The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Lance 'N Masques
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Lance N' Masques ?
Poor Yutaro – he just wants to be an ordinary guy living an ordinary life, but unfortunately for him, he's part of an organization known as “Knights of the World,” the last existing order of chivalric knights in a twenty-first century otherwise exactly like our own. Even worse, he's got something of a white knight complex, meaning he not only is compelled to rescue damsels in distress, but also to wax eloquent about it, which doesn't go over terribly well with the average modern woman. But alas, such is the duty of a knight, and no matter how little he wants to continue on, he seems doomed to wield a big lance with an even bigger name and get called a pervert for his troubles.
Or at least, that's true until he meets Makio, the lone child of a wealthy family who is not only obsessed with heroes, but also incredibly lonely. This looks like a maiden he might actually pull off saving, not only from danger, but also from her severely restricted social life – even her maids aren't allowed to interact with her in a friendly way, and the poor kid is clearly drowning in loneliness. In that sense, Lance N' Masques has some real potential. The white knight bit isn't quite as interesting as it wants to be, but the other ways Yutaro could be heroic hold some possibilities. It would also be a twist on the usual knight-in-shining-armor story, too, which from this first episode, the show is going to need.
But you know what Lance N' Masques needs first? Some work on its timeline. The episode opens with Yutaro saving Makio, then cuts to him being knighted and saving a girl in the city before going back to Makio, and I honestly wasn't sure what the real chronology was. I was thinking that Makio's storyline happened long after the city scenes, but then the three characters who appeared there looking for Yutaro show up on Makio's front porch, thoroughly confusing things. These three are themselves a little difficult to place – a stern maid, a ditzy blond named Alice, and a third named Shirohime who is either a horse, a human, or an equestria girl. (I absolutely couldn't decide if she could be seen in her human form by everyone or only by Alice.) Right now all we know about them is that they're looking for Yutaro, and I felt like they took away from the story, suffering from not having a clear reason to be there. Yes, this is only the first episode, but a single line about their relationship to the hero would have justified their presence; instead they feel like the most cookie-cutter element of the show.
Lance N' Masques' entry onto the scene is very firmly mediocre. I really do feel like there's potential to the Makio story and I am curious about these knights and what they're up to in the modern world, but the repetition of Yutaro's wish for a normal life, the proliferation of maids, and the “cute but clumsy” duo of Alice and Shirohime are definite detractions. I'm also not keen on the visual style – the short faces and marble eyes aren't quite emotive enough, and there's something very off with female bodies. (Also, does that thug have a caduceus on his head?) I'm not willing to totally write it off, but this also feels like it could easily squander what potential it has.
Lance N' Masques is available streaming at Crunchyroll.
Lance N' Masques opens up the Fall 2015 season by setting the bar really, really low. We're introduced to six-year-old Makio Kidoin cheerfully playing alone at a playground at sunset. She attempts to scale a rock wall only to come plummeting down. Then, at the last minute, a masked knight with an absurdly large lance and cape catches her. He calls her “lady” and promises to protect Makio before kissing her hand and making a dramatic exit.
The episode then backtracks earlier in the day where we find out the masked knight is Yotaro Hanabusa, a boy recently knighted into the long-standing Order of World Knights. His father, Shin, is a legend among the order for being the first knight in 100 years to be chosen by the holy lance of Rhongomyniad. He's since disappeared and Yotaro has s complex about the whole thing and no actual interest in being a knight. He just wants to be normal, but all his knightly training has created a “White Knight Syndrome” where he can't help but respond to the screams of troubled girls and spout chivalrous lines like a professional host trying to get customers to buy more wine.
