The Bottom Line
Taitou is a brash and incredibly strong warrior. At his coming-of-age ceremony, Taitou learns that he' s one of the seven heroes prophesied to save the empire. He receives a legendary sword that will help him fulfill his heroic destiny, but when his sword is stolen, Taitou, along with his feisty sister Laila and stern mentor Ryuukou set out to retrieve it.
Hero Tales is an enjoyable, but unimpressive shonen manga story. It has lots of potential to be a martial-arts epic, but Hiromu Arakawa needs to focus on character development and world building instead of just Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fight scenes.
- An engaging, quick-paced adventure story
- A likeable central cast of characters
- Good, solid artwork
- The plot driven story doesn't leave room for character development
- No explanation of the historical and cultural setting of the series
- Very confusing cover credits
- Original Title: Jūshin Enbu (Japan)
- Author: Jin Zhou Huang
Artist: Hiromu Arakawa
- ISBN: 978-0759523531
- Cover Price: $10.99 US / $12.99 CANADA
- Age Rating: OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for violence, occasional language, and a lecherous old man. More about content ratings.
- Manga Genres:
- Shonen (Boys') Manga
- Action / Adventure
- Martial Arts Action
- US Publication Date: October 2009
Japan Publication Date: August 2007
- Book Description: 176 pages, black and white illustrations
- More Manga by Hiromu Arakawa:
Guide Review - Hero Tales Volume 1
In Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa gave us political intrigue, drama and alchemy in a European land. In Hero Tales, Arakawa has created an action-adventure epic based in Chinese folklore, martial arts and history, similar to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The "hero" in Hero Tales is Taitou, a young man who is one of seven warriors who are prophesized to save the empire from a celestial crisis. Taitou is a strong and fierce fighter, but he's also brash and immature - which is why he's the last of his peers to get his coming-of-age ceremony.
At his ceremony, Taitou receives Kenkaranbu, a magical sword. When the sword is stolen, Taitou must retrieve it, with his feisty younger sister Laila and his stern mentor, Ryuukou at his side.
Hero Tales has a wonderful cast of characters. Taitou is a diamond in the rough and it's Ryuukou's responsibly to shape and polish him. Taitou has a deep sense of justice, but he lacks the maturity to know when to speak his mind rather than just shoot off his mouth. He often dives into the fray before considering the consequences of his actions, so Taitou's got a long way to go before he can call himself a hero.
Taitou's companions provide a much needed counterpoint to his brash personality. Ryuukou is an older and wiser warrior monk whose training has made him more cautious than Taitou; perhaps a bit too cautious. Laila is an energetic tomboy who shares Taitou's strong sense of justice, but she's more sensible and patient than her older brother. However, she's growing weary of being in his shadow. As this trio searches for Taito's sword, their differences make for some fun group dynamics.
Arakawa's art is as dynamic and engaging as her storytelling. She has a clean, crisp art style, and her character designs suit each person's personality perfectly.
The major flaw of the book is that it doesn't provide details about the world where these heroes live. What's in the "Chronicles of the Big Dipper" and what exactly is its prophecy about the seven celestial heroes? We're told how corrupt and poorly run the empire is, but never encounter any evil government officials.
It would also help if there were translation notes for terms like "Seiryutou" and "Genroutou". I still don't know if they are names for fighting units or geographical regions. Huang and Arakawa have provided a rough sketch of a world instead of a fully realized painting. Perhaps the authors wanted to entice the reader with revelations to come, but it ends up being more frustrating than fascinating.
This first volume didn't impress me enough to make this a must buy series, but it did intrigue me enough to want to see its second volume. If the pace slows down and Huang and Arakawa make the world and the characters more three dimensional, then Hero Tales could become a must read. For now, let's wait and see.
Ed Sizemore has been watching anime and reading manga for a decade. He began reviewing for Manga Worth Reading in 2007.