I'm sure this will sound lame and rather expected of me to say considering the animes content, but The Legend of Black Heaven [literally] ROCKS!
The Legend of Black Heaven
Genre - Comedy/Sci-Fi
Volumes - 4
Episodes - 13
"Far, far away, back in the era of dreams....
We once burned as brightly as the sun."
What it's about: Life can crush your dreams. Oji Tanaka is a middle management drone stuck in the drudgery of a corporate lifestyle to support his wife and kid. His only grip on sanity comes from the shred of hope surrounding his past life as the amazing guitarist of Black Heaven, a heavy metal band that almost made it to the top. In his bleakest moment, the magic of performing is restored to him when a beautiful and mysterious woman informs him that only his special sound can save the universe from an evil alien invasion!
Story 9.5/10 - Does the plot sound strange? You betcha, but it works. It's very simple. Alien armies are swarming all over space, trying to take over space that belongs to another alien race that keeps most of the universe safe, and Oji's hard rock is the key to winning the war and protecting the universe for even longer. Sounds dumb? You betcha, but it doesn't matter. Here is an anime that doesn't try to be clever all of the time. The music, for SOME reason, powers this "ultimate weapon" that defends against the enemies attacks. Why is Oji the only guitar player in the world that can power this weapon? I have no clue. I'm sure there is a reason, but it's not given a flat answer, and honestly, do you need one? There is none of that gamma particle extra molecular frequency sci-fi mumbo jumbo in Black Heaven that we have to sit through and be expected to understand or believe in most other sci-fi animes. No, sir. Black Heaven puts entertainment far before impressing the brainiacs and nerds that watch, understand, and relate to sci-fi animes like Evangelion. Black Heaven starts off on a mundane morning. Oji is on his way to work, and every morning like clockwork, he takes out the trash. This morning however, his most prized possession was in one of the trash bags. His Flying-V. The same guitar his used back in the days when he was Gabriel Tanaka of Black Heaven, a rock band that shinned in the lime light, and were so close to reaching the top that they could almost touch the stars. Being so tired and depressed of his monotonous life however, Oji doesn't even notice the guitar is in the trash, so he proceeds to throw it out. It's not long though when Oji realizes what happened, and he rushes back home angered at his wife for throwing away the only thing he had left to remind him that, in a time long ago, he was living the life he dreamed of as a child. This act by his wife really threw him over the edge though, and this is around the time he meets Layla Yuki, a new employee at his job. He meets her while on the phone with his wife, who happens to be complaining about a coffee maker or something, and Oji is obviously attracted to her. Later that night, Layla meets Oji again at a small food vender in town and tells him she was a big fan of his music back when he was Gabe of Black Heaven, and she then insists that he comes with her so she can show him "heaven". With an affair running through Oji's mind, he's stalling, but definitely not resisting. And this is when the insanity begins. Layla takes him to a restroom, which is actually a portal that leads to a ship in outer space. A guitar is laying nicely in front of Oji, and Layla wants him to play. Oji agrees, and plays a very nice rock tune that charges the ultimate weapon and helps win a battle. However, to Oji, he thinks he's just playing at some weird night club in front of a live audience, which is the feeling he's missed for so many years. He has no clue he's helping to save the universe. Even after Layla tells him her true nature, being an alien and being a part of a war and all, it takes Oji a few more episodes before he actually takes it seriously. In a way, Black Heaven has two stories. One takes place light-years away during an endless war in space, and the other takes place on Earth in the Tanaka residence. Ever with all the fighting in space, I'd say the Tanaka residence is a much more hostile place. Yoshiko, Oji's wife, begins to suspect that Oji may be having an affair with Layla after seeing them together so often, and the rumors spreading around Oji's office and from his neighbors don't help the situation. Then, there is the constant interference from Layla's assistance from outer space. Three girls, Kotoko, Eriko, and Rinko, who don't seem to know a damn thing about Earth culture (When asked to get a musical keyboard, they brought a board with house and car keys on it back), always seem to get in the way of Yoshinko and Oji, which only makes Yoshinko more suspicious. Black Heaven doesn't do a whole lot to get your sci-fi senses tingling, but it's story is still very well executed and worth while.
