Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 8: Rayfalke Spiritcrest

Review:

Alright everyone, Edna is here. The best character has been introduced, you can all go home now. The show can’t get any better than this.

Okay, all joking aside, this episode really did justice to the introduction of Edna, Eizen, and Zaveid. Conceptually, the episode does a great job of sticking to the introduction of these characters. There are some differences: we don’t seem to get the clear picture that the hellion Zaveid kills was actually a person, and Sorey’s group doesn’t fight Zaveid. Those differences aside, the major pieces are still there: the introduction of Zaveid’s ability to kill hellions, Edna and Eizen’s backstories, and the fact that Seraphim can become corrupted by malevolence and turn into dragons as a result. Of course, the show had to fill time that would have been spent fighting random monsters in the game, and the writers did a great job of that this time around. The fight scenes are spectacular, and the show manages to maintain a healthy balance between exposition and action. It helps that Mikleo isn’t completely forgotten through the cutaways to his situation, although it still would have been better if it was played out the same way it was in the game.

It’s still hard to figure out how the anime will wrap up in only 13 episodes. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the story, and we’re more than halfway through. There’s always the possibility that high ratings will garner a second season, or that the anime was just meant to spark interest in the game, but the Tales of Link game promised answers to previously unanswered questions, and so far I haven’t seen any major information that wasn’t already available to me within the Zestiria video game. Regardless, this remains a satisfying adaptation, even if I would have done some things differently, and I would much prefer a “to be continued” style end to the series rather than a rushed mess that attempts to tie up a lot of game in a little time.

A Christian Perspective:

For all intents and purposes, the Seraphim seem to be the closest thing to “gods” that the world of Zestiria has. Although they are never referred to as such, they are spiritual forces that the average person can’t see, and they receive worship from the humans. Where the Seraphim fall short, though, is in the fact that they can fall to malevolence just like humans, as we see with Eizen. In contrast, our great God cannot be tempted, cannot fall to sin, and cannot be corrupted. James 1:13 reads, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;”. The Seraphim may be mysterious creatures, but when compared to our God one must ask why anoyone would worship the Seraphim (the answer, of course, is that the world of Zestiria doesn’t have anything better); however, even in the real world, people will worship lesser things than our God. Thankfully those of us who know Him know that He will always remain the same, yesterday, today,a nd forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Zaveid is shirtless

Violence: Edna hits Sorey in the face when he catches her; Edna, Sorey, and Lailah fight a hellion; Zaveid kills a hellion; Mikleo kills hellions; Sorey, Lailah, and Zaveid battle Eizen

Blood/Gore: None

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 7: Each One’s Feelings

Review:

Well, after two weeks (or is it technically three?) we finally rejoin Sorey and his friends as they stare down the barrel of a giant tornado. From within, they can see a dragon, which flees when Sorey stands his ground. Honestly, at this point, the story really begins to deviate from the plot of the game. Well, I guess that’s not totally fair. The characters are still moving towards the same results and locations, but the “how” of it is being completely redone. For example, in the game, Sorey vehemently opposes Mikleo putting himself in a position of danger in regards to the hellions, with Mikleo taking up a certain mantle (no spoilers) when Sorey is in dire need of help. In this episode, Mikleo goes off on his own to search for a way to help Sorey (in the game it comes while the party explores an area together), and Sorey only worries for a brief moment before accepting what Mikleo is doing. Also different is the fact that the dinner between Sorey and the noble (whose name I’ve already forgotten) has a much more sinister twist in the game. I believe this is where the first attempt on Alisha’s life is actually made, which was already bumped up to an earlier episode.

Regardless of these changes, the story seems to be progressing in the same general direction: Mikleo should soon be capable of helping Sorey in his quest, and Sorey and Lailah should be meeting a new main character based on their location at the end of this episode and the not-so-subtle hint in the episode preview. One thing I hope to not see is the writers catering to the Sorey/Mikleo shippers. The game never gives any indication that there is anything besides friendship between the two, and that’s simply the way it is, but of course some people can’t accept the idea of two guys being friends (or in this case, more like brothers). Perhaps I’m just on edge, but some of the dialogue in this episode seemed like it was trying to suggest a potentially deeper relationship (Lailah commenting, “You like Sorey that much, huh?” on top of the montage near the end of the episode). Hopefully I’m just overreacting and this is nothing, because it is honestly a pet peeve of mine when people try to make characters gay when they aren’t, and it goes even further when the writers try to respond by making it official or semi-official, when it was never the case to begin with.

