With the Imperial Army in hot pursuit, Housei leads Taitou and the others on a little detour to the home of his master. But the “mean old devil woman” he had described turns out to be nothing of the sort. Master Kouei is a veritable font of wisdom; in addition to knowing a more covert route into the capital, she is well versed in the legends of the Hokushin-Tenkun. There is much she can teach Taitou as he struggles to control the overwhelming power of his star, but will she have enough time to impart her wisdom before tragedy strikes?
Taitou and co. continue their journey to the Capitol, though the stories are less serial than the first volume and focuses more on their purpose; getting the Kenkaranbu back. Taitou gets some real training on how to control his star’s power, and more is revealed about Taitou’s and Ryuukou’s past, where they seem to have a surprising connection.
Needing to find a less direct route to the capitol, Housei leads everyone to his Master, Kouei Kuju. Known as the “Font of Knowledge,” she spends her days studying scrolls and knows a lot about the Hokushin-Tenkun, some of which even Ryuukou didn’t know. Kouei is the typical master who seems harmless, but hides a greater power behind her gentle smile. When she can’t persuade Taitou to leave Laila, she instead helps him learn to channel his ki and use soukihou. Fortunately, not a lot of time is dwelt on this, and there’s no montage training sequence. Unfortunately, Kouei doesn’t last long as Shimei reappears, which is a shame. She had potential to be more than exposition.
This volume also reveals more about Taitou and Ryuukou. They seem to have more in common than either realize (or that Ryuukou would want to admit). The volume starts with Taitou reliving a memory from the past through a dream. The family we were introduced to in the first volume isn’t his real family, and he believes he was abandoned by his real parents. Ryuukou, in contrast, learns that the man he always thought of as his father isn’t, and does learn the identity of his real father. This was an actual surprise to me. I didn’t see it coming.
What wasn’t a surprise was Taitou seeming to know the layout of the palace as he sneaks in to give the Emperor a punch in the face for the way the people are being treated. He can predict what’s around a corner before turning it. And in a familiar courtyard, he unknowingly meets the Emperor, Taiga. Their conversation before the Emperor reveals the truth does change Taitou mind about the punch, but not about trying to change the empire. I really liked this scene, which is also the last chapter in the book. I liked seeing Taiga, the boy emperor who is controlled by most of the court and Keirou specifically get to speak frankly with Taitou.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about volume 2 of Hero Tales. The move away from episodic stories to more movement in the actual plot is a marked improvement. There are still a lot of cliché elements like the boy emperor who’s just a puppet to a corrupt court, and the set up of Taitou’s past that keep this title from moving up into great territory. I’m hoping something interesting comes out of Ryuukou’s family revelation, as well as Laila’s strange ability to reach Taitou when Hagun has taken him over. There is potential there, as there is with this whole series. Here’s hoping more will be actualized in the next volume.