Tales of Zestiria the X – 14

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After a night of storming a church, putting knights in the hospital, and assassinating the bishop, Rose plays things super-cool. She’s up early for more Sparrowfeathers trading, and has breakfast laid out for Sorey.

When General Sergei stops by to apologize, she teases him. Sorey saw her trudge home late but says nothing about it, because it’s unlikely he’d get anything from her…so it just hangs there.

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From there, Sergei is called into town when there’s a suspicious sinkhole; Sorey & Co. believe it’s caused by malevolence, and tag along. From the time Sorey uses Lailah to light the way with her flames to his impressive purification ceremony with Mikleo, Sergei is quickly and efficiently brought up to speed on Sorey’s abilities, and has no choice but to believe, even if it’s a lot to take in.

He also mentions to Sorey that the capital of Rolance has been beset by unending rain, which would seem to be this land’s “calamity” the way the dragon was in Hyland. Sorey sees that there’s a similar situation here with malevolence primed to blow, but neither he nor Sergei can get through the Blue Storm knights. The Church has secrets it doesn’t want to reveal to anyone outside their circle.

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Rose and the Bones’ operation last night was meant to save lives by taking out the Bishop, but in the process, a dear friend and comrade was lost, and Rose, rightly so, feels responsible. She’s let her emotions in and they’re running wild, even though she pledged like everyone else in the Bones to put them aside for the good of those who need them.

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It’s perhaps because she allowed he emotions out that Dezel, who it seems has always come to her side at various times in her life, starts to act on his own, either fueled by that emotion or perhaps simply with Rose’s lack of a strong “No.” Dezel has been watching Rose for a long time. He trusts her and knows her to be a virtuous person, so he’s willing to go out there and do the things she can’t do, at least without involving or losing more friends.

So a wind storm arrives around the secret-hoarding Church, poised to crack it open like an egg. That may not be the best approach for the root problem in Rolance – the building malevolence – so we’ll see if Sorey and his seprahim pals are able to stop him and get the job done the right way.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 13

How to they keep up with the news like that?
How to they keep up with the news like that? And I thought this was supposed to be a fantasy…

Ready for more Zest in your life? I am, after getting needlessly concerned that the first twelve episodes were merely an elaborate advertisement for the game it’s based upon. Turns out the anime has more stories to tell, and to its credit, assumes we’re caught up. Only the Fall season separates its cours, after all; not five-plus years like Preston’s Blue Exorcist.

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Jumping right back in to its gorgeous, detailed world, Zest goes right back to building it. The Seraphim usually just sit around this week, only active when Sorey is doing his Shepherd training. But that allows us much more time with Rose, and both we and Sorey watch her present her many facets: trader, negotiator (both with figures and kicks), and allegedly “noble” assassin.

She can not only try to get a good price on herbs, but is able to determine on her own that her trading partners are actually thieves. She also sees the profit in Sorey performing his feats before audiences, though she knows Alisha (also not present here) probably wouldn’t like that.

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Focusing on Rose gives the episode more, well, focused, with the Seraphim more of a subtle spice whose running commentary isn’t overused. As Sorey enters Rose’s home base of Lastonbell, a lively trading city that isn’t yet feeling the Age of Calamity, he’s also introduced to Mayvin, a centenarian and explorer of the world whose goal in life has been to share his experiences and knowledge with the rest of the world – in a way, preserving it from the oblivion of lost memory/history.

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We’re also (re-)introduced to General Sergei Storelka of the Platinum Knights of Rolance, who have been sent to “escort” Sorey; where, they don’t say. Rose confronts him in her own building and brings up the rule of law that says Sorey can’t simply be abducted; the General says Sorey is a unique threat that demands vigilance, and a bending of said laws. Mayvin diffuses the situation with ample amounts of wine, and he, Sorey and Sergei drink and talk peacefully long into the night.

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Mayvin is old enough to remember the last Shepherd, Michael, whom Lailah was contracted with before Sorey. Michael seemed like a broodier, more cynical lad than the bright-eyed Sorey. He spoke of everyone having a heart tainted by malevolence, “slumbering deep inside”, even him. Still, what vexed him most were questions about morality that never seem to have simple answers, or answers at all.

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Questions like sacrificing one or few to save or benefit many, or whethr accepting necessary evil makes people malevolent. The same night Mayvin shares these stories with Sorey, Rose goes into town, meets up with her band of Scattered Bones, and assassinates a bishop who is hoarding a mass fortune and a mass grave beneath his cathedral. Unlike the pure Seraphim (or the pure Alisha), Rose is the personification of those hard questions Sorey, like Michael before him, must wrestle with as Shepherd.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 12 (Fin)

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This review has been updated to reflect news this anime will have a second season next year.

Things looked a little grim for the good guys last week, but everything ends up working out in the finale. A new, wind-element seraphim ally is introduced, as is a new Big Bad in the Lord of Calamity himself. Yet neither really makes much of an impact, being introduced so late in the game.

