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Heroic Age Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

Heroic Age Blu-ray CoverIn a far flung future, humanity is searching for their savior for the Tribe of Hero that will guide them to a bright and safe life.

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 Iron Tribe – to the brink of extinction.

Now humanity wanders the cosmos in search of a savior. Prophecy has foretold of one who will labor for their freedoms, and on a planet of ruin, a champion is found. A feral boy named Age holds the destiny of their species in his hands and the untold power of the Tribe of Hero within.

Contains episodes 1-26.

The Review:
Heroic Age adheres to the formula FUNimation has been using for the TV series releases to date by providing the stereo mixes in Dolby Digital lossy encoded at 640kbps while the 5.1 mixes are getting the fully Dolby TrueHD lossless format. There’s a significant difference between the two here that could be made less so since even Hollywood releases use lossless for their stereo TV releases – and even their mono movies. The Japanese track is certainly serviceable and sounds better than the 192kbps stereo mix we got on the DVD release but it lacks impact and clarity of the English language track. This mix comes across very well, even if it is mostly a forward soundstage mix, as it has a lot going on and comes across with oomph and placement. There’s some very good directionality across a number of scenes and the action scenes, in particular, are very strong.

Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This upscale release is spread across three volumes in a nine/nine/eight split where the average bitrate looks like it’s in the low twenties at best. A lot of what this show looks like is very similar to the DVD release in the kind of digital background noise that’s prevalent in the majority of scenes. It looks more vibrant than the DVD release and it avoids severe blocking, particularly in the visible gradients that you can see scattered throughout the show. The smoothing of details will bother a lot of people and I continue to wish that FUNimation would stop using this process on their upscales. To most people though, this will look better than the DVD release and they’ll be pleased by what they see, though some of the issues are seemingly source based when it comes to the digital noise.

Heroic Age has a standard packaging design for a multi-disc Blu-ray release from FUNimation. The thin slipcover holds two standard Blu-ray cases and it looks pretty nice overall. The front cover has a good group cast shot of several of the primaries set against the backdrop of a planet and space, along with Belcross taking up a bit of space there. The shades of blue used for the star filled backgrounds are appealing as is the logo which combines both the Japanese and English text well. The back cover is laid out nicely as it has a very appealing shot of Age in the lower left corner as he looks up towards the summary that covers the premise as well as it can for this much material. There are several shots from the show and a nice thematic background that feels futuristic and intriguing. The discs features are clearly listed with the disc and episode count as well as the encoding. The bottom of the slipcover has all the production and other technical information found on the majority of their releases.

Inside the slipcover, we have the two blue Blu-ray cases which I think gives a good border to the artwork overall. The first case has a really solid wraparound piece that has a lot of the primaries from Dhianeila’s ship against a dark background which makes their colorful uniforms stand out well. The second volume plays to the strength of the relationship between Age and Dhianeila as they’re on opposite sides of the cover as well as having a piece that shows them looking at each other. The reverse sides have full-color artwork as well, some with characters not used elsewhere on the packaging, while also showing off more Age and Dhianeila material. These sides also contain the episode breakdown with numbers and titles for the respective volumes. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for this release are very, very simple with nothing really thematic about it. The lower left corner features the navigation bar, which for most of it is just the play, audio and episodes selections, while the third disc gets the extras as well. The pop-up menu uses the same thing so there’s not much distinctive about it since it uses plain text and just some of the colors from the show. The majority of the main menu sections showcase clips from the feature with action and quiet scenes while applying some somber and slowly inspiring instrumental music tied to it. The animation choices are pretty good and I liked how it came together but the navigation itself is where they can really make it unique and they’ve not followed through on that. The discs did not read our players’ language presets correctly as they defaulted to the English language with no subtitles.

The only extras for this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences found on the third disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from Xebec, which also found its way to a manga run and several guidebooks, Heroic Age is a big epic space opera series that spans twenty-six episodes. As can be guessed from the name of the series and the various characters within, it owes a lot to Greek mythology but that’s nowhere near a requirement to know in order to enjoy it. Those who have studied it may get more out of it though as it does appear to retain a lot of nods and relationship oriented bits when it comes to those stories. Heroic Age is a big space epic that keeps its focus on the characters but places them in situations where there’s so much at stake it’s almost boggling. It is a touch confusing at first, but once it gets going, these first thirteen episodes tell a big fun epic adventure with some significant events taking place.

