Now there's a mysterious Mask before James Blood, and the man behind it is one that shouldn't exist. What is the mystery surrounding this mask...? So begins an action-packed crime story set in a beautiful city!
I tried watching this show, I honestly did, the story was alright, I couldn't get invested no matter how much I wanted to, I wanted to give the show a chance, but it failed, it couldn't keep me entertained and it was a flop, the plot has an alright premise but the execution is utter garbage.
The art style is typical for an anime airing this season, nothing special, nothing horrible. The sound was alright, didn't focus much on it, but it was good, at least.
Netflix needs to step up their game if they want to actually create decent anime.
In a world where every normo wears a guy fawkes-like mask and whenever anything happens, there is a zoom-in into character's eyeball, we follow a squad of cops who quite literally suck at their job. Just so happens to be, one of the guy fawkes dudes bumps into this cop woman in a busy street and then she dies. Another cop sees this shit happening and concludes that it was a murder but oh such a mysterious murder indeed. And now we have the setup ready for this mystery cop show anime filled with action and cliches so lousily executed that they become the sole
selling point of the entire thing. Great.
Let's start with the villain terroristo-kun's and their amazing skills because it is so amazing. These quite-literally-baddies fold some paper/bandage thingies all over their faces and then the bandage can basically turn into anyone's face because sci-fi is listed in the genres. This is apparently very new, advanced hightech shite which is not a common thing to occur in the series universe, so many cops and other people who witness this lose all their shit and get terrified just by looking at the face-metamorph action. The whole baddie side of the anime is not even laughable, but rather: pathetic. Baddie persons can basically beat 50 gun-wielding cops with your everyday bushcraft knife. Epic swords skills are not even required since the cops just like stand there waiting for the baddies to come and slit their throats open. The baddies also make some sort of sicko facial expression and laugh very evily when doing this just to demonstrate how insane and evilzz they are. Oh, and did I mention they are practically immortal? Well, now you know. We also have other equally great stuff like villains who are too kewl to even look at the explosions or destruction they spread because apparently, someone thought it would be real badass thing to not do. There is also a scene in the series where dude shoots four times, but manages to headshot 6 cops while doing so [rewatched the scene to make sure that it really did happen]. Random car-chase sequences, endless amount of bullets and lots of bang bang sounds, Mexican standoffs, too, because aren't those just lovely western thingies to put in an anime. The actions of the villains and cops make exactly as much sense as they are believable.
The next thing I want to talk about is the title of the show, Hero Mask, which is actually written with a font/logo that makes it appear to be written rather like: Hero=Mask or Hero≠Mask. Hero equals Mask, Hero does not equal Mask. When I saw this, I thought maybe it's some type of witty, subtle wow thingie regarding the plot line or characters of this series. Spoilers: Nope. Apparently it just looked really cool way to design the thing so there's that. I am not going to go much further into detail with the writing of this show. Half of it is basically cheap-as-hell blockbuster flick that is now an anime and contains some mystery, cops vs. crime and sci-fi elements you typically see in movies that focus on these subjects and which mean score starts with a 5 on IMDb, except this one seems to be made with zero self-awareness/respect towards the audience, and contains some feels. Later on the series takes some sort of weird training arc route centering around the sci-fi bandages while also focusing on some bizarre relationship drama, and further introduces some "it's bigger than us" epicness when the 'mystery' --erm -- *starts to unfold* with the help of "Oh wait! Now I remember this important plot related thing, me and my silly memory, hehe." and literally dogs working as plot devices in the narrative. I also facepalmed for realz when the "big mystery scheme" was eventually structured on a blackboard with post-it notes and some thread like they do CSI and other hyper realistic 'detective' series. The terrific thing is that the 2nd half of this show is still vast improvement from the first one. What I really want to say here is: Thanks Netflix.
"Jamesuuu, Jamesuu." So this anime has this character dude called James who is some type of "unfit to follow the typical cop codes" archetype, and this side of his character is practically the only side of his character. The cop squad contains other equally well-planned dudes like an old guy who wears hipster classes an acts like some type of thug-life connoisseur. Then there is this hacker dude who is like really quick with keyboards and stuff, and some very hot looking females who kinda just are there for the sake of it but still appear to be real important, plot-wise. Like Sarah whose name is Sarah and she is hot and can even use the gun occasionally as long as it includes shooting an inanimate objects such as floors. She literally can't miss. As a whole, I found the cast to be highly irrelevant. There are quite a lot of other characters, too, from lawyers and business owners to mad geniusses, and pretty much none of them are interesting to follow or even worth of talking about. I cared about no one and saw no reason to do so either.
