Tales of Zestiria the X – 06

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The two-part Berseria mini-arc comes to a very exciting and promising close, though its greatnss is blunted by the fact this is likely the last we’ll see, as we’ll be returning to Zestiria next week, meaning this is goodbye to Velvet Crowe for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the Zestiria story so far, but Berseria might just be the better scenario, as evidenced by her showdown with Praetor Exorcist Oscar Dragonia…then with an actual dragon. Velvet is a particularly rootable badass avenging her little brother, and she doesn’t back down from the white cloaks for a second.

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Ufotable puts on its expected clinic when it comes to smoothness and inventiveness of combat, putting the exorcist’s by-the-book style up against Velvet’s more improv style.

We’re also somewhat clunkily introduced to Magilou (real name much longer), the comic relief mage who becomes the third member of Velvet’s party as the two of them plus Rokuro all want the same thing: to get off this island.

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To do so, Velvet must devour a mortally wounded Seres in order to absorb her power and her “Arte” overpowered attack. Seres gives up her life willingly, so that Velvet can continue the good work of opposing Artorius’ ideals.

Seres is putting her faith in Velvet and her new friends to finish the job she started by freeing her from the prison. Velvet also receives the comb that once belongs to the brother she cherished, no doubt an important talisman.

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When Rokuro and Magilou run into some trouble with the dragon, Velvet re-emerges from the dungeon she was thrown into, and proceeds to devour the dragon, gaining even more power. Oscar is pretty powerless to stop her, and she, Rokuro and Magilou take the one surviving ship off the island.

Velvet sets their destination: Loegres, the capital of Midgand, where her quest to defeat Artorius will continue. And that, it seems is where we will leave Velvet and her little band of badasses. I’ll be sad to see them go, but I have no doubt the continuation of Zestiria won’t disappoint either.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 05

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Last week’s TZX left us hanging, with apocalypse apparently upon Ladylake, but this episode made no attempt to arrest that suspense in any way. Indeed, this week’s story may well have been in another world than the adventures of Sorey, Alisha & Co., but I didn’t mind, because it was so goddamn awesome.

TZX has proven adept at embellishing simple scenarios with its imposingly gorgeous production values, and does not stray from that M.O. here. This is a simple prison break for the episode’s protagonist, Velvet Crowe. But it’s a prison break given great weight by how it’s presented and more importantly, why she’s breaking out.

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Trapped in the lowest dungeon for three years fighting and absorbing daemons into her left arm, Velvet receives a sudden visit from an unlikely ally: Seres, a former(?) Malak of her nemesis, Artorius. I loved how Seres would land softly on her feet no matter how hard Velvet tossed her.

Once they’ve climbed out of her vast cell, Velvet and Seres immediately face a group of exorcists, and Velvet demonstrates the results of all that daemon-eating by taking them all out herself.

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The duo reaches a storeroom where Velvet dons her sexy, elaborate armored pirate outfit and finds a gigantic Tempest Blade. Shortly thereafter, the blade’s owner shows up, also breaking out of jail. Velvet claims finders-keepers, but will give the guy his blade back if he joins the party; he agrees, and the duo becomes a trio. There’s a great satisfaction in watching Velvet clear each hurdle and build a party that will facilitate her escape.

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Rather than fight wave after wave of exorcists with no distractions, Velvet has Seres open up all the cells, and the prison becomes a chaotic battleground between the escaped daemons and exorcists, allowing Velvet to reach the top of the tower.

There’s a definite tinge of “badness” to Velvet and her party that’s not present with the innocent goody-two-shoes nature of Alisha, Sorey, and Mikleo. These guys, particularly Velvet, have been through some shit, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means a big collateral body count.

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TZX also breaks out its “dramatic vista unfolding” to show us how isolated the prison tower is, upon a rocky island surrounded by ocean. Velvet isn’t going to let a steep drop stop her, and she uses her daemon claw to slow her descent. Rather than a pancake, she survives the drop with a dislocated shoulder she nonchalanetly pops back into place, and which Seres (who teleports down) quickly heals.

