Tales of Zestiria the X – 00 (Prologue)

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This is officially a prequel/prologue of the forthcoming ufotable fantasy epic based upon a game I’ve never played, so most of the faces we see we won’t see again, aside from Princess Alisha, who is part of the main party in the OP that follows the end credits.

This prologue chronicles Alisha, and humanity in general, just having a really crummy week. A dark and foreboding mist is growing in the sky, and she rides out to search for her subordinate and friend Clemm, whom she originally sent to determine if the cloud is the cause of any health problems among the people.

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While on her journey, Alisha and her escorts are ambushed by ninja-like warriors who fight her to a draw before one of them reveals themself as, well, let’s say “not human.” The battle not only shows that Alisha can handle herself, but that the combat in the show is going to be very slick and pretty, a la Fate stay/night UBW.

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Before long, swords, spears, armor and horses are of absolutely no avail, as mere moments after locating Clemm (while Professor Drake lurks far below the earth, inspecting “ley lines”, tendrils of smoke and ash emit from the dark mist and start rending the land. All Alisha & Co. can do is run like hell.

In the midst of all this chaos, another non-human being appears, eager to open the Gate of…well, Chaos. There were moments it seemed like this being, dressed for the club, was somehow protecting Alisha, but events don’t bear that out.

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Indeed, once both the female being and the male being who ambushed Alisha before are done, the entire landscape has been consimed with smoke and fire, and Alisha is all alone, with Clemm and the others all swept up in the chaos, never to be seen again.

Alisha limps back to the ill-looking town to find it a smoking ruin, and even the one last child survivor gets swept up just when she arrives, to twist the proverbial knife. Finally, a gigantic flame dragon emerges from the clouds and seems to come at Alisha.

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So there you have it: not a swell couple of days for Princess Alisha, presented as part in parcel of the introduction to a world that seems to be paying humanity back for the pride they’ve developed after forgetting that other beings coexist with them, though they do not see them, and that nature itself has been thrown out of balance.

Surely, the episodes to come will gather the members of a fellowship tasked with saving the world, or something to that effect. For now, the production values are above reproach; an elaborate but far more approachable style than, say, Berserk (at least to me). This prologue has definitely piqued my interest in ufotable’s latest effort.

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Musaigen no Phantom World – 03

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This was another beautifully rendered KyoAni episode bursting with wonderful character details and kickass action that make a rewatch a must to catch what one might’ve missed. But it did hamper itself somewhat with its overarching theme of memory and all the absurd (and boring) technobabble required to push out an episodic plotline.

The club’s next target is a phantom blocking a bridge, but when Mai, Haruhiko and Reina arrive, they find there are two phantoms, and they’ve both been waiting for Mai. She might’ve been able to take one by herself, but against the two she’s overwhelmed and she has to beat a hasty retreat facilitated by Haruhiko’s use of Marchosias to distract the phants.

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Realizing they’ll need more physical skill and strength against the dual warrior princesses, Mai quickly set sup a martial arts training regimen for Reina and Haruhiko. Everyone even deesses up in Chinese-style outfits for no reason other than it looks cool (gym uniforms could certainly have sufficed, right?).

But it doesn’t go so well; Haruhiko is hopeless, and while Reina is good at self-defense (throwing Haru for the third time in three episodes as a result of sudden too-close-for-comfort contact), Mai is loath to allow a young pretty girl get messed up in what could be a brutal fight. No, she’d rather keep trying with the more malleable Haru, whom she cares less about if he gets messed up.

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Then the rather bizarre idea of Haruhiko somehow copying Mai’s procedural memories of martial arts in order to assist her in the fight. Their teacher Himeno-sensei believes it’s possible due to Haruhiko’s ability to access the metaphysical world in order to summon phantoms.

There’s all kinds of talk about a collective consciousness where all human memory exists in the same metaphysical plane, like some kind of human cloud storage. Ok, fine…but then Himeno “makes” Haruhiko and Mai go on a friggin’ date around places where she has strong memories, to try to synch up his memories with hers.

