Come Mar and Apr and it’s the typical moment where we’re being INNUDATED with new anime, and the ever popular (and often deliciously crappy) mecha genre is going into factory overtime mode. We already have the somewhat impressive Reideen (considering its progenitor material), and quite a few barrel-bottom scrappers (like the hilarious Voltron knockoff Dancougar Nova that doesn’t even go for the magic number 5 for the useless gestalt parts), but that’s not the focus for this little piece…
Heroic Age sounds suitably pulpy as a title, and from all indications it seems to be exactly that. In recent years we’ve had some resurgence with both the grand space opera and the realism sub-genres in the area of sci-fi, what with efforts like Gunbuster II and the Crest/Banner of the Stars (coming on the heels of the genre classics like Legend of the Galactic Heroes) for the former and Planetes and Starship Operators for the latter. Heroic Age is a somewhat schizophrenic combination of both these areas, as we’ll soon see.
Our story begins in apocryphal fashion, with one of the series’ characters giving us the customary infodump narrative on the grand scope of things. In vague fashion we get the spiel on an advanced alien race called the Golden Tribe (given the way Marvel-esque cosmic entities are tagged, this isn’t as howlsworthy as it seems) that issues a clarion call to the younger races in the primeval past, and 3 “younger” races answer in suitably stirring fashion in the race to the stars and dominion over all things material. After weighing up the situation our glowing plot devices decide to move on (another plane? universe? college party with brewskis?), but a wee fact snares their attention: pesky homo sapiens has joined the party late (presumably getting the memo from the local planning department on Alpha Centauri in time).
Some confusing conflation of time and circumstance happen, and our resident superfriends are seen mucking around in a ruined human craft that has landed on an unidentified world, and would you know it, there’s a human babe in your typical swaddling clothes there for the picking. Our Golden Tribus members, in a stunningly obvious reverse spoof of Superman, whisks him away…..
Cue the present…
The human vessel Argonaut (suitably named once the nature of its mission is clear) is out on a long trip through the cosmos, and they’re on short supplies. Aboard is our main female character, the princess Deianeira, and she has certain psychic gifts that she uses to scan nearby space for the mysterious object of their laborious quest, while following the usual cryptic clues and a related distress beacon signal. 2 facts become salient, that Deianeira is ruling over her crew/nation in matriarchial fashion and she and the crew are desperately searching for salvation in a lopsided war (no, there are no Vipers around. At least, not in this ep.) In a turn of events very convenient to the viewer, they’ve discovered the planet they’ve been looking for, and an armed scouting party are sent down with the princess.
In the ruins of a ship (dum dum dum DUUUUUM) they discover a wild-haired child alone that whimsically refers to the malfunctioning ship AI as Mother (either through being left alone too long or outright adorable insanity), but no real clues as to who he is or why the ship is there, beyond the yet-to-be analyzed ship log. We also get a glimpse of our hopefully non-Odious Comic Relief pairing, the psychic twins Malyl and Talyl and aides to the Princess (one of them being voiced by the familar kender voice of Rie Kugimiya) as well as the token male sidekick, the Junos Knight Iolaus. Before the search party can question the wildling, the plot moves onto the gatecrashers….
….who are the delightfully named Bronze Tribe, who seems to be at least a component of the war effort that’s acting against the humans. Taking a page from the Borg Rulebook for Geometric Starship Construction, they take to the cosmos in monolithic planetoids, and the Argonaut, caught in orbit when one such ship bears down on them whilst the party is still earthbound, retaliates in typical space opera-ish fashion: saturation fire. It doesn’t work on the planetoid, and enough grunt units slip through the point defence blanket to enter the planet’s atmosphere.
The search party are soon surrounded by the aliens, who look to have escaped from a Starcraft or Starship Trooper movie set. Things look grim, but it’s only the first episode! Predictably enough, the wilding turns Hulk and invokes/summons/becomes possibly the wankiest giant walking bag of bolts in anime since Ideon and the Gunbusters. Running amok, the metal beast soon clears the ring in a matter of speaking, and Deianeira confirms our big, lethal Iron Giant is what they’ve been looking for, whilst leaving quite a few questions unanswered.
QUICK VERDICT: There’s nothing outstandingly original about what is on show in this dish, but it does blend together space opera-ish elements (thematic, visual and plot-wise) from Star Wars, BSG, Gunbuster, Banner of the Stars and even Lensman with mixed success. The action certainly moves along in a brisk fashion (usually the case given it’s the first episode for a non-franchise series), and there’s a refreshing lack of anything remotely emo-ish, but that may change once the series develops. The series does have major pluses in that the plot and certain elements of the mecha are intriguing enough to draw in viewers and it’s evident that the storyboarders don’t take the characters too seriously, which always helps in a pulp setting that has indeterminate quality.