Episode #00 of Tales of Zestiria the X pretty much clears up its intentions — to bridge Zesty with Tales of Berseria and to give Alisha a little more backstory.
The main conflict of the episode is this ominous black mist hovering over a town called Guriel (Grail, holy grail, get it?). Alisha and Maltran, worried over the appearance of this ominous cloud and at the same time busy with preparations for the upcoming Sacred Blade Festival in Ladylake, send Clem over to investigate. They deem her a good choice for dispatch because her father works as a physician there. Clem also thanks Alisha for a copy of the Celestial Record before dispatching.
It's nice to see that Alisha actually has good friends among the knights, and not just people who look up to her because hey princess and not just those jerks in the government running Ladylake.
Speaking of those jerks, early on we're shown that Alisha, despite being a princess, has a hard time dealing with her chancellors. This is somewhat a recurring theme early on in the game, as well. They want her to use the upcoming Sacred Blade Fest to recruit some new soldiers. She obviously declines this.
While at the observatory, Drake, their astronomer, notices that the mist above the area of Guriel is growing in size. Even Drake doesn't know why that is. All he knows is that mist = bad. He too gets sent to Guriel to investigate.
While riding outside, Alisha shows obvious worry for Clem, who has not come back in 2 weeks. She and her group suddenly get attacked by a group of assassins.
It's great to know that Alisha's group of knights can really hold their own in a fight.
Even Alisha herself has no problem at all fighting against one of the assassins. Thumbs up to ufotable for this wonderfully animated fight scene.
She is able to remove the mask of one of them. The assassin is forced to stop fighting by who seems to be his boss, ordering him from the trees.
Possibly because of this defeat, the man transfigures into a monster-like manic state, much to both Alisha and the assassin boss's surprise. The anime shows that this fight with Alisha is what caused Lunarre to turn into this, a hellion.
I highly welcome this because Lunarre's role in the game felt somewhat lacking to me. It's nice to get a little back story from him. Which leads me to question if the assassins never actually wondered why Lunarre suddenly looks like that now.
This early on, the boss of the assassins is shown as Rose - something you won't find out about till maybe 1/4 into the game (even though it was sort of obvious). She questions Alisha on why he spared Lunarre, though Alisha doesn't actually get to answer that.
Alisha ultimately decides to go to Guriel after Clem out of worry and leaves Maltran to take care of the preparations for the Sacred Blade Festival. Maltran questions Alisha as to why she insists on holding the Sacred Blade Fest, asking if she really believes someone will be able to pull the sword out. Legends say that the one who will be able to pull out the sword guarded by the Lady of the Lake shall become the Shepherd, and Alisha states that even though it is but a legend, she doesn't want the light of Ladylake to go out.Anyway, on their way to Guriel, the party comments that Clem must be taking so long because she's exploring the ruins in Guriel. The place apparently has underground ruins that rival those in Ladylake. From afar though, Alisha notices in horror that the mist seems to be growing in size and looks more ominous.
They finally reach the area of Guriel, and comment on how the grape (?) fields no longer look "as pretty as jewels" that Clem used to say they are. Tao comments that they can't even bring them to Maltran as a gift, but then finds a bunch he deems look good. As he's about to pick them, he gets scolded by a little girl accompanied by an old man/her grandpa. They comment that the mist has always been there, but it's only become that noticable now. Before they knew it, it became like that.
At the Guriel guard post, the party finds out that Clem went on ahead to the woodlands up in the north - the place where the mist is. Alisha notes that the soldier they're talking to seems visibly sick and is coughing a lot. He mentions that the mist just grew in size and they find nothing unusual whenever they investigate. Tao is left in town to look around some more while Alisha and the rest head for the woodlands.
Near a cliff, Alisha and the rest finally reach Clem, but the mist from behind starts spiraling down into a tornado. Alisha says they should leave, but Clem comments that Drake is still underground, investigating the Earthpulse.The mist continues spiraling down and destroying nearby terrain, forcing them to retreat.
Meanwhile, Drake is still underground with what seems to be a lake containing energy. He takes a bit of the blue sparkling water into a vial, only to have it turn into a dark cloud.
