Category Archives: The Heoric Age

Mikasa Goodman

This guy thinks Mikasa Ackerman is a good girl. I’m not so sure. But while I was listening to that gaggle of voice actors sing along to the intense audio trope of a song the other day it dawned on me: Mikasa is played by Yui Ishikawa, who is in my mind, just Princess DNAra. A quick look on ANN says that Mikasa Ackerman is her second lead role for animation voice-overs. That’s a long time, relatively, in between. It’s also another incredible opportunity, to play a big role in a big show.

The thing is, Princess Dhianeila is also a “good girl.” In fact she is supposedly the literary parallel of some Greek mythological ideal for human goodness. I mean it in the “in contrast with, say, Gundam’s Relena or Lacus” but a force of nature pushing humanity into the next evolutionary level of existence, to join up with our space brothers and sisters; to chase after that mythical ancient race of gods or Qs or Precursors or whatever. In essence, DNAra is That Newtype. It’s about superhuman feats for an age where only such things can propel us forward, to overcome the other giants of the world.

It’s not too different, in that sense, from Shingeki no Titan. So what makes Mikasa Ackerman, and her muscle density? Or her voice actress? I have no freaking clue. It’s just yet another row in the database, where we bloggers run join queries and create nonsense for our entertainment. Ours and yours, hopefully.

And while sure, Mikasa, like Princess Dhianeila, are good girls, they’re also symbols in a way where a sense of flawlessness crusts over their humanity, their weaknesses. In my mind that is a great thing but it’s also not my cup of tea. In other words, I prefer girls who are more, shall we say, human.


Year in Review: Giant Robots Play Musical Chair

I think one thing that sets TV anime far apart from any other kind of TV animation is the focus on soundtracks. Sometimes even for a crappy TV anime. It costs good money, and sometimes it shows.

And this year the choice is easy. If I was to pick out an anime title for its original soundtracks, it would definitely be the Heroic Age. But that would only be true if I was picking an anime title for its original soundtrack. And that might be a little harsh (and sort of a repeat).

If I was picking it based on how the music is integrated into the show as well as the quality of the stuff itself, it would happily scratch my itch about, heh, Gurren Lagann.

There's more to this picture if you didn't know...

This much is true–Gurren Lagann, whether you like it or not, made a big splash this year. Gainax went back and tried to reinvent the giant robot genre (again) for the 21st century. I don’t know if they were successful, but I know they did paint a fun and colorful montage of the history of giant robots from their perspective.

In this retrospective I’d definitely like to talk about the fan response to Gurren Lagann, both the good and bad. But to save this post from overly-TL;DR, I think just mentioning it is enough to jog your memories about the LOL mixi controversies, the staff changes, and on the record I’d like to say I liked how episode 4 looked.

(As an aside, Gainax shows that they consistently listen to the fans and devise rapid responses. I wish I could say the same for the majority of anime corporate bodies out there.)

While I’m at it, I’d also like to mention the ending to Gurren Lagann, and I liked how it treated Nia and Simon. Why? Because life is lived by those those who hop, jump, skip and run its length to their ends, and not those who quietly tiptoes towards death. And Nia and Simon sure lived. It may disappoint but it’s honest in its own little deceptive ways, like how the epic montage of the first half of the series leads into ambiguity, a losing-and-finding of purpose for men who only knew how to fight and love, or why this is redemptive for them even if only hardship and heartache await at the end of it all.

Along the same lines, I’d also like to mention how Gurren Lagann is glowing with a really artificial notion of manliness. I mean if I watch old samurai films, the societal norm of manliness is a much more subtle and tempered concept than this “ROW ROW FIGHT DA POWAH” nonsense, and yet both take that realistic approach towards the fate of a swordsman who outlived his purpose. There’s a beautiful parallel here that I’m not sure if anyone drew–just like the samurai went the way of the past after the modernization of Japan in the Meiji era. I guess, so are childhood dreams that vanishes with adulthood. Fighting robot fantasies have little space in an adult world. People like Simon are not this world would like you to be, this day and age, they are rugged, uncouth, drunk, or act like a loser.

Lastly, right, the music. I like the rap tie-in, if just for the exploitative effect and tension between the background orchestra with the foreground dialog within the show. I find it fun (and slightly annoying) that how the soundtrack is mixed like an OST but the vocal tracks sticks out like sore thumbs if I make my own mix, requiring some normalization. Still, Taku Iwasaki worked his magic with his usual competent instrumentation and orchestration. And it’s rather diverse stylistically as well. An epic-spanning sense of sound garnishes an equally large work.

If we can ignore the image album crap (as I’ve been making a habit of doing, no thanks to the barrage of Kyoani anime-related products), Gurren Lagann’s only fault was not making all of its sounds available to buy. But that’s one fault not uncommon and one I can sort of forget, because the handful of tracks that memorializes this show for me personally was on the Best Sounds CD.

With all that said and done, there are probably quite a few runner up soundtracks I could mention (and should mention). A starting place is j1m0ne’s top 3 soundtrack for 2007. For example I’d make more nods to Asatte no Houkou if it was actually a 2007 show, but it’s still a great soundtrack. There are many more to mention that it’d be a blog post all on its own, so you ought to go find others to read instead ;)

This post is the fifth in a series of posts, to highlight my most memorable and remarkable moments in 2007. Or just soundtracks sometimes. If I wasn’t musically illiterate (well, sort of) and can read (Japanese) I would probably do an anison blog. I cannot get tired talking about it.

