“EPISODE 00 saiyaku no jidai” (EPISODE00災厄の時代)
Japanese RPGs and anime share so many things: a common aesthetic, similar storylines, and that infinite Japanese curiosity about the human condition. Many times videogames include anime cut-scenes, but it’s not every day that a video game turns into a full-fledged series.
This anime is based on the fifteenth main entry of the ‘Tales of’ series developed by Bandai Namco Entertainment (formerly known as Namco). It’s animated by ufotable who also animated a film used to promote the game, ‘Tales of Zestiria: Dawn of the Shepherd’.
What is this Anime about
On a faraway kingdom whose name was either not mentioned or completely missed my attention (probably the latter), young Princess Alisha sends two of her most trusted subjects to investigate a weird dark fog that seems to plague the northern sky. When neither returns, Alisha decides to take two of her most trusted knights and investigate. Maybe she should stop putting her trusted subjects in immediate danger, but I am not the princess, am I?
Yet, as preparations for the Holy Sword Festival are keeping the capital in a happy mood, Alisha finds out that the fog above the northern part of her kingdom plagues the land with fatigue and decay. The darkness finally erupts in what seems the beginning of a new vile era.
The episode (listed as 01 in the simulcast provided by Funimation, but labeled as episode 00 during its run) is actually an animated retelling of the events of the movie (which itself is an animation of the early stages of the game) that was created by ufotable to promote the ‘Tales of Zestiria’ game.
Because of the narrative development of the episode, there is no need to be familiar with the movie or the game. That said, the events will make more sense if you know a few bits about the characters, the mythology of the Shepherd, and the fact that Princess Alisha is not actually the protagonist; don’t start me on spoilers; that is common knowledge.
During its twenty minute run, you’ll get every ingredient that’s necessary to make this series into a fantasy epic: a just princess tainted by a scheming council will take matters into her own hands when two loyal subjects go missing after being sent to investigate a phenomenon that plagues the land. During her mini quest, she will fight unknown foes, lose most of what she holds dear, and witness the beginning of the end of the world as she knew it.
All this is happening in a clearly medieval setting where people celebrate awesome festivals about holy swords and long-forgotten heroes. There are also a sword in the stone and ancient Asgardian civilizations (don’t you love the Japanese references to global historical culture?).
There are many themes included in this episode. The most easily identified are:
- Chaos and Order: the ominous fog is a harbinger of change
- Darkness and Light: Princess Alisha compared to her council. Her choice of colors (blue) in contrast to the episodes antagonists (red and purple)
- The inevitability and tragedy of death
- Heroism and Sacrifice
The episode starts like a minimalistic movie: no opening credits. You delve right into the story to learn what’s happening to this new world you’ve just been introduced to. You can check the opening sequence and listen to the theme ‘Kaze no Uta’ by Flow (風ノ唄) after the final credits roll (p.s. ALWAYS GO THROUGH THE CREDITS). The ending theme is composed by Fhana, and the in-game music is composed by Motoi Sakuraba and Go Shiina who also composed the music for the game.
I am not expecting much from a storytelling point of view. The game is not the best in the ‘Tales Of’ series and there are some flaws in its execution. I expect Haruo Sotozaki to stick to the script provided by ufotable, which is probably as close to the game as possible. Still, his unique directing approach is complemented by some eye-catching hand-drawn animations that, at times, are surrounded by heavily CGI-filled environments. No surprises here since ufotable is known to rely on CG elements (see ‘Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works’).
And the Rating is…
Since I am a huge JRPG fan, I am keeping an eye shut to all the flaws of this first episode. I am waiting for the protagonists to appear and the plot to start unraveling. If Alisha’s action scenes are indicative, we are going to witness more top tier fighting animation complemented by some awesome background cinematic music.
Official Site http://toz-thex-anime.tales-ch.jp/en/