Tatiou and his group prepare to leave for the capital but get caught in a fight with Shimei. Meanwhile, Keirou begins his coup.
Writer/Artist: Jin Zhou Huang and Hiromu Arakawa
What They Say
Ryuukou’s warning still ringing in his ears, Taitou hurries back to Taizan, only to discover that the Genrou-tou has left his hometown in ruins. Though Taitou is devastated by the loss of his father, the attack has given him a renewed sense of purpose. Unless General Keirou is stopped, countless families and towns will face similar destruction.
Meanwhile, back in the capital, Keirou’s plan for seizing power from the emperor is well underway. With Keirou as the new commander in chief and Taigatei in prison, can anything stop the general’s reign of terror?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Shimei states that Laila’s confrontation with Taitou is “anti-climactic”, and I’d have to agree. The way we left Laila in the last volume, she looked possessed by a demon after realizing the deaths of her parents were the fault of her “brother.” She seemed ready to become an enormous emotional obstacle for Taitou to overcome, but Hero Tales doesn’t get quite that dark, and Laila soon forgives him because he’s family.
Keirou’s full take over of the empire goes down in this volume, as he attacks the young emperor Taigatei and sends him to jail, and has his supporters kill leaders that would oppose him. While Taigatei laments not being able to protect his wife Taki, she joins him in the dungeon because she doesn’t want to leave his side, even though Keirou is her father. Female characters are few and far between in this manga, but like Fullmetal Alchemist Arakawa builds her girls tough.
A couple of revelations about family relations come up in this volume. First we learn about Ryukou’s parentage, which helps to explain his sudden betrayal at the end of volume 3. And we already know that Taitou isn’t a part of Laila’s family, but in the midst of a fight we learn who Taitou’s blood relations really are. Both of these revelations are important to the story since they help to explain characters’ actions and motivate them towards new goals, but they also occur so suddenly as to seem almost like an afterthought, and the shock is blunted.
The biggest action in this volume comes a little after the halfway mark when Shimei brings what is basically a zombie horde to attack Taitou and his friends. Taitou has unfortunately made his greatest weakness too obvious, but just as Shimei is about to exploit that a friend steps in to save the day. What follows is a quick but exciting battle in which Arakawa uses the same great choreography seen in Fullmetal Alchemist, but even though our heroes win it comes at a devastating expense. The characters don’t spend much time in mourning, adding to the too-quick feeling of the plot, but it’s also relieving to not have to deal with anyone wallowing in guilt or despair.
As the three remaining members prepare to leave for the city they are met with Ryukou. But after having committed a bloody act for the sake of Keirou, Ryukou has lost his confidence and can’t look his old allies in the face. Rinmei has stayed behind, and attempts to help him learn to live with the sins he’s committed. it’s an interesting bit of character development, and Arakawa does well in not drawing this part out too much, but it also feels like another case of the characters forgiving each other too quickly.
This volume brings us closer to the final confrontation between Keirou and Taitou, but even as Taitou makes his way to the capital city it’s not clear whether he has the strength and ability to beat his nemesis. It doesn’t help that Taitou’s ranks have fallen, though things aren’t looking particularly stable on Keirou’s side, either. Some of his followers fall away as they realize he might not be the man to save the Ken Empire. Plus the loyalties of Shoukaku, one of the divine warriors that has been working with Keirou, aren’t entirely clear; he could prove helpful or detrimental to Taitou’s cause in the future. The anxiety shoots up in the last panel, as an enemy we thought was gone for good looks like he’ll make a surprising, and creepy, return.
But even as the action builds it’s difficult to get really excited about what’s happening in the story. Everything in Hero Tales just happens too fast, from revelations to reconciliations, and it’s hard to feel very emotional about many of the events. The action may be interesting enough to carry someone right through the series, but volume 5 hasn’t even been published in Japan yet – readers having trouble feeling attached to the story might find they aren’t that enthusiastic by the time the next installment rolls out.
Angela has been writing about anime, manga and comics for the past few years, and her work can also be found on Manga Bookshelf and Creative Screenwriting. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University.