What They Say:
For citizens of the Ken Empire, justice is a myth. Lord Keiro, the deranged Shogun of the Imperial Army, blazes a trail of terror across the countryside in search of the sacred sword that will make him a god. Standing in his way is Taito, an omnipotent star reborn in human form – a young hero who vows to use his celestial strength to avenge those slaughtered by the villainous Shogun.
Taito’s mystical powers steer him toward a violent showdown with Keiro, and if used recklessly, his newfound abilities could shred the very fabric of his being. To master the art of control and become a heroic martial artist, Taito must seek the guidance of others like him: the seven star-born warriors with the strength to shatter a corrupt empire.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward as we get the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps and the English adaptation in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. The show in its original form is fairly standard with a solid stereo mix that allows it have a good feel to it but it never really stretches itself. The dialogue itself is all center channel based so there isn’t much in the way of placement or directionality to it. The action has a bit of a stronger feel to it but that’s not saying all that much. It has a bigger feel to it but it’s still working within the stereo confines. The music is similar in that it sounds better than just the basic dialogue but it’s not a noteworthy piece. The English mix takes things up a bit more with the clarity side of the dialogue but overall the mix just feels like it’s louder than anything else. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007 into 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes here are spread across two discs with seven on the first and six on the second. The show has a pretty straightforward look to it that’s not heavily detailed or with any real sense of rich colors or design, owing more to a simple approach. The transfer looks good overall with just the usual bit of background noise to be had while avoiding cross coloration and significant line noise during panning sequences. Hero Tales isn’t a budget show but it’s one that doesn’t stretch itself all that much either. It has a decent look to it but not one that will stand out against others.
FUNimation has put together a good looking release here with plenty of thematic elements to tie it all together. The heavy chipboard box has a full black background to it that lets the rest of the colors stand out all the more. The framing here has a great stone look to it with black lines breaking through it while the background behind it is a great green and blue shade. Within the center window we get a full cast shot that has a good detailed look to it and certainly has a familiar feeling when it comes to the character designs. The back cover has the same overall layout except that the artwork that would be in the window is drawn out to occupy most of the back. This is underneath the lightly glude on one-sheet that braeks down the show when it comes to the plot summary and technical details alongside a number of good shots from the show. It’s nicely put together and has a good look to it.
Within the box we get two clear thinpak cases and a buffer box that holds four really great looking art cards showcasing the key characters from the series. The box itself uses the blacks and blues from the heavy chipboard box itself with some good symbolism to tie it all together. The buffer box itself can easily be thrown away though when you want to slide the next two thinpaks into it since it doesn’t use any character artwork to it. The two thinpak cases have a good simplicity to them The first case has the two main show discs while the second case has the disc that contains all the extras. Each volume does have a reversible cover that brings in more characters so if you have a favorite, you can have that one facing out while the respective back covers are the same as the primary covers.
The menu design for this release uses a lot of the same elements as the packaging as the background has gray borders with the red Xian style framework alongside it. Within the middle it has something of a rough sandstone look to it with the series title and navigation along the right side. The left side has character artwork, different pieces on each of the volumes, that looks good with a bit more detail than the show and some very good colors to it. The show discs have nothing on them outside of the show itself and some trailers on the second volume so navigation is simply and quick. The discs didn’t read our players’ language presets though and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.
The release comes with a separate disc of extras that has juts four things to it but some pretty good things at that. Two of them are the expected and desired with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. The other two things is a two part round table called Star Battle. This brings together the main voice actors from the show with the round table that was created for the seventh and eighth Japanese DVD releases. They’re like most other round table specials in that they’re pretty informal, rather silly and just let the voice actors have a good time. They get the usual array of questions that are pretty fluffy but it’s just good fun if you like the voice actors. The first one runs just under twenty minutes while the second one runs just over twenty-seven minutes.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by the group known collectively as Huang Jin Zhou, Hero Tales is a twenty-six episode series that’s hugely influenced by Chinese dramas, folklore and history. The manga creative has the noteworthy name of Hiromu Arakawa who had a strong run throughout the decade with Fullmetal Alchemist that worked on the story and did the artwork for it. Those designs certainly have a sense of the familiar with this series in how they look, from the hair to the facial structure. Unlike that work though, Hero Tales doesn’t have the complexity or layering of story which gives this a very different feeling.
