Manga Village

Hero Tales Volume 1

March 5, 2010

Legend speaks of seven heroes, each one bearing the bower of one of the stars of the Big Dipper.  Two of these stars are constantly in conflict, destined to battle and throw the world into chaos…

Not that Taitou has ever paid much attention to old stories.  Headstrong and defiant, he is the last in his village to complete his coming-of-age ceremony– a fact his sister Laila incessantly teases him about.  When he is presented with the Kenka Ranbu, an ancient sword that can only be drawn by a true hero.  As the frustrated Taitou struggles to unsheath the sword, a mysterious thief appears, making off with the blade and citing the legend of the Big Dipper.  The starts have been set in motion, as Taitou sets off after the Kenka Tanbu and the truth of his own destiny…

Hero Tales 1By Hiromu Arakawa; Story by Huang Jin Zhou
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Price: $10.99

Hero Tales is a title I’ve been looking forward to.  The artist, Hiromu Arakawa, also does one of my favorite titles ever, Fullmetal Alchemist.  So I had high hopes for this title. While I really like the premise and historical setting of the story, the actual execution feel lackluster.  Neither the story as it starts, nor the characters really seem interesting.

Hero Tales is set in ancient China.  It’s a classic quest story with the hero, Taitou, searching for the sword Kenka Ranbu.  He starts out with his sister Laila and Ryuukou, one of the Hokushin Tenkun as companions, and by the end of the volume they have picked up a second star, Housei.  Along the way, they also help out the people of the empire, saving them from oppressive government troops and thieves who have taken over entire towns.  It’s a very standard plot.

The characters that we follow in this title are not badly written, they are just very 2-dimensional.  They seem more like cardboard cutouts of typical manga characters than real people.  Taitou is the typical strong by not real bright hero.  His answer to solving everything is with his fist.  Laila is the headstrong and courageous sister that is always beating up Taitou.  The First Star, Ryuukou is the serious, no-nonsense teacher type that is helping Taitou on his quest.  The second star, Housei is the opposite of Ryuukou.  He’s easy-going and lecherous, and falls in love with Laila at first sight.  Genrotou, the titles villain and opposing star to Taitou is a hulk of a man who is strong and ambitious, and General to the Emperor.  There’s nothing really special about these characters to differentiate them from others in the action genre.  I found them to be rather forgettable.

Arakawa’s art is well done, and would be expected.  The style is definitely hers, but none of the characters look like they were just lifted from her other series Fullmetal Alchemist.  They all have their own personalities.  Though you might be able to see similarities between characters, they are obviously their own.  Unfortunately, Arakawa can only get the characters to do so much within the confines of the lifeless story.  It’s obvious she’s trying to do her best, but it’s not enough to overcome lackluster of the story.

Overall, Hero Tales isn’t bad, it’s just average.  The first volume only had the first three chapters, so there is room for improvement.  Later chapters in Yen Plus seemed to have more life to them, so hopefully things will improve.  I may have had too high expectations for the series compared to Fullmetal Alchemist, which came out punching and never stopped.  I’ll continue to follow this series and see if it improves, but this first volume does not impress.

Review copy provided by publisher.

About the author

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

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