Tales of Zestiria the X
Episodes 0-2

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Tales of Zestiria the X ?

If you've ever disparaged CG in anime, you should really check out Tales of Zestiria the X to see it done right. Art for the Tales franchise has always been good, and this latest anime adaptation is no exception, with its beautiful backgrounds as well as attractive character art. This is the kind of world you wish you could just slip into through the screen, even when it's a bit scary like the desert scenes in episode one. Even if the story wasn't interesting, it would be worth a watch for the imagery.

Luckily, the first three episodes do have a decent story developing to go with the visuals. Episode one makes it clear that we're still firmly in set-up mode, as it introduces problems the human world is facing and the princess Alisha who will take it upon herself to solve them. Episode two then takes us to the introduction of the male protagonist, Sorey, who has been raised in a village in the sky (or at least on a mountain; I'm a bit fuzzy there) with the Seraphim, a different race who are invisible to regular humans. Alisha, fleeing from the death of all her companions and the destruction of at least one town, meets Sorey as she stumbles through ancient ruins. In episode three, she and Sorey get acquainted before she outlines her quest; she's following the old legends of the “Shepherd” in hopes of finding someone who can save her kingdom. Sorey is fascinated by both her and the Shepherd legends, and despite the fact that Alisha can't see or hear the Seraphim, he brings her back to his village. Ultimately, he and his Seraphim bestie Mikleo follow Alisha when she leaves, out of equal parts a desire to help her and sheer curiosity. Plus there are Hellions (the word they use in Japanese is “yoma,” one of many words for “yokai”) who definitely want Alisha dead, and Sorey and Mikleo would both rather not see that happen.

Presumably the main story – finding the Shepherd and saving the world – will commence next week, and interestingly enough, it appears to have distinct Arthurian themes. My first thought upon hearing the word “shepherd” was that Christian mythology was going to be used as the base, but in episode two it becomes clear that the shepherd is not so much a Jesus figure as a King Arthur stand-in. Alisha is from the kingdom of Highland, whose capital is Ladylake. The Lady of the Lake is said to guard a sacred sword in a stone, and whosoever pulleth out that sword will become the next Shepherd. Basically, the only thing they've left out is naming the sword “Excalibur.” The name of the country and town are references to Sir Walter Scott's 1810 poem “The Lady of the Lake,” which is largely credited with something called “the Highland Revival.” In fact, there's so much “rebirth” and “revival” symbolism in that one conversation that I'm a little concerned that the Sledgehammer of Symbolism will make its appearance before too long, which would be a shame – Tales of Zestiria the X can hold its own without excessive symbolic reference thrown in our faces.

The characters themselves are also interesting enough that they shouldn't have to rely on symbolic tropes too much. Yes, Sorey is the young, impetuous explorer with Mikleo as his level-headed sidekick, but their relationship is so comfortable that they're fun to watch regardless. We don't have to know their entire backstory to understand that they're best friends in all senses of the term, utterly comfortable with each other. Even the risk of bringing Alisha into their village of Elysium doesn't really cause a rift, just a mild disagreement that they get over. How they will cope in the human world where most people cannot see Mikleo should be interesting, although I hope that there's some magical method by which he can be rendered visible. I would have guessed “belief in Seraphim,” except that episode two already ruled that out – when Alisha entered the village, she clearly believed and wanted to see them, yet still couldn't.

The main plot should really get going next week, but I don't feel that its Slow Start has been too much of a drag. For one, it's so pretty to look at that there's always something to see even if your attention wanders from the characters, but we also get just enough information and sense of the players' motivations that it keeps things moving. I don't feel like we've had enough real character development yet, but there have only been three episodes, so that may be a premature complaint. A few scenes have a very “taken from the game” feel, but having not played it, that may be me looking to see signs that this is a game adaptation. All in all, this is a slightly slow but still interesting start to what looks to be an epic fantasy adventure – I hope it delivers.

Rating: B

Tales of Zestiria the X is currently streaming on Funimation.

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