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Don’t get me wrong; it’s a cute, lovely date, but there isn’t the slightest bit of romantic chemistry between Mai and Haru, giving the proceedings, prettily-rendered they may be (the music is nice too), a somewhat sterile feeling; that these are just motions they’re going through. More interesting is the fact Reina seems pissed whenever Mai and Haru are getting along (and she eats a lot to try to distract herself), but that’s only a bit part of what’s going on.

Eventually, they return to the river and the bridge where they first met the twin warrior princesses, and it dawns on us—well before Mai or even Haruhiko—that the two girls she met at that same spot ten years ago and made instant friends with were actually the princesses. In the rematch, Mai holds her own while Haru goes down instantly. The combat animation, as is to be expected, is top-notch, by the way.

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When Mai gets blasted and Haru rushes to catch her, he twists his ankle, and their two heads bang together, and that’s how he ends up accessing their minds. Excuse me, but WAT? I know this is fantasy, but Mai and Haru having a shared meta-conscious experience wherein Haru is able to perceive her memories as bubbles in a sea? Pretty, and fun, but awfully ridiculous, too.

Less absurd, however, is what he discovers: Mai’s memories of being a quiet, shy little girl are false. In fact, when she met these two girls, she beat the crap out of them, laughing all the way. That led them to train for ten years in order to beat her when she eventually returned to the bridge. The idea that we remember things the way we want—to fit our idea of ourselves, and accurate memories morph into fictions over long stretches of time—is a relatable one.

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Now back to the fantasy silliness. Haru gains Mai’s martial arts skills, but doesn’t have the strength or stamina to keep it up for more than a couple of minutes (this is actually pretty hilarious) Then he uses her five-element power (which was also copied over to him), and the two perform the same finishing move as her favorite movie as a kid, which they watched the re-release of during their date. Yelling, lightning, Itano Circus, victory.

The phantom princesses aren’t defeated for good, but they accept Mai is still stronger than them, for now. They promise they’ll be back when they’re stronger. But the bridge harassment will likely stop so I guess it’s a win for Group E.

What about Minase Koito, you say? Who knows? She wasn’t in this at all. Instead, there was a little girl with a teddy bear voiced by Kuno Misaki stalking and watching the group the whole time, with deep admiration. I’d wager it won’t be long before she formally meets them, and she seems eager to become closer to the group, just as Reina yearns to one day be as close to Mai and Haru as they are to each other.

But more than previous episodes, the characters seemed to be edged out by an overabundance of plot and metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. Lots of sugar and spice, but too little solid nutrition.

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New Final Fantasy VII Anime to be produced by SHAFT, directed by Shinbo; Q4 release to coincide with FFVII PS3 reboot

Many anime fans will remember in 2005 Square Enix teamed up with Madhouse to create the prequel OVA Last Order: Final Fantasy VII. That was a decent effort; a solid 3 if not a bit higher in our rating system. We were left wishing that the FFVII story got a 13 or, even better, 26 episode run. I mean, the story is already there, all it needed was full expression in anime form, with maybe a few embellishments here or there, and obviously upgrades to the visual effects of the epic 1997 PSOne game.

Well, those who wished for an anime will be delighted to hear that Square Enix, SHAFT, and Akiyuki Shinbo will be teaming up to create an all-new, 26-episode run titled simply “Final Fantasy VII”. To be precise, only those who enjoy Shinbo and SHAFT anime will be delighted by this news.

Still, Shinbo insists he will be careful to meld the popular FFVII story with his own unique style, adding more humanity to the characters than the game offered, and carefully selecting the best voice talent for the crucial characters of Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Vincent, Aerith, Sephiroth, etc.

Shinbo has also indicated he will try to add more levity humor to the overall very dark story, drawing from Zetsubou-Sensei for inspiration. The series is due out for the Fall 2011 season, close to the Q4 release of the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII reboot for PS3. RABUJOI will stay on top of this story as further developments are revealed. Until then, get ready for a FFVII renaissance. We hope it’s everything we’ve hoped for! April Fools desu.