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I mention “game” because the reality of the game this show is based on has always loomed in the background. I did not realize (due to not doing any research) that there will indeed be a second cour of the anime. But this first cour still felt more like an extended introduction of the world—a setting of the table—rather than any kind of satisfying narrative.

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It’s taken the length of this series for me to admit that while many of the characters possess admirable traits, none of the elaborately-designed characters ever surpassed the generality of those traits. That wasn’t really much of a problem when I was simply enjoying the exploration of the vast world and the battles within it, but it does leave me feeling a little empty and under-invested when all’s said and done.

The Berseria detour, while a fun interlude, took up time that in hindsight would have been better spent developing the main Zestiria cast, or at least getting them together a little bit faster. Some shows pile on characters too fast; I’d argue Zestiria had the opposite problem, and the characters suffered as a result.

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Even if Zestiria’s characters leave a bit of a bland aftertaste, and that it was content to show us a series of minor skirmishes and only hint at larger conflicts this season, I won’t forget the fun I had watching the last thirteen episodes (0-12), or the excitement and wonder the gradual unfolding of the world evoked, or the satisfaction of watching a technically impeccably well-crafted show. It never failed to look or sound great.

The post-credit previews were always a playful showcase of the characters’ chemistry that was rarely replicated in the actual show. If and when the next season of adventures arrives, I’ll be looking for less introductions (or re-introductions) and more Getting Down To Business. I also hope there’s a bit more to the vaunted Lord of Calamity than “Bwahaha, What Insolence.”

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 11

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Off everyone goes to war…or hopefully (but not realistically), the prevention of war. We meet Ian, a bubby personality who somehow managed not to get killed this week, while Rose takes Alisha up on her offer to witness her actions. Then there is Sorey, who likes Alisha but won’t take a side if there’s war. Instead, he’ll do his job as a Shepherd: purity the malevolence, and try to stop war, not make it.

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Unfortunately the war is already in progress when they arrive, so Sorey has to split off from Alisha and use his three Seraphim to try to do damage control. It’s Alisha’s first taste of large-scale combat, but she’s protected by her honorable underlings.

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No-so-honorable are the Rolance troops who went behind their general’s back to launch a rear suprise attack, while Hyland’s general won’t listen to Alisha’s orders and instead orders his men to capture her, wounding her if necessary.

Bartlow is in full control here, even if he’s nowhere near the actual battle, and Alisha’s reluctance to use violence plays right into his hands. But when the soldiers start coming at her and Rose, they hold their own pretty well, without killing.

Meanwhile, Sorey exerts a good deal of energy to purify an entire battlefield of hellions and malevolence…only to discover there are other battlefields. His task has been made so much harder by the fact everything is already in motion.

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And such is the implacable cowardice and unreasonableness of the Hyland forces under Bartlow’s command, one soldier uses Alisha’s moment of compassion for her own troops, keeping Rose from killing him, to stab her in the back. Things look very bad up until all the troops in the room are swept away by some kind of telekinesis wielded by a mysterious figure floating above them.

So it’s a rough start for Team War Prevention, and with the “Lord of Calamity” superboss on the literal horizon, it’s not getting smoother anytime soon. Though I imagine, with a second season officially coming sometime in 2017, this season’s final episode will feature some kind of resolution.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 10

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I was a lot more into this episode than last week’s, perhaps because it felt like so much more got done. Marlind was a murky mess last week, but here Sorey and Mikleo, now reunited, make quick work of purifying the town’s water.

Of course, those are only the first steps, and the full healing of the town will take the better part of a year, but it’s in far better shape, and Princess Alisha wants to make sure it stays that way, and that her people choose hope over despair.

Rose is also back in the picture, and her presence as friendly merchant early on meant she’d likely show up as a deadly merchant later.

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Like Sorey the Shepherd, Alisha really needs to be everywhere at once in order to be the most effective, but she can’t be, and when the cat’s away the mice will play. The most troublesome rodent is Lord Bartlow, who is sending troops to the buffer zone between Highland and Rolance for war and plunder. She has loyal soldiers to follow her, but little time: she has to leave Marlind at first light to have a chance to stop Bartlow.

Meanwhile, after kicking some baby dragon ass and receiving quite a bit of praise from the town for his hard work, the other shoe finally drops on Sorey’s role when he must purify a hellion who was once a human. He must bear all the malevolence he pulls out of the hellion, something the Seraphim can’t help him with. It’s a lonely, painful duty, and it’s sure to alter Sorey’s demeanor over time.

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Just as Sorey must bear the malevolence born of the despair of ordinary folk, Alisha also understands that choosing not to fight has a cost she’s prepared to bear. When the assassins surround and attack her once more, they are there to prevent the “senseless deaths” from Alisha’s ideals. But even I think they have it all wrong. If Alisha were to give in to Bartlow and allow a free-for-all, it will only worsen global malevolence and hasten calamity.

