It’s always darkest before the dawn as Taitou’s journey has become more difficult as he is beaten down with the death of family and comrades, and a change in loyalty by his most trusted comrade Ryouko. Despite it all, he finds the strength to go on and decides to fight his destiny. He is determined to stop Keirou’s madness from destroying the Ken Empire and its people.
I liked the first two volumes of Hero Tales, though I had my reservations. These last three volumes move the plot along quickly to get to the final battle between Taitou and Keirou. Along the way, the story touches on the themes of dealing with loss, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and defying destiny. While I still think Hero Tales is a good story, these three volumes still can’t elevate it to a great one.
In order for the story to go forward, there has to be a lot of looks back. Taitou’s past is confirmed, and Ryouko’s and Keirou’s are revealed. The reasons behind Keirou’s intense hatred of the Ken Empire is explained and understandable. Many of the people who joined Keirou’s cause hate the Empire, as do Ryouko and Taitou, for its corrupt officials and terrible treatment of the people, but because of the power of his star, Tonrou, Keirou burns so bright that he loses all sight, and only sees the Empire’s total destruction as the answer to his pain. He blames the Empire for his past tragedies, and would sacrifice his own blood to reach his goal.
Taitou is the exact opposite. He cares a lot for the people who raised him. Even though they aren’t related by blood, they are still family. It’s this bond that helps keep Taitou grounded, and not lose control like Keirou. Taitou feels the weight of all the people who have died for him or because of him, and it almost breaks him. But once Taitou is able to accept that it was not his fault the people died, and that his destiny isn’t written by anyone else but him, he gains the will and the power to face Keirou. Ryokou has his own trails, and like a true man, has to have reality beat into him by Taitou. He has a harder time accepting what he did, and making it a reason to go on, but in the end, Taitou gets through so he can help him in his battle against Keirou.
The truth about Laila and her apparent ability to control Hagun in Taitou is revealed. She gets a fight scene with Shimei where the truth behind his origins are revealed as well. They have a sort of connection that makes Laila the only one who can end his seemingly eternal life. It was nice to see him finally get his comeuppance, especially since he takes over the dead body of Housei, which may have backfired on him, and been the cause of his death.
The final battle between Taitou and Keirou takes several chapters. Taitou tries to reach out to Keirou, and give him the same change he gave Ryokou, but Keirou is beyond reason. He has completely bought into the destiny of the stars, and is determined to bring it to its destructive conclusion. When the final punch is thrown, we don’t see it, just the power of the stars returning to their home. An epilogue explains what happen not just to Taitou, but to all the surviving characters. It was nice to see the Emperor not just accept his role, but take the reins and prove he didn’t need a sword to prove his worth.
In the end, Hero Tales was an entertaining read, but ultimately a forgettable one. There are some memorable scenes, such as Taitou’s shock from both his father’s death and Ryokou’s betrayal. I really liked Laila’s fight where she shows she’s Taitous equal. And I really liked the Emperor and his wife. They were strong characters in their own way. Arakawa’s art has improved since this series, but it’s still really good. Arakawa fans will probably want to keep this series for their collection. For everyone else. digital, rent or borrow would be good enough. I would recommend this series, just not highly.