A Christian Perspective:

One thing that stands out in this episode is the fact that humans used to be able to see and speak with the Seraphim, but overtime they lost the ability due to unbelief. Similarly, mankind used to walk with God in the Garden of Eden (see: Genesis 1-3), but because of our own unbelief (see: Eve believing the serpent over God) we, too, lost the ability to directly interact with (and presumably see) God. It’s interesting to see this reflected in a story that likely has no Christian background, given the small number of Christians in Japan. It almost seems like we are subconsciously aware of how separated we are from spiritual things, and how our imperfect human nature will inevitably cause us to mess up any relationship we have with the spiritual when left to our own devices. Of course, the Seraphim are not infallible, so this isn’t a perfect comparison, but there were enough similarities there for me to draw this comparison.

Content Guide:

Language: 1 “d*mmit”

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Maltran shows cleavage

Alcohol/Drug Use: Sorey and another character drink what could be wine

Violence: A hellion attacks humans; Sorey drives his blade into a hellion

Blood/Gore: None

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 6: Velvet Crowe

Review:

This entry picks up right where the previous one left off, with Velvet preparing to face off against Oscar. The action in this episode is intense, and in typical anime fashion we find out plot relevant details thanks to the characters spewing exposition during their battles. I’ve always wondered how they carry on a conversation from opposite ends of the battlefield with the sounds of combat, magic, dragons, and such raging around them…..but that’s the magic of anime for you. In all seriousness, though, this episode makes it a little easier to connect to Velvet, as some of her backstory is revealed, and we find that her imprisonment was actually no fault of her own, but rather the result of what appears to be a corrupt government. It also helps that I checked the Tales of Berseria Wikipedia article, as I now know that the story takes place in the distant past of Zestiria’s world. This would potentially explain why the only thing the two seem to have in common is the malevolence. It also stands to reason, then, that the events of episodes 5 and 6 will shed some light on events that will happen in Zestiria. Judging by the episode preview, we may rejoin the titular cast in the following episode.

Honestly, as a fantasy anime, this episode had everything you could want: swords, magic, dragons; however, I am concerened that Berseria just released in Japan, and won’t release worldwide until next year. How much of the story is going to be spoiled for us by this? I imagine that right now, all we’ve seen is what would amount to the beginning of the game, but if connections are made between Berseria and Zestiria in the anime, then will that spoil part of Berseria’s plot? I know this isn’t a direct reflection on the anime, but it would be a shame if the story of the game was spoiled either in part or in whole as a result of this endeavor. Admittedly, it was a nice change of pace to see new content since I have played through Zestiria already, but I just hope the cost for said new content won’t be too high when I finally get to play Berseria.

Overall, the episode was well done. The action was intense and the visuals were great. I suppose the CG used for the dragon could have been better (it was pretty obvious that the dragon was CG while everything else wasn’t), but that’s really the only negative comment I can think of. We still don’t know how this will all piece together in the grander scheme of the story, so I guess we’ll just have to keep tuning in to find out.

A Christian Perspective:

Seres’ sacrifice in this episode can be a symbol for the Christian life. How so? Well, in this episode, we see that Seres believes so much in what she is doing that she is willing to die for it. Her purpose and goal surpass her desire to live. This reminds me of how we, as Christians, are supposed to value Jesus and His Kingdom more than our lives here on Earth. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus states, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Of course, not everyone will die for their faith, but we should value Jesus so much that we would be willing to do so if it is demanded of us.

Content Guide:

Language: 2 “d*mn”

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Seres and Velvet cleavage…or whatever term you prefer for Velvet

Violence: Velvet and several foes do battle; Velvet and other characters fight a dragon; a flashback shows a child being impaled

Blood/Gore: Velvet coughs up blood; a character is impaled and is covered with/sitting in a pool of blood

Other: Use of magic

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 5: Dawn of Chaos

Review:

