It’s not secret among the Tanuki Bridge team that I love JRPG’s and one series I’ve gotten fond of is the Tales of games. This season an anime adaption of Tales of Zestiria (titled Tales of Zestiria the X) has been streaming to the UK thanks to FunimationNow. I’m here to see if it’s truly worth your time if you’re a fan of the Tales of series.
The Tales of Zestiria game was released in Europe for the PlayStation 3 and 4 on 16th October 2015 and follows the story of a young Shepherd known as Sorey as he attempts to protect the world from the threat of Hellion, who are creatures created by negative emotions. Sorey grew up among Seraphim and has never been to the outside world but one day, while exploring the nearby ruins with his friend Mikleo, Sorey comes across a human girl known as Alisha who is injured after falling into the ruins. After taking her back to the village Sorey is warned by the elder that her presence may bring about misfortune to the Seraphim and Sorey’s home.
After Alisha recovers Sorey asks her to leave the village, but after a Hellion attacks the village and warns that he’s after Alisha, Sorey decides he must leave the comfort of his home and go after Alisha himself. Joined by his best friend who is a Seraph of Water, Mikleo, the two set out on what could be an adventure that’ll change their lives forever.
As only five episodes of the anime have aired so far, I won’t mention anything else about where the story goes in this review. The anime follows the same path as the game, although the first episode is a bit of a prequel that follows Alisha before she meets Sorey. It’s not a bad way to spend the opening episode, especially as it adds a lot of background for Alisha that the game never really bothers with and it’s clear that the expectation is that viewers are already familiar with and have played the game themselves (more on that in a bit).
The second episode finally introduces us to Sorey and Mikleo and follows the original story quite closely, but with some slight changes that mean allows the anime to flow better. So far I feel like the tale has been done justice and everything that should be present is. Characters have been handled well; Sorey is carefree and silly, while Mikleo is serious and often loses his temper with Sorey, but they play off one another extremely well. Now that the Seraph of Fire, Lailah, has been thrown into the mix thanks to the latest episode it seems things will only get more lively.
Speaking of characters, it’s also really nice to see how the anime has handled Alisha. In the game she is well developed to a point but is left behind in favour of someone who joins the party later on, whereas in this adaptation it seems that she’ll have a bigger role and at the very least has been better developed so far thanks to the prequel episode.
Earlier, I mentioned that the anime seems to have the expectation that you’ll have played the game before watching this and I think this for a couple of reasons. Firstly the opening episode gives away what I consider to be a huge spoiler for the game in the form of revealing who is in charge of a certain guild of assassins. This is something you wouldn’t discover in the game for quite awhile and will probably dampen the impact of those scenes when we reach them. The other reason is down to the opening and ending which both heavily implied different additions to the party that I’d consider mild spoilers. The anime does seem to be covering all the main bases but taking certain elements of the story into a different direction, so I wouldn’t be surprised if more stuff turns up out of place which wouldn’t have been revealed until much later if you’d been playing the game.
Animation has been handled by studio Ufotable who are probably best known for their work on Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. The animation on show for Tales of Zestiria the X is simply outstanding and really captures the fight scenes on offer well. Everything flows together nicely and the world feels truly alive, which is important for such a colourful JRPG story. My only complaint is the use of CG for certain scenes which can sometimes feel out of place, although the majority of the time it manages to fit in just fine.
The Music has been handled by Motoi Sakuraba and Go Shiina, both of whom worked on the soundtrack for the Tales of Zestiria game as well. Due to this the soundtrack for the anime is very similar to that of the game, which is great if you aren’t already aware, but the new tracks on offer sound fantastic. The soundtrack backs the most impactful scenes with loud and imposing beats in such a way that never feels out of place but is always present. If you’re already familiar with the soundtrack of the game then there is a lot to like, but even if you aren’t you’ll probably still find a firm favourite in what the show is offering.
Our composers aren’t the only returning staff to the Tales of Zestiria project however, as all but one main character is being voiced by the same voice actor who handled them for the game. Sorey is voiced by Ryohei Kimura (Itsuki Aoi in the Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE game, Yugo Hachiken in the Silver Spoon anime and L-Elf in Valvrave the Liberator) who plays a perfectly dorky and carefree main character. Likewise credit goes to Ryota Osaka (Zen Wistalia in Snow White with the Red Hair, Shouichi Shinkawa in Sword Art Online II, and Ryota Watari in Your Lie in April) who plays Mikleo, as Osaka manages to inject a lot of comedy and fun into a rather uptight character who is used as an excuse for the more entertaining lines of dialogue.
The only voice actor not returning is Miyu Matsuki who played Lailah, as she sadly passed away last year. Lailah is now being played by Noriko Shitaya (Viola inPokémon XY anime, Avril Bradley in Gosick) and she plays the role well, although perhaps not as well as Matsuki could.
Overall Tales of Zestiria the X leaves me quite conflicted. On one hand it’s a really good fantasy anime with wonderful animation and soundtrack but on the other, if you plan to play the game then there really isn’t much point in watching the anime first. What X gives us is a wonderful way to fill in some of the blanks for those who have played the game but it’s not the best way to experience this story. A solid adaptation but a few too many changes made to easily recommend to newcomers. I, however, am looking forward to the rest of the series.
Tales of Zestiria the X is currently being simulcast to the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland by FunimationNow. The series is also being simulcast on their North American service.