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Anime Review: Heroic Age, Part 1

James Henley | 15 Jun 2009 15:00
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If asked to describe Heroic Age in a single sentence, I would answer, "Giant mecha meets giant monster meets giant mecha-monster, with a hint of The Jungle Book." I would then immediately cheat and tack a vital half-sentence onto that description: "In space."

Heroic Age is set in the aftermath of the disappearance of the universe's wise and benevolent de facto rulers, the Tribe of Gold. Left behind to fend for themselves are the emotionless Tribe of Silver, the insectile Tribe of Bronze, the near-extinct Tribe of Iron (that would be us), and the even more near-extinct survivors of the ...Heroic Tribe? Ladies and gentlemen, one of these things is not like the others. I'm no fan of contrived, inane writing, but they could have at least maintained some consistency in their metallic naming scheme.

To make a long story short, the Tribe of Silver has ascended to some fashion of universal power in the absence of their friendly gold predecessors, and has decided that humanity should probably be scourged from the face of existence in short order. Surprised? No? You'd think people with no emotions would be a little less vengeful, but nobody ever seems to consider us welcome on the galactic stage.

Driven away from Earth and deep into space, humanity has spent years seeking ye olde typical prophesied boy-savior, who turns out to be a feral child that was raised by the main computer of a crashed spaceship on a dying planet. Age, our little space-Mowgli-turned-savior, contains the power of Belcross, one of the five remaining beings of the Heroic Tribe. By "power," I mean he can turn into a giant bio-mechanical monster and blow planets to pieces wholesale.

Age essentially kills everything in the show, including the potential for dramatic tension. Any potentially interesting space battle is rapidly reduced to Age obliterating anything that isn't us. When not engaged in the spaceborne slaughter of thousands, Age comes across as an innocent, positive, and friendly sheet of cardboard. He is, in a word, boring. Plain. Uninteresting. A character so utterly devoid of character as to scarcely classify as two-dimensional. Even the attempts to use his feral upbringing to comic effect are undermined by the wildly inconsistent portrayal of his level of education. Regardless, Age is still a less frustrating protagonist than many others, if only because he never pulls the "but I don't want to pilot the giant robot" whine-card. It also helps that the story spends a lot of time focusing on the supporting cast rather than Age himself.

The supporting cast, composed of people that have human faults and who might actually die, takes the series much further than its namesake manages to. Much of the story is viewed through the eyes of a psychic princess that has devoted her life to saving her people, a captain determined to see that same princess lead her people even if it means he has to do some of the dirty work she doesn't want done, and an angry, angsty hotshot mecha pilot that you could have stolen from virtually any modern Gundam series. Mix in a couple of twins with (yet unexplained) telekinetic powers, a couple dashes of unrequited love, four more hostile planet-smashing space mecha-monsters and a couple of scheming princes that I will hopefully see dead and mangled before the end of the series, and you've got yourself a recipe for a fairly solid show.

"Solid" is something that Heroic Age does very well. The story may be clichéd, but the execution makes it worth following. Naoki Sato's music doesn't reach the level of his prior soundtracks (ie. X TV), but it still serves the scenes well. The mechanical designs are good, but nothing that you haven't seen before.

To Heroic Age's credit, it delivers at an above-average level in terms of animation - particularly when Age has become Belcross - 2D/3D integration, and dubbing quality. Having watched half of the series in English and half in Japanese, I can safely say that I had no inclination to clutch my ears and fall to the ground in agony at any point. It's not going to convert diehard fans of subtitles, but the dub crowd definitely won't have to worry about damaging their hearing with this one.

Bottom Line: Heroic Age is a solid series with the potential to be something greater, provided the story continues to grow in the second half. Though the main character is bland and uninteresting and the story a cliché, the negative points are counterbalanced by a compelling supporting cast and an above-average presentation that sparks your curiosity and keeps you watching. Whether the second half will make or break it remains to be seen.

Recommendation: If you really like the idea of watching giant mecha-monsters trash things in space, or you're in desperate need of a sci-fi fix, give it a shot. There are far worse shows you could spend your time on.

James Henley would happily pilot a giant robot in the name of freedom, humanity, and wanton destruction. In space.

"Heroic Age, Part 1" includes the first 13 episodes of the TV series.

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