Anime Review: 'Hero Mask' (2018)
Director: Hiroyasu Aoki
Runtime: 360 minutes
Availability: Streaming exclusively on Netflix in Japanese, English, German, Spanish, French
In a fictional, futuristic version of London, prosecutor Monica Campbell is murdered. Her co-worker Sarah Sinclair goes to the Special Service of Crime, or SSC, to ask for their help investigating her murder. It leads to a mystery involving humans with superpowers. It's up to James Blood to investigate what's going on and stop the criminals responsible for Monica's murder.
The Plot is Painfully Generic:
Hero Mask (2018) had a lot of potential to be a great anime because it had an interesting premise and an intriguing idea to mix a police procedural with characters with superpowers. But this premise has been done in another Netflix exclusive anime, B: The Beginning (2018). That anime turned out much better than Hero Mask did.
The story itself is very generic for a murder mystery. While it does end a lot of episodes on a cliffhanger in hopes that you’ll keep binge watching, it feels like the writers were just trying to get you to watch the next episode. It’s noticeably bad because the plot and the characters are very uninteresting and generic and it hurts this anime because it has a very interesting premise on paper that was poorly executed by the writers.
Hero Mask Netflix - Anime Trailer:
The Animation’s Decent But Action Scenes Can’t Carry the Anime:
The animation is decent for the most part. Studio Pierrot did a nice job animating the action scenes, but generic character designs and a meandering story that is torturously slow can’t be saved by “exciting” action scenes when the characters in the scenes are so generic and boring that I don’t care about them. This means that the action scenes don’t have any emotional weight for me to be invested in them in the first place. The art style is generic with nice action scenes with characters that I can’t care about, so all the nice action is wasted because of bad writing and poor execution of a good premise.
Audio and Subtitles:
Japanese (audio description)
The Dub is good, but nothing Outstanding:
This is the section I normally talk about the English dub or Japanese dub, but Hero Mask is so generic that it even seeps into the dub. These actors aren’t bad voice actors, they’re just voice acting an anime that is very generic in both writing and characters. These actors aren't bad, but no one particularly stands out as being an outstanding voice actor in an anime filled with generic everything.
I can’t say much about the Japanese dub, but if the story is so generic that it was uninteresting that the voice cast can’t make it interesting in English, it’s probably about the same in Japanese. If you’re interested in the plot you might give it a shot, but since it is set in London, it might be more interesting in English, but I swear all the English speakers are most certainly American, not British like in the Hellsing Ultimate (2006) English dub which bothered to cast native British speakers in British roles.
A Forgettable Soundtrack:
Hisaki Kato composed the music. Unfortunately, like the rest of this anime, it’s extremely lackluster as it’s very generic and forgettable. If it were outstanding that would help the anime a little, but unfortunately, it’s just there in the background and nothing really stands out to me.
The Plot Armor is Insane!
Now there is a trope known as plot armor and it’s basically that your main characters can’t die because the plot demands that they live unless you start writing death flags into the story. They’ll be alive because the plot says so.
Now there is always a level of this in many stories that is relatively tolerable, but in some cases it’s very obvious that there is plot armor. For example, in Fate/Stay Night, Shirou Emiya dies depending on what decisions you make in the game, or in some cases he should die after being badly wounded, but because he is the main lead, he can’t die unless Kinoko Nasu says so.
In the case of the character of Hero Mask, James Blood, the lead investigator, has ridiculous plot armor. He should have died multiple times throughout the anime, but he’s ridiculously overpowered and not because of the special technology in his technologically enhanced eye contacts!
Even a dog has plot armor in this anime, a dog that belongs to a side character. It should have been shot to pieces in the scene it was in. It survived. Plot armor has reached new levels, and it boggles my mind!
Will you watch Hero Mask (2018)
The Slow Pacing Kills the Mystery:
Unlike other anime I’ve watched that have slow pacing, like Steins;Gate (2011), Hero Mask is so painfully slow that I was bored. I don’t mind slow-paced anime if they have interesting characters that have entertaining interactions with each other like Steins;Gate did, but this anime was just too slow to hold my interest for very long and the mystery itself was just generic. I won’t spoil it for people who do want to watch, but if you’re smart you’ll probably see some of the plot twists coming from miles away. I couldn’t bring myself to be invested in the mystery the plot set up, because the writing wasn’t good enough to get me to care about the characters.
The Cliffhangers Are Ridiculous!
The use of cliffhangers in this series doesn’t help the story either. Hero Mask (2018) is just so slow and uninteresting that trying to keep the audience interested by leaving the episode ending on a cliffhanger just feels like a cheap gimmick. The reason this works in anime like Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006) is because the writing was good and I liked the characters. Hero Mask doesn’t have either of these things and it’s sad because the anime had a lot of potential to be good on paper, but it fell flat in the execution.
All the Interesting Character Show up Too Late in the Story:
Another thing that makes this anime so disappointing is that not only does it take too long to become interesting, but the characters that would have kept the audiences attention only show up in Part 2. These are characters that should have been in the entire series because they're actually interesting.
They squandered the investment of the audience by not having interesting characters in the first half and making the audience uninterested in even watching the second half unless you were really invested in the main characters, or you're like me and you're reviewing the anime.
I can't recommend an anime that is only interesting in the second half of the story.
Only Watch this if it Really Grabs Your Attention:
As a mystery anime, Hero Mask (2018) is at best an average, generic mystery story, and at worst, it’s a mediocre, poorly executed story that had a lot of potential to be good. It just felt too slow and generic for me to enjoy it, and I enjoy most of the anime that I watch. If you’re really drawn into the mystery, you’ll probably enjoy it.
It didn’t really grab me that much and that’s why I can’t give it a high recommendation.
What Doesn't Work
Interesting story idea
Bad writing means bad story plot execution
Decent English dub
Generic character and art design
Slow pacing kills the mystery
My Rating: D+:
Just because Hero Mask (2018) has an interesting premise on paper doesn’t mean it turned out as good as it seemed to be. It had a lot of potential to be good, but bad writing and generic characters made it a dull anime to watch. There are much better mystery anime out there that you can watch that handle their story premise much better. B: The Beginning (2018) has a similar premise that had better execution, better writing, and better characters.
It’s painfully generic and it’s unfortunate because it had a lot of potential but it squandered all of it because of bad writing and forgettable characters. There is a mystery there, but it’s just an uninteresting mess that feels so generic it’s both boring and disappointing.
Everything is generic from the plot to the characters to the voice acting and music. It felt like it should have been a live-action Netflix show more than an anime. I found it to be very disappointing but if you think the plot sounds interesting you can give it a try, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if mysteries aren’t really your thing.
Hero Mask (2018) does have a good resolution, but because everything is so generic and it's hard to care for the characters, it ends up just being okay, not the worst anime I've ever watched, but it was very disappointing because the story wasn't that great. It suffers from being too generic when it comes to the plot and the characters.
The great production values can't save the story from being generic and forgettable, and it's a shame because the premise sounded interesting but didn't focus on the characters that deserved to be the main focus of the story until episode 15, and I can't recommend watching a large chunk of an anime that will "get good" near the end of the story.
The anime Hero Mask has an interesting premise that had such poor execution it took a great idea and turned it into a mediocre mess.
I can't recommend this anime as something you should buy, but if you're interested in it, give it a try, if you drop it, don't feel bad, the poor execution is what ruined an interesting premise.
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