With a title like Heroic Age FUNimation's latest series may not immediately call attention to itself. Quite honestly it's about as generic as you can get, but then again you don't judge a book by its cover, so why would you judge an anime by its name? Produced by XEBEC this 26 episode series made its debut in Japan in 2007 and it took a little longer than normal these days, but it has finally hit our shores in the form of a two-part boxed set. FUNimation has just released the first part with the introductory 13 episodes presented on two DVDs.
Directed by Toshimasa Suzuki, Heroic Age takes place quite far into the future. Man has set for the stars and wouldn't you know we're not alone. A long time ago a race known only as the Tribe of Golden reached out into the cosmos to make contact with other species. Other groups such as the Silver, Bronze, and Heroic Tribes answered their call, but humanity did as well. Becoming known as the Tribe of Iron, things haven't turned out very well for mankind. Brought to the edge of annihilation, humanity has been on the run for some time with no real silver lining on a cloud before them (not that there are silver lined clouds in space).
Lucky for the remaining members of the Tribe of Iron there is a prophecy that foretells a being of great power rising up to champion their cause. Their possible future comes in the form of a young teenage boy named Age who possesses some incredible abilities, none the least of which is the power to transform into a giant mecha-type-thing named Bellcross. With Age paving the way the Tribe of Iron is able to stay alive and fight back against some of the forces of the Tribes of Bronze and Silver. Complicating matters is the fact that humanity's foes also have beings that can use great and ancient power. This gives Age some worthy adversaries and really deepens the plotline for the show as a whole.
You see, as it turns out Age's ability to transform into Bellcross stems from the fact that he has a stone within him from the Tribe of Hero. This stone is called a Nodos and as the plot develops we learn that there are a few others with such stones as well. They are basically remnants from a lost age and are what's left of a civilization from long ago that started a universal civil war. Age has more or less been cherry picked and placed into the hands of humanity. He's quite the opposite of what you'd consider a prophetic hero to be, and quite honestly that's a good thing. Heroic Age can be somewhat generic (I'll get into that in a second), but the fact that Age behaves like a monkey and hardly knows anything about how humans are supposed to act helps a lot. It makes him stand out and he's definitely not cut from the cloth of stereotyped protagonist.
Joining Age is a hodgepodge collection of humans. Primarily the events of the show focus on the Argonaut and its fight for what's left of our kind. There's a princess named Dhianeila who is with them and several other people stand out more as the episodes progress. Age is the primary focus of the show though since it's his prowess on the battlefield as Bellcross that really brings out the heart and soul of this show.
And just what is that heart and soul? Fighting. Lots and lots of fighting. Quite honestly, I think there's a big space battle in just about every episode in this first release for Heroic Age. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly feels like Age and the Argonaut just go from one conflict to the next. It gets rather repetitious after a while and with all of the space-bug enemies it really gives the series the vibe of many other sci-fi anime with like antagonists. Granted there's more depth lying beneath the surface, but it's very easy to get the impression that you're just going from one fight to the next.
This first part of Heroic Age is more or less a success. The background for the series is pretty rich and Age makes a fascinating protagonists. The princess works well off of his character and some of the other people we meet, such as Iolaus, help flesh out the cast. The show is only half over by this point so we don't have the "big picture" quite yet, but the overall story is shaping up nicely. A fine balance of dramatic elements, action, and amusing bits come together in a way that may be a tad more grandiose than it really needs to be. The show tries to present itself as being epic, but with that approach in mind I felt under whelmed when all was said and done. It's solid enough for a recommendation, but I'd reserve judgment until the second part is released.
Heroic Age is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with some anamorphic enhancement. The show looks pretty darned good on DVD and despite the two year gestation period prior to its release here FUNimation did a fantastic job with the transfer. The colors pop from the screen, there is hardly any grain, and compression isn't a problem at all. Some aliasing appeared here and there, along with some interlacing, but all around the problems with this transfer are pretty scant. XEBEC also did a nice job with the animation and implementing the computer work, so there are no worries with regards to the design of the show either.
With Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 Heroic Age has most all of its bases covered. I found both dubs to be adequate, though FUNimation did a great job assembling the English cast. Only a couple of characters don't quite hit their mark, but otherwise the dub is smooth sailing. This definitely helps because the 5.1 presentation is certainly no slouch in the immersion department. With the sheer amount of action this series contains the show uses the rear channels quite a bit and it maintains a nice presence all around.
Some textless animations and trailers are all you're going to find on this release for bonus features. It's a shame really, but then again with 13 episodes on two discs I suppose there wasn't much room for anything else.
Heroic Age is an interesting show with a lot going for it. The story is rich, the characters are unique, and the action is pretty damned good. I will say that some of the fighting and battles can feel a tad too repetitious for the show's own good, but overall it wasn't pervasive enough to deter me from watching. I kept on wanting to see what was going to happen to Age and the crew of the Argonaut as the 13 episodes chugged along. Hopefully the next batch of episodes will bring about a satisfying conclusion and help clear some things up. Until then you can consider Heroic Age an easy recommendation if you're a fan of science fiction anime. Just don't get discouraged by some of the stereotypical elements of this series; the uniqueness far outweighs them.
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