Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Tales of Zestiria the X
BD+DVD - Season 2
In his fight against Malevolence, Shepherd Sorey finds that he needs the help of not only his friend Mikleo and the Seraphim Edna and Lailah, but of ever more people if he is ever to stop the problem at its root. Along with Princess Alisha and Rose of the Sparrowfeathers, as well as wind Seraphim Dezel and Zaveid, Sorey confronts wars fought on many fronts. He can solve the smaller Hellion problems he runs up against, but will Sorey be able to handle the Lord of Calamity himself?
It's sad to say it, but the second half of the anime adaptation of Tales of Zestiria the X is still suffering from the pacing issues brought about by the inclusion of the Tales of Berseria episodes back in its first cour. What's particularly frustrating about this is that this half of the story does a perfectly capable job of explaining Velvet's role in the disasters currently befalling the world – Lailah is able to inform Sorey and the rest of his party without going into too much detail and we can understand what the problem is. Even the moment when Sorey has a vision of Velvet and she briefly talks to him isn't beholden to the Berseria episodes; it's an acknowledgement of Velvet's role and a nod to Berseria as a direct prequel to Zestiria and it doesn't derail the story.
Those extra minutes could have been rather better used in the final arc of Sorey's journey. Of the episodes on this set, most of them are involved in getting Sorey ready to fight the Lord of Calamity, having him gain squires, learn about Rose's origins, and aiding Alisha in her political issues, to say nothing of proving that dragons, like the one Edna's brother Eizen became, can be purified. All of these are vastly important details in terms of the end game and Sorey's role as a Shepherd, and they also do a good job of developing the world and the cast. That's what makes the rushed pacing of the final three episodes such a disappointment – there's simply not enough time to take all of that world-building and development and make it pan out in the end. The post-credits scene with Mikleo and Sorey is the most effective piece of the finale because it relies on the character dynamic they've been building from episode one rather than the actual events of the final battle.
In terms of character work, Tales of Zestiria the X does do a good job. Sorey's a bit of a blank slate savior figure (although his relationship with Mikleo is well done and we get a firm sense of their closeness), but much of the rest of the main cast is given credible arcs. Alisha is the stand-out here, with her use of body language and the evolution of her role from frightened (but determined) princess to the comfortable woman she is in the end feeling believable. As this set of episodes goes on, we can see her shift her body language so that she spends less time curled in on herself, and by the time of the final battle she's holding herself upright and confidently. The epilogue of the show has her finally looking truly comfortable with herself, and even more interestingly, we can see her taking on traits of Edna and Rose in her new body language and self-confidence. More than any other character, we truly do see Alisha grow up over the course of the series, and her growth is a major draw of these episodes.
Rose, on the other hand, has to learn to trust others, and its interesting to watch Sorey's entire party try (and largely fail) to get a grip on her as a person. She and Alisha really do feed off of each other in terms of their character evolutions, although Dezel also has a large impact on Rose's development. While her arc is a bit less involved than Alisha's we still do see her learning that there can be more than one way to do what she thinks is right, and if her smiley skull-and-bones button isn't subtle (really, how did everyone miss that she had the emblem of the Scattered Bones on her jacket the entire time?), it does foreshadow her change from assassin to happy human being.
The visuals of the series continue to be stunning, with the elemental fight in episode fifteen being a major highlight. There's a wonderful sense of space to the landscapes of the show, and if we're occasionally forced to wonder how Lailah balances in her heels or how Zaveid's pants stay up, it's worth it for the consistently attractive character designs and animation. (And the Sorey Winter Fashion Show, of course.) The dub also continues strong. T. Axelrod's Bartlow has a delightfully slimey smoothness to him, and Christine Marie Cabanos gives Symonne a wistfulness beneath her hard exterior that really works. The only voice I was not entirely sold on was Derick Snow's Prince Conan; it isn't terrible, but it feels a little off for the character.
Tales of Zestiria the X's second half continues to blend its mythologies, with plenty of Arthurian place names (Glastonbell = Glastonbury, Pendrago = Pendragon, Camlan = Camelot), Shinto philosophy regarding the natural world, and a bit of Christ imagery for Sorey and the Shepherds. While this makes the use of the word “crucify” for Maltran's punishment (she's clearly in the stocks) feel a bit on the nose, it is an interesting thematic element of the series that generally receives the development that the plot doesn't quite. With Lunarre never really feeling all that useful as a character and Lailah often acting the preschool teacher of the group, this isn't a series that entirely lives up to its potential. But it is good enough, and the two included commentaries – one east coast and one west coast – are fun. It may not be a masterpiece of fantasy, but it is a satisfactory conclusion to a generally enjoyable show.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Beautiful visuals, stirring music, Alisha really develops as a character
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