How beautiful its visuals and how empty its story. Tales of Zestiria the X came back this week with another impressive but shallow 24-minute run. Episode 17 made me regret the moment I wrote that Rose was an interesting character for whom I expected to learn more. Now that the second cour so far was all about Rose and nothing else, I wish I had bitten my tongue.
We all know that the real action is at Pendrago. Rain is falling non-stop at Pendrago. Malevolence is gathering like pigeons around bread crumbs in Pendrago. The lost-but-still-not -found main antagonist of our lost-but-still-not-found main hero is probably at Pendrago. ufotable has probably invested all their battle scene budget at Pendrago. But I feel like we are never going to arrive at Pendrago. And even if we do, I am so afraid that the series is going to let us down.
Just like it let us down with the uneventful conclusion to last week’s cliffhanger. I was so upset that Prince Katan seemed invincible for an unspecified reason. While the pre-intro scene was just a repeat of Episode 16’s last one, we finally learned that the reason the prince managed to stay alive was because he was turning into a hellion. AMAZING. A BATTLE. Not. After a few impressive scenes, the laughable battle ended abruptly and without any serious implications. The prince was presumed to be dead with Lailah explaining to Rose that even Hellions will die if wounded fatally.
None of the characters experienced any serious development, and the majority of the episode was spent on philosophical platitudes and rhetorical questions. The seraphs were once again irrelevant and reduced to wasting screen time. Sorey is as uninspiring a hero as Adam West’s Batman, and Sorey is not even funny.
Killing will settle things?
In the ‘Harry Potter x The Lord of the Rings’ collaboration haunted forest, I prayed for some serious battle but I expected none because I never felt that the characters were in any real danger. The most danger I felt was a very menacing sound wave coming from the unexpected scream that came from Rose as she realized that the anime spent 5 episodes just to have her realize that she has been killing people for nothing. And then give us a flashback just to reinforce what we already knew: Brad, blah blah, Rose was saved, blah blah, Robin Hood, blah blah, and lots of other ‘blah blah’s.
Last Scene: The hand-drawn scene of Brad and Rose at the end was a piece of art. Amazing colors and a very emotional situation.
CGI: The CGI by ufotable is amazing. From the astonishing sunrise to the lifelike plants, the background and scenery felt more like I was watching a live action movie. Amazing details, incredible animation, and so many other similar adjectives that could describe my ‘wows’ and my ‘wtfs’ more eloquently than I can right now.
Adhesive Knives: I have to admit that either Rose loves those knives so much that she unconsciously holds to them for dear life, or she has some special kind of gloves that keep them glued to her hands. There is no other explanation for the way she was found on the beach holding them. Magic.
Themes & Trivia
The Morals of Killing: The main moral antithesis between Rose and Sorey was that our Shepherd, just like the benevolent main hero that he is, believes that killing is bad and that there can be no moral justification for taking a life. Not that I disagree, but I think that it’s an one-sided and very shallow point of view that doesn’t allow for a versatile story such as the one that Tales of Zestiria wanted to tell, at least during the first cour.
Malevolence: According to Sorey, malevolence is not something that we can extinguish. Malevolence exists in each and every one of us, and the reason that some people turn into Hellions is that they fail in balancing their good and evil sides. Rose has no fear of becoming one because she has accepted that part of herself and she acts on purpose.
We all have malevolence
The source of malevolence is our uncontrolled emotions. A great metaphor for contemporary moral and emotional situation, but one that falls short because it’s presented mostly in uninfluential situations.
Like any good Jrpg, Tales of Zestiria is trying to touch on a few philosophical subjects to justify the need to have a story. The platitudes exchanged between Sorey and Rose were commendable but could have a served a children’s show much more admirably that an anime that is aimed at a slightly older audience. If the slow pacing wasn’t making things bad enough, we had to hear Sorey and Rose talk about how killing is ‘not good’ and how the world is more than what Rose could see with her own eyes.
Please let them reach Pendrago. Please let that last scene be the conclusion of Rose’s story. Please bring us some battles. Please make this anime great again!