Episode 4 may have ended with a cliffhanger, but episode 5 does not offer to resolve that for us. Instead, we open on a completely different scene featuring Velvet, the protagonist of the upcoming Tales of Berseria. I had previously commented on Velvet’s appearance in the opening credits of the show, so it seemed to be only a matter of time before she showed up. Unfortunately, without the context of the game, it’s hard to say what relevance this episode has to the overall story of Tales of Zestiria. We know that the two games are connected by previous information released, but to my knowledge the extend of the connection has never been revealed, which means that this episode is mostly shrouded in mystery. We are met with characters, terms, and locations that are completely foreign to us, and the episode does not do much to make the connections for us. Perhaps this will happen later, but for now we’re left scratching our heads. Hopefully this isn’t just an attempt to shoehorn some Berseria scenes in for marketing and instead an actual attempt at deepening the story of Zestiria. From what I recall, the only thing this episode mentioned that even connects the two is malevolence; other than that, there are no mentions of Seraphim, Shepherds, or anything else associated with Zestiria.

Connections to Zestiria aside, the episode itself is quite intense. More than likely, we are watching the beginning of the game animated, since it starts out with Velvet imprisoned, breaking out with the help of a mysterious visitor, and then attempting to escape off the island. New terms are thrown at us fairly quickly, but it becomes easy enough to at least gain a basic grasp of what’s going on. Again, hopefully all of this will serve to connect to the Zestiria story in a way that will make some elements of that story clearer and easier to understand. Unfortunately, as of this writing, we have no way of knowing that, so all that can really be said at this point is that this is an exciting episode, but it feels awkward and out of place since it was inserted right into the center of an ongoing story without any context or apparent reason.

A Christian Perspective:

My experience with the Tales series may not be extensive (my completed games include Graces F, Xillia, Xilla 2, Hearts R, and Zestiria), but one thing I have noticed is that the main characters tend to fall into a sort of “nice guy” trope, with Milla falling into more of a “naive girl” trope. It is usually easy to pull some kind of Christian message from these types of characters, if only because they generally don’t hesitate to help people. While I don’t have much knowledge of Berseria, this first introduction to Velvet may suggest a deviation from that pattern, as she doesn’t exactly seem warm, friendly, or nice. In fact, we’re introduced to her as she makes a break from prison with the help of a stranger. Granted, we don’t know her backstory yet, but based on first impressions she doesn’t seem to be a character with traits worth emulating. Perhaps this will change as we learn more about her character (which likely won’t be until Berseria releases), but as of now it is hard to pull any positive messages from this episode. That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable episode, just that Velvet as a character didn’t present any traits that I felt were admirable or praiseworthy.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: Velvet’s top covers her breasts pretty much just in the front; another woman’s top shows ample cleavage

Violence: Velvet kills some werewolves; Velvet attacks a woman; Velvet and a woman fight several guards; Velvet and another character cut down several guards

Blood/Gore: Noticeable blood splatter as Velvet kills the werewolves

Other: Velvet uses some kind of monstrous hand to kill; monsters are referred to as daemons; Velvet is referred to as a Daemoneater; a woman uses magic

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 4: The Shepherd’s Destiny

Review:

The story in this episode seems to deviate down its own path for its latter portion. While the first half seems to stay pretty faithful to the game (Sorey wakes up in the inn and then proceeds to visit Alisha, where she is able to communicate with the Seraphim using Sorey as a conduit), the first foray into the Subterranean Aqueduct is replaced with Sorey, Lailah, and Mikleo discovering some ruins within Ladylake, which ultimately appear to be a dumping ground for those killed in secret by the ruling powers. The episode’s ending, which features the reappearance of the giant storm from episode 0, is another new addition not found in the game (in fact, I don’t recall the giant storm being in the game at all, although there is something similar when the Lord of Calamity appears).

That said, certain deviations are to be expected. While playing the game, you are essentially moving from cutscene to cutscene for the plot, with bits of exposition and banter among the characters being thrown in during your travels. It works in the game setting because there are plenty of other things to do in between the story progression, such as leveling up or improving your weapons. For an anime adaptation, though, there has to be something to connect the plot points together, and watching the cast run across large fields (or through labyrinthine dungeons) for extended periods of time doesn’t work for an anime adaptation. That said, it does seem that there will be changes to the plot itself (or at least in how it unfolds), as opposed to just having original content to connect the major points. On the one hand, this kind of hurts the concept of the anime as an adaptation, since deviations from the source material don’t exactly fit the definition; on the other hand, it does help to make the anime more entertaining for those who have played the game, as we can’t simply bank on our game knowledge to know what happens next.

