Regular readers of my anime reviews may well remember Heroic Age The Complete Series Part One as one of very few titles to rate a perfect “5 Star” score. This feat was especially noteworthy not only because it was a view not seemingly shared by my colleagues but also because as far as animation reviewers are concerned, I have a well-earned reputation as being one of the most conservative. Naturally the immediate question became, could the second part of the tale (episodes 14-26) possibly live up to the precedent set in the first installment? Would the show finish out as strong as it had started? I too wondered such things in anticipation of the second and final installment of the saga and now these questions can finally be answered.
Released across two discs, Heroic Age The Complete Series Part Two consists of the final twelve episodes of the show and comes in at a runtime of 315 minutes. Like the first part, Funimation packages them up in a pair of thin packs within a colorful cardboard outer slipcase. The show wears a conservative TV PG rating on account of its grand conflict themes and action rather than blood, gore, language, or nudity.
Extras are pretty thin and consist only of textless songs and a crop of Funimation trailers on the second disc.
Language options are typical sub & dub, with original Japanese dialog or English dub tracks optioned (stereo and Dolby 5.1 Surround respectively), and the choice of viewing with English subtitles over either language.
The story picks up directly where the first installment leaves off: In the middle of a grand struggle between the many races of the known universe (in this case called “tribes”). Amidst the massive and brutal conflict, we continue to follow the exploits of a feral boy named Age who just so happens to bear the devastating task of laboring for the salvation of all of humanity. In the meantime, just in case Age’s innocent yet awe-inspiring power should fail, the Princess Dhianelia seeks the key to unlock the secrets of the tribe who predicted all of this chaos, the enigmatic Tribe of Gold.
What the grander themes here really boil down is the classic choice versus destiny conflict within each of us. All of the terrible events taking place between the warring factions had been predicted in advance by the mystical Tribe of Gold but the participants involved struggle endlessly with the concept of whether or not their own free will has any affect on the fate that’s been laid out before them.
Often times the temptation to put the theory to the test results in their doing the opposite of what logic suggests only for them to discover that the rash move had been predicted as well, hence they’ve once again played into the hands of destiny… and so the cycle goes.
The visuals continue to be a feast for the senses; the battles in particular, are as massive as ever and rely frequently upon the butter-smooth integration of CG segments. Some of the battles between the animalistic Nodos are also quite spectacular, complete with screams, roars, and growls every bit as dramatic as the action. Explosions and zero-g turmoil are once again well above the norm and the sound work is mixed and timed to perfection.
I suppose my own disappointment in going from the first volume to this, the final is that the show moves away from the charming and interesting lead character development (of the boy-hero Age) and instead turns its attention to the greater conflict at hand. While this wouldn’t be a crime in and of itself (after all, humanity’s destiny hangs in the balance here), the problem is that the playing field is a bit too large in scale. The affection that you hope to feel for the lowly humans (the Iron Tribe) and the disdain that should surround the Bronze Tribe are simply never fully fleshed out.
Worse still is that while the viewer is left playing a massive game of politics and betrayal (complete with humans who, quite frankly, deserve to be annihilated), the show frequently attempts to integrate some additional conflict amidst the Tribe of Heroes: Basically the five individuals who can turn into massive battle-beasts known as Nodos which, surprisingly, are in no way related to the caffeine-based medication of the same name pronunciation.
In all, this is a series that seems to get a bad rep that, at least in my opinion, is quite unjustified. Those who found the first half of the saga a bit too shallow in story will likely get more enjoyment out of this half of the tale, which does away with the “chase and fight” sequences that littered the first half. Of course the flip side to this is that this installment focuses much more heavily on simple philosophy and dry politics, the likes of which even the cutesy intelligent fish character, “Bee” can’t make interesting.
Musical composition from Naoki Sato continues to dazzle with epic scope and dynamics this time around. The dub is a bit weaker than the original Japanese voice efforts but I’m an admitted fan of the type of acting Funimation turns out time and time again. Given the abundance of arguing between factions and melodrama from the Princess Dhianelia, the actors clearly did the best they could with the material even if the Japanese cast seems to have been a little more comfortable with this type of storyline.
I began this review with a question that asked whether or not the show could possible finish as strongly as it began and the short answer is not quite. A point off for swinging the prose from a monster/ mecha in space story to a politically driven space opera. However, it is still an above average effort that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for unique science fiction anime.
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Heroic Age (ヒロイック・エイジ, Hiroikku Eiji?) is a science fiction anime directed by Toshimasa Suzuki. It is produced by XEBEC and airs on Japanese networks such as TV Tokyo and TV Osaka. The series first aired on April 1, 2007, and is now completed with a total of 26 episodes, the last of which having aired on September 30, 2007.
On July 23, 2007, a manga adaptation began serialization in Kodansha's Magazine Z. Though the story will be the same, it will be told in Iolaous' point of view. Five official guidebooks will also be published and will have consecutive monthly releases from July to November 2007.
The story's theme is based on stories in Greek mythology, especially those surrounding Heracles, upon whom the main character is based, and his Twelve Labors. Many of the other characters are also based on some figures in Greek mythology; characters share similar names to their Greek counterparts, and how their relationship is defined with others correspond with Greek stories. The title of the series, Heroic Age, is also a slight testament to the similarities to Greek mythology, referring to the time of the Heroic Age. The tribes featured in the anime are loosely based on Hesiod's Five Ages of Mankind.