Tales of Zestiria the X
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 25 of
Tales of Zestiria the X (TV 2) ?
The final episode of Tales of Zestiria the X is here after a month-long wait, and it's both absolutely worth waiting for and kind of a let-down. If you look at it strictly in terms of a happy ending, you'll be pleased with the results, but if you were holding out for a no-holds-barred epic final battle—well, maybe not so much.
Not that there isn't a battle. Having failed to subdue Heldalf separately, Sorey attempts armatization with all four remaining Seraphim, achieving an impressive state wherein he wields not only his own power as the Shepherd, but all four elements as well. In this form he is able to purify Heldalf – but it proves to be only a temporary measure. No sooner is Heldalf freed from all of the Malevolence than it begins to rise from the earth to take him back over. Humanity, it turns out, is a never-ending fount of discontent and anger, and once it senses an empty vessel, that Malevolence will fill it up, creating a new Lord of Calamity. This is something that Sorey seemed to realize in the back of his mind, that humankind is simply prone to the bad emotions along with the good. This means that Malevolence can never fully be eradicated without destroying humans completely, so all that's left is to embrace the bad with the good, to wrap the dark in the light. Ultimately, this is the only way to remove the Lord of Calamity's existence, and as the Shepherd, this is also what Sorey must do.
It's a theme we've seen countless times before in anime, but it's far more typical to see this theme in a magical girl story. Sailor Moon essentially speaks these words in her confrontation with Nehelenia (at least in the manga), and Phantom Thief Jeanne more physically embodies it when she literally embraces her dark side in Arina Tanemura's manga of the same name. This places Sorey less in the company of other fantasy adventure heroes, but more alongside transforming girls, which makes sense if you think about it. Like most magical girls, Sorey's job is to confront the metaphysical (or metaphoric) evils facing humanity, not an actual demon lord, and ultimately he has to do that by offering up himself, as every magical girl from Ririka to Madoka has done. It's not always a sacrifice asked of heroes, but you get the impression that Sorey may have known all along that it would come down to embracing the Lord of Calamity with the Shepherd's light. (If only he had given poor Mikleo some warning.)
The main story is actually over by the twelve-minute mark, another perplexing detail in the month-long wait for this episode. After this point, we go into an extended epilogue, which clearly takes place quite a while after the short battle, although we aren't given a specific date. The nicest surprise is how Alisha and Rose have turned out – possibly as more than friends. There's certainly an implication there, from their physical closeness to their reactions (specifically Alisha's) about lamentations that they haven't yet married nice young men. But whether or not they're a romantic couple, seeing them both so happy is wonderful, and the episode does a good job of showing this through their body language – Rose practically bounces everywhere and Alisha's protective curling in on herself is gone. Zaveid and Edna also seem happy, with Edna's brother slowly returning to his former self, and Lailah's new Shepherd has the hair color of Velvet Crow, so maybe there's a final “x” there for the title. More importantly (for me at least), Mikleo and Sorey do reunite. It doesn't appear that any time has passed for Sorey, but given the differences in Seraph and human lifespans, I'm going to have to go with that being a good thing. It's a sweet and ultimately rewarding conclusion for most of the characters that implies they've not only got a lot of life left to live, but that they're going to live it well.
Tales of Zestiria the X's finale isn't quite as epic as it could have been, nor does it give us as many details of life post-Calamity as it could have, but that doesn't stop it from ultimately being satisfying. If you like your endings happy or if you're just me marveling at how this one show turned me into a 'shipper, then I think it's safe to say that Zestiria's conclusion fulfills its promise.
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