Tales of Zestiria was one of the anime series I reviewed during the Summer 2016 season. I was so excited about a decent Jrpg being adapted and I was curious to see how ufotable would handle the title. If the anime ended at the first cour, I would have said that it was a decent show, but nothing more than a marketing ploy to increase the sales of the two games it featured, Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Berseria.
The anime though had such positive reactions, that the second season was announced during the final episode of the first. The number of this episode, 13, indicates that this is a direct sequel and that Tales of Zestiria should be treated as a whole.
Japanese Title: #13 穢れなき世界 World without Malevolence
I am guessing that ufotable’s purpose was to ease us into the second season, because the first episode’s (or the thirteenth) pace was so slow that at some point I was praying for something worthwhile to happen. Instead, we got an episode focusing, poorly, on Rose with a few scenes of Shepherd training and the introduction of some of the new characters.
Rose is an interesting character, no doubt about that, but half the episode was wasted in showing us traits of her character through a bunch of unrelated to the story scenes. To be perfectly honest, at least the scriptwriters tried to show us those traits instead of just having someone tell us about them. Through her encounter with the herb thieves we learn that Rose is a good fighter (we already knew that), a skilled trader (and that), and knows her trade (and that). She is part of a trading guild called the Sparrowfeathers (yes, yes, we know) and the leader of an assassins guild called the Scattered Bones (anything new?). She is loved by the traders of Lastonbell, that large commercial city that Sparrowfeathers have their base, for her honest trading ways.
Sorey was reduced to a few training scenes and unnecessary dialogue, while the Seraphs contributed with just a random comment here and there.
Hatred, pain, anger. Malevolence is shapeless and meaningless
The most interesting scene of the episode in terms of action was the bishop assassination scene. I say action, because in terms of story it was rushed and uninteresting. A little backstory about the how’s and why’s would have been greatly appreciated, because as it happened I couldn’t care less about the bishop, his treasure, the corpses, or about Rose dealing the final blow. I believe that the purpose of the writers was to highlight the contrast between the happy-trader Rose and the assassin Rose. The three questions before the assassination helped build some suspense, but without the relevant context it was reduced to a mere ‘meh’.
The new characters are,
Guren: Just mentioned by Rose. She wants Sorey to meet him because he is a Shepherd Legend geek.
Sergei: The general of the blunt and militaristic Platinum Knights. If he wasn’t featured in the intro, I wouldn’t have given him a second look. The scene with the Knights didn’t even make sense. Why would they stay for a drink if they had come to take Sorey into custody because he is dangerous? Game logic.
Magrin: A very interesting character. More than a 100 years old. Storyteller and explorer. He has met the previous Seraph.
Explorer and storyteller. Someone who passes legends and history to future generations
Michael: Lailah’s previous master and the Shepherd before Sorey. In the opening scene I’ve mistaken him for Sorey. Probably one of the few characters I was interested in learning more about his backstory.
Animation: I know I bitched a lot about the slow pace of the episode, but the ufotable’s animation was once again superb. From the magnificent Lastonbell drawings to the eye-catching CGI during Sorey’s training, I was reminded that the company has probably spent the gap season preparing some amazing scenes. I am hopeful.
Game Feeling: The moment when the map zoomed in Lastonbell reminded me of the game. World Maps and map travel in general is one of things I love in Jrpgs, that feeling of exploration, finding new cities and talking to new people.
Relics: The Gucchaga Twins from the Krishana ruins were a nice touch that for several reasons felt part of the story. First, they were found by an explorer that was added as to the cast of characters. Second, we were reminded of Sorey’s own interest in archaeology and ruins. Third, they added to the depth of the world.
Themes & Trivia
The theme of the episode can be summed up in the following question, told to Magrin by the previous Shepherd, Michael:
Does accepting a necessary evil make people malevolent?
I want to ignore the obvious assumption that Michael may well be the Lord of Calamity, and focus on the theoretical aspect of the theme. The morally grey area that the story is trying to focus on is the blurry line between good and evil. The morality of an action is independent of the morality of the doer and completely different to the reason that made the doer take this action. The distinction is clearly indicated in the assassination scenes. Rose is a good person who does an evil act for a reason that is neither good nor evil. The show, of course, makes our lives easier by portraying the Bishop as the bad guy, thus making the justification of the act easier, but that doesn’t change the fact that Rose’s guild judged the bishop and delivered that judgement as though their authority is absolute.
General Sergei answers to the previous Shepherd’s question with a question of his own:
We all had to do things we aren’t proud of. Who are we to answer that question?
If season two was a back-to-back cour like 3-gatsu no Lion, my expectations would have been significantly lower. The episode kept the same, awkward, and at times boring pace where few things happens, but they happen beautifully.
The new opening theme concluded the episode. Illuminate by Minami is not as epic as Kaze no Uta, but it’s the best of all the Winter 2017 opening songs I’ve heard thus far. I can’t wait for episode 2 and Flow’s ending theme, Innocence.
Sorey, Seraphs, Action!
The assassination scene was good, but the first season of Tales of Zestiria treated us with some amazing fight scenes that I expect ufotable to improve upon during this season. The intro also hints at a new Seraph! Is Sorey going to be the Shepherd the land needs?