As they retreat, Clem tells Alisha of what Drake said - about the Earthpulse. The Earthpulse thing is something that wasn't really explained much in the game, but was more of a side thing (it was mentioned a bit by Edna, it was in some of her titles and also an arte with the Earth Armatization). In the anime, it's explained as something that connects the world. It's a concentration of natural energy that protects the world's equilibrium. That equilibrium is now broken. She goes on about how man used to walk the world together in reverence with things unseen, and that they were never alone. Drake expressed that if he could find the Earthpulse, perhaps he could discover its secrets. However, we see Drake later underground, face to face with what seems to be an eye (of a dragon) and is attacked (possibly killed).
The mist, now a tornado, gets too close to Alisha and the party - eventually taking Volta and Gannet up into the air with it. Clem insists that she be left behind, otherwise the tornado will reach them, too. Alisha holds on to her and refuses.
Before them suddenly stands a young girl clad in purple (it's Symonne). Alisha just goes through her, unable to see her. (In the game, she is a seraphim, after all, so ordinary humans can't see/touch her). Symonne says that she'll open a portal of chaos with her, and chases her down, performing attacks Alisha doesn't comprehend because she can't see what's causing them. Just as she is about to be attacked by a flaming tornado, but it disippates into blue flames, protecting her. The flames are from Lunarre, the assassin from earlier. He stops the flaming tornadoes with his own powers, declaring that Alisha is his main dish (i.e. her prey).
The "fight" unfolds before her, but Alisha doesn't really understand what's going on. The earth then suddenly splits beneath them but Alisha makes it safely to her feet. She realizes that Clem and her horse had fallen into the crevice that just appeared. Symonne eventually vanishes.
What I don't understand is why Lunarre didn't attack her right then and there. Was he allowing her to spend a little more time in her sorrow? Or perhaps seeing her like that added to his thrill, IDK.
Anyway, in despair, Alisha walks back to the town of Guriel, only to find it pretty much destroyed to the ground.
The young girl from the grape vineyards is still there and tries to go toward her, but she too gets swept by the tornado right before her eyes.
Alisha holds on for dear life and watches in horror as the tornado turns into flames, and from within it, emerges a dragon.
The episode ends there with scrolling credits. There's no ending song yet, but we get to see the opening after the credits, featuring the opening song "Kaze no Uta" by FLOW. As we reported before, Velvet is definitely in that opening for some reason. "The journeys of the Shepherd go beyond Zestiria," right?
There's a scene from the opening that for some reason shows Sorey and Velvet seemingly fighting against each other. Note that Tales of Berseria is a prequel to Tales of Zestiria, but by a long shot (ala Symphonia -> Phantasia), so how does this work, exactly?
Or maybe the opening is misleading us a bit. Notice that whoever Velvet is attacking, he's hard to see or to even make out as Sorey. Remember that in Tales of Berseria, Velvet's main conflict is hunting down Artorius, who is pretty much established as a sort of "savior" (or Shepherd) in Berseria. If he really is connected in some way to a Shepherd, then his powers would be similar to what Sorey can yield (the blue light and stuff).
If you'll remember, we still have this guy above from the first trailer of the anime. No one knows who he is yet. He certainly wasn't in Zestiria, so he may be from Tales of Berseria. But who? Possibly Artorius himself. Maybe.
I started out this episode thinking "Oooh that's nice, Alisha has actual friends," only to have that thought massacred for me at the very end of it. I'm assuming Tao died in the town, too. Remember how when Tales of Zestiria was first announced, they said it was a more vibrant game to show their "zest" or passion for the games? This is not all happy and smiles. Not at all.
Perhaps the next episode will explain exactly how Alisha got to the ruins in Elysia?
Obviously, the anime does not disappoint visually. It's ufotable, after all. Everything looks stunning to the point that the episode almost gave me goosebumps throughout. The battle scenes are beautiful and all the calamity going on is impressive to watch.
As far as the music goes, it seems the anime will be using the game's soundtrack. That's very much a welcome thing and it does fit the overall mood of the anime. I couldn't really make out any new tracks.
At present, both Funimation and DAISUKI.net have the first episode airing on their streaming websites. Funi needs a subscription and is mainly available in the US, while DAISUKI has a 1 week delay in some areas, particularly US and Canada. While Funimation's writing and wording seem to read better, DAISUKI follows the official localized terms of the game more, so keep that in mind when choosing which subs to go with.
Just recently though, DAISUKI has announced that they'll have a paid premium service next week for the US and Canada to avoid the whole 1 week delay thing.