Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anime Review: Heroic Age

It’s been a while since my last anime review.  There have been a lot of factors in play with that but probably the most annoying reason has been that I’ve been having trouble getting through the anime Suzuka which as of this writing I’m STILL not done with yet and it’s really been slowing down my schedule.  Oh well.

Today we’ll be looking at Heroic Age, an original anime I powered through recently.  Originally aired in 2007 Heroic Age was produced by Xebec, Inc., a subsidiary of Production I.G, which also produced Martian Successor Nadesico and Love Hina.  It also has character designs by Hisashi Hirai who is my absolute favorite anime character designer having done work on Scryed, Infinite Ryvius and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (The latter two among my top ten favorite anime). So for that alone it caught my eye. Oh, that and it’s a SPACE OPERA WITH GIANT ROBOTS!

Now I love space operas; in fact it’s my favorite genre of fiction. Star Trek, Firefly, the Gundam series, Star Wars; if it has a spaceships zipping around the universe I will at least not outright tell it to go to hell.  But Dragonaut: The Resonance was a space opera and that crappy show put a dent on my bathroom wall (Via my head) so simply taking place in space doesn’t necessary mean anything.  But one thing this series has that Dragonaut didn’t is…it’s loosely based on Greek Mythology?  What, you mean like Ulysses 31? Actually I’m not sure how I feel about this…

Catchy theme song though...

Full review after the jump.


Dhianeil: Cries a lot but gets the job done!

Centuries ago a mysterious and powerful race of beings known as “The Golden Tribe” sent out a call throughout the galaxy that was answered by three alien races: The Silver Tribe, the Bronze Tribe and the Heroic Tribe (Who were later severely punished for being destructive).  The Golden Tribe passed on their knowledge to these races and then prepared to depart the known universe.  However before they left a fourth race replied, the human race who are dubbed the “Iron Tribe”.  Since the Golden Tribe’s departure however the Iron Tribe has become the targets of the Silver and Bronze Tribes to the point where humanity is in danger of being wiped out.  Princess Dhianeila and her loyal followers, the crew of the Argonaut, search the stars for the Nodos of the human race, a human with the immense power of the Heroic Tribe within him, who is prophesied to be the savior of their people.  And find him they do: an uncivilized wild child named “Age” living alone on a ruined world.

So right off the bat there is a lot of back-story to be found here and for the most part I liked it.  The world of Heroic Age is AWESOME and I love the name scheme of the major races.   I was also pleasantly surprised to see that there were also minor tribes aside from the five main ones.  I also liked that the differences between Silver, Bronze, and Iron as far as looks (More or less) and technology were so drastic from each other.  It really felt like we were dealing with aliens.  The Greek Mythology stuff ?   Meh. It’s pretty clear that’s what they were going for though it wasn’t so obvious that I felt like it was being banged over my head.   It’s very clear that it draws from the Labors of Heracles (Or Hercules maybeWhatever dude, I don’t care), names of people, places and things are crossed over (Such as the title of this very anime) and several characters are based on myths and it works pretty well for the most part.  It’s not exactly revolutionary or anything but the number of shows and movies that draw from ancient source materials in modern sci-fi settings have high potential to be a train wreck but that’s not the case here.

This show is mostly a less sexy version of Starship Troopers
 As I mentioned before Hisashi Hirai is my favorite character designer in anime but to be perfect honestly I didn’t 100% realize it was him until I researched the show after viewing it.  The characters themselves look reminiscent of his usual style but a bit thinner and less dynamic; I actually was thinking all through the show that whoever deigns them must have been heavily influenced by Hiarai.  Whoops.  I don’t know, I guess this must have just been a departure from his normal stuff and even then it wasn’t that dramatic of a departure but even so I wasn’t thrilled by it.  That said I like the costume designs a lot.   I liked how different the Iron Tribe and the Silver looked form each other.  Really the only aspect that didn’t jive with me was the stuff clearly oriented for fan service.  The Iron Tribe military uniform, which was mostly pretty good as far as these types of shows usually go, is really, really tight on the women.   To the point where, for lack of a better description, I can see “dat booty”. I guess Iron Tribe military uniform protocol calls for all women to wear uniforms two sizes too small. Yay feminism?

Speaking of suspicious acts of sexy what the hell was up with Nilval Nephew’s uniform?  Do all high ranking female officers in the Iron Tribe wear uniforms with a cleavage window or does Nilval just like showing off her gigantic boobs?   Seriously she seems like she actually wanted to be a supporting character in Dragonaut but ended up having to settle for this one.