The dialogue and feels side of this series are almost as lively and fresh as the action scenes, and I can't even decide if I want to blame the writers, the execution or the seiyuu work. The woman who got killed was apparently real interesting person and loved by all, so naturally, Jamesuu talks about her importance by saying "She was like a mother to me." He sounds like a middle-aged man reading out loud a tv guide. "The Bold and The Beautiful Episode 8744 today at 5:30 PM on channel four just like has happened for the past 27 years, great." Of course, the music choice during this scene is so successful they could have as well played Skrillex and the effect would have been the same. I don't understand why such basic things are so hard to do correctly or at least in moderately acceptable manner. If this was just one scene and rarity in the series, this would be nitpicking, naturally, but that's how the entire thing works. Executed and acted without actually trying to achieve the things that it is supposed to achieve. Quickly put together without even considering to polish the thing to some degree, or even place a fitting BGM to play while the scene plays out.
The series is not all pure bad, but finding good sides from it hasn't been the easiest thing. Scenes that made me laugh or momentarily excited/feel anything/get any type of expression out of me, were scarce. One of the best ones was this romantic no-teasing-without-pleasing occurrence where dude pinched his woman's cheek (Eve or whatever she was called) and told her she is getting fat. Pretty funny, yo. One other was this childhood scene with kids and one of the kids fell in highly adorable way, almost made me :3, but these type of small details were pretty much the only praise-worthy content I saw. The stuff that was actually supposed to matter, didn't really matter to me.
In terms of art, Studio Pierrot hasn't been at their best recently, but I guess Netflix did some decent-ish funding this time around, and major problems don't exist, but the thing is still far from impressive from the animation department. Some CGI is used with character movements, the action sequences suffer quite terribly when it comes to the scale and dimension of things. Like some "fight" scenes with multiple people don't really feel like they are taking place inside a spacious room (even when they literally are), but rather it looks like the characters are just in a 2 -dimensional row in relatively tight space. It can look pretty damn weird at times. One more thing I need to mention is the mouth movements and placement that can be pretty lol-worthy at times, like in this one scene with May (or Mey, didn't use subs, too lazy to check how her name is spelled), her mouth was placed to where her nose was supposed to be, yet she was speaking and the thing was fully animated. Real weird err. The art style itself it fairly decent and perhaps deserves some praise too, and in generally, the production is easily passable from the arts department. Surely the thing could be much more fun/entertaining to watch if it contained more of those well-made/memorable animation sequences or artwork, but as it is, the art kinda just is there, much like the female characters. The biggest exception from this quality level is pretty much the entirety of episode 6 which was the easily the best thing from the entire series and in some sense made watching this series not feel like a complete waste of time. But even when I say this, ep 6 was still highly based on coincidences and continuity errors; events that were highly unlikely to occur as they did, but at least it managed to be entertaining and showed that occasionally some extra effort is being put in the making of this series, too.
The score is completely dull and boring. It has nothing to say and nothing to offer -- outside one song in episode 13 that lasted like 10 seconds. The song variety is also highly limited. Similar thing can be said about the voice acting which is just weird. PG13 anime with adult characters, no adult-feel coming out from any character in terms of behavior or speech. Many of the characters sound pretty much as empty as they feel. For example, out of the many crying scenes none seemed genuine.
Enjoyment-wise, my expectations were not met. I thought average action series could keep me entertained for the day, but eventually, it wasn't very fun to watch, it felt irrelevant, unimportant, and at the same time, was not so bad nor over the top in a way that could have offered high entertainment value with ironic viewing either. As a bottom line: If Hero Mask tried to be stupid in the most boring way imaginable, then it did its job. I don't typically write reviews this long, but I was, at times, so bored I had to do something while watching it just to refrain from falling in coma.
Numbers and quick sum up for the wicked,
Story 4/10, more eh and meh than downright awful, but still too sucky and messy to be called average
Characters 3/10, about as interesting as a lesson regarding the history of spaghetti
Character design 6/10, some are too anime, few dudes look pretty badass I guess, milfs are hot
Animation 5/10, weird and inconsistent at times, can be good when it really wants to
Backdrop/other art 7/10, some great scenery here and there, impressive trees and buildings and VOLVO
Sounds 4/10, this OST and level of voice acting stands out because it lacks
Enjoyment 3-6/10, quality differences, and boredom is there, that ep 6 tho
+Favorite character: that cat named Wolf from ep 8-11 or sumtin who purred real loudly and broke vases like the motherfucker she is
Overall 4/10, not the worst anime Netflix has ever 'done' AKA called their original
So, after reading a lot of blatant lies about this magnificent series, I’ve felt compelled to write a review to balance things up.
Two things have become clear to me after reading a lot of over the top negative comments about Hero Mask: a) A big (and very vocal) part of the anime fandom don’t like their anime to be “tainted” by any kind of Western influence and b) A lot of anime fans dislike big changes and series that try to break out of the norm.