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So…they’re out of the prison. But how to get off the island? As fortune would have it, a ship is approaching, and it would seem that Velvet’s nemesis is aboard, meaning a huge confrontation is imminent. And thanks to the game-like previews, we learn that we won’t be switching immediately back to Sorey’s story next week. I haven’t mentioned those previews yet, but I like them, because they allow the characters to take a breather and let their hair down a bit.

And despite Velvet looking for all the world like a tortured villain, the fact she’s seeking revenge for a guy who killed a kid to become stronger (and is now considered a savior) is all we need to know her heart is in the right place: seeking to avenge the innocent and week from those whose heads have grown too big to do the same. And as a quick look at her Wiki indicates, she’s the heroine of Berseria.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 04

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The next chapter of Re:Zero gets off to a strong start with a great Eva reference from Subaru followed by his and our dashed expectations he’d wake up with Emilia sitting by his bedside.

Instead he’s greeted by no one, walks down a hall loop, then solves it on the first try with his game master-infuriating natural luck, coming afoul of a “drill loli” sorceress who burns him, claiming it’s just a test to determine if he’s friend or foe.

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Waking up again in the same bed (the ceiling now familiar), he hears snide commentary in stereo about himself, then finds two maids, Ram and Rem, standing in his room. Emilia appears, and all is well. He surveys the massive estate where they’re staying, shows “Emilia-tan” Japanese morning calisthenics (a great cultural crossover), and meets the lord of the mansion, Roswaal L. Mathers, whom he not unreasonably mistakes as some kind of jester.

During a sumptuous meal, Emilia informs Subaru that she is one of the candidates in the running for ruler of Lugunica (her insignia was proof of her status), and with the present king’s whereabouts unknown, things are uneasy in the kingdom. As such, one can’t fault Subaru for requesting something relatively modest as thanks for saving her: he wants a job at the mansion. And hell, who wouldn’t? The place is fantastic.

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Once he’s fitted for a butler’s uniform, the twin maids show him the considerable ropes of estate maintenance. He proves he’s not particularly skilled at anything beyond solving Betty’s door magic on the first try every time, but it’s all stuff he hasn’t done before, so some teething is expected.

Ram and Ren are patient and discover some surprising things about Subaru (like his sewing skills), but are quick to nickname him Barusu (a blinding curse) and don’t go easy with the barbs. It’s a great sequence of Subaru once again starting to find his place, and it lulled me into a comfortable place.

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Ram, who it would appear has some kind of special relationship to her lord, reports to him that Subaru doesn’t make the best butler (or spy, most likely) and doesn’t believe interfering in his friendship with Emilia is necessary, since they’re both kids and “nothing will happen.”

That line is accurate due to the personality of Subaru and Emilia, but also proves prescient. But before it does, Subie and Emi have a nice little chat in the masnion’s yard/field. Emilia offer to heal Subaru’s wounds, but he wants to keep them as proof of his efforts.

He also asks Emilia on what amounts to a date in town when both are free, and Subaru ignores her concerns that being with her would be troublesome for him. When he goes to bed, he can’t even sleep, he’s so excited about their day tomorrow, until he starts counting Pucks.

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But then morning comes, and Ram and Ren call him a guest, and his wounds are gone. Return by Death has occured, only with a new spawning location: the bed in Roswaal Mansion. But when did death occur? Was his power trigger by something else? It’s another stunning turn for a show that’s been full of them.

This truly is a gem of a show that lulls us (along with Subaru) into a sense of comfort and security, then resets all the progress he made. Having to start over from scratch in this new timeline will be particularly demoralizing for Subaru, even though neither he no nobody ended up dead—as far as we know—this time.