The episode catches up with its opener and Yotaro ends up going home with Makio, who encounters him after his exit but doesn't recognize him without the mask and cape get-up. The little girl is the heir to a wealthy conglomerate and lives only with a staff of maids who go home every evening. It's at this point that Lance N' Masques' bare minimum required logic starts to fall apart. A fantasy show can ask for suspension of disbelief from its audience to a point, but some normalcy has to remain. A 900-year-old order of knights existing in secret is okay, but an essentially orphaned six-year-old who has a high risk of being a kidnapping target living alone with only housekeeping staff is a bit much. It's such an obvious set-up to insert the lead hero.
The characters also act like they're in some other show where Makio isn't a child. She's treated by the rest of characters like she's a typical female, teen romantic interest. Her head maid Yuhua immediately assumes Yotaro's intentions are to “seduce” Makio. The audience is treated to a scene where she sneaked into bed with him, a pretty standard rom-com fanservice scene by any means, but she's a baby-faced six-year-old in her pajamas. Yet all the characters, Yotaro included, freak out.
The round, baby-face character designs aren't limited only to Makio. Every character looks this way, leading to an almost laughable flashback of Yotaro talking with his father, who looks like he's maybe 15. The series' backdrops, meanwhile, are gorgeous, from forested sunsets, a trickling creek, and the outside shots of Makio's mansion. Unfortunately, the detail put into the setting artwork only highlights how unattractive the characters are, whether they're lumpy background stock characters or the entire infantile-looking lead cast.
As a starting episode, Lance N' Masques leaves few plot-related questions to bring viewers back for a second episode. Its romantic comedy subplot is hardly cute and its fantasy elements leave nothing the chew on.
In an alternate present where knights with lances are for some reason still a thing, Yotaro Hanabusa is a knight with a lance. He's not just a knight with a lance, though - he's also a light novel protagonist, and so he also has an absentee father who's also a legendary knight and a wish to “just live a normal life” (in spite of going through years of knight training, for some as-of-yet unclear and likely never-to-be-explained reason). Not only that, Yotaro also has what he calls his “White Knight Syndrome,” a tendency to fall into the behavior of a gallant knight (completely with romantic Spanish guitar music) whenever he runs into a damsel in distress. In this first episode, he ends up rescuing the diminutive Makio Kidoin, heir to the major Kidoin company, and spends a night at her mansion before being picked up by his own possible master Alice and her talking horse Shirohime.
If you're scanning that paragraph looking for some kind of hook, you won't find one. Almost nothing of interest actually happens in this first episode - we're introduced to the main characters, we learn Makio lives alone and is thus sad, and then Yotaro beats up some thugs and the episode ends. I'm not really sure what's intended to compel the audience to seek out more episodes of this show, as outside of that non-hook, everything portrayed here is the kind of tired stuff you'll find in any run-of-the-mill modern light novel adaptation. There's a “pervert!” moment and an “uwa~” as the camera slides skyward and a bedroom misunderstanding and some chibi-vision pratfalls as Alice and her horse argue. There is not, however, any sense of intrigue or tension that might prompt interest in future episodes.
That said, as far as extremely bland light novel adaptations go, Lance n’ Masques certainly isn't the worst of them. The fact that the first person Yotaro's white knight act works on is a literal child is a nice unspoken gag, and even if there's no actual humor here, there's also nothing offensively bad. Plus the backgrounds have some nice warm colors, and the music score varies things up with the aforementioned Spanish guitar and other stylistic digressions (like the more medieval-ish music for Yotaro's knighting ceremony). Unfortunately, outside of those colors, the visuals here are lousy. The character designs are the worst offenders - everyone has a featureless blob-face, meaning you can't even tell Yotaro's dad and Makio are supposed to be maybe thirty years apart. The actual backgrounds also lack personality, and there's almost no animation to speak of. Overall, although there's nothing truly terrible about Lance n’ Masques, there's nothing to recommend in it, either. It is flavorless anime custard.
Review: The most immediately striking thing about this light novel adaptation from Studio Gokumi and director Kyohei Ishiguro (Your Lie in April) is its especially vivid use of color. Sadly, that is about the only thing about the first episode which makes much of an impression.
