The scale of the series continues to grow while still focusing squarely on the individuals that are shaping events.
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 Tribe of Iron - to the brink of extinction.
As the conflict escalates, a feral boy named Age labors for humanity's freedom, wielding the ferocious power of the Tribe of Hero against other beings who share his mystical strength. With the enemy closing in, Princess Dhianeila searches for the key to unlock the secrets of the Tribe of Gold before destruction claims the entire cosmos.
Contains episodes 14-26.
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 second 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 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 has a very strong look to it with Age in front of his Nodos that’s going out of control. With there being so much red, it has an intense look to it, especially magnified by the expression of the Nodos itself. The back of the slipcover is really nice as it plays with the reds and blacks again with the Nodos in a rage in the background while bright character artwork is in the foregruond. 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. In the previous release, the colors were lighter and focused on the “good guys” of the series while this one they go to the Tribe of Silver. Each volume is set to a star filled background with lots of purple to it while the foreground has a pairing of different characters. The reverse side of the first volume has a lengthwise shot of the Lecty and Mehitak while the second volume has Phaetho in the background with Dhianeila in the foreground. The back covers are kept simple with a breakdown of the episodes and title set against a star filled background.
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. Each disc has a different piece of character artwork taking up the bulk of the screen with a close-up and the navigation along the right. 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)
In the first half of the series, Heroic Age really surprised me once it got underway. The show played well to some of the classics of literature but it kept everything fresh and exciting. Even more impressive for me was that the show built up so much in its first half that it could have finished out with the last episode of that set with just a few minor tweaks and left a lot of viewers happy. Wanting more of course, but feeling happy with what it presented and how well it handled the epic nature of it all. Thankfully, we do get more of the series and it only ups the stakes as it goes along, putting the fate of the universe out there in the hands of a few people who have been placed there by the Tribe of Gold.
Heroic Age has something of a sprawling nature to it that really makes watching it in the half season sets very appealing. It’s working a large scale setting with so much at stake and that has it covering a lot of ground with big moments. What was fascinating in this set is that the show opens with two episodes where Age isn’t even really a part of it because of the way the battle is going that started in the previous volume. With him in his Nodos mode, he’s more of a force of nature than a character as he battles against the others. A good chunk of the series with its battles are less focused on the individuals than I would have guessed. With the Heroes becoming less than human in a way when they transform, it has a colder feeling to it. This is also made prominent by the Tribe of Bronze with their insect nature and the lack of a real “character” to lead them. They have moments where some of the “leadership” members are show, but there’s little about the Tribe that really lets you connect with them. And the Heroes often have the same kind of feeling when they’re in full on battle mode.
Once this set gets underway and finishes out the end of the storyline from the previous set, Heroic Age is all about moving forward at a fairly fast pace. Dhianeila is in a strange position where she has such an obvious idea of where everything must go, the kind of person who sees how all the pieces fit, but she can’t really bring herself to do what’s truly necessary because of the politics of it all. But eventually the situation starts turning so grim because of how her royal family siblings are going about the war, causing such utter destruction, that she has to take the reins over from them and chart a new course for the Tribe of Iron. It was quite a beautiful and chilling moment when the word comes down about this as the brothers commanding (poorly) from the front lines in the flagship fleet are in utter shock when she does this. They see their victories, brutal victories over the Tribe of Bronze that’s barely fighting back even on their home world, as something that will be lionized for centuries to come. When Dhianeila talks about it as a massacre and a tragedy, they can’t believe it and they can’t believe that the ruling council has given her the power that they had. Sadly, they see it as her being power hungry.
Dhianeila’s approach to dealing with what’s going on among all the tribes is certainly not what some key members of any tribe wants. But her approach is one that she can’t help but follow and that has gained her a very faithful set of followers and watching them do all they can for her is powerful. Even more so is that the things she does, often seeming impossible, change the course of the war at each stage. Everything changed when Age was found and he seems to complement her perfectly which gives her plans and decisions all the more weight. Thankfully, we see this sprawling battle on both sides of the field and understand what the Tribe of Silver is up to as well and why the conflict rages as it does. The factions aren’t limited t just humanity’s side and seeing the differences in the Tribe of Silver is engaging since it’s not a black and white approach. In fact, the similarities between the two tribes is pretty blatant at times, just different sides of each that are leading the charge to crush their opponents.
As can be expected of a series like this, Heroic Age works up towards a big epic battle and conclusion with so much at stake. The Tribe of Gold has laid down quite the interesting experiment of sorts with the other tribes and they’ve figured out how it will all play out rather easily, which is what certain people believe the Agreements are all about. When the series shifts from outright combat across the large scale to dealing with what the reality may truly be, the mood shifts and the intensity ratchets up. Everything is still large and epic, but suddenly it becomes far more focused on the Heroes themselves and their place in all of it in relation to what the Tribe of Gold has orchestrated. As the series reaches its conclusion, it wraps it all up in this grand way that really fits in with some of the best space opera novels out there. So much so that you wish the Japanese would adapt more space opera novels from over here to give us something just as powerful. Heroic Age takes everything to its logical conclusion, including giving us some wonderful moments of “Verbal Sparring” between Phaetho and Dhianeila, that it’s very easy to come away hugely satisfied. In a way, this series works out really well by having so much material at once, but it also causes it all to feel like it’s over far too quickly. Heroic Age is a series you want to savor at the end.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Heroic Age overall but the series really made me smile throughout both its parts. There’s a big sweeping scale to it that I adore and it has a fun and engaging cast, even if most of them are surface characters at best. What works is that we’re seeing the Tribes fighting for survival and their place in the universe based on what the Tribe of Gold has laid out before them. The motivations of that Tribe aren’t always clear but seeing how they worked things, manipulated and “taught” the other Tribes through time, is just a real pleasure to see. With fantastic character designs, a great sense of scale, beautiful animation and some impressive action sequences towards the end, Heroic Age is a show that definitely has replay value and leaves a lasting impression. Definitely recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.