Hero TalesThere is a divine drama written in the stars and reenacted in the mortal realm: the Dipper Bearers are seven humans who each bear the symbol of a star in the Big Dipper and their fates correspond to those of the gods of their respective stars. The two with the marks of Dubhe and Alkaid share their fate with opposing warrior gods; their Bearers rarely exist during the same time period, but when they do, turmoil and destruction ensue. The other five Dipper Bearers are charged with maintaining the balance between the two war gods and preserving the peace of the Empire.

One night, Taito Shirei’s village is attacked by the royal general Keiro, who has come to steal a sacred sword that can only be drawn by the true Emperor. Taito engages the powerful general, and during the course of their fight, Taito himself unsheathes the sword. It is revealed that Taito is the earthly manifestation of the star Alkaid and Keiro is his nemesis Dubhe. Although he cannot unsheathe the sword, Keiro escapes with it, while Taito learns of his destiny as Alkaid and sets out to avenge the slaughter of his village.

Hiromu Arawaka, one of the creators of Hero Tales, is also the creator of my favorite anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist. For this reason alone, I’ve wanted to watch Hero Tales, but I’ve also felt apprehensive. What if Hero Tales is awful? What if it seems like a cheap attempt to recreate FMA? My concerns seemed justified by the fact that this anime hasn’t become very popular, though I know it isn’t fair of me to expect Hero Tales to match the genius of FMA. Luckily, this story is unique enough that one does not feel compelled to compare—at least not too much—and the few similarities are subtle. Hero Tales has a hearty plot with a fascinating mythological component, even if it is not as intricately woven as FMA.

Hero Tales is clearly a shonen anime geared towards boys who like a lot of action and adventure. The story falls into place rapidly in the first episode, but the characters are well-developed and their burgeoning relationships feel authentic. While there is a lot of fighting, there is just as much personal development as the pacing of the story parallels the maturity of the main character, Taito. When the story begins, he is a rash, impulsive character who will challenge an unknown opponent within seconds and embark on a dangerous mission of vengeance without a second thought. As he matures over the course of the anime, however, the story slows to a steadier pace.

The voice actors are well cast, effectively bringing out the essence of their characters. Newton Pittman, the actor playing Taito, has a unique voice that is perfect for this brashly passionate character. Alexis Tipton characterizes his sister Laila as serious and compassionate, yet energetic enough to keep impetuous Taito in check. Unfortunately, Hero Tales is marred by weak animation. Early on, the shading is so roughly done that it’s distracting. Too often, the images seem flat and the characters’ proportions are off-kilter. In particular, Rinmei suffers from this distracting depiction. Based on the covers of the manga, I believe she is supposed to look attractive yet tough—someone whose beauty awakens admiration, but whose strength intimidates. In the anime, her frequent attempts to show sadness or concern make her look more like a lethargic man.

Despite its flawed animation, Hero Tales is worth watching for those who enjoy shonen anime. There are lots of muscle-expanding power-up sequences reminiscent of Dragonball. Fans of Fullmetal Alchemist should not watch this series expecting to find the same level of mastery, but tweens and teens who enjoy anime like Dragonball and Yu Yu Hakusho will appreciate this watch-alike.

Hero Tales: The Complete Series
FUNimation, 2012
directed by Osamu Sekita
650 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD
Company Age Rating: TV-14
Related to: Hero Tales by Hiromu Arakawa

  • Emily Shade

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

    View all posts
Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!