Well it was fun while it lasted. After three episodes of following the spirit of the source material to a T, this week’s Tales of Zestiria the X episode broke from tradition and went in a very different direction from that of the game. And with that revelation, I’m not entirely sure what to say, or how to even really begin to address this episode. All I can say is that, watching this episode was an odd experience.
After getting my hopes up, the show proceeded to really knock me down with what it did this week. The end result, even after all of that, was an episode that actually wasn’t bad at all. But while it can be said that the third episode of Tales of Zestiria the X was a fine piece of entertainment, what it wasn’t, was faithful rendition of its source material – hence my rather mixed feelings.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit embarrassed by how quickly I jumped the gun on this series, and how much I praised it for doing something that it clearly didn’t intend to follow through with. All the praise and admiration that I quite unabashedly showered on this series, was really just me getting a bit ahead of myself. While the start to the story was clearly very much inline with the game, its clear, from this week’s episode, that Tales of Zestiria the X is going to be a very different story than the one I experienced a year ago while playing the video game.
Is that a bad thing? Again, I’m not entirely sure yet. The purist in me, the fan in me, definitely felt like something very important was lost in this episode. For one thing, the show seems to be completely ignoring the source material’s idea of the Hellions as actual monsters, and is actually flat out removing that element from the story and the world. Monsters are a big part of the Tales series, but they’re especially important in Zestiria, where they’re actually tied rather deeply to the story’s lore. So to lose that element of the story, well.. It definitely makes me feel sad, to say the least.
But… While I as a fan, am definitely dismayed by this change, its hard to completely dismiss it, as a bad one. The Hellions or Kyouma are definitely a filler part of the Tales of Zestiria experience. In the game, you spend a decent amount of your time between story beats, fighting these monsters, leveling up and acquiring new abilities. The anime doesn’t particularly need that filler material, because it HAS to jump from story beat to story beat, and do so in a very smooth and silky manner. So I get that the range and variety of monsters present in the game were never quite going to show up in the anime.
Having said that, however, there’s just numerous pros and cons to this particular move. I do feel like removing the monsters entirely, kills a big part of the franchise’s identity as a whole. The scene near the end of the episode, which culminates in a big battle between the Shepherd and the Hellion that appears, could’ve worked just as well if it had transpired exactly as it did in the source material.
For the anime-only viewers out there, in the game, the Hellions are actually people that transform into freakish monsters because their own malevolence and negative power take over. Its something very unique to the world of Zestiria, and the Shepherd is actually there to restore balance, and fix the overwhelming despair and negativity in the world. So right there, by removing that particular element of the Hellion’s existence, Tales of Zestiria the X, has already fundamentally changed the story and the mythos of the game.
And that’s not the only change that happens this week either. The biggest, and perhaps most shocking change, at least to me, is with the Assassins and the Fox Kitsune guy that we encountered last week. Much like in this episode, Sorey and Mikleo end up coming to Lady Lake (With the help of the rather helpful merchant group) and do indeed run into old Kitsune, in the game.
But that’s where the similarities end. In the game, Fox man is clearly gunning for Alicia, and actually faces off against Sorey and Mikleo once more. In the anime? He actually changes his entire reason for being around Alisha, as its not just to try and “consume her”. Its an entirely odd choice, especially because this particular change brings NOTHING noteworthy to the story, nor does it add some kind of extra context.
To make matters worse, it actually messes with continuity a bit. See, the whole reason Sorey and Mikleo are even in the Festival itself, is because they’re looking for Alisha to try to warn her, at least in the game. In the anime, they just kind of appear to be chilling there, and the events more or less unfold in a similar fashion from there on out, with the Hellions appearing and Sorey basically assuming the mantle of Shepherd, in a bid to save everyone.
What is more or less preserved, thankfully, is Sorey’s big moment of becoming the Shepherd. Not only is that more or less the same, but its actually a pretty powerful moment here as well. Sorey doesn’t take on the role of the Shepherd because he’s seeking some kind of awesome power, nor is he all that interested in politics or anything like that. Instead, all the young man wants to do is save those around him, and try to fulfill his own dream in the process (if he can).
Now… While Sorey’s character arc and story is more or less the same in the anime, its the whole deal with Alisha and the assassins, that’s not. Again, there are some rather weird and rather heavy changes to the source material here. For one thing, Alisha does not try to use the festival as some kind of way to call for peace. On top of that, the anime actually makes it look like Alisha’s speech is directly responsible for the people in the shrine freaking out, and the Hellion appearing.
Which is… interesting. Its interesting, because in the game, Alisha actually does fully believe in the idea of the Shepherd, and the whole festival gets ruined by an opportunist Politician trying to set her up instead. Again, I’m not sure what this change does exactly, except that it just makes things different. Alisha ends up looking a little less naive than she does in the game, but she also ends up being directly responsible for the Hellion itself appearing and causing all the destruction.
