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Hero Tales Complete Series Anime DVD Review

6 min read

A fun, but average anime adventure

What They Say:
His village was burned. His friends were murdered. And a mustachioed madman stole the sacred sword of power that rightfully belonged to him. Seeking justice, young Tairo embarks upon a mission of vengeance that brings him face to face with cutthroat bandits, lethal ninjuas, and zombie foot soldiers! Aided in his quest by new comrades with mysterious powers, Taito stays true to his goal: destroying Lord Keiro, the man with the malevolent mustache. As the final showdown approaches, the young hero’s emerging powers allow him to seek revenge against the man who destroyed his world. Only one warrior can emerge victorious in the series that DVD File calls, “One part Lupin III, one part G.I. Joe and one part Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

The Review:
This release comes in 5.1 Dolby surround sound for the English language track and stereo for the Japanese track. English subtitles are also provided. The sound quality was fine with limited use of directionality.

The transfer on this show is good, but nothing really stood out. The colors were nice if unremarkable, and the images played smoothly with no discernible problems.

The series comes in a nice thin case no larger than standard DVD cases. The four disks are held inside on individual racks connected to the spine. The cover is an assembly of the two noble spirits and five divine warriors: Taito, Keiro, Ryuko, Hosei, Koyo, Shokaku, and Rinmei. Taito stands in the foreground, drawing the sacred sword from its sheath, and Keiro looms in the background with his back to the viewer, looking menacingly over his shoulder. The back cover features Taito prominently in the upper-left-hand corner, brandishing his sword. The show’s description is positioned to the right and under that are scenes from the show in four small bubbles. The slipcase features the same design.

The menus vary slightly between the four disks. The first features the same picture of Taito that is on the back of the case. The second showcases Ryuko. The third has Taito again, and the fourth
is Rinmei. A short, twenty second version of the title song plays on a continuous loop, which gets tiresome rather quickly. The options are clearly written in black font in the lower right-hand corner of the menu and a black bar designed to look like a brushstroke appears under the one currently selected. All in all it’s a good, serviceable design.

There are no extras in this set aside from a slew of trailers on disks two and four. On disk two the trailers are Rideback, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z, Ga-Rei-Zero, One Piece, D.Gray-man, Darker than Black. And on Disk 4 there are Eden of the East, Noir, Kiddy Grade, Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Darker than Black.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hero Tales is a difficult show to review because it’s almost painfully average. I enjoyed it when I watched it, but I doubt I’ll have any desire to rewatch it again at some point. There’s nothing particularly bad about it—the characters are well-rounded, the action fun, and the animation in general solid, but there’s nothing about it that differentiates it from other titles.

The show is a fantasy period piece based on Chinese folklore. There are two noble spirits and five divine warriors (represented as stars in the Big Dipper whose spirits are continuously being incarnated in mortals). The two most powerful, Alkaid and Duhbe, are called the Two Noble Spirits because they are the most powerful. They are diametrically opposed to one another, and because of this they often don’t manifest at the same time. The few times they do the devastation left in their wake is horrifying. This is where the five Divine Warriors come in. They exist to contain and keep separate the Two Noble Spirits for the sake of the country. In order to do this they often divide with some taking Duhbe’s side and some taking Alkaid’s.

The Noble Spirits and Divine Warriors are able to call upon the power of their respective stars through channeling their Ki. The Divine Warriors must focus their Ki on an exterior object and each has a specific weapon they have a special affinity with; however, Alkaid and Duhbe are able to channel their Ki directly into their body, making them far more powerful and dangerous than the others.

The show begins with Keiro traveling to Taito’s village in search of the Conqueror’s Sword. Legend says that whoever can draw the sword from its scabbard will be the rightful emperor, and even though Keiro currently serves as a general in the imperial army, he desires the throne as a part of a larger, more terrifying scheme. He slaughter’s Taito’s village and ends up fighting the boy. During the fight he learns that Taito is Alkaid when the boy unconsciously calls upon the power of his star. The power overwhelms Taito and he succumbs to Alkaid’s overpowering rage. This saves his life, but it’s not enough to win the fight. He vows revenge against “Mustache” as he calls Keiro, and travels to the capital. On the way he meets four of the Divine Warriors and while he journeys he trains to channel his Ki so he can best Keiro in the next fight. However, once he sees the poverty of the kingdom and the opulence in which its rulers live, his goal evolves from simple revenge to saving the country.

Hero Tales feels like a show that should have aired on Toonami back in the early 2000s. The plot, characters, and animation are good, but not terribly exciting. There’s nothing here that makes it stand out. The idea of warrior’s whose fates are tied to the stars has been done countless times before, as has the headstrong, foolish, but loveable protagonist. In and of itself, that’s not a problem—every work of fiction borrows from what came before—what matters (and what makes this a difficult show to critique) is how this particular show handles those elements. Unfortunately, Hero Tales does nothing with them. It doesn’t play with the tropes; it doesn’t invert them or show the preconceptions that underlie them. It just uses them as-is, and unfortunately for the show, I’m at the point where I need more from an anime than that.

This is not to say that this is a bad show or that I didn’t enjoy it. Overall I enjoyed the show and there were specific parts that I really liked. I enjoyed it when Taito got especially angry because his voice would drop to a growl that made him sound like Kirk Douglas. I liked the betrayal and redemption of Ryuko. I also liked the motivation the show gave to Keiro, painting him as a victim of a terrible tragedy now lost in revenge. His backstory also worked well because it illustrated the similarities between him and Taito, which made their enmity all the more interesting. All of those elements were entertaining, but they never came together to make this more than just a fun, but ultimately forgettable, anime.

In Summary:
Hero Tales is a fun, but forgettable, anime. It is a fantasy period piece based on Chinese folklore about seven stars incarnated as human beings. The two most powerful stars, Alkaid and Duhbe, are locked in eternal combat, and the rest must find some way of keeping them in check, lest their power devastate the country. The story was enjoyable and the characters well rounded, but for me the show never came together to be more than an average anime. It used familiar tropes and characters, but failed to do anything with them to make something new and exciting. I’d pass on this one.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: A

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 650 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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