A convoluted, complicated, opening chapter.
What They Say:
Legends speak of the Shepherd, a savior who will bring peace to the seraphim and human worlds. Sorey has spent his life studying ancient books and exploring ruins to learn more about the legendary savior. When he and his seraphim companion Mikleo encounter a mysterious girl in the ruins, the stories of the Shepherd become Sorey’s reality. Is he strong enough to take on the evil Lord of Calamity?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a fairly strong forward soundstage mix in general because of the use of the magic and action so that there’s plenty going on in each episode. It moves elements across the screen smoothly and with depth as needed while dialogue follows a similar pattern as needed. A lot of it is fairly straightforward but there are some fun moments that stand out a bit more. The 5.1 boost helps with the bass a good bit in the action and has a more expansive feeling with the theme and other music elements that gives it a richer and warmer take. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is split across two discs with seven episodes on the first and six on the second plus about an hour of extras. Animated by ufotable, the series has a really strong look to it with great visuals throughout, animated and more obvious CG elements alike. The flow of the animation is very appealing in the high motion scenes but the quieter scenes showcase the backgrounds with all their rich details which hold together beautifully. It’s a design that really looks great and does a solid job with the blend of the animation styles, which the encoding captures very well. Colors are rich and full of great range while some of the and the darker areas hold up wonderfully well. It’s a great looking show that got a great looking encode.
The limited edition form of this release is one that will please many fans with its packaging. The heavy chipboard box uses a really nice paper style to showcases the bronze elements and a few other in shiny form that isn’t overdone but catches all the right attention. The two main panels are appealing with one using the key visual for the season of the main cast while the other focuses on just Storey. Inside the box we get a really nice digipak that unfolds with numerous pieces of artwork from the Japanese side that shows off the characters in still form and a big collage piece with most of the main cast. With a lot of great Japanese release artwork they chose wisely here. We also get a pack-in piece with an envelope that holds four high-quality art cards inside that uses more of the Japanese artwork for some of the main characters.
The extras are kept to the second disc outside of the commentaries and there’s a lot to like here. The commentaries for two episodes are definitely fun to have and we get the usual array of promos and teasers, including some unaired ones for special episodes. The clean opening and closing sequences are here as well but the big one is the Dawn of the Shepherd special. Clocking in at 44 minutes, it’s basically a version of the main opening of the series with some additional scenes I think and a good introduction to the show proper. With a lot of pieces from the main series here, if not all of it in a different form, I ended up just skimming it having just watched the series itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the games of the same name, Tales of Zestiria the X is a two-cour series whose first cour ehre ran in the summer 2016 anime season. Animated by ufotable, this set brings us a zero episode before going into the twelve episode main run. And it’s an interesting run, if by interesting you understand I mean a problematic one. The zero episode is one that’s probably best just ignored because it feels like a jumbled preview of things to come and no cohesive narrative to it. The show when it gets underway works well for the next six or so episodes before it opts to spend two episodes doing a Tales of Beseria story out of the blue. I’m assuming this connects later but in the here and now of this set it was a disorienting inclusion because it feels so utterly disconnected from everything else and felt like a waste of time.
The core storyline of this series is one that feels like the opening half of a standard fantasy novel. The zero episode and Berseria remind me of those seemingly disconnected opening chapters you sometimes get that work some foundation setting but end up not factoring much into that novel but will further down the line. Here, we’re introduced to Alisha, a princess who is looking to try and connect with the Seraphim, beings that used to live in harmony millennia ago with humanity but have largely disappeared from view outside of a select few that can still see them. She’s investigating some ruins where she believes it used to be the capital city of the Seraphim and that has her falling deeper and deeper into it, into a position where it’s pretty difficult to get out of considering how she ends up.
At the same time, we’re introduced to the hidden village of Elysia where the Seraphim live. There’s one human among them, raised from a young age, named Storey who goes exploring often in the same ruins with his friend Mikleo. The two are fun to watch together as they deal with things but also in how Storey pushes to break the rules when he discovers an off-limits area in the ruins, which obviously leads to where Alisha is. This sets up the difficult problem where he’s excited to see another human and brings her to Elysia but she’s unable to see Mikleo or any of the other Seraphim. Even worse is that the Seraphim believe engaging with humans outside of Storey will lead to disaster and they’re eager to get her to leave. Which, unsurprisingly, Storey does as well and heads out with Mikleo. Since he can see the Seraphim, having been taught to connect from a young age, she’s certainly going to take advantage of what he knows.
But the show doesn’t stick to this kind of grouping for long. Once back at the capital, we learn of how there may be war between her nation and a neighboring one over heightened tensions and she’s trying to get people to understand that they will not attack first, they will respond in kind however. This kind of tension meeting showcases the “malevolence” that’s taking shape, the darkness spreading in the world that Alisa is trying to confront, and how insidious it is as turning people. At the same time there’s a Lady in the Lake moment here with a sword in the water within the castle where whoever pulls it out will be known as the Shepherd of Seraphim. Nobody’s had any luck but Storey can see that there is an actual Seraphim there in the form of the sword, named Lailah. This is what sets Storey on his true mission to see the world, help those dealing with the malevolence and the hellions that are out there causing even more problems. And picking up a few skills and even some Seraphim along the way.
What this puts into motion is a greater split in story, as Storey heads off with Mikleo and Lailah and Mikleo goes off on his own adventure as well. Alisha returns to the story by the end arc as the war gets underway but she’s missing from what feels like half the series. Mikleo’s disappearance is felt as well, particularly as the Berseria story gets underway at this point. So it turns its focus more on Storey and giving us more of a look at the world but the shedding of characters just felt off, particularly with Alisha so minimized and being left with the Seraphim that generally come across as quiet servants in a lot of ways here. Storey’s innocence is well-handled as he goes out into the world trying to do right and ease the suffering and deal with the way people have been hurt by the malevolence, These are interesting moments to be had, particularly with the dragons and just the expansive locales themselves, but it doesn’t have a sense of a strong narrative to hold it together, particularly after the Berseria subplot ends up killing much of the forward momentum that we had prior to it.
I really liked the animation and designs in Tales of Zestiria the X and I can appreciate the basic kind of fantasy story that’s coming into play here. But over the course of the thirteen episodes it felt like only half of it was actual story material and the rest kind of disconnected from it. It’s a visual treat that really worked well for me and fans of the show will definitely enjoy the strong package that we get out of this limited edition. But I’m now left hoping that the second season is able to pull things together into a stronger story and actually do something interesting with what’s been setup so far. I’m cautiously optimistic but feeling a bit burned by some of the choices that this season made in how it was put together with its structure.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 0 Commentary, Episode 3 Commentary, Dawn of the Shepherd, Promo Videos, Commercials, Episode 0 Unaired Preview, Episode 12 Unaired Preview, Season 2 Trailer, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers.
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 21st, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.