I have to say this was probably one of the very best anime films I’ve seen to date, or at least one of the very very top, the entire thing was done immaculately. Every aspect was done extremely well, the art, animation, music, pacing, characters from the main ones to the side ones, everything. That includes the dub as well, which, you know what, I think I’ll make one of the Good Dubs articles about this, because it really was great and extremely well done. If you did play the game, I believe the majority of the cast is the same with a couple exceptions (sadly, Rita being one of them) but even those new voices fit perfectly fine.
The things that stood out most to me were the pacing and the direction in general. It never has a single stagnant moment, but it never feels rushed either. They managed to find that perfect balance of constantly pushing forward, constantly having a feeling of urgency and excitement, and at the same time managing to make it feel very well thought out and not going too fast or leaving anything out. Some of this is probably in part to, well, being a prequel to the video game of the same name. Because of this they were able to skip out on going into big detail on smaller aspects – that for a standalone movie would just be mega plot holes usually. However – if you’ve never played Vesperia (such as in my case, as I have no xbox) they do explain it plenty well that you fully understand what’s going on. It’s never confusing or full of babble you don’t get, they did this really well too – keeping you informed enough to feel confident in understanding the story while not wasting forever explaining what this or that is, or how this magic works, or whatever else. They give you completely enough to fully understand without wasting your time on the useless irrelevant details that you no doubt hear about plenty in the game.
Part of this that also deserves mentioning is that – while they do explain things to the perfect amount for the viewer – they NEVER do it in the cliched and never-made-sense immersion breaking way of treating a character like they know NOTHING about their own world. What I mean is there’s none of that shit where someone explains something that should be basic knowledge to the character, which shows up in almost every video game, movie, or whatever else ever, and that was really nice to see. They make it apparent what x or y terms or parts of their world are simply by context and a few discussions that would make sense – never shit like someone coming up to you in a car and suddenly explaining what a fucking motor vehicle is in detail for you like you have no goddamn clue.
Really though, this film NEVER has a point where it doesn’t feel insanely immersive and strong. It’s one of the most well paced things of any media I can recall seeing. It also has some extremely well done action sequences, one that especially stands out being a little sooner than halfway through in a nearby forest to the main town, though I don’t want to spoil it. It had not only really good actual animation – but the scene itself just all played out extremely powerfully for the viewer because of the things the characters were going through.
Even things you can see coming in this film, or cliches, it all was done so damn well that you can’t help but be intrigued by it the entire time, and be surprised even by things you can guess are about to happen, because – and I’ll get to this next – they did such a fucking good job of making you really care about these characters in such a short amount of time that you empathize with what’s going on to them.
And on that point, they really did do a great job of introducing and building characters and relationships between them in such a short time. Admittedly, the great cast of Vesperia helps just by being themselves. Even Rita, who sadly while being my favorite only showed up for a short cameo, has enough time in the show for you to feel like you know her well. And for anyone around more than that it does even more, hell, even the random knights are given personality and connections as deeply as the main characters. As for favorites, I’ve always liked Rita the most even without having played the game, so her – but given her small role if I had to pick an actual character that was really around in the movie I’d go with Yuri and probably the more aggressive (and FLAT…well no, maybe it was the other one that’s not so flat…and actually both are aggressive and tomboyish. damn you twins!) of the twin girls. She was really moe.
One thing I noticed was the music and the overall atmosphere and feel felt very reminiscent of FMA:Brotherhood’s later episodes pretty often. I don’t know much about industry people, but I’m assuming someone worked on both, or maybe it’s just coincidence – but it’s definitely there. Not good or bad, just an observation, if anything it’d go towards being a ‘good’ thing. Speaking of the OST, it was goddamn amazing too, and worked just perfectly with every scene.
The art is also something I have to point out, it’s completely consistently really beautiful to look at. The animation, the colors, the actual work put into it all, it’s all top notch. There’s none of that shit where they lazily draw action sequences to lower the budget of the scene that you see in almost every anime (including a lot of movie ones) and everything looks amazingly smooth. The backgrounds are beautifully done as well and you can tell they put a lot of effort into giving every setting we see a lot of atmosphere. Even places we don’t see much of, there’s enough detail in the way it looks/the design of things and in the actual art that makes it that no matter what part of the movie you’re in, you can really see that detail and feel the extra bit that adds to the whole.
This film stands amazingly well all on it’s own – even without the game itself to back it up, even without it being a prequel, if this was a standalone thing it would STILL be just as damn good and I can vouch for that thanks to never having played the game and feeling amazingly and fully satisfied with this.
I have heard it somewhat messes with the timeline of the game from like…two people, so I don’t know if that’s true or not – but regardless it doesn’t really change how good or bad the movie is. I’ve also heard some people mentioning that it starts out rather slowly and is “slow paced” but I couldn’t disagree more. This film felt like it never took a break, it was constantly moving forward and exciting shit like fight scenes popped up constantly (and were relevant to the plot). I never felt anything remotely close to what you could call slow pacing, this was one of the most active and fast paced movies I’ve seen. I mean, there are straight up action flicks or whatever that – after the first 40 minutes – start blowing shit up the rest of the time, butby this being the ‘most active and fast paced’ I mean consistently throughout from start to finish. I mean hell, aside the first ~20 seconds, the movie even starts out with a good and pretty lengthy (for an intro) action sequence and a lot going on, which ALSO throws us directly into the story. There isn’t a single second of wasted time, so I seriously don’t see the pacing issue.
Oh, right, Mieu from Abyss has a little cameo too as a little girls plushie!
Anyway, a fan of the game or not, having played it or not, I’d still highly recommend watching this. It’s damn good.