Hero Tales focuses on the character of Taito, a young man who starts off the series by going through his coming of age ceremony that has him facing a man named Ryuko as he has to beat him. With a treasured weapon passed on to him, Taito is full of potential and power but is the kind of raw and foolish kid that you’d expect. He has an immense amount of power in him as he’s one of the Dipper Stars warriors, someone who has a connection there along with others that allows him to channel energy through his body as a weapon. But it’s so raw and uncontrolled at this point that he’s pretty difficult in general. While Taito would largely be content to spend his days in his village, even though he really dislikes the governing body of the country during this period, events do push him out.
That event comes in the form of a ragged man named Shimei that wants his sword and outright attacks him. What really sets off Taito though is the attack on his sister Laila, which nearly kills her, as it unleashes his power even more. Shimei has his own history that slowly comes to light over the course of the set that has him as someone who transcends the ages by taking over different bodies, which explains the somewhat ragged nature of the man he has now since it lets him get around without being observed all that much. Shimei’s attack on Taito and his sister is enough to get Taito motivated though and with the expanded knowledge he slowly gets about his destiny and fate as one of the Dipper warriors, he intends to head off to the capital with Ryuko to deal with what’s going on. And, of course, Laila has to follow as well cause a show about men traveling without women in a Chinese style fantasy series just couldn’t work in the slightest, right?
Once the trio makes it on the road, the show goes for an adventure of the week kind of a deal for awhile where it showcases different locations and has them facing various troubles wherever they go. A good part of it is designed to build up the three of them as a group, but it gets a little more complicated early on when they meet a young man named Hosei who is essentially a Taito clone. Hosei is of the same nature as Taito with what his inner abilities are but he’s also got a bit more world experience having been out and about there and he also finds himself very much interested in Laila. To say that Hosei and Taito grate against each other is an understatement, and basically doubling Taito’s already difficult personality makes the show even more problematic.
One point where the show does add a bit more of an interesting angle is when the gang meets up with Hosei’s master, a woman named Koei who definitely has a lot of knowledge and helps put Taito on the right path. This gives the show a little time to breathe as it spends a couple of episodes there getting to know her but also the connection she has to Shimei. It’s a fun little scenario as it plays out at first but it gets a bit more dangerous as events unfold and the gang finds themselves having to deal with a tragedy that hits them hard. There is also the introduction of the undead as active players here with Shimei controlling a group of them. They’re an interesting addition that has a distinct look and act in a certain way but they’re not utilized all that well for the most part.
The show does take a bit of an unusual feel once the group arrives in the capital city as they return to Ryuko’s master’s residence and try to decide the best approach to gaining back the weapon. There’s some exploration of the origins of the city, which goes a long way back and has ties to the Dipper warriors of the present, as well as giving a few more hints about Ryuko’s past which has an interesting twist to things. The curious segment, and one that really shows what kind of person Taito is, has him sneaking into the forbidden part of the city to find the emperor so he can find out what kind of man he is. The revelation that the two are pretty much identical is amusing in itself, though they avoid going the swap route (at least so far), especially since Taito doesn’t realize who he is for a lot of it and they have a discussion about what it is an emperor actually does. It’s rather enlightening for both of them and sets things up for the second half of the series with some decent if predictable foundation material.
Hero Tales is an odd show at times because you go into it feeling like there should be more to it but it never fully capitalizes on it. It has a straightforward enough story to it, but it doesn’t really define itself and it comes across more as an awkward comedy with some dashes of seriousness. The story itself isn’t bad, but the characters are so basic and shallow, and largely unappealing, that it’s hard to get into. Taito is a simple guy who just uses his fists and has others trying to get him to learn more and be more while making small amounts of progress. With its heavy Chinese elements, there’s things to it that just aren’t appealing and it feels like it wants to spend more time on travels stories and less than interesting subplots as it moves forward. This is a show I tried hard to get into because I like the people behind the manga, but there’s not enough good meat here to sink your teeth into as it feels more like fluff than anything else, even when it tries to be serious.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Roundtables, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 5th, 2011
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.