Heroic Age takes place in a distant future where there are multiple races called Tribes that have answered the call of the eldest of the Tribes, the Golden Tribe. The Golden Tribe had called out ages before to see who would come into space with them and three did; the Silver, Bronze and Heroic Tribes all made their way out. Just as the Golden Tribe was about to depart the universe and not look back, a fourth one came out into the stars. Humankind became the Iron Tribe ascended quickly into the stars but their fate was cruel as the Bronze Tribe conquered Earth, decimated the population and took control of it. Now humanity is cast out among the stars and are doing their best to figure out the way to live so they can reclaim their homeworld.

All of their hopes lie in finding their savior, a man of the Heroic Tribe who will activate his Nodos – a giant living mecha of sorts – that will perform twelve labors so he can have his own wish fulfilled. The royal family has commissioned a small fleet to go out in search of it and they’ve sent Princess Dhianeila out to seek out their savior since she seems to have an affinity for it. The series opens with the discovery of the savior, a slightly feral wild child living in a ruined world who is named Age. Age has been residing in a run down broken starship that crashed there and is completely unaware of most things. He’s very simplistic but it becomes apparent quickly when the Bronze Tribe arrives on the scene that he’s immensely powerful and focused. Age is brought with the ship through the dulcet tones of Dhianeila to help them as they describe the twelve labors and his role in all of it. Age is pretty unaware of all of this though as he’s interested more in just helping the princess and playing in the paint.

The first half of the series focuses on the crew of the Argonaut finding Age and attempting to bring him back to their home system so they can best figure out how to reclaim their home world. Through it, we get to know the cast and their quirks, but it is primarily focused on just a few characters. While Dhianeila is the ostensible lead of the crew as the princess, a good bit of time is spent on the captain of the ship, Mobeedo, who provides an elder statesman kind of role and some guidance for the younger members of the crew. There’s a pair of twins that help out with Age along the way, though they amusingly get in trouble for letting him play with paint, and they have a brother who is one of the knights that fights in their version of mecha.

A good deal of focus is naturally on Age, though a lot of it tends to come from others watching him. His transition from the wild child, with long hair and hardly any clothes, to the curious adventurer with a good haircut and a slick uniform is fun to watch. He’s so open and curious about things that it gets him in trouble, but he balances it with what he can do when he changes into his Nodos role and deals with others of the Heroic Tribe that they come across during the first half that are working for the Silver Tribe. Age’s abilities and determination are really quite spectacular, but it’s given to the viewer in a way that doesn’t help it, however. During one sequence, he’s apparently fighting for some two hundred hours or thirty hours in another. We don’t really see it, it’s just mentioned while we see him going back and forth a few times with his opponent. Of course, we don’t really want to see that length of time, but Age doesn’t exhibit any visual different from the first minute to the last minute of the fight and that keeps you from really connecting with it.

The second half of the show takes all the buildup and really starts moving it forward at a good clip. 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 homeworld, 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 want. 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 are 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.

In Summary:
I liked Heroic Age the first time around when I watched it in half season sets. There were things that felt a little off in how the exposition worked in getting the tale told but some of that feels less of a problem when watching it a second time and watching the whole set at once. This Blu-ray edition provides a decent package overall and it’s certainly the release I’d recommend over the DVD one if you haven’t bought that yet. Even with the problems in the video, it’s a better price, has at least some lossless audio and has a better lossy mix for the Japanese track than the DVD does. It’s a good package and a good deal but it could have been a much better release if only a few simple basic things had been done better. Definitely recommended for space opera fans and for those who haven’t bought the DVD release. I can’t recommend it as an upgrade but as an outright purchase, it’s a good deal, especially with various sales out there. Heroic Age is good, classic space opera fun.

Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital Language, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 16th, 2010
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 635 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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