Naoki Satou FTW!

Listening to the new El Cazador soundtrack reminds me how Yuki Kajiura can hit left and feint right. But after doing it so many times, I no longer care about the feinting as much as how she does it. And oddly enough she only impressed me once since Aquarian Age TV, in Mai-Hime. I still don’t quite get why people get so riled up about her .Hack or Xenosaga, for praise or scorn.

But listening to Naoki Satou? It’s totally like a 10yr old listening to John William for the first time. And so far, every time. It’s not that he does anything really original or anything like that, but ever since I first heard him through X TV‘s soundtracks, it feels at first so powerful, that like Kajiura’s earlier works, the music drives the imagery by itself. We don’t need anime or animation to tell a story, if it’s going to be like that.

But unlike MADLAX’s “lol still pan + YAMANI” nonsense that lots of Kajiura fans like, different directors did it differently with Naoki Satou. X was probably a more conventional take about sweeping destinies crossed in a forest of revenge, much like Noir. And the musical presentation came across similarly. But not so in Eureka 7.

Eureka 7 was the place where I first took a good and hard look at his stuff. It was incredible at times, but yet it left a weak impression. Maybe it has to do with how musically Eureka 7 was all over the place, or maybe because the direction was trying to tell a story about people instead of trying to present a moving slide show with a nice soundtrack. The soundtrack albums themselves were epic enough but it didn’t quite give off that orange, legendary glow.

It is much like The Heroic Age. The two soundtracks for the show that are out now helped me understand a bit better what I’m experiencing. As far as music in the show goes, unlike E7, Heroic Age was mostly typical of “lol grand space epic” sort of thing. Some of the main themes and pieces that are repeated on the soundtrack got a lot of prominent use in the show. Some of the music stood out but it wasn’t remarkable. Yet listening to the soundtrack themselves tells a different, similar, but much more engaging epic. The music definitely does not go all over the place like E7 but yet listening to the album arrangements was just a delight.

In fact, it makes me sort of sad that so much of the great stuff from the second OST is just obscured by the silly show, and sort of wished that a show with slow-moving space battles and lofty racial politics can afford some stillness and sing us a few new tunes. The key is in the arrangement, I guess.

The Heroic Age has fast moving space battles as well, so that might be what’s taking up all the sound space? Maybe Naoki Satou needs to write for the next Simoun-like show. That’ll be beyond legendary.

Women Don’t Have A Thousand Faces in Anime

Sorry Yumi-chan, but a cat has even more.

What's the matter, cat got your tongue?

Or in this week’s case, an alien bent on destruction of the Human race.


That must’ve been one of the most satisfying moment in anime that I ran in to for some time. It’s definitely one of the more satisfying thing to happen to a persistent pain-in-the-butt character (and Heroic Age‘s got its share) that I’ve seen. It’s not even karmic, because to be fair Peato Ou does have the right idea (killing DNAra will lead to the end of the Human race), even if he’s blind about the end result. (It’s like knowing not to hit a tagged rogue in Area 52 on a PvE server, but you do it anyways because you are dumb.)

In the introspection of the nature of men and women, there are some anime that take it seriously, and there are some anime that don’t. For everything else, there are high quality key animation frames that captures the essence of the human spirit expressed through the art of body language translated into pictures. The exaggerated nature of anime art style only enhances the enjoyment of its audience when we see the actors on stage, normally being serious, break out in a show-and-tell of how badass something that may have just happened to them.

And this treatment is gender-neutral! Dropping your jaw is not a sexist behavior in anime.

Tasha Yar == Karukinus

No, not really. Seriously. I’m just kidding…

Hello, Yin's sempai?

More I watch Heroic Age, the more I think of Star Trek. Why? It has that geek-utopia smell to it.

There is a lot of literature written about the Star Trek … franchise. Thing. Culture. Geekdom. What have you. Ever imagine if The Next Generation was not about Captain Picard going out there and discover new stuff, but Deanna Troi’s younger, innocent sister leading the Federation to reconciliation with a strange version of the Borg… Oh, and replace all that technobabbling with “hoshiboshi no michibiki” and “staarrrrway” and “the power of the Golden Tribe” and you’ve got it.

What if Q raised Age?

I think that air of utopia seasoned with reason being the common pillar for all those sentient being existing in the universe…is the heart of the Star Trek universe, the common thread behind its themes. And in this Heroic Age, such is the order of the world.

Onto the present and ever present whine:

Within the series we need to realize, that like many other space sci-fi stories, traveling between each star is a big hassle and a major plot point. Such is as true in The Heroic Age as with others in the same genre of anime. The nature of space travel in each sci-fi setting is something of some concern and attention for the story teller. That’s a big “Kero-chan Check” point for settings (as with character designs). But so far within the series we have not had a very clear explanation of how FTL travel works. I think it’s a major disservice to the audience to not be able to understand how this major plot point works. Especially how it ties into DNAra’s singular, unique power that we realize later on.

Along the same line, real space maneuvering in The Heroic Age seems to be akin to that of Starship Operator–it takes real time to move stuff around (each battle takes days and weeks and months to resolve), although it seems rather Star Wars-ish when it comes to combat otherwise. The Nodos here is both a help and a harm–it strips the show of any kind of realism, yet it makes things a lot less boring. But somehow, the combat parts of this show is still pretty boring and I don’t know what can be done to help it.