Animation 6.5/10 - Here’s the deal. Black Heaven is low budget. SUPER low budget. Not that it's a bad thing mind you, but it does effect the animation quality you'll be seeing. First off I'd like to say that the characters themselves look good. Oji and his other aging band mates really look like everyday nobodies that just sort of fit in with everyday life as the world goes on. Yoshiko looks the way most wives do. Average. Absolutely average. Layla is over the top gorgeous, which is exactly what was aimed for, and everyone in between fits in well. Now for the bad news. Black Heaven doesn't actually use a whole lot of animation, and by that I mean art that MOVES. Movement is expected in all animes these days, and while Black Heaven has a great amount of it, it still uses more stills than most modern animes would ever dare to use. Black Heaven also uses a bit of CG (Computer generated animation), but that too doesn't exactly fit in too well (then again, it hardly ever fits in with anime IMO). One of the biggest drawbacks in the animation is that you'll be seeing a lot of the same scenes over and over...and over again. This reuse of old scenes to be shown in place of new scenes can be a little...well...stale at times. It won't RUIN the experience, but it won't make it any more exiting either. With that said, you can still enjoy the animation in Black Heaven as long as you don't put your hopes and expectations through the roof
Scenery 6/10 - Black Heaven takes you to a few different places. A drearily empty space ship. A small apartment that I'm sure a lot of us can relate to, and an office building that is no different from any other office building. These three places don't ever change. We sometimes see new parts of them we never seen before, but all in all they're the same thing each and every episode. The section of the space ship we see for most episodes is so dull that it's only nice that good rock music is playing during it. The apartment is just like what you’d expect in real life; boring. This makes sense though. Black Heaven is aiming for a more realistic mood and setting. Characters can't always live on clouds, or in huge cities hidden under the earth, like in so many other animes. However, it would have been nice to see more camera work done in the animation. I would have enjoyed to see more of space, more of space, and more of the screaming crowds that came with being a rock band. Sadly, the budget is mostly to blame here, but since I'm reviewing this as if it were just like every other anime, I can't hold any punches.
Audio 9.5/10 - Black Heaven sounds great. Without a doubt it's one of the best soundings animes around, and most of this is thanks to the lack of J-Pop. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a little J-Pop here and there, but you here it in virtually every anime, and it's nice to hear something else for a change. Black Heaven is about Rock N' Roll, the TRUE Rock N' Roll that started probably before you were born. Back when it was good. The intro theme is actually done by John Sykes, which you may know if you've listened to the bands Thin Lizzy or Whitesnake. This song that plays to power the ultimate weapon, even though it plays 13 times or more, never gets old. And the rock tune used at the end of the anime is even better. The music alone makes this anime sound great, but the voice over work is done pretty well too. John Billingslea does very good voicing Oji, and really gives off that same feeling a lot of us working class men have. Feeling like our life is meaningless, a bore, and unimportant, but then learns to live life to the fullest, and feels great about letting go of his burdens (A lot like Keven Spacey's character in American Beauty). You may have heard John Billingslea's work in Gungrave, Last Exile, and Geneshaft. Emily Brown voices Yoshiko, and her voice alone pulls off the average housewife/mom role with near perfection. Emily Brown can be heard in Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and even Akira. Other talent worth mentioning include Tom Fahn (Digimon, Blood: The Last Vampire, Battle Athletes), Sherry Lynn (Final Fantasy X-2, X, Xenosaga), and Jake Martin (Heat Guy J, Hand Maid May, Rurouni Kenshin). Black Heaven definitely appealed to my ears.
