Tales of Zestiria the X Series Review

tales of zestiria

Overview:

Alisha (a Princess) wants to end fighting. Sorey wants Seraphim and humans to be able to live together peacefully. When Sorey follows Alisha to the human city of Lady Lake he pulls a sword out of rock and becomes a Shepherd and has to try to purify malevolence (and save the world or whatever).

I did review this week to week so if you want to know individual episode thoughts click here.

Review:

For an anime based on a game I’ve never played, I was strangely hooked by this show (after we got over the 00 episode that just seemed to exist to show off special effects and to confuse people who had no clue what was going on. That said, while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching, looking back this show has a lot of issues as a stand alone anime.

Let’s start with the negative and then we can look at some of the good things this show offered.

01. Running a two episode advertisement in the middle of a 12 episode series (not counting 00) kind of killed any kind of pacing or momentum and also seriously hampered plot development. Also, for those of us who haven’t played the games and don’t really want to, while the two episodes were cool, all they really made me want to do was ditch the characters from the main anime and follow the ones from the prequel and call it a day. That doesn’t really add much to your story if you show us a potentially more interesting story we could have been watching.

02. Character development is lacking. Sorey is nice and idealistic. That’s about it for him. Occasionally he get’s mad or learns something about the world but that core of idealistic and nice isn’t going anywhere and except when he is in the middle of a fight he seems to just default back to happy-go-lucky. The same can be said for most of the other characters. They have a default character and then they have the occasional emotional moment before defaulting back.

03. From a plot point of view, it’s based on a game. These are the villains, these are the heroes. There are going to be a whole bunch of smaller bad guys and side quests but mostly just go beat this thing up and everything will be fine. By the way, we’ll show you stronger bad guys early on (so that you know that we’re serious about some evil stuff coming) but we won’t let them kill you until you’ve progressed so many levels. While games can be immersive and tell compelling stories, by nature they can’t really throw the main bad guy at you too early because that would be the end of the story. Not to mention, odds of a main character dying early (while not impossible) are pretty low. We also have characters appear seemingly for no reason other than they existed in the game (okay, maybe they serve a purpose later but at the moment it was more like they just dropped in to give their name and walk away).

However, if you put up with those negatives there are some real positives to the story.

01. The characters might be a little lacking in development but the combination of characters and personalities works really well and lead to some really entertaining interactions. While most of the relationships are directed toward Sorey and the way he interacts with each of the other characters is interesting, some of the more interesting relationships happen between characters around him. Rose and Alisha had some great interactions in those final episodes (admittedly it was all kind of cliché but well done). And Mikleo and Edna have been amusing ever since they met. However, it is Sorey and Mikleo’s relationship and interactions that I most looked forward to seeing. This was a really great friendship and while the final episodes sort of sidelined that relationship (there were bigger things occurring) it was probably one of my favourite parts of the show.

02. Good fantasy is hard to come by and Zestiria throws magic, purification, spirits, dragons, and everything else into the mix and for the most part succeeds (I’m still questioning the English subtitles where they called a not yet formed dragon a drake but I’m pretty sure that’s a translation issue more than anything else).

03. Good drama. We have characters trying their hardest, we have awesome fight sequences, we have political intrigue. Okay, sometimes you can’t really take the conflict all that seriously but the characters do and do so consistently. It is nice to see that they aren’t taking the challenges facing them lightly or trying to be self-aware and smug about the situation which is a tone that is saturating so much of the fantasy genre these days. Characters who are just earnestly facing their own difficulties are great to watch and you just want to get behind them, even when they are a little inept at times.

I’m not going too much into the visuals. If you read my week to week you know I didn’t much like the initial presentation. While I stopped being distracted by the way the characters seemed pasted onto their backgrounds (or I stopped caring) I never felt that all of the visual elements of the show came together. Each part is really pretty but the whole just didn’t feel right.

From a music point of view I kind of felt there was a bit of overkill at times (particularly in the 2 episode advertisement). I get that in games you get different music for different scenes but some of the transitions in the show are jarring. Like the visuals though, each bit of music on its own is actually quite good.

Do I recommend watching this? If you are a fantasy fan and you are starved for a decent anime with sword fights, magic and dragons, definitely check it out. However, as it is an unfinished story and there are definitely some issues with the pacing if you aren’t that into fantasy maybe give it a skip.