Accolades must be given to the battle scenes in this episode. Though only contributing to a minor portion of the episode, the fight scenes themselves were intense, and did a great job of showcasing the characters’ fighting styles within a “live battle”, versus the combat system of the game. The inclusion of the in-game battle music was a nice touch, and keeps in line with the anime’s history of using the game’s BGM at the appropriate points. My only point of confusion is that, in the anime, Mikleo seems to be capable of defeating hellions, which I don’t believe was possible until a certain point in the game (no spoilers from this writer!). At this point, it’s not like the writers haven’t made other changes, so it’s not exactly surprising, although it does sort of diminish the importance of the Shepherd if Mikleo is already capable of killing hellions. Time will tell, I suppose.

A Christian Perspective:

Alisha suffers from something that a lot of people (even Christians) suffer from in the real world: spiritual disconnection. Okay, so that’s my own term for it; I’m sure you’ll find some kind of “official” Christian term out there, but I’m too lazy to Google it, so I’m using my own terminology. Hey, at least I’m honest.

Anyway, we discover in this episode that, although Alisha has a certain sensitivity to the Seraphim, she is ultimately incapable of hearing or communicating with them unless she has a conduit (in this case, Sorey). In the same way, many people in our world—Christians included—are incapable of hearing God’s voice and receiving direction from Him. Regardless of what you believe about this subject (whether you believe that God still directly communicates with people, only does so through His Word, or some where in between), I believe many Christians, if they are honest, will say that they aren’t really sure what God wants from them, personally, and that they don’t hear His voice or feel His hand guiding them. Perhaps it is a form of spiritual apathy, doubt, or something else that blocks our ability to hear His voice, but in this situation we can certainly relate to Alisha.

A more positive spin would be to look at this situation in light of 1 Timothy 2:5 (For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus). I previously established that Sorey is a Christ-figure in this story, so applying this verse to the situation would further the comparison, as it makes Sorey a mediator between Alisha (a human/part of mankind) and the spiritual forces of their world (Seraphim, which are the closest thing to gods that their world seems to have). Previously, Alisha had no access to the Seraphim but now, through Sorey, she has access to them.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Sorey, Mikleo, and Lailah do battle with hellions

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Lailah and Mikleo use magic artes; Lailah fights with talismans

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 3: The Sacred Blade Festival

Review:

This episode contains the most deviations from the game of any episode thus far (episode 0 notwithstanding, since it was comprised of completely original material). The general plot remains the same, but a lot of the details are different. For example, in the game Sorey and Mikleo have to bribe their way into the Sacred Blade ceremony using Alisha’s knife, where in the anime they appear to have just walked right in. Although Sorey chases Lunarre in the anime, he doesn’t fight him like in the game (and in the game, we encounter the assassin’s for the first time in the post-fight, as opposed to in the midst of the job offer to assassinate Alisha). There’s also the fact that in the anime, Rose attacks Alisha in the midst of the hellion attack, which is completely different from the game. Perhaps the biggest deviation is that in the anime, the shrine is attacked by a single hellion that the people can’t see, while in the game the people themselves begin turning into hellions because of the malevolence, which actually does have some potentially larger consequences for this adaptation. Allow me to explain.

In Tales of Zestiria, people would become hellions if they were filled with too much malevolence. Of course, the average person couldn’t tell the difference from a normal human and a hellion, which is shown during Sorey’s first visit to Ladylake when he encounters a child giving people a hard time. To everyone else, the boy looks like a normal child, but Sorey can see that he is actually a hellion. Thus far, this aspect has not been introduced in the anime, and unlike some of the other changes it could have implications on the anime’s handling of the overall plot, because it removes certain consequences, one of which is the fact that Sorey himself is capable of becoming a hellion, even though he is the Shepherd. In fact—without spoiling anything—it would completely alter the backstory of the story’s main protagonist. With all that said, hopefully the show writers are just putting off introducing this aspect; actually, I do believe we saw Lunarre become a hellion in episode 0, so hopefully that was an indication that this aspect of the story still remains.

Visually, the anime does do a greater job of presenting the amount of traffic that the Sacred Blade ceremony attracts than the game does, since games are a lot more restricted in the number of characters that can realistically be rendered on screen at once. The layout of the city more-or-less remains faithful to the source material, and the background music maintains its faithfulness as usual. Having played the game, Sorey’s meeting with Rose is a lot more significant to me in this episode than it was in the game, since I know where their relationship is going (it’s also helpful for following the plot, because when I played the game many hours went by between first meeting Rose and encountering her again, to the point where I completely forgot who she was). The handling of Rose’s character in this episode should help those who have never played the game remember Rose a lot more readily when the time comes, though.

