「天の都」 (Ten no Miyako)
Curiously, episode 01 of Tales of Zestiria the X starts more or less where episode 00 left off, which makes one wonder why they couldn’t have started the numbering at 01 like sensible people. I suppose this is for the benefit of game players, for whom the episode 00 material is, from what I can gather, new and not in the game, and therefore ‘prologue’. For the rest of us, though, what we have this week is perfectly fine as an episode 02, and probably should not be viewed independent of the previous episode. It won’t be impossible to follow along, probably, but it’d help to know why people are moping and stumbling about in the dark. So, for those of you who are just browsing anime selections and are only just joining us now for and introduction on Tales of Zestiria, hi! This show actually started last week. You need to go back a bit.
For our purposes, I’m going to treat Celestial Capital as an episode 02, for like many episode 02s it steps back a bit, away from the demon assassins and magical weather and dragons, to do a few introductions. Much needed introductions, from the look of it, for I assume the conspicuously accessorised Sorey (Kimura Ryouhei) is supposed to be the protagonist, and his bosom buddy Mikleo (Osaka Ryota) looks important too, judging by the OP/ED. Funnily enough, starting at the episode 00 that we had actually makes me question whether I would actually welcome switching the focus of the story onto these two young men. Frankly speaking, so far they look to be the least interesting of all that Tales of Zestiria has shown us thus far. Sure, exploring the ruins was fun enough (this is the kind of section that would have had random encounters in the game, I’m sure, from which were mercifully spared), but that’s owing less to the characters doing it and more to their holiday destination, which may have been no Castle in the Sky Laputa but is close enough for my approval. I can’t say I really cared as much for their banter or for their Sunday school lesson. It doesn’t help that, for those who’ve played enough JRPGs, Sorey’s introduction is about as generic as they come. Nosy adolescents are forbidden from doing a certain thing by crusty old people. They do it anyway—surprise! Oh no, stuff happens. So I guess in this allegory, the lightning represents… teenage pregnancy. Don’t think about that too much.
The thing is, Alisha, when put side by side with the Sorey as she is in this episode, is the more interesting character simply because she’s had more stuff happen to her. Sure, she’s not the most fleshed out individual or anything (it’s only been one episode, after all) but at least we’ve seen her with goals and responsibilities and a central role in various events. Plus, all her friends are dead, which makes her seem more protagonist-like. But instead, in this episode, it feels like she doesn’t do all that much except for scream and fall. She gets a lot of screaming and falling, sure, but it would be nice to have seen a bit more agency here. It’d be a shame if her most significant role as Princess Alisha of Alderaan was to petition the Jedi for aid. I hope she doesn’t fall back into mostly playing damsel in distress; it’d be a shame if we so hardly know her and her character already has to devolve.
Well, we know from the OP/ED that she at least becomes a party member, which is something. And even with a somewhat generic start, there’s a lot that Tales of Zestiria can unfold into—if anything, these two episodes have laid out a lot of groundwork for a solid foundation from which it can go forward. And, at the very least, Tales of Zestiria continues to look pretty good. I won’t deny that the potential in this series. Fans of the game probably don’t need me to tell them that, but even anime-only viewers may have much to enjoy here. There’s a definite lack of swords-and-sorcery fantasy in this anime season, so Tales of Zestiria is definitely promising enough to hold on to for now.
ED: 「calling」 by fhána