Added to that, is the whole dynamic of the Assassins. The Assassin Guild plays a pretty big role in the story of Zestiria, and one of the chief differences between the game and the anime is in their actions at this point in the story. See, in the game you never really learn why the Assassins are after Alisha, so the anime actually does go a step farther to clarify that. And that’s definitely nothing new, because the anime has done a good job of fleshing out and expanding on certain parts of the source material.
What it hasn’t done, until now, is change things substantially. See, in the game, when Sorey and Mikleo face off against Fox man, the Assassins actually intercede in the middle of the battle and actually kind of help Sorey. They’re more of a neutral party at this point, and less so purely after Alisha.
Yet, in the big moment where Sorey becomes a Shepherd in the anime, one of the Assassins is clearly fighting to kill Alisha. The action is superb sure, and the battle itself jaw dropping, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a different scene, in terms of tone, stakes and overall impact, than that of the game.
It still… Works, though. So, for all my comparisons and complaints, I can’t exactly fault the anime for the way it shows off events. I realize that, I do. I get that the anime may perhaps, even be a bit better with these changes… But I also lament and miss the series that I thought I had an episode ago. I thought Tales of Zestiria the X was going to be the show that faithfully adapted its source material. And quite frankly, its hard to separate all of that disappointment, from my experience of watching this week’s episode.
With all these changes, Zestiria the X has become a series that is a little bit less of a series aimed squarely at me. Its not for the diehard fans of the game anymore, and its slowly but surely carving out its own identity. And with that, there are certain aspects of this anime series, that I’d even say make it superior to the game that it’s inspired from.
One of those things, is the visuals. MAN, does this show look simply GORGEOUS. Say what you will about the changes to the story but the visuals, the animation and the production values in general, are spectacular. This is anime movie quality stuff, and I’d easily say that its Ufotable’s best work ever, hands down.
The way the show adds new life and believability to the world of Tales of Zestiria, is simply breathtaking to watch. This is a world that’s full of lush green, fantasy meadows, clear blue skies, and bustling metropolises. Each area, each environment, just feels a lot more realized in the anime than it was in the game. Lady lake in particular, is a city that actually feels like its in the middle of a festival. The amount of people, the gorgeous architecture, it all has a sense of scale and grandiose that just wasn’t present in the game.
This visual upgrade for the world, its characters and the story, definitely helps Tales of Zestiria the X as a immersive experience. While the battles lack the substance and the length of the game’s similar scenario, they make up for it with expertly choreographed moments like the one where Sorey becomes the Shepherd and unleashes Lilah’s power.
Speaking of which, this episode is also notable for introducing a bunch of new characters. There’s Lilah, who’s the actual “Maiden of the Lake”, and the one Seraphim that actually grants Sorey his Shepherd powers. There’s the troupe of traveling merchants, there’s the Assasin’s Guild, and there’s even all the politicians that make up Lady Lake’s political structure. That’s a lot to cram into one episode, and its impressive how Tales of Zestiria the X manages to do all of this, without feeling too overwhelming.
Having said that, however, the calm, reserved pace that was very evident from the first three episodes of the series, is clearly lost this week. There’s an abundance of stuff that happens, and it happens fast. Part of me wishes the show had continued to take its time, and slowly but surely develop itself. A big part of what changes, with the faster pace, is that Tales of Zestiria the X ends up feeling a lot darker and serious than its original source material.
There’s a childish glee to the story in the game, and it takes Sorey a bit of haggling and running around, before he’s able to actually make it inside to where Alishia and the festival is. And that’s just one example of how tonally, this whole story feels different in the anime.
In the end, I’d say that Tales of Zestiria the X is just different. Its taken the first step in diverging from its source material, this week. Some of the changes it makes are immeasurable, and are sure to have lasting consequences on the overall narrative. At the same time, it does generally respect and keep Sorey’s particular story arc more or less in tact.
I guess… what I’m saying is that I’m definitely not at a point, where I can render a verdict on whether Tales of Zesteria the X’s sudden change of heart is a good thing or a bad thing, but I do know that I’m worried.
Nearly every series that decides to mess with its source material ends up falling from grace pretty quickly. In Tales of Zestria the X’s case, it would be a huge missed opportunity for this show to end up being a failure. In any case, now that the series has decoupled itself from the game in a way, I’m curious to see where it goes from here.
What kind of story is Tales of Zestiria the X going to be? Is it going to change certain dynamics as well? Is it going to go darker? Are certain characters not going to follow their destiny from the game? Its all so curious. And I suppose, only time will tell if Tales of Zestiria the X’s bold new direction, was a wise one.
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