Skip it. Trust me.
Hero Mask is the ever-twisting story of an evil corporation who experiments on the disadvantaged, granting them a myriad of different powers activated by the titular mask. Our story proper follows a loose-cannon cop and a district attorney out to solve the murder of the latter’s coworker who was mixed up with the corporation. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the component elements have been mixed and matched in more media than I care to count. Hero Masks point of difference is the titular masks, the conduit of these experiments otherworldly powers. It’s too bad that the show doesn’t care all that much about them.
Pierrot, the minds behind Bleach, Naruto, and Yu Yu Hakusho, among others, totally misfired here. Hero Mask is not only awkward and over-serious, but it’s boring. From its James Bond cribbed opening to its cliffhanger end, I was at best half engaged. The anime is pulled by two opposing forces: the realism that the director strives for, and the more gonzo nature of some of the plot elements. Unfortunately, these two elements never coalesce into anything to write home about. The characters are stale, the plot is convoluted, and the dialogue is tepid. I knew within one episode I wasn’t going to like the show, and it’s a slog to end all slogs.
It’s hard to put into words how little I care about Hero Mask. In many of my other reviews, I talk about police procedure and how important it is to represent the police on-screen with any sort of accuracy. I actually thought, from the first few scenes of Hero Mask that realism might make cop shows boring, and that’s why they break the rules so much. I considered modifying my reviews of shows like Double Decker, but by the time a character named Grimm opened fire in a police station, and I was still yawning, I figured out that the problem here is fairly localized.
It really cannot be overstated how much a half-commitment to both science fiction and realism makes for an uncanny valley effect. It doesn’t help that certain characters, like the police chief, can look distractingly off-model and that the 3D computer effects are not seamless. Hero Mask causes a strange kind of dissociation from itself, it’s almost Brechtian. Or, at least you would think so if it wasn’t obvious that the director wants to be making a mid-budget action thriller from the early 2000s.
I truly hope they don’t make any more of this. Watching this much was punishment enough.