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Heroic Age: The Complete Series(TV) (2007)
After the departure of the superior Golden Tribe, the universe is thrust into a state of chaos as the power- hungry Silver Tribe launches a reign of terror and plots to drive humankind, the Iron Tribe, into extinction. Spurred by the prophecies of the Golden Tribe, Iron Tribe leader Princess Dhianeila embarks on an interstellar journey to find the heroic champion said to have the power to save mankind and restore balance to the universe.
For more about Heroic Age: The Complete Series and the Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray release, see Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on February 28, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Hiroshi Yazaki, Yui Ishikawa
» See full cast & crew
Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review
The perfect marriage of Battlestar Galactica and anime.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, February 28, 2010
Heroic Age is a 26-episode anime series produced in 2007 by an up-and-coming studio called Xebec. Directed by Toshimasa Suzuki, the show borrows heavily from Greek mythology, but transplants the storylines into a futuristic setting. Full of dense storytelling and epic action sequences, Heroic Age is a production that hasn't necessarily taken off on western shores (despite a prior DVD run), but should gain deserving strides with this Blu-ray release. From a personal standpoint, I'm guilty of furthering the disrespect, by shoving the release aside in favor of tackling the same-day release of Claymore from Funimation. If you read my review of Claymore, you'll remember I was a bit underwhelmed by the plodding nature of the series, and desperately in need of an anime product I could truly get into. I'm pleased to report Heroic Age is precisely the therapeutic release I needed, and a superior production to Claymore in almost every way (though it's admittedly similar to comparing apples to oranges).
In the distant future, an advanced society known as the Golden Tribe summon advanced species from the far reaches of the universe, hoping to establish a relationship with other beings that might benefit from their superior intellect. Three tribes respond initially, and make the journey with the assistance of the Golden Tribe. Provided with their own individual title, the emergent species are known as the Bronze Tribe (an insect race), the Silver Tribe (a group of spiritually-focused beings), and the Heroic Tribe (a powerful warrior race with the ability to transform into ominous creatures). A late arrival to the call of the Golden Tribesmen is humanity, who designed their own technology to make the journey across the universe. These original humans are assigned the name Iron Tribe, and seem to be respected above all others by the Golden Tribe. Unfortunately, the peaceful coexistence originally established among the races quickly begins to unravel, as the destructive tendencies of the Heroic Tribe almost bring about the destruction of the galaxy. With the help of the wise leaders in the Golden Tribe, the remaining five members of the Heroic race are imprisoned and stripped of their power (which is transferred into five crystals). These five tokens are transplanted into five members of other tribes populating the galaxy, who became known as the Nodos. Without explanation, the members of the Golden Tribe elect to leave the galaxy they created, but require each Nodos to draw up a contract with one of the remaining tribes in the galaxy. Four of them join the ranks of the Silver Tribe, while one human Nodos (raised by the Golden Tribe) accepts the prophesied responsibility of protecting the human race.
The story at the heart of the series picks up years later, with the establishment of the Silver Tribe as the dominant tribe of the galaxy. Following the subjugation of the Bronze Tribe, the leaders of the Silver Tribe set their sights on the annihilation of the Iron (human) Tribe. Forced from their home world of Earth, and nearly brought to the edge of extinction, humans have begun an interplanetary search for their savior, a Nodos named Age. According to legend, Age holds the power of Bellcross, and entered into a long-rumored contract with the Iron Tribe to complete 12 "labors" that would restore balance to the universe. Dianeira is a princess from the Iron Tribe royal family, and a spiritual leader among her people. Aware of the significance in finding the boy known as Age, she enlists the aid of a grizzled starship captain, and gains permission from humanity's high council to seek out the legendary Nodos. Once discovered, the tide begins to swing in favor of humankind, setting in motion an epic battle to forever establish one dominant Tribe in the long-forgotten galaxy.
Heroic Age takes everything I love about anime, and wraps it up in a nice, neat package. I grew up enthralled by anything and everything related to science fiction, so the first time I witnessed the reality-bending attributes of the animation medium, I couldn't get enough of it. Over the years, I've developed an appreciation for all genres within the anime spectrum, but I still reserve a special place in my heart for futuristic productions. In the case of Heroic Age, my fascination has been taken to an entirely new level. From the get-go, viewers are introduced to a lengthy prologue that establishes the world we're about to enter. From there, the dense layering continues to build, as we learn more about each individual tribe, and the pacts established between the various Nodos on each side. This focus on plot might lead you to believe this is an overly cerebral affair, but the first five episodes of the series feature some of the most fantastic space battles I've witnessed. Every time Age transforms into Bellcross (a large organic creature with similarities to mecha), we're guaranteed some form of mass destruction, whether it be the destruction of entire space fleets or immense hand-to-hand brawls with rival Nodos. There truly is something for everyone in the series, making this one of the most widely accessible productions I've witnessed in quite some time.
