This does spoil surprises in this episode to new viewers and ESPECIALLY to people who have played the game. It’s kind of a mini-review of this prologue and the expectations it’s set for the rest of the show.*
Tales of Zestiria is a game with a lot of negativity towards it, albeit all of it uncalled for based around…well, no, I’m not getting into that. I wrote a full review of the game including responses to the negativity and you’re welcome and encouraged to go read it HERE not only because I cover the negativity, the actual flaws, and all the great points of the game as well – but because it’s a good perspective to come into this post with as the flaws I mentioned in depth there are actually relevant here (it also doesn’t spoil anything aside stuff that DOESN’T happen). Relevant because, oddly, a huge number of them are already fixed and it’s not even the first episode of the anime.
I was expecting a mostly 1:1 adaptation with this, much like that OVA awhile back which covered basically identically the first 60 minutes of the game, yet it turns out this is something much better than that. As I made clear, I actually loved this game even with it’s blatant issues including my bitterness towards the lack of any conclusion for anything – yet overall it was fucking great, so I would have been fine with a completely loyal, nothing new, straight game-to-anime adaptation. Instead though this entire prologue episode features NOT ONE SINGLE SECOND of game content, it is 100%, not just 99.9999% but completely nothing but original content – even Alisha’s personality is so different by there BEING ONE AT ALL you could argue she’s new too (though I’ll concede that if you want to include some characters we know showing up but in ways that never happened before as somehow not new it’s like 99% new). Not only that, but it’s already right off the bat fixing many of the issues I had with the game, like the lacking world building, the completely kind of just skimmed over reasons why shit’s gone so bad, the barely ever mentioned yet hugely important corruption and malice within the government, and so on.
It’s also giving fans who whined due to “my waifu!!!! why isn’t she in the game more?! THIS GAME IS SHIT” Alisha kids a lot more to work with because she’s pretty much the star of the first episode which is completely centered around her, her knights, and her position as princess and those around her. Important to mention though, it DOESN’T feel like it’s pandering to that group or that they simply did this to give them some hope – nothing so cheap and petty. Anyway, one of my largest complaints was that in the game Alisha had no personality and she has developed, in this episode alone, more of one than she ever had in the game. She’s way more likable already even in retrospect now and she feels like an actual CHARACTER rather than a super generic stereotyped naive princess. They didn’t take anything AWAY though from any aspect – including her personality – she’s still a naive princess who wants to believe she can change the world by hoping it’ll get better, but now she seems like someone who will actually take action to make that happen, much like Sergei. She’s also just got more of an actual demeanor and aura to her than that now, with us seeing her arguing with the council as well as talking happily with her knight-bodyguard friends. Alisha is finally more than a plot element that you could feel neutral towards at best, instead she’s an actual meaningful existence beyond just a narrative item.
It also already introduced a rather important character who in the games barely existed and was supposed to be the second most main antagonist oddly enough, which also bodes well for where the show will take things. Not just because she already appeared, but because she seems to play a bigger role and will likely have more development throughout the story. On top of that, it leaves you confused – you don’t see in the entire episode, nor the OP, a single hint of Heldalf, the prime antagonist of the game, whatsoever. Instead you see something much more intimidating and destructive right off the bat, and it begs the question: are they going to fix the ending and treat Heldalf as the halfway point like the game should have and have an ACTUAL antagonist waiting at the end? Hell, will he even be here AT ALL?
The episode also introduces a lot of new things – most notably a menacing black cloud coming towards the nation which didn’t exist at all in the game and I have no idea what it is. Also the concept of these seemingly very important leylines and stuff which I do believe maybe a couple passing irrelevant lines said early on in the game MAYBE mentioned such a thing but aside that nothing – yet here it is prominent in the show. There’s also a new town brought into the story as well as some new knight characters and I suppose as a “new” thing the fact that this is so heavy should be mentioned – the game was already much darker than most Tales and dealt with some really messed up shit, but the show already has taken it beyond even what the game did.
But what’s more perplexing, and easily the thing that should strike all people who played the game the most and possibly make you utter out a “WHAT?!” takes place in the OP wherein, well, this happens.