Alisha tells the leader of the assassins that she doesn’t believe she’ll stop Bartlow; she will, and if they want to stop her, they’ll have to kill her. The masked leader is moved by those words and by Alisha putting her foe’s knife to her throat without the slightest hesitation. The assassin stands down, and Alisha cuts their mask off, revealing Rose. Alisha asks her to accompany her to Glaivend to bear witness to her actions; Rose agrees.

This solid outing of Zestiria aptly illustrated just how awesomely badass Alisha is, how heavy are the burdens she and Sorey (and only they) must bear moving forward, elaborated on the nature of malevolence (hint: it starts with despair over loss), and finally brought Rose into the party.

Even the next ep preview shined, as Rose playfully attempts to swindle Alisha on some beauty sundries, only for Alisha to turn the tables using Rose’s guilt. I’m looking forward to these two interacting not as acquaintances, or opponents, but as comrades.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 09

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This week’s Zestiria still shined in the technical and aesthetic sense, but it felt a bit mechanical, perfunctory, and inevitable, like very practically moving pieces on the board closer together. In this case, it was uniting Sorey/Lailah/Edna with Alisha, and then with Mikleo and his new mascot-like friend Atakk, a Normin Seraphim specializing in powering up other Seraphim like Mikleo.

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We learn of the cause of the storm that blew out the bridges (an Ouroboros) but that boss is soon usurped by a drake (or baby dragon) who is the cause of the malevolence that is sickening and killing the people of Marlind.

Alisha isn’t particularly useful this week, as her attempts to heal the townsfolk with medicine have no effect, to her frustration. However, sometimes it’s about who you know, not what you can personally do…and Alisha knows Sorey, who is happy to help.

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Edna and Lailah aren’t enough to help Sorey rid the city of the drake’s reign of terror; it takes the sudden arrival of Mikleo, whom Sorey can sense and knows everything will work out. Forming a quick sub bond with Sorey and Lailah, Mikleo’s power turns Super-Sorey blue, and they take out the drake with a purifying water-based arrow.

The drake is toast, and the clouds around the city part. It’s good to see everyone back together, and the episode looked and sounded great as usual…but it also felt very neat and tidy, and after last week’s scrap with Eizen, the enemies seemed like pushovers.

There’s also the looming certainty that if this series wraps in three weeks, a satisfying solution worthy of all the buildup won’t be forthcoming. I’m hoping, as with F/s n, the story will continue after a season or two off.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 08

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As Sorey explores the Galahad Ruins for the means to fight beside Sorey, Sorey and Lailah encounter another seraphim, the Earth-aligned Edna, battling a large hellion among Rayfalke’s malevolent fog-covered crags. Edna’s almost bored manner of speaking is in sharp contrast to the expressive Sorey and the rest of his “party members.”

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Sorey tries to lend a hand, but the hellion is finished off—indeed, killed—by another Seraphim, the wind-aligned, pistol-toting, boisterous Zaveid, whose personality is more similar to the characters we saw in Berseria than “teacher’s pets” like Sorey, Mikleo and Alisha.

Zavied is trying to kill a dragon, who shows up shortly thereafter. Turns out the dragon is Edna’s big brother Eizen. Sorey wants to purify him and bring her brother back, but everyone insists once you’ve turned into a dragon there’s no turning you back.

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Sorey brings up a good point: there’s a lot of legends in this world they sitll don’t know about, and indeed many legends that have yet to be written; it’s only reasonable that one such legend in either column would be the first time someone was brought back from being a dragon.

Eizen is a huge and terrifying dragon, moving about and attacking at will with force and fire, while effortlessly dodging Zaveid’s bullets. The conversion effort is going nowhere, so Sorey fuses with Lailah to try to force the issue.

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Eventually, Edna, only prone to emotional outbursts where her brother is concerned, puts herself in the line of fire to plead with him to stop, if a part of him is even still in there. Turns out, it is; Eizen sees his sister and swallows the fireball he was going to launch.

Sorey plucks her out of the air, saving her, and Eizen flies off, the battle ended in stalemate. Frankly, it would have been to quick and easy to both encounter and free Eizen in a single episode. Instead, the battle to save him continues.

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Zaveid goes his separate way in this regard (Eizen was his friend, after all), but Edna forms a sub-contract with Sorey and Lailah, thus joining his party, both to thank and to help him pursue and one day purify Eizen.

They’ll be one Seraphim stronger when Mikleo joins back up with them, as he successfully secures a sacred bow from the ruins (in a pretty but rote scene). We also see that Alisha is running into issues geting to her destination, as a river swell has knocked out the bridge to Marlind.

I imagine the narrative will shift to her story next week, whether or not Sorey & Co. meet back up with her or continue their own quest. But this was another solid and very attractive episode with gorgeous environments, sleek combat, and a score that evokes awe and adventure.

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