Answering the call of the Golden Tribe, three tribes set out to meet them; the Silver Tribe, the Bronze Tribe and the Heroic Tribe.
However, another race also answers the call; the Iron Tribe, also known as the human race. Their existence is not seen by everyone as good, though, and they are nearly driven to extinction by the Silver Tribe. However, the Golden Tribe left behind the means for them to survive and reach their goal in the fifth Nodos, an immensely strong guardian.
I love space opera adventure shows. I really do. But I really have to say this show filled me with a certain apprehension after I went through an episode or two through fansubs.
That is a kickin' mecha design, though, isn't it? Well, it's... sort of mecha, but not really. Say hello to the fifth Nodos; Bellcross. It's... a humanoid shark? I guess you could say it lends itself more to the giant monster (kaiju) genre than mecha itself, even if there's a significant amount of that too.
The thing with this show is that the first few episodes are kind of odd. The thing about the Nodos -- well, all five of them -- are that their powers live inside a small gem of sorts behind one of their eyeballs, and can be called upon at any time. And those gems are placed within five different humanoid beings. The show literally starts with the main one; Age, a teenage boy living inside a ship wreck on a desolate planet. There, he tries to bring some life back to the planet by growing some kind of tree, half of which he uses to feed his main food source: some kind of... octopus thing, whose limbs he tears off on a somewhat regular basis, before putting them through his food processor, turning them into.... spam?
It's just... even before that, I kind of watched the first episode of one of the Gundam SEEDs, just to see what the hubbub was all about, and said episode was basically a montage of surprise attacks and tragedy. Compared to that, the first episode of Heroic Age is.... kind of sweet in a really bizarre way. Yes, you read that right. Age is one of the most adorably innocent male leads I've seen in just about anything, and he isn't even a child. Technically.
Of course, that only means that when the "enemy" attack comes, it's going to be one mother of a mood whiplash. Well ... maybe; it's not like there's much left for the enemy to destroy, but they try their damnedest anyway. This is where we learn that the Bronze Tribe are basically a race of spacefaring caterpillars, an image that will be restricted to just that for the remainder of the show. They're never really explained as a race outside of a relatively short and admittedly relatively poignant scene in the second half of the series.
Before you embark on this journey, you have to understand one thing; Heroic Age plays its story out with a very pseudo-religious bent. In short order, the Golden Tribe are seen as these almost god-like creators, and once they leave the universe behind, seemingly forever, not everyone took that well. The Silver Tribe in particular seems to deal with it in their own way; becoming the universe's overprotective parent, swiftly killing anyone who gets out of line, especially the Iron Tribe.
Here's the thing, though; these are all things we are told. OK, so there might be some truth to it, because once Princess Dhianeila brings Age onto the ship, they kind of come under constant fire from... you know... the space caterpillars. But Heroic Age comes with a whole lot of backstory, preferably told in the most heavy-handed and pretentious way possible. I mentioned Age being an innocent child-figure from beginning to end, and that's what he is, even in the company of the ship's crew, more than half of which consists of women in relatively skin-tight space suits. In fact, none of the men ever make a comment on this at any point, instead treating it like the norm, much in the way that the men in Strike Witches apparently don't find it odd that the girls there are fairly lightly dressed downside. It's actually kind of refreshing.
And if Age is the Baby Jesus -- well... Teenage Jesus, more like -- then Dhianeila is definitely the virgin Mary. She is mostly kept in an area of the ship where men are generally denied entrance for ... relatively poorly explained reasons. Apparently the mere presence of men robs her of her abilities to project herself astrally. Yet, she can transfer coordinates straight into their minds. Look, I'm not asking for a lot, but a little consistency would be nice. If you're going to be sexist, then BE sexist. You can't just denigrate men except... not really do it. It just makes me confused about whether I should be angry about it or not. And that's just frustrating, especially when Dhianeila starts socializing with the male crew more often in the second half of the show. She's basically a borderline pacifist -- she isn't necessarily against fighting when it's for defensive purposes -- but more than anything, she'd like to see a peaceful resolution to the conflict that's currently tearing up the universe.
Compared to this, her two brothers are quickly introduced as the two ass-monkeys of the show. Their incompetence and general disregard for any common decency makes them almost cartoonishly villainous, and while I'm not necessarily arguing that humankind -- that is, OUR humankind -- haven't ever resorted to lobbying and posturing to obtain undeserved positions of power and/or influence, it's still rather painful to watch these two being allowed to remain in such a position for so long.
In total, and not to spoil too much of what will happen in the end, the show is more about reconciliation and exploring one's history to find common ground, which, when the main "villain" in the show are basically a race that decries things like the past and emotions because those are the things that create chaos and murder in the first place, makes for an obvious moral lesson. It's as simplistic as things can get, which is kind of the way this show rolls. It's all very black and white, and you're not often called upon to disagree with this show, or even debate it.
And... I get it. When you really get down to it, you almost have to admire how Heroic Age knows its audience. Because despite my initial misgivings about it, I ended up kind of enjoying it in all its overwrought, hokey glory. It's almost cheerfully optimistic through all the destruction and drama, and it's also odd in that almost equal time is paid to both sides of the equation; the Silver Tribe doesn't just serve as the antagonist. They actually have large and expansive meetings about how to deal with any threats, and many of them agree that maybe the complete annihilation of a race isn't the best way to deal with anything.
It also helps that the show looks fantastic. Not as much with the characters; they all look like anorexia-stricken leftovers from the Gundam series, but I'm talking about the ships. About space. About the absolutely massive fleets gathering and the spectacular clashes they take part in. About a scene where one of Jupiter's moons gets blasted with a huge cannon, which causes it to crash into Jupiter itself with devastating results. For a show that preaches peace and pacifism, it's all the more ironic that it'll look so fantastic when explosions happen, people die and things take a turn for the bombastically tragic.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, even though some parts of this show got on my nerves, the series taken as a whole was... entertaining. I even liked the slightly bittersweet tone and the ambiguousness of the very final scene. I would have liked a little more establishing other than this random exposition at the beginning of the show, because it kind of makes the Iron Tribe's supposed death sentence a little insincere. But other than that, it's entirely possible to have fun watching this.
If you liked the opening episodes, add another star and stride in with unwavering resolve. If you didn't... the show does at least partially salvage itself by its end. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Given the scale of the show, expect enormous amounts of redshirt death, mostly through ships exploding. The only explicitly gory deaths are supplied by the Bronze Tribe, aka the space caterpillars. They bleed green anyway, so it's not nearly as disgusting and cruel. Probably.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Heroic Age © 2007 Xebec / Argonaut Crew / Starchild Records
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