Licensed by Royalty

Licensed by Royalty is an anime series
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Cool, calm, quick-witted Rowe Rickenbacker and action-hero Jack Hofner are agents for Cloud Seven, the secret service of the royal state of Ishtar. This quasi-British enclave, seemingly designed by someone channeling the '60s chic of Sean Connery-era 007 along with its modern pastiche, Austin Powers (1997), is under threat from numerous enemies, including the shadow organization known only as Hornet.

The stage is set for a retro espionage thriller played like a straight version of Pataliro, as our heroes strive to ensure that the name of the royal family remains unimpeachable. When the royal name is used to authenticate fake antiques, it's Jack and Rowe who make sure the truth is known, but discreetly and with style. They also thwart assassination attempts and terrorist bombers, some aimed at Ishtar's biggest corporation, DTI-supposedly Digital Terra Incorporated, although connoisseurs of the show's Anglophile references will know of the Department of Trade and Industry in real life.

Amid the sub-Bondian antics (they take their orders from "Mister," clearly intended as a substitute for Ian Fleming's "M"), there is a continuing story arc that initially seems to owe more to the fairy tale foundling traditions of girls' entertainment like Candy Candy. A royal baby has been missing for 15 years, and a local beauty contest is actually a thinly veiled attempt by the government to search for her. A prime candidate is presented in the form of Noelle, a girl who has been raised on a remote Ishtar outpost and whom the team soon find themselves obliged to guard. But not everything is as it seems, and a series of reversals of fortune in the later episodes give Licensed by Royalty an impressive bite. Although at heart it is a humble action series, its use of an imaginary kingdom and heavy insistence on British imagery allow it to do something more subversive. No anime series would dare to comment directly on the Japanese Imperial family, which at the time of broadcast, faced a succession crisis if Japanese law were not changed to allow Princess Aiko (born 2001) to ascend the throne on the death of her father, the current Crown Prince Naruhito. Those in search of subtextual meanings for L/R might like to speculate on the fact that in our own world, an entire generation has passed without the birth of a male heir to the Japanese throne, and that as a result, the old order of Japan faced similar upheavals to those experienced by the fictional Ishtar, until the birth of a male heir in 2006 rendered such discussion irrelevant.

Ishtar (1987) was also a comedy in which Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman become involved in a coup in a fictional country, but on the surface at least, the country in L/R seems as British as that in Master Keaton or Emma. This is well handled in an American dub from the people who worked on Hellsing, which ensures similar attention to detail on the accents. Many shots look just like London, and with an opening theme sung by Billy "Get Back" Preston, the show is packed with nods to British pop. The two leads are named after Lennon and McCartney's guitars, while the Moneypenny role is taken by another Beatles reference, one Claire Pennylane.

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Original US Poster Art

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Name Licensed by Royalty
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Romaji: L/R
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Start Year 2003
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Aliases Licensed by Royal
L/R
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