F Stratos are the two main guys and Stratos tends to be the only character in the whole show with any real character or depth to him, I would have like the series to be centered around L/R battling him as opposed to the aforementioned evil big business plot. I'd say the biggest thought put into building these characters were the names. Rowe and Jack being named after the guitar and bass companies (subsequently) that John Lennon and Paul McCartney preferred. Claire and Holden’s surname being chosen from a Beatles song, Holden being a popular Australian and South Pacific car company as well as Stratos being the legendary rally car built by Lancia. I only wish that thought was put into building a decent story. Overall - 6/10 For the first half of the series I really did enjoy the show, and even as things became rather predictable I still wanted to like it, though I never found myself really looking forward to turning on the TV and watching a few episodes. They could have given us a cool Lupin meets James Bond type series like they set out to do, but somewhere along the line it seems as if they just gave up on trying and just decided to do what they had to in order to get to an ending.