I love the Tales of Zestiria game not for its gameplay or story/plot, but for its endearing motley crew. Honestly, the game mechanics and the plot are below sub-par and the only reason you’ll be playing it is because of the characters themselves. Now, I’m not really here to compare the adaptation and the source because doing so is pointless, however, a background check should be apt considering that the source is riddled by controversies ranging from death threats, to raging fans whose only thought at that time was choking the director instead of the final boss. I wasn’t aware of all of this until recently. Although most of the backlash seems to come from the decision to put Alisha into the backseat and get Rose the center stage alongside the main character. I didn’t mind, actually. Rose was a great personality, but it did feel odd to suddenly withdraw Alisha from the limelight. You see, literally the first 15-20 hours of the game was spent with Sorey and Alisha together that it started to become apparent that Alisha will be relevant until the end. She was depicted as the main heroine in their advertisements, after-all. That… didn’t seem to be the case to the disappointment of basically the whole fanbase of the Tales franchise. I don’t feel the immediate need to dig through all the hubbubs and what-not, but if you’re interested enough you can check Reddit for that matter. Regardless, what resulted in all of these is probably the least received and appreciated Tales title in its long-running franchise — the sales speak for itself amidst the crying pleas of die-hard fans. It’s certainly saddening to see given that the game had a lot of potential, and I’m sure countless employees had to crunch so hard to get Zestiria to launch.
Nevertheless, I still had a thoroughly fun time accompanying Sorey and the crew on their journey. Now that the first episode aired, an ominous question looms in the air: will they add insult to injury by faithfully adapting the fan-hated story, or will the anime be the saving grace of Tales of Zestiria? Personally speaking, I don’t mind whichever route they choose (so long as nobody gets hurt in the process). I’m here to cover the anime episodes fairly, anyway. I’ll keep my opinions separated from the source as much as possible, so please bear with me.
For the sake of avoiding confusion, I’ll go with the traditional format of naming the first episode that airs as Episode 1, even if Daisuki.net tags it as prologue or Episode: 00. To give you an idea of how the Tales stories go, it’s basically your run-of-the-mill “friendship conquers all” plot. Tales of Zestiria the X doesn’t differ on that formula. We have Sorey, soon to be Shepherd, tasked with the mission of saving the world from evil. He’ll gather the aid of Seraphims, supernatural beings capable of magic, and thus a new journey begins.
Yup. Pretty much a generic blurb, but episode 1 seems to disagree. I do believe that the first episode is a great way to introduce us to the world of Zestiria. Suddenly, we’re dragged into a place we know nothing about, aside from the impression that this new world is bleak and vast. It also gives us a sense of deeper work in motion behind the curtains, as the story will not only be restricted to one village or one city, but will involve a whole continent (the game took place in a continent called Glenwood). Glenwood is painted drab and dreary, in contrast to each character’s colorful palette (just a heads up, the game depicted the world as bubbly and energetic, despite having gritty moments, it wasn’t as dark as compared to ToZX‘s first episode).
Alisha is shaping up to be a great character so far to both those familiar with the game and to newly welcomed viewers alike. She isn’t your regular damsel in distress princess obviously, but there’s a limit to what she can do. She’s a human, after-all, and seeing her stood her ground against those opposing her politically, and against something far beyond her comprehension can easily gain the sympathy of the viewers. It’s not everyday we see a member of the royalty, much more a princess, to leave the confines of her castle and do the fieldwork herself. Doing so presents a lot of risks. However, knowing full well the dangers this entail, she still took the reins to lead the search of her missing comrade. It kinda worked both ways, actually. The easiest way for those opposing her politically to get rid of her is to send her to die in the battlefield (which was a close call), but, at the same time, the face of a princess can also serve as a morale boost to her people and subordinates. From this alone, we can fairly judge that she’s someone who’ll do whatever she can so long as she believe it’s for the good of her country. Unfortunately, this can prove as a double-edged sword. Too much kindness can be a weakness — and I think it’s weakness that a young princess can’t handle by herself.
Most of the praise will probably be directed to ufotable‘s trademark animation. Even by their standards, the first episode’s visuals nothing short of a tour-de-force. It’s immensely fluid to watch, but not that overly done that leaves you missing the atmosphere they are trying to convey. There’s a bleak line separating visuals that’s meant to show you “this is cool”, and a visual meant to show you “this is cool and thick with atmosphere”. There are battle sequences that turns out to become a slugfest in the end regardless of how well animated it is, however, ufotable’s magic seems to gravitate us towards its own world with ease. I do love the use of 2D and CGI in this episode, specially. There’s a clean defining difference of what cuts are 2D and what sequences are CGI, but the transitions didn’t feel awkward or disturbing at all. Nope! I’m not taking a jab at you, Berserk. I still love how you mixed the two together. Well, nothing less to expect from Unlimited Budget Works.
I guess the last thing I want to talk about is that jaw dropping performances by FLOW in the OP. I’m glad that ToZX‘s OP is somewhat spoiler free, as it only shows us characters in their battle mode. Combine that action-pounding animation with a catchy tune and you’ll get a criminally bad-ass presentation — unless you’re tone deaf or blind. Speaking of which, I’m glad they’re using the original BGM of the game. Hearing Lady Lake’s OST certainly brought me back to those countless hours of walking around the city doing nothing. Of course the OST is an obvious choice but it was still a nice touch worth noticing.
Given that ToZX seems to be deviating from its original source, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the following episodes. The focus will surely shift to introduce us to Sorey and his circumstances. Correct me if I’m wrong but if ToZX will indeed be a 2-cour anime, then that should leave us ample screen-time for each supporting characters which is somewhat a good thing, but can also be a cause of pacing inconsistencies or an arc dragging for too long. Still, it would be best to take all of these expectations with a grain of salt. However, as someone who came to love these characters, I just can’t help but hope to see the best of them on-screen. Anyways, guess that’s it for now. See you guys next episode!