In this setting a chivalric order of knights, called the Knight of the World, has survived into the 21st century and is widely-recognized and respected. Yotaro Honabusa is a fledgling knight presumably because his notoriously-absentee father is practically a modern legend of a knight. Though Yotaro keeps claiming that he would rather lead a normal life, he cannot help but act in a laughably courtly fashion, especially when a young lady is distressed. (He would probably be classified as chunibyo if it wasn't for the fact that he really does carry a giant, extendable lance, is shown in an early scene actually being inducted into the Knights of the World, and does seem to have some impressive physical skills.) After chasing off some punks who were bothering one teenage girl, he winds up rescuing another much younger girl from a fall. The girl, Makio Kidoin, shortly comes across him in unmasked form, and despite not recognizing him, invites him to her house when she realizes that he's hungry. He winds up staying in her massive mansion overnight, much to the dismay of maid Yuhua, and learns that for some reason Makio is being isolated; even the maids aren't supposed to have more to do with her than strictly necessary. She is the scion of a major conglomerate, though, so suited thugs show up to kidnap her. Yotaro becomes the masked character who Makio has taken to calling Knight Lancer and soundly chases them off. Meanwhile, another girl, a horse (who may be able to transform into a girl?), and a stern maid are seeking Yotaro and find him as the episode ends.
The story seems to be going in the direction of Yotaro deciding to be a live-in protector/friend for Makio given the lonely situation that she lives in and the potential threats to her, a set-up somewhat reminiscent of Kurenai if one subtracts the campy feel. However, the quality of this production is nowhere near on that same level in any regard. The content so far is a mix of humorous elements with more serious undertones, with a bit of action for spice, but again, none of that really stands out. (And of course you have to have multiple maids, because what would an anime series be these days without maids in it?) While there could be a tender relationship developing between Yotaro and Makio (who for some reason is undergoing a ninja-like self-training regimen), the series is so far relying on her being pitiably cute in a moe way. And that's just not enough anymore, nor is the moe effect she is generating at this point strong enough.
Maybe something can come of this series, and fans of the source novels certainly will not be able to complain much about how the adaptation is being handled, since the series composition is being done by the original novelist. And honestly, it is not actually a bad episode. However, at this point the series looks eminently forgettable.
We may be living in the 21st century, but it turns out that even in a post-feudal society, noble white knights in shining armor still exist! The bad news is that these knights are extremely light-novel flavored. Yotaro Hanabusa is the most promising heir to the legacy of the "Knights of the World." (But of course, he just wants to be a normal kid.) His father left him the big fat 10-foot lance Rhongomyniad along with powerful knightly instincts that cause Yotaro to spring into action and don a mask and cap as "Knight Lancer" to gallantly rescue anyone who needs assistance. Of course, since this story takes place in the modern day, most of what Yotaro does is freak out the populace with his superhero antics.
However, his life of not being appreciated changes when he saves a wealthy orphan named Makio from falling off a cliff, and she immediately idolizes his Knight Lancer identity. Yotaro resolves to protect his newfound princess from the evil organization of cliché thugs in black suits who try to abduct her, while keeping his identities as Yotaro and Knight Lancer separate from the innocent girl. Just when he's started to settle into her giant mansion, his genki apprentice, talking moe-girl-horse, and stern family maid appear to drag him back home. Also, Makio's own maid keeps mumbling something about her father and prophecies and fates and dark organizations, so Makio probably has some dark destiny related to Yotaro's ex-knight dad or whatever.
And man oh man, is the whole thing incredibly lame.
There's really not much going on in Lance N' Masques aside from that basic premise, but it doesn't commit itself to either adorable sentiment or high-stakes fantasy enough to maintain any momentum. Most of the episode is taken up with comedy so bland and tame that it seems more like pure filler than intentional humor. I'd say there's a full ten minutes of half-hearted attempts at comical banter and wacky misunderstandings in between the painfully rote plot points, but they don't help that medicine go down at all. The story plays out like someone wrote it in their sleep after watching too many subpar 4-koma anime, which is not the tone I expect from a fantasy series, even if it is supposed to be more cute and chintzy than high-flying.
