Tales of Zestiria the X
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the “season two coming soon” message we got after this week's episode of Tales of Zestiria the X is a little early and that there will be another episode next week. That's partly because there was a preview for said episode, but also because it would be unutterably cruel to end things here – with Alisha bleeding out on the floor after being run through by one of her own kingdom's soldiers, a human Hellion (potentially the Lord of Chaos) looming over the castle, a glimpse of the missing elemental Seraph, and the fact that poor Sorey has just realized that there will always be another battle to stop. Actually, that last one wouldn't be a bad piece of character development to end on – part of why Sorey has the capacity to be a good Shepherd is due to his purity of spirit and his faith in the world's goodness, or at least the possibility of it. It's a lovely way to see things that would be wonderful to believe in, even if we know better. The moment Sorey, having stopped a single battle and purified all participants, human and Hellion alike, realizes that he hasn't actually stopped the entire war is heartbreaking, not because there are still soldiers killing each other for no reason, but because you can see a piece of Sorey's innocence break off.
In that sense, this episode does a good job of showing Sorey's progression over the course of twenty-five minutes. He's stoic on the ride to the battlefield, too excited to sleep the night before, determined during the first part, and exhausted to the verge of collapse by the time he spots the Hellion over the fortress. It feels like a pretty realistic depiction of the emotions an untried young hero might go through in his first major battle. Mikleo seems at least partially aware of what's going on, as he makes sure to extract a promise for the two of them to go ruin-crawling when this is over, although that could be just as much to give himself a reason to get through as Sorey. Despite Edna's appearance, he really does seem to be the youngest of the Seraphim, which puts him in the position to really be there for Sorey as his almost-a-brother. Rose appears to fulfill that role for Alisha too, as one of the few people who doesn't defer to her just because she's a princess. Where Sorey just needs a buddy and doesn't seem likely to have his head turned by Shepherd worship (as we see when Alisha's companion Ian embarrasses him by wanting to hold his hand), Alisha having Rose fills a different need – to be seen for herself alone. Even Sorey is a little starstruck by her status as a princess, so the fact that Rose doesn't appear to care stands to become very important (assuming she doesn't die, of course).
As always, the art in this show is breathtaking. You've never seen people butchering each other on the field of battle look so pretty – from the swooping wraiths to the flaming projectiles raining death from above, the whole thing looks like a painting in motion. We can still see the brutality, although that's mostly reserved for Alisha's stabbing, but it's such attractive brutality. There's almost certainly something wrong with that, but since we're all going to have to go outside and look for real scenes of natural beauty in about a week, I think we can stand to take what we get from Tales of Zestiria the X. The only real fly in the ointment here is something that's been niggling me for a while now. When Sorey merges with a Seraph, he suddenly seems to grow much skinnier. This is possibly because his outfits come with tighter pants and sleeves than his usual garb, but it's still oddly distracting. (And no, I don't know why the long hair doesn't bother me in those scenes.)
Back in my psychology class in college, my professor stopped one day, leaned against the board, and told us, “People are morons.” This episode is that moment for not just Sorey and the Seraphim, but for Alisha and a few of the soldiers as well. When higher-ups announce that politicians can gloss over any immoral moves on the army's part or when Sorey and Alisha see soldiers in action, they lose some of their innocence and belief in humanity. Maybe it can't ever be restored, but we can hope that they'll both keep on trying.
Tales of Zestiria the X is currently streaming on Funimation.
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