Tales of Zestiria the X
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?
Well, no surprises here – of course Sorey is he who can pulleth out that sacred sword, making him the Shepherd of legend. If we're being honest, I'm pretty sure all of us were expecting that particular turn of events. What makes it worthwhile is how Tales of Zestiria the X makes it happen, and the scene in the temple/church is the strongest of not only the episode, but possibly the series to date. Sorey, unlike many heroes of his type (young and impetuous) does not simply charge in, metaphorical guns blazing. He considers his options first – does he need to help Alisha with the assassin who just attacked her? Can Mikleo handle the hellion on his own with the malevolence in the air weakening him? Are there options besides the sacred sword? When it looks like there aren't, he still takes the time to talk to the Seraphim guarding the blade, Lailah, the fabled Lady of the Lake. By the time he actually draws the weapon and engages the hellion in battle, he knows what he's getting into, and Lailah, whose vessel he will become, knows what motivates him. It's great setup for future battles and serves to keep us worried that he won't get to it in time. This is all enhanced by a dark color scheme with bright touches of flame or light Seraphim coloring and some really epic music, creating a mood that is tense and exciting.
The scenes leading up to this are a combination of fairly typical fantasy fare and political machinations. We knew that someone had put out a hit on Alisha, and now we learn that it was one of her chancellors, a guy whose character design basically stands up and screams, “Hi! I'm the evil old guy!” (Granted, this partly because of the smirk that's never far from his face.) Not satisfied with the fact that Alisha isn't dead yet, he enlists more killers for the job, his justification being that due to her pacifist policies, her death will save many lives by eradicating her “strike second” policies. But first, Mikleo and Sorey have to get to Ladylake and work their way into the city in good old-fashioned sword and sorcery style, which means taking advantage of a nice merchant. The merchant in question is a cute young lady who at first thinks she's taking advantage of them; when she sees the blade Sorey has brought to return to Alisha, however, she quickly backs off. (Doubtless this will come back to haunt them.) Sorey and Mikleo are appropriately awed by the sight of a large human city, even if Mikleo is physically pained by the amount of malevolence in the air. While it isn't made explicit, this feels like the reason why the Seraphim and humans parted ways long ago, implying that Alisha's peaceful policies are in fact the way to reunite the two groups. The real star of this segment, however, is the scenery, which remains gorgeous while also looking believably like a city where people live. The waterwheel is perhaps the best example of this – it has a practical purpose or two, but it's so beautifully designed and rendered that I at least could just stare at it for untold amounts of time. The same is true of the temple's ceiling and the mosaic shine of the lake – this is a city you want to visit.
The story feels well and truly underway now, both with the not-quite-a-revelation that Sorey is the Shepherd and a deeper look at the political intrigue. Hopefully Sorey's acquisition of the sword will be the trigger for Alisha to be able to see Seraphim, because for some reason I really want to see her interact with Mikleo, and I'm looking forward to the lore Lailah can impart now that things are in motion. There are some glitches – the hellion looks a little clunky (for this show at least) and it feels kind of silly for it to carry a burning log in its mouth, but on the whole, if Tales of Zestiria the X hadn't hooked you fully before, this is the episode that cements it as a fantasy worth paying attention to.
Tales of Zestiria the X is currently streaming on Funimation.
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