Getting down to the pacing and structure of Heroic Age, this is a thoroughly engrossing endeavor. Some series opt for an episodic structure with several extended plotlines thrown in from time to time spanning multiple episodes. This series presents one extended storyline that spans the entire 26-episode feature, leaving the show complete devoid of fluff or filler. As a result, it's much easier to sit through the entire series in one or two large blocks of time (If you happen to have over ten hours free that would be the way to go), since you'll remain thoroughly engrossed in the unfolding struggle from episode to episode. From a pacing standpoint, the series contains a near-perfect mix of the necessary elements to keep us entertained. The first few episodes are devoted to introductory plotlines that quickly establish the key characters in the series, and lay the groundwork for the monumental undertaking the humans will face. Just when you begin to worry the series might become a tad repetitive we're transported to the new planetary residence of the humans, and thrust into a political power-struggle between princess Dianiera and her two less-than-savory brothers. I'd hate to give away too much about the direction of the series from that point, but I'll simply mention the line between good and bad will begin to blur as the prey become the predator.
Rounding out my positive assessment of the series, I want to briefly touch on the animation quality. In all of series I've sat through in recent memory, Heroic Age easily ranks toward the top. The combination of unique character models, vivid backgrounds, highly detailed battle sequences, and wonderful lighting effects create a jaw-dropping experience that's easy to get lost in. I have no idea what kind of a budget studio Xebec was working within, but the production values on display are exceptional.
Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 20Mbps), Heroic Age is a slight step up from other recent Funimation series, but not the jaw-dropping change most of us were hoping for. Given the overall appearance of the image, I'm going to assume this is an upscale of the original source material, leaving room for only moderate improvement over the prior DVD release. The improvements are still clearly distinguished in this newly minted transfer, but we shouldn't expect a dramatic increase in fine detail and depth. Instead, we're treated to the subtle removal of compression artifacts and aliasing, creating a more stable image. Additionally, given the vivid nature of the color spectrum for the series, I'm wagering this is a noticeable upgrade in the reproduction of the original hues, ratcheting up the artistry on display. One of the most impressive elements in the animation is the use of spiritual teleportation by Dianiera and select members of the Silver Tribe. The teleported figure shows up as a glowing entity whose features are highlighted by brightly lit outlines. The appearance of these figures typically occurs within a deep space setting, making the effect ten times more eye-popping, but also creating moments when contrast must perform admirably in order to fully-delineate the effect the animators were going for. Thankfully, black levels never dip below ideal levels, leaving the vast expanse of space awash in inky-deep backgrounds. This allows the bright figures in the foreground to stand out with increased vibrancy, creating an effect that could almost be described as three-dimensional. On the negative side, fine lines throughout the series reveal diagonal stairstepping and occasional aliasing, which becomes marginally worse on the crisp detailing of the CGI space models.
Although the Blu-ray release of Heroic Age doesn't offer the tremendous upgrade realized on native-HD releases, it offers superior image quality over the typical standard definition release, and should be viewed as the version of choice for anyone looking to add the series to their collection. Those who already own the DVD version may want to go the rental route in advance, since the upgrade might not be significant enough to make it a worthwhile investment.
Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Audio Quality
In keeping with the customary practice on most of their television series, Funimation's offering of Heroic Age contains the original Japanese language track in Dolby Digital 2.0, while offering a new lossless upgrade for the 5.1 English dubbed track. In a perfect world, I'd hope for a lossless surround option in the native language of the series, but considering the limitations of the original recording, my only disappointment with this effort lies in the decision to stick with a lossy 2.0 track, rather than providing a lossless 2-channel option. The front-heavy mix lacks the depth of finely tuned surround separation, leaving us with an experience that's merely adequate at getting the job done (but not what I'd consider a value-added audio experience). The English dub on the other hand, demonstrates an excellent sense of immersion, separating nuances in the audio effects to create a wildly entertaining experience. The audio staff in charge of designing the surround experience on the English dub has truly outdone themselves on this space opera, which collectively assembles all manner of fantastical effects. From the low rumble of massive space cruisers flying overhead, to the all-encompassing onslaught of insect legions attacking Bellcross, there's never a limitation on the elements incorporated in the mix. Adding to the proficiencies in the surround spectrum, the LFE track consistently bombards you with the rumble of massive explosions or the low hum of spacecraft engines, creating one rousing sequence after another. From the standpoint of volume balance, each element is afforded appropriate weight in the collective mix, allowing abundant clarity in the overall presentation.
If I had the option of scoring the audio offerings separately, I'd give the English track a 4.5/5, and the Japanese track a 2.5/5. The differences between the two tracks are certainly noticeable, but the lack of surround separation on the Japanese mix never downgraded my overall enjoyment of the show.
Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only supplements included on the three-disc set are textless opening and closing songs, as well as a collection of trailers for other releases from Funimation.
Heroic Age: The Complete Series Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Heroic Age is an epic science fiction production that deserves a spot in the collection of any anime fan. Combining dense storytelling, monumental battles, vivid animation, and memorable characters, the overall experience is sure to entertain through multiple viewings and ranks near the top of my anime recommendations list. Consider this a must-own title.
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