Ufotable. The name of the production company has an army of fans in its wake from the kind of quality that their adaptations have been able to produce. From story to soundtrack to the oh so god-like animation with a seemingly unlimited budget for just how well produced is looks, very little can be said about Ufo that hasn’t already been said before. And so, we come to their newest project, Tales of Zestiria the X, a game adaptation from one of the “Tales of” games about a boy’s journey to purge the world of malevolence.
The world of Zestiria is plagued by a great malevolence created from the negative and depressing emotions that come from all sources such as nature and people, tainting the world and things that live in them to become hellions, demonized versions of the various beings’. It is here where we in this world populated by people and mythical beings known as Seraphim that we follow Sorey, the Shepherd better known as the one who will purge the world from the malevolence.
Zestiria’s story…isn’t all that exciting admittedly. With only 12 episodes to try and tell the story or at least part of the story of a game that’s ~100 hours (because lol, JRPGs) the actual content in the show doesn’t really go that far into the series. Very few things of significance actually happen over the course of the story, and the majority of the runtime involves a lot of talking and lore/world building as Sorey adapts to his new role as the ‘Shepherd’. As a result of that, Zestiria severely lacks a story that progresses at an even pace since the whole span of the series is pretty much a slow but detailed crawl to the planned stopping point.
In addition to that, the middle of the series takes a really strange turn that apparently has a reason for doing it, but I think it would’ve been better to not do it in the first place. Anyway, the strange turn comes in the form of two of the middle two episodes in the series where the show switches GAMES and spends some time on another Tales of game, Tales of Berseria. As to why they did this, I have no idea, but personally, I would’ve preferred if they didn’t do it in the first place and spent that runtime doing something with the main story rather than using it for something that to someone that doesn’t know much about the series, doesn’t really make all that sense.
All in all, the story of Zestiria is pretty basic. Sure you have some good lore elements and world-building that many fantasy shows can only dream of, but the trade-off to that is the fact that the series doesn’t really go far enough to have anything significant happen. The journey of Sorey and his Seraphim companions is just barely past the starting line by the time we finish the last episode, which does hamper the series because it really doesn’t feel like we got anywhere aside from the expositional chapter.
+ Interesting world building and lore
– Weird Berseria insert that felt out of place
– Pretty basic story and premise all around
The characters that we’re introduced to in Zestiria vary pretty wildly from being almost non-existent to being part of the main cast without really much to say about them.
First we have Sorey, the new Shepherd and main protagonist of the series. Sorey’s vision and overall character revolves around the ideal of bringing Seraphim and humans together. As your stereotypical, noble hero who wishes nothing but good in the world, Sorey is a pretty innocent and all-around generic hero character. Sure he gets development later in the series when he finally sees what his duties as a Shepherd are, but it’s not so heavily put that it severely alters his character in any way.
Then there’re the Seraphim companions that Sorey meets along his journey, starting with his friend (and possibly most popular ship partner) Mikleo, the delusional and adorable Lailah, and the kuudere loli of the group, Edna. To be honest, there’s not much to say about any of these three since they’re all about the same in terms of development. They’re Sorey’s companions and both add quips and exposition to the story as needed.
Finally, we have the princess of the town of Ladylake, Alisha. With a strong sense of duty and a responsibility to take care of the people as the princess, Alisha is rarely used in the series. She becomes the first human that Sorey interacts with, and there’re some nice moments involving the two characters, but as a character, Alisha doesn’t actually do much.
Frankly, none of these characters really do anything. Trust me, there is a plot to this series, but the fact of the matter is that the show doesn’t truly have anything to create any form of character development for any of the characters. The side characters are pretty minimal and since the entire series is just basically the tutorial part of the game before you just get into the meat of it with every party member and every mechanic unlocked, there’s really nothing that can be said for these characters.
+/- Characters are interesting, but are all pretty minimal.
Ok, so uh…I swear the perfect score in the art rating isn’t a mistake. As expected, Ufotable pulled out all of the stops to make this series look goddamn amazing. And you know what? It DOES look goddamn amazing. The series looks similar to the style of animation that they gave Fate: UBW (compared to what they did to God Eater), and fluently meshes the bright and varied color palette with the mixture of CGI and handdrawn animation that’s a work of art. (There’s even a town scene with several thousand tiny people walking with more than just 2 two cycling frames. That’s dedication if I’ve ever seen it.)
Also, as expected, the fight scenes look amazing. They’re fluent, they’re engaging, and they have amazing effects that go along with Sorey’s armantization forms that are beyond beautiful to look at. Hell, the animation alone made me forget about all of the other aspects of the show.
+ Ufotable’s artwork. (Nothing else is needed here.)
Kaze no Uta by Flow, the OP for Zestiria, is by far my favorite track in the entirety of the Summer 2016 season. The adventurous and fantasy tone of the series was captured and has that kind of energy that makes you want to pick up a sword and defeat the Lord of Calamity yourself. It’s an invigorating piece that perfectly encapsulates the feel of the series and is an addicting song that’ll probably on repeat for a few hours. On the other hand, you have fhana’s ‘Calling‘, a song that’s more mellow than its OP counterpart. It’s pretty standard fare for the singer and her band, so there’s not really much to say for it, especially when you compare it to its OP partner.
The voice acting is admittedly average at best. It’s good, but there’s not really much to say for it or anything that needs special mention.
+ KAZE NO UTA!
+/- Rest of the soundtrack was ok
Despite the show’s flaws, this was definitely one of the more enjoyable series that I’ve seen all season. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that the story basically goes nowhere and the fact that nothing major actually happens throughout its runtime isn’t a good thing, but damn, if you can make someone look forward to seeing more exposition and only a tiny inch towards the end, than you’re…probably doing something right. Maybe.
Did I like this series?
Oh yes. I probably enjoyed it far more than I should’ve but hey, no matter its flaws, enjoying a show is still enjoying a show. That being said, I’d probably lean towards the armatizations and other aspects of the fight scenes more to be my favorite parts of the series. Oh, and the preview scenes that happen after the credits. Those were pretty fun to watch.
What didn’t I like about this series?
Honestly, despite its numerous flaws, there’s not really much of anything I hate. Critically, the show has a lot of things that aren’t so well-executed, but from the enjoyment side of things, this show was way more fun than it had any right to be. (Especially the weird cut-in with the Berseria part.)
Would I recommend this series?
If you want some good artwork, and you’ve already seen every other one of Ufotable’s work, than Tales of Zestiria is a good choice to go for. Personally, I’d say it’s worth to consider its series purely for the art and the series’s aesthetics. They’re so well made that you’ll probably forget that the series only went to two towns and a mountain rather than any huge stretch of the adventure. Actually though, in my opinion, this series is a ton of fun to watch.