Funimation // 2007 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jon Mercer (Retired) // May 1st, 2011
The war of Alkhaid and Dubhe has begun.
The reincarnated seven stars of the big dipper have finally all gathered, and as prophesized their clash has thrown the Xian Empire into disarray. After the limp pace of the first volume, can this tale pick up the steam it needs to arrive at a rousing conclusion?
Following a disastrous battle against the forces of his arch nemesis, the courageous Taito finds his will to fight almost shattered. Will the time granted by the sacrifice of a close friend grant him the wisdom he needs to rewrite the destiny of his country for the better? Betrayal and death beset Taito and his fellow adventurers at every turn, and the coldblooded Keiro grows ever closer to realizing his terrible ambitions.
Truth be told, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Hero Tales: Part Two when I slid the disc in the machine. The first volume offered little outside of a promising setting steeped in Eastern mythology, and a disappointing reliance on predictable anime conventions and a shocking amount of filler. The first few episodes of this collection didn't do much to change that opinion either, as we watched Taito wallow in a mire of self-loathing.
It's then that an astonishing transformation begins to take shape. The hideous machinations of the insidious supporting villain Shimei are brought to the light, and as a result a series of breathtaking twists appear in the storyline. Following a foreseeable but satisfying and poignant return to the Liang Tong Temple, Hero Tales leaps from its anticipated path, tosses its cards onto the table and we viewers take away a bittersweet taste of the adventure that should've been there from the very beginning. Allegiances are brought to question on both sides of the conflict, and following the revelations made at the end of the first volume, one character finds himself now at odds with his comrades. There's even an episode that delves into the history of our heinous villain which makes a rather strong argument towards the validity of his plot to seize the throne. It is during this streak of eight incredible episodes that Hero Tales earns its keep. I wonder if the entire series wouldn't have been made stronger had it been packaged together, as the bulk of Part Two more than makes up for the feeble first act. I would've liked to have seen a little more from Keiro's subordinates, as it was their human weaknesses and strengths that gave the heroes a little more to play off of for a few episodes.
Of course all this goodwill is cast aside when the antagonists abruptly and nonsensically commit to cartoonish super villainy and the plot nosedives as a result. By the final episode, what had become a delightful climax is reduced to a pastiche of every fight from Dragon Ball Z. I won't even comment on the inanity of the epilogue, suffice to say it lays out much like the end of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang only without a single shred of irony.
Likewise with Part One, at the very least Funimation have crafted another looker of a set. The flat TV level animation is at the very least crisp in appearance, and the colors are as vibrant as before. Things are at their best when there's a lot of action going on. There are two audio tracks, an English 5.1 that gets more of a workout this time around, and a Japanese Stereo mix. It'll do if you enjoy watching your anime in its native tongue, but it can come across as a little flat. Extras are almost identical to the first set, with a single Japanese cast featurette, some trailers and TV spots, and clean opening and closings for all four of the show's central themes.
While definitely a stronger effort than the first release, Hero Tales: Part Two still doesn't offer a whole lot to anime fans they haven't seen before and better. Fans of Hiromu Arakawa would be better served sticking with the nicer looking and more interesting Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. If it still seems like something you'd want to watch, I'd advise sticking it out and waiting until a release of the complete series.
A marked improvement, but this one fails its yellow belt certification.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Open/Close
* Trailers/TV Spots