Tales of Zestiria the X
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?

“What is a friend?” Aristotle once asked, “It's a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” It's highly unlikely that he was talking about Mikleo and Sorey, but that's basically what we got this week – Mikleo's impeccable timing lands him at Sorey's side right when things are going south in a dragon (or "drake") fight, so Lailah speeds through the sub-lord contract and together the besties save the day. It certainly wasn't unexpected, but this episode's presentation made it seem even more perfect somehow. It also felt like Sorey was more comfortable with Mikleo being his bonded Seraph than either of the girls (which is understandable), making their attack even more powerful. Whether you ship these two or not, their glee at being able to work together comes through, making the fight's resolution particularly satisfying.

It's a nice bonus that this fight also gives some hope to Sorey's promise to return Edna's brother to Seraph form. Part of the reason others have been skeptical of this promise is that it's difficult to purify a human possessed by a hyouma, and while we don't yet know who or what was at the base of this drake, it was a good litmus test for an eventual re-encounter with the dragon. Sorey himself was unable to pass Lailah's human purification test involving a paper talisman, but with Mikleo he might have a chance, especially since Mikleo has acquired a mascot character along with his bow. Atakk is a Normin Seraph, which for us non-game players are the little cat-like creatures we've seen wandering around. Like humanoid Seraphim, the Normin can't be seen by ordinary humans, and they're able to act as boosters for humanoid Seraphim's powers. So not only did Mikleo get the bow Lailah sent him for, he also got an extra battery for it. Things stand to get much easier for Sorey now that Mikleo's finished his sidequest.

Less effectively, this episode tries to cram a lot of extra plot in, or at least it feels that way. Stepping back, there are only two new major plot points: what's causing the plague in Marlind and Mikleo's return, with the issue of the washed-away bridge coming to a speedy resolution when Alisha reasonably decides to ford the river in a different place. The way things are chopped up, however, makes this episode feel much more crowded than it is, splitting time between four separate groups unevenly. It does seem important to have Edna prove herself by calling rocks to replace the vanished span, if only to show us what she can really do, but halving Alisha's party feels like an attempt to drag things out, especially when Alisha's near-breakdown could have used a bit more focus. She's been nothing but stoic for most of the series, begging invisible Seraphim for help notwithstanding, and it would have been some needed character development, in place of the distraction of her new ability to hear the Seraphim through a strengthened Sorey. That's a very important power progression for both characters, but it isn't character development, and I'm beginning to feel the lack of development at this point in the series.

To some degree, it feels like the real star of Tales of Zestiria the X is the scenery rather than the characters. That may change in the second half – given the length of the few Tales games I watched my sister play, it would make sense for this season to be more setup than plot – but it's beginning to feel a little frustrating. That problem can be soothed by how beautiful everything looks to a point, and the gorgeous water this week held me firmly captivated, particularly the storm flow of the river tainted brown with sediment, which was a wonderful touch of realism. That does not, however, make up for deficiencies in storytelling, such as the ease with which everyone catches up with each other or the Alisha issue mentioned earlier. There is one moment where both visuals and story work especially well together – Alisha's bedraggled look as she's trying to tend the sick, with her hair worn lower and her garments stripped to their bare minimum really shows how distressed she is, even if it isn't developed far enough.

Despite its faults, Tales of Zestiria the X continues to be worth looking forward to each week. Now that the team is reunited under a clear goal, things stand to get back on track, and Sorey's end goal of saving Edna's brother should help with that. Since the show will be split in two, we can't necessarily look forward to a conclusive ending in a few weeks, but now we may be able to hope for a cliffhanger. The cards are all assembled, so let's see how they're played.

Rating: B+

Tales of Zestiria the X is currently streaming on Funimation.

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