Dust off your teacups and up your grooming standards, boys and girls. L/R – Licensed by Royalty is a swanky adventure that won’t have you thinking too hard. Smooth operator Jack Hefner and the roguish rebel Rowe Rickenbacher are field agents for the elite special operations group Cloud 7, and together they’re pretty much equipped to handle anything. Favoured by Ishtar’s royal family as spies-du-jour, they tackle sensitive cases with wit, style and classic James Bond aplomb, making it all look too, too easy.
And oddly enough, that’s probably where both the main strengths and weaknesses of this series seem to mostly lie. It’s not brain surgery, but somehow you kind of occasionally wish it was. Don’t get me wrong; this show is a bit of a blast. Think Cowboy Bebop without the angst and existentialism, or Lupin III without the slapstick. You got guns, gadgets, girls, speedy vehicles driven recklessly, running gags, impressive fight scenes (on the side of a blimp, no less!) quirky music and a couple of characters that are almost Too Cool for School. It’s witty, amusing and somewhat quaint in that Her Majesty’s Secret Service sort of way and you’ll find that you just can’t stop watching purely because it is so much fun. The rapport particularly between the two main characters is enormously entertaining, warranting quite a few satisfying sniggers throughout the dialogue, and it all flows with the well-timed tempo of a solid buddy movie.
However, L/R is so effortlessly entertaining that sometimes you find yourself wanting just a little something more to sink your teeth into. High Tea on the lawn at ten is all very well and good, but it’s hard not to want to see that typically British polish tarnished just a little. Jack and Rowe both would be far more appealing if things didn’t come quite so easily to them. After all, if our heroes get the bad guy every time, through a clever series of planned events that make it seem like they’re in trouble when really they are totally in control the whole time, throwing quips, witticisms and finishing each other sentences as if mortal danger is merely a walk through the park for them, then where’s the challenge? What looks to be an ongoing plotline involving a Fifteen Year Princess and some potentially deep and dark royal family secrets offers a hint at the kind of meat the more discerning anime viewer might be fanging for, but doesn’t really deliver the goods in Mission File 1. Still, the potential is there, and there’s enough there to just stick with it on faith and for the sake of entertainment and wonder if perhaps Rowe’s penchant for disguising himself as a woman isn’t perhaps going to amount to something more Benny Hill than James Bond at some stage in the near future…
The animation quality is nice, especially fluid in the action sequences, and a little more stylised than some series out of production house Geneon in the past. Character designs are clean, with minimal shading that seems to really suit the feel of the series, making for a really sharp, refreshing look that really just works. The background music tries a little too hard in the beginning, but the opening credits song, a toe-tapping R&B tune by music legend Billy Preston, more than makes up for some poor choices later on, and honestly after a couple of episodes the sheer, unadulterated fun of this series just takes over anyway. The English accents in the dub are imminently listenable, and the Japanese cast, featuring vocal cast veterans Hiroaki Hirata (Saiyuki, One Piece, Kaze no Yojimbo) and Yuji Ueda (Love Hina, Jubei-chan, Pokemon) make the original Japanese just as much or even more enjoyable to watch.
But that’s L/R for you. Enjoyable. You might wish it was a little more sometimes, wasn’t quite so undemanding, but then again being easy to watch is certainly no flaw and being fun isn’t something that you will ever have to hold against it.