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When the headquarters of the SSC, an elite high-tech police organization, is assaulted by a lone man who should be dead... they learn of the existence of strange masks that grant the users unnatural power. Meanwhile, attorney Sarah Sinclair secretly investigates the mysterious death of her friend and mentor, prosecutor Monica Campbell, suspecting her sudden death from "natural causes" was in fact murder.

Hero≠Mask is an original anime by Studio Pierrot distributed by Netflix, premiering on December 3, 2018. The second season was released on August 23, 2019.

The production crew has said that while HM is only for two seasons, it's possible to have a continuation, but only from the perspective of another character or group.


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Hero≠Mask contains the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo: SSC occasionally use GPS bullets to track down criminals.
  • All for Nothing: Happens to all sides. SSC spends several episodes trying to keep Fred Faraday alive at all costs so he will provide evidence in the LIVE Corporation case, only for the quartet of assassins to nearly-effortlessly massacre their way through the protection detail at the hospital and kill Faraday regardless (emphasis on "nearly" — James and Harry manage to kill them, but after they accomplished their mission). Martland is scott-free but still decides to leave England just to be sure, and he gets killed by Burner in retaliation for the deaths of his subordinates and his wife. And Connor manages to create Masks that provide a Healing Factor and do not have the Cast from Lifespan bug, but the one guy he really wanted to save with them (his brother, Fred Faraday) is killed by the malfunctioning prototype.
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  • Alliterative Name: Sarah Sinclair.
  • Augmented Reality: James' contact lenses provide him with information sent by Mission Control, and they can switch to enhanced vision modes as well. One of the other characters uses a more realistic and bulky version when he's on the field, namely using his laptop's integral camera to pick up a site's AR info (meaning he has to walk around with the thing open. It even nearly gets him caught when he has to hide from the villains).
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: James Blood, our Cowboy Cop protagonist.
  • Ax-Crazy: Grimm is a deranged Serial Killer hellbent on killing James.
  • Badass Driver: Not only James is capable of driving like the best, he can shoot like an expert in the middle of a car chase.
  • Belated Backstory: Richard's backstory fifteen episodes to get to.
  • The Big Board: Sarah eventually pastes all of her research on a white board with a lot of post-it notes, connected with marker scribbles and strings.
  • Cain and Abel: Fred Faraday and Geoffrey Connor. The former believes that science is meant to serve man and should always hold morality in mind, while the latter believes man should sacrifice all in the pursuit of science and that morals have no place in it. The fact they're related at all is a plot point. Going against the implication of the trope, however, they are not in conflict with each other in the anime. Indeed, Connor permits Faraday to hide out at their place, and then secures Harry's service to provide additional protection. He even personally steps into a battlefield to attempt to save Faraday's life with his Super Prototype Mask.
  • Cast from Lifespan: The Masks' powers cause Rapid Aging in their users and will inevitably kill them. No wonder that LIVE Corporation used prisoners as test subjects. It is played with great tragedy when Geffrey Connor tries to save his brother who has been shot and fatally stabbed by the glasses-wearing assassin to silence him. Faraday recovers from his wounds long enough to notice his brother is in the room before the rapid aging kills him a few seconds later. The season ends with the researcher figuring out how to produce Masks without this bug, setting up a Sequel Hook.
  • Combat Pragmatist: All over the place, but James is the most notable example. Half the reason James is so effective on his own is because he's not shy about using every resource or tactic that pops into his head to deal with a situation, including nearly suicidal stunts like jumping out of a window to evade danger and then dropping into the next floor to ambush his foes, or grabbing Improvised Weapons like using a fire extinguisher like a morning star. His enemies play dirty all the time, so he might as well return the favor.
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Both Grimm and Anna Winehouse wear gloves. Lennox only wears one on his left hand. It hides his prosthetic hand.
  • Cop Killer: Grimm kills at least a dozen cops during his introductory scene. Later on, the unnamed killers have no problem gunning their way through a hospital full of cops (and potential witnesses) to try to get to a target.
  • Cowboy Cop: James establishes himself as this in his very first scene by firing a GPS tracker bullet (which he palmed off the armory without authorization) into a fleeing suspect as he barreled through a crowd, then following the man straight into a Car Chase which he ends by shooting up and crashing both cars. He spends the rest of the series shooting doors open and charging into places solo.
  • Da Chief: Richard Burner.
  • Dark Action Girl: The unnamed female assassin.
  • Determinator: Both Sarah and James refuse to give up in finding out the truth behind the death of their mentor.
  • Dramatic Pause: Used in most conversations with a long stare, often without revealing anything important.
  • Even Morally Questionable Pragmatists Have Loved Ones: Both Henry and Connor view the world (according to the latter) in terms of "people you're willing to sacrifice" and "people you are not willing to sacrifice". For Henry, the only person who falls in the latter is Eve (and possibly James). For Connor, it's his brother, Fred Faraday; for all that he claims to have no need for morals in his research and their reported history of never seeing eye to eye, Connor outright admits that he has a soft spot for his brother and spends the last fourth or so of the anime questionably on the heroic side as both he and the SSC want to protect and then save Faraday.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Fred's dog easily sniffs trouble and warns James of some masked assailants.
  • Faceless Mooks: LIVE's enforcers besides Harry wear masks.
