Heroic Age Complete Series Part 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In a far flung future, humanity is searching for their savior for the Tribe of Hero that will guide them to a bright and safe life.

What They Say

Long ago, the advanced Tribe of Gold vanished from the vast universe. In the void left by their departure, the tyrannical Tribe of Silver ascended to rule, forcing mankind - the Iron Tribe - to the brink of extinction. Now humanity wanders the cosmos in search of a savior.

Prophesy has foretold of one who will labor for their freedoms, and on a planet of ruin, a champion is found. A feral boy named Age holds the destiny of their species in his hands and the untold power of the Tribe of Hero within.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!
FUNimation has given Heroic Age a bit of a boost and it’s pretty welcome for large chunks of this series. The original Japanese language track is presented in its stereo format encoded at 192kbps and it comes across cleanly and with a decent amount of placement and some depth at times. It conveys the original intent well and it serves the material to make it solid and enjoyable. The English language mix however gets a bump up to the 5.1 format and is encoded at 448kbps. This mix is significantly better in quite a lot of parts, generally during the action sequences, where it has a louder and more direct sense of impact and spatial placement. The score comes across as more dynamic and the action really has a much stronger feeling throughout, which helps it a lot. In both mixes, dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The first half of the series makes up this set and it’s spread across two discs in a seven/six format. The show has a very good bright and colorful look with lots of deep colors throughout that are very appealing. The animation is solid work from Xebec which has a great flow to it and a certain smoothness, especially with the CG animation that works well in conjunction with the rest of the animation. What’s off-putting about the show, particularly in the early episodes, is that there is a fair bit of noise to a lot of the scenes and backgrounds. There’s often the intent to use this for stylistic purposes, but I haven’t seen the Japanese releases for comparison so it’s hard to say. It doesn’t result in blocking along the way so that’s a plus, but it’s distracting at first and becomes more accepted as you watch it.

Heroic Age gets the standard FUNimation double disc treatment with a somewhat thin slipcover to hold the two clear thinpak cases. The slipcover looks good and serious as it has the core trio of lead characters on it, both in close-up and long distance shots, while the visual of Age’s Nodos is behind them with a good planetary view. It’s a bit earthy in its colors but it’s appealing with lots of detail that has you doing a double-take to make sure you see everything. The back of the slipcover is really nice as it has Age looking up at the sky on his homeworld with lots of really nice green hues to it. There are a few shots from the shot scattered about which are appealing and the summary is brief but engaging as it gives you an idea of what the whole thing is about. The technical information is unfortunately shunted down to the bottom of the slipcover but they use good colors on it to make it readable.

Inside the slipcover we get a pair of really solid clear thinpaks that feature simple but effective artwork on both sides. The first volume is purple/red in its hues as it has Dhianeila and Aneasha. The background uses a similar kind of layout as the back of the slipcover with its grid work as it lists the episode numbers and titles. The reverse side of the first volume has a lengthwise shot of the Mail and Tail twin sisters in full length which is set against a darker starscape with some beautiful yellows to give it some pop. The second volume is darker overall as it uses deep blues for its background as it features Iolaus and his mecha behind him. The back cover is similar to the first except with the blues while the reverse side has a great shot of Mobeedo with Nilval, who is really hard to believe she’s 45 if you go by various official sites.

The menu design for the show is very simple but effective enough in setting the mood. Each menu is a basic static piece with the play all feature and standard submenu sections as well. The first disc has a good shot of Age’s Nodos taking up the bulk of the screen with a close-up and the navigation along the right. The second volume lets Dhianeila take the stage with some appealing artwork of her. There’s not a lot to these menus, in flash or style as it’s kept straightforward and a little in theme with the font, but it’s effective and easy to use. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast. The discs unfortunately continue to not read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with no subtitles.

The only extras are included on the second volume which is in the form of the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from Xebec, which also found its way to a manga run and several guidebooks, Heroic Age is a big epic space opera series that spans twenty-six episodes. As can be guessed from the name of the series and the various characters within, it owes a lot to Greek mythology but that’s nowhere near a requirement to know in order to enjoy it. Those who have studied it may get more out of it though as it does appear to retain a lot of nods and relationship oriented bits when it comes to those stories. Heroic Age is a big space epic that keeps its focus on the characters but places them in situations where there’s so much at stake it’s almost boggling. It is a touch confusing at first, but once it gets going, these first thirteen episodes tell a big fun epic adventure with some significant events taking place.

