Tales of Zestiria the X
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?
With no fanfare whatsoever, this week drops us back into the world of Zestiria, precisely where we left off three weeks ago with a tornado looming over the city of Ladylake. Thrilled as I am to get back to Sorey, Mikleo, Lailah, and Alisha, it really does feel abrupt – last week was all about destruction, but now we're back to the guys who want to be saviors. Presumably, this contrast is both deliberate and important, and the fact that both episodes feature a dragon can't be coincidence; this series seems too well-planned for that to be random. There's also an interesting contrast in Velvet assembling a group while Sorey's gang splits up this week to go their own ways, at least temporarily, so hopefully as things go on we'll check back in with Berseria and things will feel less like a random ad for another game.
This is one of those “getting there” episodes that can be very hit or miss in long fantasy series. This one is fairly middle-of-the-road, basically serving to put everyone on a temporary path while still delivering some very good moments. The biggest factor in terms of what's likely to affect the future plot is Mikleo's decision to make himself “worthy” of helping Sorey – at least that seems to be how he feels when he initially speaks to Lailah. It's understandable; the two boys have been best friends since childhood, and all of a sudden Sorey, who has always been a special snowflake simply by virtue of being human, has this amazing destiny laid out before him. Meanwhile, Mikleo is literally invisible to most of the world, and unlike Lailah, he not accustomed to it. It's not surprising that he would be feeling inferior, or at least decidedly de trop, and it actually serves to make his character a little easier to grasp than before. Prior to this week, Mikleo felt a bit like Sorey's tagalong, a good character who just wasn't getting the chance to be more than the pretty boy in the background. With his journey to the Ruins of Galahad, he gets the chance to prove his determination and make himself a bigger part of the story.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out that Mikleo's destination is yet another reference to Arthurian myth and legend, from which this series definitely borrows heavily. Galahad is an interesting choice for Mikleo specifically – he's one of the purest knights and one of three to successfully complete the Grail quest. Sending Mikleo to ruins named after Galahad in search of a specific item certainly has elements of that particular quest, and it could be said that his feelings for Sorey are the purest form of friendship and brotherly love, something we see reiterated at the end of the episode. Sorey may be the Shepherd, but without Mikleo's friendship, that may never have happened, and even while apart, both are thinking of the other. This is also evident when Mikleo stops Sorey from drinking potentially poisoned wine at Alisha's political rival's house – it seems telling that Lailah just stood there, and she was also the one to send Mikleo to the ruins. Sorey may have pulled out her sword, but that doesn't mean that she's the Seraph most suited to help him.
The rest of the episode, while visually arresting as always (especially the sights Mikleo sees on his travels), isn't quite as interesting, since it quite literally seems to be about getting the characters to specific locations so the story can resume. Alisha has been sent to the sub-capital to minister to the plague stricken (and to her rival, hopefully catch the plague and get out of his way), Mikleo's off to his ruins, and Sorey and Lailah are pursuing the dragon to its lair, which they don't seem hugely concerned about. Sorey still appears to see everything as one big adventure where he occasionally gets to fight Hellions, but I suspect that will change with the reunion of everyone later on. In the meantime, we do get one gorgeous fight scene, scads of exquisite landscapes, and a lot of people setting off on their journeys. Since at least two of the three groups make it to their destinations by the end of the episode, next week should feel a little less meandering, especially since Parasol Girl seems slated for introduction.
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