  • Family Man: Theo Lowe seems to be the only mask user who wants to take care of his family (who presume him dead).
  • Feel No Pain: The mask makes Grimm incapable of feeling pain when shot at.
  • Four Is Death: The unnamed quartet of assassins sent by Steven Martland.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Lots of computer text that appears on-screen for a few seconds, such as for example "Grimm"'s real name: Jeremy Payne.
  • Friendly Fire: The faceless enforcers of LIVE are gunned down by a different group of assassins' machine guns, both because they happened to be in the way and so they don't talk.
  • Healthcare Motivation: Harry Creighton becomes an agent of LIVE Corporation's security forces because they are helping with his girlfriend Eve's medical condition and hospital stay (because she's in a coma). Geffrey Connor forces Harry to help him by keeping Eve hostage.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Sarah is a prosecutor and a very attractive lady.
  • Jump Cut: Holy crap, does this show loves to use them in action sequences. And talking sequences. And research sequences. But especially in action sequences. It's even more stroboscopic than the entire Taken franchise.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Just as Martland is about to escape the country under a new identity, his jet malfunctions and crashes into the ocean. It's heavily implied Richard did it.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: It's established early on that SSC took over the duties of policing London from the Metropolitan Police Service.
  • The Lost Lenore: Eve Palmer, Harry's girlfriend. Also turns out that Richard Burner's wife was killed a few years before the events of the series, in a bank theft secretly orchestrated by Martland to gather incriminating info that was stored there and destroy it.
  • Mad Artist: Grimm happens to prefer to use blood (both his and (quite preferably) his victims') to paint pictures.
  • Mask of Power: The titular mask gives the wearer rapid healing,which is cast from lifespan. Every mask also gives a different ability; Grimm could change faces, Theo got extreme bullet time.
  • Mega-Corp: LIVE Corporation. Ostensibly it's just a medicinal company, but nobody really finds it weird that they can afford heavily-armed security forces until they start having to shoot it out with them in the middle of the Campbell murder investigation. Originally it was fairly normal for a company, but then Martland, who wasn't part of the original company, came in during one of the mergers, and ended up taking over.
  • The Mole: Robert, Sarah's boss at the prosecutor's office. Their reporting of Monica's actions directly leads to Monica being targeted and killed right in front of Sarah in the first episode.
  • More Dakka: The killers sent to capture Fred Faraday shoot with machine guns until they think their target is dead. In point of fact, practically every time enemy soldiers appear on screen they're shooting copious amounts of More Dakka while the SSC always use handguns. There are a few instances where the SSC can be seen wielding machine guns, but it's always the Red Shirts and it's always useless. James never uses a machine gun himself.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Robert, The Mole for the Big Bad, is completely ashamed of both the fact their spying led to Monica being murdered in front of Sarah and being unable to come clean about it anyway. Considering what LIVE does to its loose ends, they're justifiably worried for their life if they became a liability.
    • They don't come out and say it, but it's clear that Connor is deeply regretful that their hubris is what finally killed his brother, Fred Faraday, when they had every intention of saving them instead.
  • Neat Freak: The glasses-wearing assassin seems to dislike getting blood on his clothes.
  • No Name Given: The assassin team that spends the series acting as Martland's Quirky Miniboss Squad is never given a name, neither as a team nor as individuals. One of them tells Blood that he should "consider them a quartet", but considering that it's literally four people and they seem to play as a band in their off time, it's not really a big shocker of a name.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Monica Campbell's death is what puts James and Sarah on the masks' trail.
  • Rapid Aging: Overusing the mask makes the user age rapidly and then die.
  • Red Shirt Army: Regular police officers die in droves when facing against professional killers and mask users.
  • Rivals Team Up: Harry and James end up teaming up against the glasses-wearing assassin.
  • Rotating Protagonist: While the story mostly follows James' point of view, it switches to Edmond, Sarah and at the end of series, Richard's POV.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The "Hero = Mask" logo is half-white and half-black and the division between colors bisects the "equal" sign at an angle. "Hero does not equals Mask", "Mask does not equals Hero".
  • Say My Name: Frequently used by Sarah. "Monica", "James" and "Theo" said repeatedly with Dramatic Pause.
  • Sequel Hook: While LIVE corporation is dissolved and its assets investigated, Geffrey Connor and Harry are still on the run, and the final scene of the anime reveals he finally perfected the process to create regenerating masks.
  • Short-Lived Aerial Escape: Martland discovers, far too late, that Richard Burner sabotaged his getaway private jet.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Super Senses: Theo Lowe's mask gives him incredibly acute senses.
  • Starter Villain: Grimm is the first mask user faced in the series.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Among other things Augmented Reality contact lenses and advanced cybernetic prosthetics are available. Also a Law Enforcement, Inc. has taken over the duties of London's Metropolitan Police Service.
  • Wham Line: When Geffrey Connor calls Fred Faraday his brother.
  • Wicked Cultured: The first time we see the unnamed assassins, they are all practicing classical music (with violins and cellos) and they stop when they get a call. A few scenes later, they are raiding Fred Faraday's flat with copious amounts of machine gun fire, forcing James to duck for cover and killing multiple goons on their side as collateral damage-slash-to silence witnesses.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Edmond Chandler seems to have green hair while the other characters have normal colors.
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