HEROIC AGE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TAKASHI NOTO / SCREENPLAY: TOW UBUKATA / STARRING: HIROSHI YAZAKI, YUI ISHIKAWA, J MICHAEL TATUM, CAITLIN GLASS / RELEASE DATE: 15TH JUNE
For fans of classic science fiction and mecha anime, Tow Ubukata’s Heroic Age should tick a few boxes. The story of a golden child, the eponymous Age, of rewards seeded throughout the cosmos by godlike aliens and the battle for those rewards by warring races, it contains much of that particular 1960s and 70s thinking; of ancient astronauts, a future beyond the stars and the coming of a golden age for humankind. Moreover, the animation is exactly what you might expect to see under “classic anime” in an illustrated dictionary, all rangy figures, mop-top hairstyles and giant robots.
The problem is that Heroic Age was made in 2007 rather 1972 and, while the anime of that time – Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Mazinger Z and Space Battleship Yamato, as classic examples – is still fondly regarded (and in some cases has held up), the leaps and bounds made in both storytelling and animation leave Ubukata’s two-cour series looking flat and dated.
Of course, that may have been a deliberate choice, and that’s not to say the show doesn’t have its charms; alongside the intrigue laid early as to the origins of Age, the psychic princess Dhianeila’s radiating purity and the machinations of the mysterious Silver Tribe, an absorbing, if familiar, narrative is woven.
Aeons ago, the all-powerful Golden Tribe desired to leave our universe and, before they left, they sent a summons to four developing races to find a successor. Three answered, dubbed the Silver Tribe, the Bronze Tribe and the Heroic Tribe, and they vied for power before the Heroic Tribe were punished for being too warlike. The sole survivor of that tribe was raised by the Golden Tribe before their departure, and it is he who the fourth tribe – the Iron Tribe of Earth, who eventually also answered the summons – are seeking to restore balance to the universe.
The animation is functional rather than impressive, and obviously made on television budget, looking for all the world like a show from thirty years before, but the voice cast do a fair job of enlivening a wordy script (which could actually use a little more exposition, rather than using the opening titles to lay out the story, dripping more information with each titles sequence regardless of whether that information has been revealed in previous episodes).
Split across four discs, the Manga Entertainment Blu-ray release has the usual lack of special features, relying on the strength of the series itself to shift the product, although the lack of availability in the UK in recent years may also act as a selling point.
Heroic Age isn’t a bad anime. Across its 26 episodes it tells an expansive story full of peril and hope, and there would be much to recommend it as an example of its type. Unfortunately, that type had its own heroic age almost fifty years ago and, with other / better examples of the genre available to digest, The Heroic Age can only ever be completist’s fare.
Special features: textless songs, trailers