「災禍の顕主」 (Saika no Kenshu)
“The Lord of Calamity”
It’s a good thing there’s already a second-cour confirmed, because this episode didn’t have the feel of a finale. If this were the true ending, there would no doubt be waves of disappointment, but this has always been paced as a 2-cour adaptation, so this instead feels like a natural place to pause for a breath. Some episodes have been slower than I would have liked, or existed purely to advertise the latest Tales game, but it’s been an effective season in terms of set-up, and has maintained its sleek and polished aesthetic from start till finish.
Like the previous episodes, this one split the story between Sorey and Alisha. Sorey got to face off against who a humanoid hellion appears to be the big baddie, after making a conscious effort to uphold his beliefs and quell this war without killing a single soul. I do have to say that it was a tad cliché that he basically survived because his opponent “allowed it”. It happens all the time in shonen battle manga, and it seems that element carries over here. And amusingly, even though this is a video game adaptation, this was one of the few occasions where it felt like a boss encounter was unfolding on screen.
As straightforward as Zestiria is, I have to give it credit for its consistent characterisation across the board. It would be so easy for these characters to be thrown into their respective plots and changed based on the whims of the scenario writer and the necessity of the story. But throughout this first season we’ve seen Sorey and Alisha’s journeys unfold in a natural and believable way. I expected to dislike Sorey’s happy-go-lucky attitude after a few episodes, but his warmth grew on me, especially after the darker attempts shown in Berseria. But I’m also glad that he’s been pushed to his emotional limits and has at times questioned his pledge not to kill. We saw it last week, but this episode had him nearly cross the line. The moment he encountered the man who almost murdered Alisha, it seemed like he was overcome with vengeance, right up until he did the “right” thing. He and Alisha are both Lawful Good on the spectrum, which is rare for both the male and female lead. It may seem a little too naive at times, but it lends to a rewarding watch when things do work out, because at the end of it all what they say makes sense and doesn’t exist purely to please action and war lovers.
The one scene that almost gave me a heart attack was when Sorey was solemnly looking over Alisha’s near-dead body under the starlight. For a good minute they purposefully avoided showing Alisha’s body, even though she was speaking naturally and is if she wasn’t in pain. A few seconds in I propped up and thought she had already died, and for whatever reason Sorey was conversing with the spirit of Alisha as they both looked down on her body. I was waiting for that to come, practically screaming: “Don’t kill her! Don’t kill her!” in my head, because they’ve done so well in adapting her characters and giving her a proper story arc, that it would be a terrible shame to see her go out like this. I wouldn’t hate it, because it would help set the tone going into the second season, but I’m damn glad Alisha is still around now that she can see Sorey’s friends in person (and what a genuine reaction that was). She’s got so much more to give, and by the looks of it Rose’s anime counterpart is much more likeable than her original character in the games – she appears to inspire rage across all quarters of the fandom in some way or another, and so far I don’t see anything worth disliking. All things considered, this episode was a nice continuation of the characterisation we’ve seen thus far, and I’ll be expecting the cast to develop even more come 2017.
It feels odd to give final impressions where there was no attempt at finality to this episode. There were no nail-biting cliffhangers, no big questions still to be answered, no massive reveals that change the course of the series going forward – all it did was continue to show the positive spirit of these characters and get us, the audience, excited for the next episode. I do wish it was coming next week, but as I mentioned prior, it’s a good thing that ufotable does these split-cours to recharge their batteries and give their staff some time to maintain the level of quality you expect from their titles.
One thing I can talk about overall is how damn good this show looks. Is it the best animated anime I’ve ever seen? No. Many scenes are framed simply and have limited character movement; but where a lesser staff would stall on the lingering shots and give the viewers something to complain about, it all fit well with the tone and pace of the show, and there were very few shots that looked anything other than great. I have to give credit to all those behind the art direction, colour design, and 3D camera work. It’s a rare thing to see those elements done so well, and it makes sense why many consider ufotable and Kyoani the top of the pack when both excel in those departments. For what it’s worth, I think Kyoto Animation do well across the board, especially in the finer details and subtle character animation. ufotable lack in that department, but they deliver more than enough to make up for it, and the fact that there hasn’t been a noticeable dip in quality throughout this run is testament to their talent and forward planning.
And that’s it for me. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be blogging the second cour of Zestiria when it arrives early next year. It’s been a fun watch and just as fun to write about, but it’s just not as deep as I initially hoped. It does what it does well, but I fear I’d be at a loss for words if I were to still for the full 24 episodes. What words I can say, to finish off with, however, are: Alisha is awesome. It’s a stellar adaptation. It’s immensely pleasing to the eye. And I’ll be anticipating its return when it comes around.