Overall, Tales of Zestiria the X continues to be an enjoyable adaptation of its game counterpart despite the changes, some of which make sense for a more fluid narrative, and some of which are confusing, though they do not detract from the narrative as a whole. I would recommend playing the game at some point, if only to see the differences between the two.

A Christian Perspective:

Isaiah 53:3 – He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Okay, so I failed in taking down quotes from the show that would have been helpful in relating it to the passage of Scripture above, but essentially if you refer back to Lailah’s warning to Sorey about what he would have to endure as the Shepherd, then you should be able to see where I’m going with this. There is no doubt that the Shepherd is painted as a Christ figure (though an imperfect one, for reasons that I don’t believe the anime has completely divulged yet), and this episode draws those parallels out a bit more. Lailah’s warning to Sorey is essentially that he would gain great power and be able to defeat hellions and drive back the malevolence, but he would be hated by the world and basically ostracized. Jesus, though He was God incarnate, and though He performed many miracles among the Jewish people, was ultimately ostracized and cut off from His own people, treated as a madman, a lunatic, and a blasphemer, when He had truly come to save those who accused Him of such things. The biggest difference here is that the Shepherd is a human granted divine powers, while Jesus was the Divine stepping down into our world and putting on humanity to live among us. In other words, one is imperfect by nature while the other is perfect, hence the Shepherd cannot be a perfect Christ-figure, but the connections are still there, and for Christian viewers (and gamers) they tend to fly right in your face.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: A hellion attack the ceremony; Alisha fights an assassin; Sorey fights a hellion

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Mikleo uses magic artes; spiritual beings fight

Review: Tales of Zestiria the X, Episode 2: Elysium

Review:

This episode continues with a nice mixture of game content and original content, with Sorey and Mikleo taking Alisha back to their village. From here, the show takes time to show scenes of Sorey and Alisha interacting, even going so far as to explore bits of the ruins in which Alisha was found. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe the game went that far into developing a relationship between them prior to Alisha’s departure from the village. Knowing what I know of the story, these scenes are a bit bittersweet, because of where things between the two characters will eventually go. Hopefully the show is considered to be “canon” within the story of Tales of Zestiria, because additions such as this add a new level of depth to the overall plot.

The way the battle between Sorey, Mikleo, and Lunarre was especially satisfying. While the Tales games offer a much more enjoyable RPG battle experience than the typical turn-based combat, there’s still a limit to how much action the system can simulate. This episode’s rendering of the fight may have been brief, but it was undeniably intense, and it makes me excited to see how future fights will be handled, especially when the larger and more dangerous enemies begin to show their fangs. Still, I am a bit apprehensive about the pacing of the show, as the limited number of episodes in comparison to the scope of Zestiria’s story makes it hard to believe that all of the details can be adequately covered, especially when, after three episodes, Sorey is just now leaving his village. Of course, there is still hope that this will only be the first season of more to come, so for now, only time will tell.

A Christian Perspective:

But that is a selfish thought, to think that one’s own safety is the only thing that matters. – Gramps

Philippians 2:4 – Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

“Gramps’” statement in this episode seemed to reflect a very Christian ideal, as expressed by Paul in Philippians 2:4—we should concern ourselves with the wellbeing of others around us, not just with our own wellbeing. When we are concerned only with ourselves, we tend to be selfish and make decisions that are only in our best interests, with little to no concern as to how those decisions will affect others, but Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), which means that we should show concern for the wellbeing and interests (indicated in Paul’s letter) of those around us, and especially those belonging to the Body of Christ. In direct relation to Gramps’ quote, we may find ourselves in situations where it may compromise our safety, comfort, or security to help someone else, but to only think of ourselves would be a selfish endeavor. Instead, when we find others in need of help, let us strive to be like the Samaritan in the Parable of the Good Samaritan and lend a helping hand to our fellow man, even if it means a cost to ourselves.

Content Guide:

Language: None

Alcohol/Drug Use: None

Nudity/Sex/Fanservice: None

Violence: Sorey kills a boar; a Hellion chokes a Seraphim; Sorey and Mikleo do battle with a Hellion

Blood/Gore: None

Other: Mikleo uses magic artes