But it speaks to the confidence of this show that it can sweep the slate clean with such regularity. Reset buttons are typically a way of making quick, neat endings; of making things easier for the writers. Here, the resets make things harder, since an entirely new route and new bonds must be forged.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 03

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Subaru is surprised to find “Satella” at the loot house before dark, but not for long, as he realizes her nature never changes no matter which timeline he’s in. She always helps the lost girl, then ends up tracking Felt down. However, just when Subaru is making progress mediating between the parties (by being nice to both), Elsa comes out of the shadows.

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Again, Subie uses his knowledge of Satella to summon Puck to shield the blade, knowing he’s still corporeal this time of day. But Elsa still manages to severely wound Old Man Rom. Puck and Satella launch a pretty-yet-terrifying counterattack with their green ice-like crystalline magic, but to no avail—like a cockroach, Elsa just won’t go down.

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During Elsa’s fight with Rom, Felt, Satella, and Subaru, she’s full of quips, and so is everyone else. As the blades and crystal saggers fly, so to does the juicy dialogue, which is just as sharp and satisfying as the action.

Subaru makes mention of how cool he is when he realizes he needn’t fear dead (since he can always start over at the vendor) but at the same time, really doesn’t want to die and have to start over, especially now that he’s made progress with both Felt and Satella.

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Satella goes down for a moment, but gets back up and helps Subie when she can from long range, while Felt is able to escape outside to call for help, which they’re going to need because Elsa is as relentless about disemboweling everyone as she is hard to kill.

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That help comes in the form of Reinhard, who is a resplendent model of ultracool fantasy hero timing, appearances, and dialogue. He doesn’t even take out his own sword, choosing instead one that’s lying around, so confident is he that he doesn’t need to go all out against the likes of Elsa, the “Bowel Hunter.” It’s also cool how Elsa knows him too, and is excited to see what he can do before she kills him.

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In a great bit of world-building even within this one loot house interior, Satella admits Reiny can’t go all out while she’s healing Rom. But when Rom is out of danger, she gives the go-ahead, and Reiny goes ALL OUT, launching a terrifyingly powerful attack that rends half of the bottle episodes bottle clean away. Outstanding presentation of an “overdrive” attack.

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Everyone celebrates the victory, until Elsa pops out of the wreckage, STILL not dead; only wounded. Fortunately, she chooses the better part of valor by retreating, but the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly…disquieting, as is the fact even that huge attack didn’t kill her.

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Her last attack is foiled by Subaru, who uses Rom’s giant bat to parry her blow, saving Satella in the process. When the coast is clear once again, Subie goes into self-aware fantasy hero mode, asking for something from his rescuee in return for his heroics: her name. She replies, Emilia, with just about the sweetest gosh-darn smiles of the Spring. A great little transaction.

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Even with all the twist and turns we’d experienced so far, Re:Zero still isn’t done yet, as when Felt finally produces the insignia she stole from Emilia to return it to her, Reinhard suddenly hardens his previously lenient stance (he’s off duty, so he’ll overlook theft) and formally arrests Felt, hitting her with a sleep spell when she resists.

Once again, the strong reaction from another world insider creates great gravity and significance for one innocuous-looking little piece of jewelry, like the name “Satella.” But this time, Subie didn’t call her by that name, got on her good side, and when the wounds Elsa made finally open, she heals him and prevents another reset.

I was really glad about that, because my heart nearly plummeted all the way down into the Central Dogma when it seemed like he was going to die. That said, I do hope Felt is okay—she seems to be a pawn in all this—and Subie and Emilia can secure her freedom without making Reinhard mad or getting the law on their backs.

Overall though, this week was simply a tremendous piece of entertainment. Succulent kick-ass combat, quick-witted, tasty dialogue that never felt in the way, and countless twists and turns that only added to the richness of the whole—this was the complete package.

And it was a brilliantly compact package at that, with 99% taking place in the confines of the loot house, without the setting ever seeming stale for a second. Eschewing the OP and ED were also a gutsy choice for what is just the third episode. Re:Zero is a must-watch Spring experience, and this was its best episode to date. Hopefully it keeps this up.

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