This time I’m taking a look at a wuxia (period Chinese fantasy action – ala Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers) pastiche anime from the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist.

Cast & Crew

Kenichi Suzumura as Taitō
Akemi Kanda as Laila
Banjou Ginga as Keirō
Issei Futamata as Shimei
Jun Fukuyama as Taigatei
Rikiya Koyama as Koyō
Sho Hayami as Shōkaku
Takahiro Sakurai as Ryūkō
Yuko Kaida as Rinmei
Yuuki Tai as Hyōsei

Directed by Osamu Sekita
Story by Hiromu Arakawa, Genco and Studio FLAG as Jin-Zhou Huan
Written by Mayori Sekijima
Music by Tamiya Terashima
Animated by Studio Flag

Available on DVD from Amazon.com

The Premise

In a fantasy land that somewhat resembles Feudal China, Taito is a young man living at the Lotus temple in the district of Taishan. When the temple is attacked by forces under General Kiero, Taito’s mentor at the temple is murdered (along with many of the monks) and a magical sword, Kenkaranpu, is taken by Kiero. Taito, along with his adoptive sister Laila, and his fellow martial artist Ryuko must retrieve the sword. In the process they join forces with other warriors and discover their destiny as chosen warriors of the Celesital Gods, and the destiny of their stars.

High Points

The action in this show is incredibly well animated, fluidly done and very well paced. I also enjoyed the music, which used traditional Chinese instruments to excellent effect, building the sense of the land as being similar (though not identical) to feudal China (at least as depicted in various Wuxia films). Finally, the show paces the comedy really well.

Low Points

Kiero’s final objective, as revealed in the final act of the series, is very poorly written. In short, his plan is to kill everyone and become the undead ruler of the empire. It doesn’t fit with his backstory and it doesn’t make sense as a thing that someone who was at one time human, or was coming from a human mindset would do – especially considering how far out the guy plans. If the show did a bait-and-switch and made Shimei the real villain, I’d get it. Shimei isn’t human, ze’s a sword that will occasionally possess a corpse and use it as a meat-puppet to communicate and get around. I can forgive it failing the “Now What” test. I can’t forgive Kiero, who has lived his entire life as a human, failing that same test.

Scores

Originality: As a series, it borrows a lot from other works in the wuxia genre, along with other works of Japanese and Chinese literature (like the pre-destined band of warriors in The Hakkenden), along with other concepts (like royal twins separated at a young age). 3/6

Animation: The animation is pretty good – Studio Flag has a pretty strong track record, and this is par for the course. 5/6

Story: The first half of the series is interestingly plotted and written well. Then we get to the second half and the story does the narrative equivalent of stepping onto a series of rakes ala Sideshow Bob. 3/6

Production: 5/6

Emotional Response: The comedy and action is fairly well paced, thought the attempts towards the end of the series to build sympathy for Kiero end up falling flat on their face once the true nature of his plan is revealed. 3/6

Acting: The performances here are generally solid, though ultimately they are not able to save the fairly poor material. 4/6

Overall: I really wish this story didn’t poop the bed in the second half – it makes for a show that I simply can’t recommend. 2/6

In Total, Hero Tales gets 25 out of 42.