Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Maybe I am one of those clueless anime fans that are too lazy to bother with the studio names and the creators (a shameful trait that I am really trying to change) but I’ve never made the connection between titles and productions. Since here in Manga.Tokyo we are trying to change that attitude by giving a little more attention to the creators, I’ve been trying to change my attitude as well. After the first five minutes of this week’s episode I had my first serious opinion on a production studio:
From now on in my anime dictionary, Ufotable is a synonym for quality.
If you’ve been reading my reviews, then you already know that I absolutely love the intro by Flow. I love that Celtic melody at the beginning that slowly build up to that incredible refrain. I am really looking forward to it in every episode.
But this time it wasn’t there.
I was far from bemused. I didn’t even care. Do you want to know why?
Because this was one of the most concise and awesome opening scenes I have seen in a long time. It starts right in the middle of the action with the opening credits just accompanying the scene. I felt like I was watching an anime movie, a stand-alone production than a separate episode. The dark and gloomy setting was accompanied by an equally dark and gloomy music as the dark contrast focused on a new female character (we already knew from last week’s preview that there was going to be a break from Sorey’s story). While the opening credits are still rolling, the woman engages into battle with several werewolf-like creatures. She is struggling to keep her composure and I am struggling with her. I want to know who she is, what is happening. She starts to narrate her feelings, not a backstory or hard facts. Just her feelings and her hatred towards ‘that man’. Just as soon as the camera focuses on an overhead portcullis (which is all you need to know to deduct that the girl is a prisoner) the screen shows the Tales of Zestiria the X logo.
I don’t how you felt at that point, but for me it was like Ufotable was saying “This is important”, “it’s not just another character, and we just replaced the classic music intro for an awesome intro scene and just a logo”, “pay attention”. And I did. And just like that, I knew that the following 25 minutes were going to be epic.
In just the first ten minutes, we have a full three-member party in an arrangement of scenes that included full dialogue, character building, and battles. We learned the name of all the main characters of our new party, the name and some of the backstory of the main antagonist, and we could relate to the struggles of the main character. I am not exaggerating; this episode was a lesson in storytelling.
In the end, instead of the usual rolling credits, we were treated with a new song and what seemed like a new intro scene, without any credits obstructing the view. The rolling credits came right after, in the usual credits black screen we are used to in the movies.
Malak: Seres is a Malak, a being resembling an angel. Mal’ak is the Semitic word for angel. It is a unisex name, frequently given to both baby boys and baby girls. According to Urban Dictionary, it can also be used a slang expression for ambitious, and artsy girls. One of the old Sith apprentices in the Star Wars universe is also called Darth Malak.
Christian Imagery: The setting is mostly based on Christian imagery. Seres is an angel-like being, Rangetsu is a half-demon, and Velvet is a human with demonic powers. Their main antagonist is Artorius, a religious figure that resembles a Templar Knight. The exorcists, with their full body armor, are similar to the paladins and priests of popular Western role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons.
Tales of Berseria: In case you are wondering why we have a new protagonist and another story: Velvet Crowe is the protagonist of the new Tales of game. Tales of Berseria will take place in the Holy Midgand Empire, a powerful country that rules over this world’s archipelago of a continent. The game’s world is shared with Tales of Zestiria, although the events will occur in the distant past.
Japanese character designers have always had a tendency to combine female armor with a fan-service attitude. I am perfectly fine with that since both Velvet and Seres are sexy as hell. Or heaven. I’m not getting into that debate.
I am awed by the soundtrack. On top that it sounds amazing, it’s always used as to convey the correct feelings of each scene. It rises as the action blooms, and it calms as the tension releases. Near the end, Velvet compares an oath to a curse, and at the exact point she says the world ‘curse’, both the soundtrack and the ambient sounds cease to dramatize her voice. Amazing.
This is the first time this season that I’ve given an episode a perfect score. If are reading this review out of curiosity without having started the series, I seriously recommend you start it right now. There is no need to have played the games to enjoy the series (even though the background knowledge could enhance the experience), and the quality of the music and the animation is exceptional.
NEXT TIME: #06 ベルベット・クラウ Velvet Crowe
Official Site http://toz-thex-anime.tales-ch.jp/en/