Enter Hero Mask, a Netflix original series that, despite being made by studio Pierrot and a
(relatively unkown) japanese staff, looks and feels Western as fuck. It also is radically different to anything we have come to expect from anime, both aestethically and plot-wise. So yeah, for a big part of the anime fans at least, half the battle was lost even before it started.
Which is a pity, really, as Hero Mask is a truly great series that combines noir-esque crime thriller elements with a touch of sci-fi. It is not that different to Psycho Pass or Monster (the 2 closest examples I can think of, anime-wise) although it probably would be more accurate to compare it to Western live action shows like True Detective and Black Mirror (with a healthy dose of James Bond-esque action scenes).
It is by no means perfect, though, and it does get a bit slow half-way through and the finale could have been handled in a better, less confusing way (although I want to believe that there’s a second cour on the way: it certainly would help to clarify a ton of things that are left unanswered by the end of it). However, if you are looking for a serious, mature and gripping thriller with a touch of sci-fi and a wonderful, unique aestethic (and also an outstanding soundtrack that kept reminding me of Monster all the time) and some of the best 2D action scenes I’ve seen this decade (that car chase at the end of Ep 3, Good Lord..) look no further, this is your series.
Just (don’t) believe the (negative) hype.
Netflix has done it again. Licensing another original show that has all the worst aspects of Japanese anime and Hollywood cinema rolled into one objectionable package. Money might buy happiness, but it sure as shit doesn’t produce a quality anime. Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, is probably sitting on a yacht in the Pacific like, “you think I give a f—k about quality, shut your non-yacht owning face up before I Molly-wop your bitch-ass.”
James Bond (I mean, Blood) embodies the typical action hero archetype of being a reckless, “shoot first, ask questions later” protagonist. As expected of the archetypal qualities
of his character, he exudes pure “cool” and a suave, confident demeanor to confront hazardous situations without a moments hesitation. Unfortunately for Mr. Blood, this is all his character has to offer in terms of substance, neglecting a quintessential element that would allow the viewer to discern the “person” behind the “mask.” Regardless of the stories intent (i.e. an action packed crime investigation) it is imperative to construct believable characters; or, at the very minimum, characters that have a personality beyond their hackneyed quarks and conventional platitudes. And no, pummeling an old man with glasses and shooting a bunch of evil villains does not qualify as proper characterization.
Sarah Sinclair, an ordinary civilian who becomes entangled in the “mask” case when Monica auspiciously perishes from a “heart attack,” plays the role of prosaic side character. Similar to James Blood, her character is vacuous, simply existing for the sole purpose of……….you know, I’m not even sure; thus, proving how unavailing she is as a prominent character in the series. Episode 12 highlights this shortcoming when she uses the whiteboard to determine the nexus between Steve Martland and his business associates, because rather than sharing insight on her cognitive considerations, she merely works in silence, offering no insight into her thought process (i.e. her personality).
The man simply known as Grimm acts as a foil to James Blood, not in the sense that he is explored with any noticeable detail, but because he is an unhinged lunatic with no regard for human life (including his own). Hence why he walked into a fully-armed, federal building to fight a cluster of incompetent cops — the odds were only 30:1 — to show James his new mask and titillate him with ideas of bizarre, venereal adventures (don’t tell me this thought didn’t cross your mind when his face turned into a girl, you sick pervert). In truth, Grimm is deployed as a pawn to establish the presence of “masks,” provoking James Blood to embark on a mission to unveil the web of secrets surrounding the mysterious object in question.
While “Hero Mask” entertained the notion of a compelling crime investigation, it far too often descended into pointless action sequences — usual via a car chase — that were fairly jejune, not to mention cliched. It felt reminiscent of a 007 movie with its use of hi-tech gadgetry, elaborate combat scenes, and tension-filled atmosphere; of course, this is not meant to be a compliment, as these attributes disguised the numerous deficiencies in the overarching narrative. But who cares about the implementation of a weak narrative when you can have a UFC street fight in the middle of a busy intersection — with guns! Someone get Dana White on the phone, I want to see this happen at their next event.
“Hero Mask”, for the most part, plays out like a daytime tv drama, employing a rudimentary, black-and-white framework with dreadful voice acting and enough action sequences to put Bruce Willis to shame. It gives the vibe of a never ending police drama that will persist long past its shelf life for purpose of………….you know, I’m not sure about this one either. But with a season two on the horizon, you’d best brace yourself for additional narrative monotony and stodgy characters, as the ingredients in this irrational composition are flawed, unexplored, and encumbered with quotidian detail. “Hero Mask,” to its detriment, forgets to remove its own proverbial “mask,” limiting its scope and effectiveness as an engaging anime.