For those who don’t know – that’s the lead character of Tales of Berseria, a game that takes place, if I recall, around 300 years prior to Zestiria and is officially a far-past prequel. What the fuck is she doing here? This changes absolutely everything because Berseria is already hinted to add a shit ton to the lore and overall story of Zestiria in the game itself, yet here’s the lead in a Zestiria anime before her own game even exists. More importantly, she appears when the title does – she is literally the fucking name drop and yet she DOESN’T EVEN BELONG HERE AT ALL, making it clear she’ll not only be in this but play a pretty hefty role even if only in the past. This might be one of the biggest surprises I’ve had from anime ever purely because I came into this thinking I knew exactly what I was getting and instead I got a fully new entire episode followed by an opening that revealed something this huge without ANY hint of this or leaks about this prior. I literally had to pause and let this mull over in my head before I could finish the last like minute of the episode because it was such a big thing.
Now, of course, it’s possible she’ll just be here for flashbacks but? That would STILL BE A MASSIVE CHANGE and HUGELY fix many of the story related issues from Zestiria’s game. In the game almost everything is just sort of skimmed over. Malevolence is just here because it is, the big bad is the big bad because he got fucked over and this thing basically took advantage of that and gave him power while turning him into this evil beast, and so on. Berseria on the other hand is a game entirely dedicated to explaining a lot of that because it takes place with the very first “shepherd” – a legend in Zestiria that is also the main story (Sorey, the lead in Zesty, is the shepherd now), yet we never really learned much of anything and finally were planning to with that game. Now a lot of it might be being mixed into this anime (hence “The X” in the title, perhaps?) and that would make a show that was already likely to be fantastic into something fucking amazing and really be the fully realized concept of what Zestiria should, and could, have been. Plus, on the other hand, like I said she’s there when THE FUCKING TITLE SHOWS UP she is clearly very important in this series somehow even if only in the past – but even if it’s that way, we’ll be seeing a lot of her no matter what. She not only shows up for the title card, but also is shown fighting later in the OP as well.
I’m extremely excited to see how the rest of this show goes both in the scenes I want to see adapted from the game as well as the new content they, without a doubt, will continue putting in. I really hope they fix the lackluster conclusion as well and everything points to the fact they will, but no matter what I can say this is a fantastic adaptation of an already really great game and I encourage fans of the franchise. Though, is it really going to BE an adaptation? At this point I’m not confident in saying this is an adaptation and not, while similar to one, a RETELLING. If Berseria is added heavily and if things like this first episode which ALSO FEATURED SOME BIG FUCKING IMPORTANT THINGS THAT DON’T EXIST IN THE GAME as well as already bolstered many of the weaker elements of the narrative and characterization of the game then this may veer very far from the story we played through while still being very FAMILIAR to it yet also a very new experience at the same time.
I haven’t been this excited or had such visceral feelings towards an anime in a very long time and I just near literally can’t wait to see where this show will take us and what it will do with the cast and story of both Zestiria and Berseria. Whether it sticks mostly to the game and adds a lot to fix it’s errors, or if it’s a full on retelling with vast differences rather than just additions, this is certain to be an amazing and incredibly enjoyable ride. We’ll also certainly be getting a sneak peak – if not a huge showcase – of what’s waiting in Berseria.
I also have to say aside all that, this is one of UFOtable’s most beautiful looking shows (please don’t judge it based on my oddly low quality and very pixelated screenshots, not sure what happened with them) and the action sequences are FAR MORE ACTIVE than almost anything they’ve done before and, unlike KNK which often had a drop in quality during them, or Fate/Zero which avoided too much actually happening even during fast paced combat moments, this has a LOT OF SHIT GOING ON and it STAYS LOOKING GORGEOUS. The music, directing, seiyuu work, etc is all also top notch. I only can hope they are smart enough to continue using the game’s OST at times – they are (I think) using some original tracks which if they were sounded great too, but if Zaveid the Exile doesn’t play at least the first time he shows up I’m gonna be real disappointed, the same goes for if they never use the game’s OP song at any point cuz damn that was a great track.