Monday, July 18, 2016

Tales of Zestiria the X First Impressions

This summer's anime have begun, and rather than discuss something with major hype around it (Mob Psycho 100) or a really goofy-looking show (Scar-red Rider XechS) I'm looking at this epic fantasy series because I've been on a real big fantasy kick of late and I'd like to keep it up. Plus this a series by ufotable so you already know the art and animation are going to be top-notch. 
I'm in a bit of a mixed bag for this one. Like I said, the art and animation are some of the best that ufotable's done. They never really disappoint and it really does help the show stand out among it's peers. Sure there are other beautifully animated series this season but so far this is the best looking one and holds up well in many of its bits. I'll get to the artwork and backgrounds themselves soon but let me tell you...


The series is based on a Japanese RPG of a different name, simply titled Tales of Zestiria, which is a larger part of the "Tales" universe of games. I have no idea why the anime changed the title to Tales of Zestiria the X but who cares, it's the same thing. Thus far there are two main episodes and a prologue introducing us to the world, so I can safely make first impressions based off of that. 

This fantasy world is based in Glenwood, but so far we've seen things on the side of the Highland (Hyland?) Kingdom, ruled by Princess Alisha, who is the first character we see. In this world there is magic and sorcery and all sorts of fun medieval things. The prologue episode does a good job of establishing setting and the world, though not so much the characters and their goals. Alisha does most of the expositing about how there are higher beings than humans, Seraphims (though in the games they're simply Seraphs) and that there is a prophecy in the Celestial Records that known known as the Shepherd will come and unite the two when the world is cast in darkness. 

And hey, wouldn't you know it, darkness decides to show up. And in good fashion. In the first episode we see two monsters, Hellions, duking it out while a giant tornado of fire rages down all around Alisha and her comrades as they are forced to escape well-drawn mythical tombs and ruins about gods among men. Yeah. It's that kind of show. 

So far we've only gotten to know three of the main characters: Alisha, Sorey, and Mikleo. Sorey is a human boy who lives among the Seraphim and is friends with Mikleo. Unlike Alisha, though, Sorey is able to speak and interact with the Seraphim, probably because they took him in and raised him as a young boy. As is typical of these stories. Mikleo is Seraphim that got close with Sorey and always goes out on adventures with him. 

Of the three, Sorey has the most personality but it's also a pretty basic one. He's the typical "I won't let any harm come to anyone" type of good guy. Alisha has potential to have personality, since she's a total geek about the lore of the world yet must uphold her honor as a princess and a knight, while Mikleo exists to try and be a foil for Sorey. It's fun watching Sorey and interesting to see what Alisha will tell us next, but the problem is that they haven't really done anything. 

Alisha has stumbled her way, almost literally, into the story. Sorey and Mikleo's inclusion feels natural and Sorey knowing about the Celestial Records makes sense. Though anyone with half a brain can realize what Sorey's ultimate destiny will be, as it's basically shoved into our face throughout Episode 2. 

The series has done little to make it stand out among the other major fantasy anime we've had in recent years like Yona of the Dawn or Heroic Legend of Arslan. It's cool, yeah, but nothing's really happened. Our characters have basic desires, and actually they're all pretty much the same. They're bland heroic types with little personality so far, though there are hints of it to come that can lead to some good story beats. The idea of uniting the two peoples isn't entirely unique but it'll be cool to see the Seraphim hopefully fight alongside the Highland (Hyland?) Kingdom. 

But dude the artwork though it's so pretty. All of the walls in the ruins are well detailed. Colors are jumping off the screen and character designs are all great and unique. I love their outfits and the world they live in just seems to come to life with it's vibrant colors and wide landscapes. It makes me want to play the games and explore this world. In many ways the art reminds me of Dark Souls with the original Firelink Shrine. Some ruins among a beautiful green landscape among the mountains. 

The ending shot of Episode 2 is something that can be hung on a wall like a freaking mural. 

It's probably not showing up all that well compared to how it is when you watch the show (especially in High Definition). 

If you're looking for a gorgeous show, basically to watch painting after painting go by, this is definitely the one for the you. The music is pretty chill so far, with not too many fight scenes for there to be much exciting music, so it's not like you'll be on the edge of your seat. Though, I will say that the action is very exciting when it arrives. The chase away from the tornado and the two Hellion battles so far have been thrilling and, again, incredible just to look at. 

The story and characters are a bit weak but now that introductions are finally out of the way and we've settled into the lore of the world I suspect we'll see some progression. Check out the prologue episode if you're curious and I think you can make a safe judgment there as to whether or not you'll enjoy the show! 

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