Even Power Girl is rolling her eyes
The plot itself of this show was not very strong, which sucks since the world is pretty interesting.  I found this show very dull in a lot of places and I think it’s mostly because there’s not enough story to fit into twenty-six episodes so things, especially battles, were constantly dragged out.  Heroic Age would have benefitted greatly from a smaller episode count.  It doesn’t help that the characters aren’t nearly strong enough to carry a show this long.  In its defense it actually has an ending that (Mostly) makes sense and even has a damn epilogue.   I feel like the vast majority of anime I’ve reviewed lately have been plagued with no-endings that seem to be setting up for second season that usually didn’t happen. That Heroic Age eventually concluded rather than suddenly just stopping gives it major points with me.

There are some giant robots in this show, which is always a good things, but they were more like support units for the real fighters; the Nodos.  The Nodos ultimately are people who can transform into giant monsters with crazy as hell super powers which is okay I guess but I’m a man who likes to see giant robots blow the shit out of other giant robots so I ended up spending most of the show wishing for that.  The creatures are actually very reminiscent of EVAs from Neon Genesis Evangelion except they were typically much more powerful and no one did any piloting.  To me it wasn’t anything all that interesting but that could easily just be my own biased attitude.

Less like a giant robot, more like Space Godzilla
As I mentioned the characters aren’t super great.  My favorite character on the show was Dhianeila who is pretty similar to other space opera anime Earth Mothers like Lacus Clyne or Releena Peacecraft (Yuck!) from the Gundam series but is different from them mainly in the fact that she comes off like the true protagonist of the show.  Though Age is probably supposed t be the main character the vast majority of what he does in the show is take place in episodes long battles that drag down the show, during which he doesn’t get any lines whatsoever. Meanwhile Dhianeila is the person we focus on but that’s okay because she’s very strong willed and earnest in her quest to save her species.  Plus her diplomacy skills are top level; she’s the Jean-Luc Picard of her universe.  As main characters go we could do worse and she’s an example that strong female characters aren’t limited to ass kicking warriors.

The rest of the cast is…meh.  The problem is that there are a lot of characters to keep track of, both among the Iron Tribe and the Silver Tribe, but almost of them are underused and/or underdeveloped.   For example Age suffers from being a Son Goku-like hero (i.e. dumb but heroic) and unfortunately that character type works better in a low thinking action-comedy series so here I just found his antics irritating.  He has a lot of back-story but we never learn the details for the most part which is pretty lame.  Most of the other secondary characters are pretty two-dimensional and don’t really stand out.  Well maybe Dhianeila’s two moron brothers are somewhat memorable as they are two of the DUMBEST ANIME CHARACTERS EVER.   Their numerous acts of insane stupidity result in unforgivable military decisions and nearly destroy the Iron Tribe by mistake and yet they ultimately get away with everything.  Karma?  What’s that?

Also something that bugged the hell out of me was the fact that some (human) characters had superpowers that other (human) folk didn’t have and I don’t recall ever hearing it explained why that was, other than some implication that it was the result of the Golden Tribe.  Dhianeila for example has massive ESP related powers while Iolaous can teleport himself and others.   I’m not sure why this is or why no one in the show thought it strange enough to ask why and thus provide with audience with exposition.  Speaking of stuff the audience doesn’t know in my post-viewing research I noticed that certain character aspect and plot points weren’t mentioned in the show but exist nonetheless.  For example apparently Age, despite looking and being referred to as “sixteen" in the show, is apparently actually over one hundred years old.  Huh?  As I understand it a lot of this sort of info was listed in guidebooks rather than in the show meaning that I would have had to go out and purchase it to get the full experience of the world the show presents, which is bullshit by itself, but as an American viewer I have zero access to any sort of book so I’m just shit out of luck.  Goddamn that stupid ass superfluous bullshit; I should never have to go to other sources to learn important plot points!  If it’s relevant it should always, always be part of the main material!

Also there's some bizarre love sub-plot that really didn't make sense
 This is a flawed show but it’s not a bad one. The characters aren’t awful, they’re just not nearly developed as they probably should be.  The actions scenes can be fun at times, though they can be mind numbingly long and boring at others.   This series is an average show.  It’s not terrible at all but it’s fairly forgettable.  It’s a great idea but the execution is lacking.  If you like space operas and anime you may want to check it out.  Otherwise if it’s conveniently available feel free to watch it and make your own decision about it.  You may love it but for me it was just another second tier space drama.

I give Heroic Age 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


Pros

-I DIG GIANT ROBOTS!!

-The world of Heroic Age is pretty dang cool

-Strong female lead (Despite what the show tries to tell you)

-Pretty good costume designs

Cons

-Characters are kind of flat and forgettable

-So is the plot

-The show is too long and stretches a lot of scenes to unfortunate degrees (Especially fights between the Nodos)

-It felt like I’m missing a lot of plot points

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