(n.) A long poem about the actions of great men and women or about a nation’s history
(adj.) Heroic; majestic; impressively great; of unusually great size or extent
Over the last several years, the Internet community has subjected the word epic to all kinds of cruel torture, giving it a meaning close to cool when the word cool itself just wasn’t cool enough. In a few years, the adjective epic may grow stale, sapped of all its strength, and we might see it replaced by yet another emphatic successor. But it is high praise indeed to call a show or scene epic: when the Greeks of ancient times listened to Homer’s epics, they experienced the true weight of history – the death of one world and the birth of another. People who often had never once ventured outside their hometown were shown the vast world surrounding them as something that could be changed through the actions of the seemingly insignificant human beings.
Certainly, most of us have at least some shows we consider deserving that level of praise. Even a single scene can be called epic if it allows somebody to redefine and rediscover the medium along with its boundaries and potential. In this sense, there are almost limitless ways in which a scene or show can be epic – a never before seen plot twist, an innovative quirk in character design, unexpected animation techniques… anime is an amalgamation of numerous modes of artistic expression, and you never know which part of the package will define the whole experience. As a personal example, I was stunned by how camera angles can completely change the meaning of a scene when watching KyoAni’s Kanon back in 2006.
On the other hand, there are also series that come close to the ancient epics in the original sense of the word. Spanning many cours, featuring dozens of named characters and countless interweaving plotlines, those works introduce us to completely new worlds and show us how those places evolve. From recent fan-favorites like the new Fullmetal Alchemist to older series like the Legend of the Galactic Heroes, those series require much commitment but reward the viewer with an unforgettable existence.
With the final chapter of its story now closed, the story of the Flame Haze called Shana now joins the ranks of those epic tales. For those wondering if the long series is worth a shot, here are a few things you can look forward to in the anime:
- four, and ultimately five different species struggling in a fight for their own place in the world, all with their own history, politics and internal strife
- generations of conflict culminating in an all out war
- lovers reunited after hundreds of years and those facing millennia of solitude yet to come
- heroes carving their name into history with their own blood; martyrs and saviors taking on the burden of the future and hopes of their people
- the beginning of a new world order
What makes for an epic series? Which of those titles are worth recommending? I’m waiting for your comments and suggestions.