The production values are pretty poor too, reminiscent of the studio's prior work on Kin-iro Mosaic but a few steps down in polish. It's definitely not a level of artistry that works for even a super-mild fantasy series. There are a few cuts of unusually good animation in here to surprise you, but everything else looks incredibly cheap, and this is the first episode, so things will only start looking worse before they look any better. The music fares a little better, with some formulaic but charming choices like castanets accompanying the Zorro-esque Knight Lancer, and trippy slippery strings for peak moments of tension, but surprisingly pleasant music still can't make this tepid pile of nothing worth watching.
This one is definitely a skip. I'd like to recommend it purely for some "cute dorks doing cute things" factor, but it's not even very good at that, so I'm sure something better will upstage it later in the season. It's not particularly bad, there's just nothing special about it. It has a horse, I guess? It has a poorly-drawn horse in it that is almost cute, but not really. Sorry, Lance N' Masques.
Yotaro just wants to live a normal life – as he repeats several times in the opening moments of this episode – so it's really too bad that he's become an active, lance-carrying member of the Knights of the World, a 900-year old organization of peacekeeping superpowered knights. He lives in the shadow of his father, Shin, a legendary knight who wields the holy lance Rhongomyniad (I copy-pasted that name and so should you).
Yotaro keeps screwing up – he keeps rescuing damsels in distress and offering them his eternal protection, but they reject his servitude (he saves one girl from attempted sexual assault and what's his reward? She calls him a pervert!). That all changes one day when he rescues plucky young Makio, a young girl who gets in trouble on the playground. She thinks he's a real hero, and invites him to stay with her at her inexplicably enormous estate, staffed to the brim with cute anime maid girls.
As it turns out, Makio is the only daughter of the Kidoin family, a powerful business conglomerate. Mom's dead, dad's gone, so what's a powerful underage heir to do other than invite the obvious hero of a light novel series into her home? Naturally, thanks to a series of accidentally sexy mishaps, Makio's chief maid is worried Yotaro's trying to get into Makio's pull-ups (she doesn't appear to be a day over 9 or so, so this stuff is just hilarious, let me tell you), but all of this is just a lead-up to the plot kicking in, which involves a group of goons from a rival organization showing up to try and kidnap Makio, which of course Yotaro manages to prevent… for now.
I should also mention Yotaro's poorly-drawn horse, which also manifests itself as a cute girl sometimes. I think that's about it.
So this is light novel territory, and there's absolutely nothing special about it – the show gave me no reason to be interested in Yotaro, who does his knightly duties, complains about how he “just wants a normal life” but that's about it (but does all this knight stuff of his own volition anyway – he never acts like actually performing it is a burden, only bemoans his lack of success at it. Wouldn't someone who wanted a “normal life” try and avoid the entire thing? Or does he want a “normal life” as a knight, out of his father's shadow? It's never made clear.) Makio has red eyes and totally dominates the opening credits, which means this show's light novel-riffic worldbuilding and lore are all jam-packed inside her character, but she isn't particularly interesting either; just a typical genki grade schooler dreaming of heroes. The show's production values aren't anything special; outside of a few flourishes during the fight scene at the end, there are more head-skewing moments of badly-drawn still frames than anything else. It's a thoroughly unimpressive production.
But it's also all setup. Lance ‘N Masques had absolutely nothing to offer me – I won't be watching more of this, but it is basically just giving you a barebones outline of the show's premise and nothing more. The show's center seems to be the courtly relationship between Makio and Yotaro, and if that grabs you, then there might be something here for you, but otherwise it's just too mediocre to trigger any more of my curiosity.
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