A science fiction thrill ride with fantasy accents, Heroic Age requires a huge suspension of disbelief to enter its unique literary universe. Past that, however, its core is an epic escapist fiction with probing philosophical questions about perspective and destiny. A combination of effective characterization and introduction to players through nuanced scenes, the premise and how it relates to humanity in the present becomes real to the viewer.
Shortly after humanity joined the intergalactic community, it was invaded by a swarm-based race, universally known as the Bronze tribe. This invasion was headed by the second most powerful beings in the universe at large, the Silver Tribe. The Silver Tribe’s main objective is to fill the void left by the most powerful beings of the universe, the Golden Tribe, by interpreting prophesies left by them.
As humanity fled into space, they found refuge on a planet far from their own galaxy and used the same prophesies to guide them to a long forgotten hope. Now known as the Iron Tribe, humanity has sent its most powerful royal, as well as its best crew, on a mission of exile on the space ship The Argonaut. The viewer joins The Argonaut as they have found they prophesied hope, and then joins the crew on an adventure of coming to the Golden Tribe’s true intention through the prophesies.
Heroic Age exhibits a wonderful sense of world building and character development. With its world extensively realized, the proportion of true divine power in comparison to mere mortals is a horrifying picture. By extension, the character designs are very interesting as each tribe represents an age of humanity.
The viewer is set on a roller coaster of emotions, through a comedic hook met by an entirely weighty scene, made real though the fully developed characters. It is astonishing how little time is needed to fully develop a character, so that the viewer will feel his loss.
The Golden, Silver and Iron Tribes are human based; in contrast to the Bronze Tribe pictured as insects, and the Heroic Tribe as monsters. The commentary as to why, lends itself to the interpretation that during the Golden Age, Silver Age and Iron Age humans had some semblance of their true nature. However, during the Bronze and Heroic Ages, humanity reverted into something less than human, something more animalistic. The depth of analysis this anime lends itself speaks to its complexity.
While the viewer can see the creation of a love triangle a mile away, Heroic Age uses romance to question the human condition and prospective approaches to behavior, instead of sappy drama. The understanding between two people is approached by subtle confliction of perspective overlapping in action and conversation.
Heroic Age uses many cinematic techniques to aid in its portrayal of the tone. The rule of two-thirds is actively used throughout many scenes of pressing conversation and debate to heighten emotion and give a sense of political and emotional weight.
The camera only settles on an image that aids in deciphering the different perspectives presented in the narrative. When a character is distraught, it is portrayed through a combination of a shaky cam focus on a particular expression or perhaps another frame with a particularly twitching hand. Amazingly, a range of emotions are expressed through the camera perhaps even better than through the animation.
The animation is breath-taking. The attention to detail in each landscape shot, whether it is an office or outer space battle, is vast. The combination of two dimensional animation and computer generated images (CGI) is well integrated into the space battle scenes, creating a more expansive understanding of what is taking place through dissection of a 3-D structure and zoom shots. The hues and colors used often display and associate with different emotions and characters.
Heroic Age provides an extensive palate of musical tones. A few songs represent the depth of emotion and the tone of the narrative at its purest. The opening and ending song are beautiful and used to their strengths in many scenes as well as independent instrumentals. The entire album is very memorable, with its classical undertones of violins and pianos.
Heroic Age’s tight narrative is due to its incredible pacing between its action-packed fights and its philosophical debates. These two kinds of scenes do not split the story’s scenes into bit-sized pieces, but rather made for an overlapping of themes and complementary furthering of the human condition. Scenes overlap in other ways as ultimately the clever set ups and pay-offs extend to different point in the narrative though seamless flashbacks and a few choice images.
The many characters’ perspectives are used to complement the growth of wisdom experienced by the Argonaut’s crew. Seeing things through our main couple would provide an almost omniscient viewpoint, thus denying the viewer’s journey through discovering the layers of verbal and situational irony and a wider range of interpretation.
The story explores the human condition through a conglomeration of mythology and innovation. The ingenious way that this anime incorporates many facets of Greek mythology and intertwines them into a space odyssey epic, transcends expectation. A viewer who is familiar with a good portion of Greek mythology will appreciate this to the ultimate degree, but even those who are completely oblivious to the inspiration source can get wrapped up into the story told through these new characters.
Many of the main cast members are loosely based on significant figures in Greek mythology, such as Hercules, Iolaus, Jason, Meleager and Prometheus. With epic foreshadowing and an amazing story, driven by fascinating characters, Heroic Age is a 26 episode adventure whose poignant scenes of revelation made me well up with tears many times. The action scenes are well choreographed and this is one of the few anime that have a black man as a vital character. With many beautiful build up scenes, the ending is the biggest and most perfect payoff for the series.
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By Kimberly Joy Ward