Hero Tales, Vol. 2
written by Hiromu Arakawa and Huang Jin Zhou
Taitou, his sister Laila, the priest Ryuukou, and their new archer friend Housei make their way toward the capital to try to recover the Kenkaranbu, the Champion’s Sword. Along the way, they stop in to see Housei’s master, Kouei. The learned woman begins to teach Taitou how to learn to control his ki, but a dangerous enemy is not willing to give him all the time he needs. Shimei, the man who stole the Kenkaranbu, is determined to help General Keirou by stopping Taitou—using any means necessary!
Arakawa et al.’s new series continues to build in the second volume. Here the manga group introduces a host of new characters and expands upon the back story of the original ones. The result could be chaotic, but luckily in the hands of a master creator like Arakawa the plot still flows smoothly. Just as in her series Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa doesn’t pull punches. Dramatic moments are not neglected simply out of concern for a character’s well-being. This is only the second volume, though, so it is harder for readers to be torn apart by events, since they have not had time to fully bond with the characters. That’s not to say that these people are uninspiring. As readers get to know them and as the backstories are fleshed out, the characters are what will keep readers returning to this story.
As expected with Arakawa, the art remains strong. Now that the second volume is here, it is becoming easier to tell Taitou and Housei apart. The backgrounds are sometimes neglected in favor of focusing the reader’s eye on the characters, but when those backgrounds are drawn in, the result is wonderful. On one two-page spread, Arakawa shows a man on a horse leaping into battle. The horse and rider are screen-toned in dramatic black and dark gray, with the kanji for the sound effect on either side of them. Around them, the body parts fly, blending into the motion lines. The image on the page following is motionless, but no less heart-pounding as it allows the horror to settle in.
This series is still in its early stages, but it has all the makings of a popular title. With both the female and male characters being strong and beautiful and with a nice blend of drama, action, humor, romance, and political intrigue, it could command a wide readership. It’s likely, though, that with so many characters, this series will continue for a long while, so libraries should be prepared for multiple volumes. Luckily they probably won’t stay on the shelf for long.-- Snow Wildsmith