Character Development: 9/10 - The way Black Heaven lets you get to know a character is good enough for me. No over dramatized BS that we have to sit through. Sure, Oji's dream has long ended, but we're not expected to cry along with him. Sure, his mirage is on the rocks, but we're not expected to give a rats ass. It's this approach that actually makes you wanting to know more about the cast. Gradually we get to know things, personal things, about a lot of the characters, including a few background ones. Most of the time though, we're not brought in for a cup of tea to listen to the full story about how so and so met that person. We're just given a short hint or answer, which is really all we need. I found myself asking questions about the characters lives all throughout the series, but after it ended I realized that my questions, just about all of them, were answered. This is the kind of satisfaction I want in character development. I want to get to know a character, and then leave with a sense of still knowing them. Did I care about the fate of the universe at ALL during the series? Nope. Not really. I cared more about whether or not Oji would get his band back together to help fight against the enemy than what the actual outcome of the war would be. And that’s something I appreciated about Black Heaven. It wasn't one of these "the end is near, we must fight for the survival of man" kind of doomsday animes. I felt the same way Oji did all the way until the end of the series. Even during all the war, and the threat of Earth being destroyed, Oji was still more concerned about bringing food home to his wife, as if life isn't even effected. This is the way Black Heaven makes you feel. Yeah, there is a deadly war threatening to wipe out the planet and all life on it, but it's nothing to get all dramatic and teary eyed over. It can just be summed up in once sentence. The world can end, but rock n' roll is eternal.
Overall Score 8.1/10 - Black Heaven isn't the kind of sci-fi anime that gets your brain revved up for some serious thinking. The main characters reason for being so awesome isn't because his power level has exceeded the natural limit, or because his synch ratio has reached a shocking 99.9%. Oji is awesome because he rocks. End of story. Who needs scientific explanations when you combine science fiction with rock n' roll? But, if you're expecting an anime like that, or would rather see an anime like that, then you may want to look past Black Heaven and check out Evangelion or Dragonball Z instead. This is also not an action anime. There may be a war in space, but it's anything short of action packed out there. Despite it's budget, Black Heaven delivers a whole new kind of anime to the table. While music being used as a weapon isn't original, Black Heaven stands out among the rest. I'm sure this will sound lame and rather expected of me to say considering the animes content, but The Legend of Black Heaven [literally] ROCKS!
The Sweet - Cautionary Warning. What a great change from the typical J-Pop opening most animes have.
- FLYING V!!!!!!!!
- Some of the episodes are named after rock songs. This is a way to pay homage to the artists. Stairway to Heaven (EP.1), and Sweet Emotion (EP.11) are good examples.
The Good - The main song never gets old. At least IMO.
- It makes fun of Power Rangers throughout the entire series.
- Characters, including Layla, get drunk more than once during the series. And sometimes they act funny.
The Bad - It's budget.
- There are a lot of stills. Half of the actual animation are stills.
The Ugly - Deja-Vu, anyone? Black Heaven uses the same scene like 13 times or more.
The Wished - I know it's not meant to be an action anime, but I would have liked to see more action out in space. But all you see is the same beam firing and then it blowing up the same space ships, over and over. Damn low budget animes!
- I wish I understood what exactly happened at the end. I don't want to spoil anything, but I understand everything that happened with the war and all, but I don't understand why a crazy message left by Oji about aliens was suddenly believed by 100,000 people. It was either a miracle, or it was because eveyone on Earth saw aliens with their own eyes and discovered the truth.
This is used to scale how much of something you can expect to see in an anime. A high rating doesn't mean the QUALITY of something, but the QUANTITY of it. For example, a 1/10 rating on violence will mean you won't hardly see even a punch thrown, and if you do, chances are it won't land. A 10/10 rating on violence
means every other scene expect to see guts flying and blood gushing.
Violence: 4/10 - Romance: 7/10 - Comedy: 9/10[/color] - Action: 2/10 - Drama: 2/10 - Fantasy: 0/10 - Science Fiction/Reality: 10/10 - Profanity: 3/10
NOTE: Even though the Profanity is only rated a 3, be aware that one particular episode titled "Ten Years Ago" has profanity that would rate at about a 9. This episode includes a scene in which a man is wearing a T-Shirt that says "F*ck You", then begins to stick his middle finger up which causes him to get into a conflict with another man who continually uses the F-Word (IE: "F*ck you, you bitch ass mother f*cker!) while beating the living hell out of the other guy. Very funny scene, but you've been warned :P
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