Heroic Age takes place in a distant future where there are multiple races called Tribes that have answered the call of the eldest of the Tribes, the Golden Tribe. The Golden Tribe had called out ages before to see who would come into space with them and three did; the Silver, Bronze and Heroic Tribes all made their way out. Just as the Golden Tribe was about to depart the universe and not look back, a fourth one came out into the stars. Humankind became the Iron Tribe ascended quickly into the stars but their fate was cruel as the Bronze Tribe conquered Earth, decimated the population and took control of it. Now humanity is cast out among the stars and are doing their best to figure out the way to live so they can reclaim their homeworld.

All of their hopes lie in finding their savior, a man of the Heroic Tribe who will activate his Nodos – a giant living mecha of sorts – that will perform twelve labors so he can have his own wish fulfilled. The royal family has commissioned a small fleet to go out in search of it and they’ve sent Princess Dhianeila out to seek out their savior since she seems to have an affinity for it. The series opens with the discovery of the savior, a slightly feral wild child living on a ruined world who is named Age. Age has been residing in a run down broken starship that crashed there and is completely unaware of most things. He’s very simplistic but it becomes apparent quickly when the Bronze Tribe arrives on the scene that he’s immensely powerful and focused. Age is brought with the ship through the dulcet tones of Dhianeila to help them as they describe the twelve labors and his role in all of it. Age is pretty unaware of all of this though as he’s interested more in just helping the princess and playing in paint.

The first half of the series focuses on the crew of the Argonaut finding Age and attempting to bring him back to their home system so they can best figure out how to reclaim their home world. Through it, we get to know the cast and their quirks, but it is primarily focused on just a few characters. While Dhianeila is the ostensible lead of the crew as princess, a good bit of time is spent on the captain of the ship, Mobeedo, who provides an elder statesman kind of role and some guidance for the younger members of the crew. There’s a pair of twins that help out with Age along the way, though they amusingly get in trouble for letting him play with paint, and they have a brother who is one of the knights that fights in their version of mecha.

A good deal of focus is naturally on Age, though a lot of it tends to come from others watching him. His transition from the wild child, with long hair and hardly any clothes, to the curious adventurer with a good haircut and a slick uniform is fun to watch. He’s so open and curious about things that it gets him in trouble, but he balances it with what he can do when he changes into his Nodos role and deals with others of the Heroic Tribe that they come across during the first half that are working for the Silver Tribe. Age’s abilities and determination are really quite spectacular, but it’s given to the viewer in a way that doesn’t help it however. During one sequence, he’s apparently fighting for some two hundred hours or thirty hours in another. We don’t really see it, it’s just mentioned while we see him going back and forth a few times with his opponent. Of course, we don’t really want to see that length of time, but Age doesn’t exhibit any visual different from the first minute to the last minute of the fight and that keeps you from really connecting with it.

The visual design of the series is admittedly quite appealing as I like what Xebec often comes up with and that it’s another series with Hisashi Hirai as the character designer. I’ve really liked his take on things for several years now and getting another high quality release here is just icing on the cake. His take on Age in particular is appealing but I also really liked the design of the Iron Tribe’s uniforms and structure of its people. His designs seem like they’re less like what we’ve seen before such as Fafner or Infinite Ryvius, but there are shades and echoes of it. The Nodos designs are solid if fairly familiar – a relative new person to anime could easily see them as slightly updated Evangelion designs – and the use of the copious amounts of starships has a slick look to it but without a huge amount of detail. There are basic components in all of these that are familiar to most science fiction anime fans, but it’s all done competently and without problem so you get to enjoy it, even if it doesn’t really stand out hugely on its own.

In Summary:
Heroic Age was intriguing as the second disc really got underway and it almost felt like they could tell a good compelling story in just the first thirteen episodes with big consequences. Of course, there’s a whole other set coming so they don’t veer completely down that path, but Heroic Age pleases the space opera fan in me in the second half of this set quite a lot. There’s a lot to like here, but it felt a bit off in how it started and moving things along. The visuals are appealing as I like the kind of style Xebec tends to showcase, the characters are pleasing on the eye without being too blunt (outside of Nilvan of course) and the mecha are standard fare with obvious accents to them to account for how the Hero Tribe uses them. It wasn’t an easy sell from the start, but by the end of the second disc I was wanting more of it as soon as possible so I can see where they really intend to go with it.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 59.99
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Heroic Age