Tales of Zestiria the X Anime Guest Review by Eric P.

August 2nd, 2017
I’m winging my way to celebrate Okazu’s 15th anniversary at Yurithon in Montreal. I really hope I’ll see many of you there. If you are a reader, please come up to say hello if you see me. I would love to meet you! I know I would, because so many of our friends here came up to me at conventions. Including today’s Guest Reviewer and Okazu Superhero, Eric P.! Eric’s been a long-time friend who came up to me at an event and a tremendous supporter of Yuri and Okau over the years. So please welcome back Eric with a new review!
Based on a RPG seriesTales of Zestiria the X starts off with a prologue episode—which  stands terrifically on its own for its tone, atmosphere and breathtaking climactic visuals—in which a princess knight named Alisha investigates a strange weather phenomenon. It is later identified as the rise of Malevolence, an evil sickness plaguing not just her kingdom of Hyland but the rest of the world, feeding on the negative emotions of human beings and turning many into dark creatures called Hellions. Starting in the show’s “first” episode, she finds a good-hearted young man named Sorey, along with his best friend, Mikleo. Mikleo is one of the Seraphim, a celestial race of beings that once represented the harmony between humanity and earth, but had long isolated themselves when that connection was lost. The three of them know the legend of the Shepherd, the savior who could restore the harmony of the world and rid it of the Malevolence. Upon having met Alisha, an intrigued Sorey travels with Mikleo away from the Seraphim’s village to Hyland, where after one circumstance leading to another he dons the title of the Shepherd. From there he goes on a quest in finding the way to save the world, while also gaining an expanding fellowship of distinctive companions comprised of both humans and Seraphim.
On the surface, laying out the basic story elements can make Zestiria the X sound like a routine video game story, or like the usual formula of an epic fantasy saga of good vs. evil one would expect. But what manages to help Zestiria stand out from most similar series is due to ufotable’s production. As the studio responsible for the theatrical-level animation of Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, their quality is equally shown in this series while elevated to impressive new levels. The visuals with the cloud and water effects are beautifully stunning, the action scenes are fun as always, and the character animation has life to it… or at least matches well enough with the surrounding picture. Like their previous series I found myself drawn into and immersed within the story’s world, and charmed by the characters as I meet them one by one. Under any other Anime studio, Sorey could have been another bland do-gooder, but with ufotable’s execution he really does come across as a hero who is more likable and easy to root for than not.
Alisha undertakes her own mission to quell the Malevolence by stopping the war against the enemy kingdom of Rolance, including refusing to take up arms no matter what movement is taken by the opposite side. One of the other major supporting protagonists is Rose, a lively merchant by day but an assassin by night. Early on she takes the job against Alisha, because her ideals would bring greater harm or even death to good soldiers and the common people caught up in the struggle. But Rose soon learns Alisha is not the dangerously naïve princess she was lead to believe, and upon Alisha’s solemn vow that she would give her own life before losing anyone else’s to achieve her goals, Rose has a change of heart and stands by Alisha’s side.
Alisha and Rose fight hard and grow stronger, coming a long way on their own as well as a team duo. Then in the very final episode, Zestiria pulls a surprise(?) korrasami-type moment with their final scenes together, in which their friendship seems to start budding into something more. Nothing quite as explicit as a handhold, but there is no doubt suggestiveness in their playful exchange of dialogue, as well as the quick edits/close-ups of their affections during this exchange. The topic of marriage (to men, apparently) gets brought up by others, to which they brush off their own ways, with Alisha awkwardly looking away while Rose rolls her eyes and shrugs. One could easily see their journeys in a whole new light should one re-watch the series.
I like how the story stayed true to remaining morally gray while illustrating there are never any easy answers in what is always or just sometimes right and wrong. There is still a single villain in the climax that must be defeated, but even then things are not as clear-cut as expected. Aside from Alisha and Rose, it should also be mentioned this series has its share of genuine strong women characters, including Alisha’s mentor Maltran, and Alisha’s two loyal female knights, both of whom remain practically-uniformed the whole way through. The story itself may not be groundbreaking, but there is still enough of that ufotable charm to give it a soul and keep it refreshing on its own. I for one was just as entertained the second time through before writing this review, and am anticipating Funimation’s future blu-ray release.
Erica here: Thank you so much Eric! I appreciate you sharing this with everyone. And thanks to you and all the folks who help make Okazu so much fun!
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