At last year's Anime Boston I caught a preview of Heroic Age during FUNimation's business panel. The teaser left me a tad underwhelmed, but after checking out the show on DVD my early impressions were thankfully misguided. The series turned out to be a solid science fiction anime with plenty of space opera elements. It wasn't something I would have labeled as "epic" or a "must see", but it was a good quality sci-fi production with some very climactic moments. The battles were big, the characters were interesting, and the story was interesting right to the end. With that in mind when the opportunity presented itself to check the series out on Blu-ray I jumped at the chance.
Produced by XEBEC, Heroic Age consists of 26 episodes and debuted in 2007. 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 there was a race of omnipotent beings known as the Gold Tribe who reached out through the cosmos in search of other sentient species. The came upon the Silver, Bronze, and Heroic Tribes and there was some history between them for a time. Just before the final curtain call on the Golden Tribe's existence in our galaxy a young upstart named the Iron Tribe (humanity) stood up and said "look at me!"
The Iron Tribe caught the Gold's attention and in the final moments of their time here, the Gold Tribe left Iron the gift of a savior. You see, the Silver and Bronze tribes sought to eradicate the Iron Tribe. Our worlds have been invaded and we've been pushed to the brink. The only thing standing between humanity and annihilation is a prophesized hero known as Age.
The lone survivor of a ship that crashed onto a desolate world over 60 cycles ago, Age possesses something called a Nodos, which is the final gift of the Gold Tribe. Basically with it Age is supremely powerful and can transform into a behemoth known as Bellcross capable of destroying armies of enemies without breaking a sweat. Considering humanity is about to be flushed down the galactic bowl it's no surprise that a ship carrying the princess of their race has been searching for cycles trying to find him. Despite his fearsome power and divine status, Age isn't exactly what they bargained for. He's naïve to a point and downright monkey-like. He hasn't really been around other people that often and considers the AI of a derelict ship to be his mother. Naturally he rubs a few people the wrong way when he joins humanity's fleet.
Now, despite his awkward behavior he makes friends relatively easily and there's no denying his power. He's got it stuck in his head that he's the one to save humanity and along with that notion there's a set of instructions set unto him by the Gold Tribe. In the process of driving back the forces of the Bronze and Silver, Age must also confront other bearers of the Nodos and their combat forms as well. They all want to destroy Age and humanity, but somehow, someway, there's a glimmer of hope in the fleet.
What makes Heroic Age stand out from beginning to end is its characters. There's a mystique built around each of them. Age is innocent, yet dangerously skilled and intelligent. Dhianeila is mysterious and infectiously hopeful as the princess of humanity. While those two take the center stage other characters such as Iolaus, Mobeedo and Nilval truly stand out even as second tier personalities. It also helps the show that Age's rival Nodos users are also richly developed and equally dangerous.
Throughout the 26 episodes of Heroic Age the story unfolds in a somewhat predictable manner, though there are a few surprises here and there. While you never really know 100% what's coming, you can rest assured that Age will see things through to the end. I mean, the show's named after him for crying out loud! You just know that if he's involved in a fight, chances are good he's going to come out on top. Towards the end of the show, however, things get a little sloppy. The pacing gets kind of erratic and some plot developments just aren't given the time they need to truly come to fruition. The show starts out fairly strong and stays that way for a majority of its run, but just fizzles out at the finish line unfortunately.
Despite the lackluster conclusion Heroic Age is a solid science fiction piece that fans of the genre should definitely check out. The characters are interesting, the battles are insane, and all in all the show bears a sort of high profile feel to it. The premise of the series is also quite good and there's a rich history the producers obviously had a fun time exploring. If you missed it the first time around on DVD then checking this Blu-ray out is something you'll want to consider.
Heroic Age is presented on Blu-ray with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image. This release of the show hits home with 1080p that utilizes an AVC codec. Having both releases in hand, and the ability to do a side by side comparison, it's quite clear that this is the better of the two transfers as one might expect. The overall resolution, the richness of the colors, and lines of animation are just much more defined overall. There's no grain and no compression anywhere here, and frankly there are only two flaws: aliasing and the black level. On the aliasing side of thing there are some terrible examples on the space ship designs used in the show. They just stand out as poorly rendered and whenever they move here you can clearly see the lines shift. As far as the black levels are concerned I was hoping this release would make them more pronounced, but as it stands the black levels were fairly shallow. Overall though, despite these complaints, it's a very nice transfer and the show looks decidedly better than it did on standard definition DVD, but it's not flawless by any means.
Dolby Digital Japanese 2.0 and Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 are the two audio tracks available for this show. While I'm typically a stickler for the original Japanese when it comes to my anime I occasionally from my preferences lie elsewhere with some shows. I have to say that Heroic Age is just that kind of show. The English TrueHD track supplied here really kicks the experience into high gear with some nice uses of the channels and an all around solid voice cast. The bass is employed liberally throughout the show as well and it stands out the most when Age becomes Bellcross and uses his powers. English subtitles are also included of course.
For this Blu-ray release of Heroic Age once again the only bonus features are textless animations and trailers.
Heroic Age was a lot of fun from start to finish. It's a great sci-fi show and deserves to be on the watch-list of anyone even remotely interested in the genre. Sure the show has its quirks and some flaws, but there are some truly great highs here. If you missed the show last year when it was released on DVD, or are looking to upgrade, the Blu-ray is certainly worth picking up. The picture and sound quality is improved enough to make it worth your while. Recommended
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