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[Disclosure: Anime Consortium Japan (ACJ), the owner of Anime Now!, is an investor in Tales of Zestiria the X. Moreover, Bandai Namco Holdings, the parent company of the creator of the original Tales of Zestiria game, is a major shareholder in ACJ.]

The game Tales of Zestiria begins with two friends, Sorey and Mikleo, exploring a dungeon near their isolated hometown. Within, they find not only monsters but a collapsed female knight. Upon taking her back to their village, this young woman, Alisha, reveals that she is on a quest to discover clues within the ruins scattered about the land that might shed some light on the disasters plaguing both her country and the world at large.

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Episode Zero of the anime begins before this, at the start of her quest. Although her true identity is not revealed until several hours into the game, the anime uses this episode to immediately show us that Alisha is not just a normal knight, but is instead the princess of one of the continent’s two major countries. With rumors of a mysterious and ominous mist lurking above a nearby town, Alisha sends one of her subjects, Clemm, to investigate.

While Alisha waits for word, we learn more about her as a person as well as her place in the kingdom. She is both kind and noble, and it is clear that she cares for her people and their safety.

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However, with her kingdom having made the transition into a constitutional monarchy, Alisha has little real power in the government. The most she can hope for is to get a public holiday approved–and that will only happen if the governing elites of the kingdom feel they can use the event (and her) as a tool for their own ends.

She is also religious in the sense that she believes the old legends about invisible spirits populating the world and that in times of crisis the “Shepherd” will appear to bridge the gap between the human and spirit world. To this end, she even sets in motion a festival at which anyone who wishes can try to pull the Sword from the Stone, which in turn would proclaim the one who does so to be the new Shepherd.

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When word from Clemm doesn’t come, Alisha and her attendants set off to find her. Soon they are attacked by assassins–one of which transforms into a monster before her very eyes and then escaping. Upon reaching the town Clemm was dispatched to, it’s clear that the mist is having an adverse effect on the population with most inhabitants appearing sluggish and one having a chronic cough.

Following Clemm’s trail, Alisha watches helplessly as the mist turns into a tornado of incredible strength, tearing through rocks like paper and sucking up her companions. Pillars of fire erupt around her and soon a dragon of fire appears within the maelstrom. Injured and alone, she returns to town only to find it obliterated; she is the only survivor.

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What makes this prologue such a needed addition to the story is the old adage: “Show, don’t tell.” Rather than being simply told about the state of the world and the impending danger, we instead see the scale of the threat firsthand. And just as importantly, so does Alisha.

The elected leaders of her country remain distracted by issues of much lesser consequence as they plot amongst themselves over a potential war with a neighboring country; only Alisha has taken notice of the mysterious signs around them.

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And now the destruction and turmoil she has just witnessed make it clear what is at stake. We’ve seen that it makes no difference to her that she is only a figurehead, that she has no constitutional responsibility to protect her country. It’s about her heart; and in her heart, she is committed to her people and will wander on alone if need be, searching for answers, no matter the price she must pay. It just may be that Alisha is her country’s only hope for survival in the days and weeks to come.

Tales of Zestiria the X can be viewed for free and with English subtitles in the US at FUNimation and Daisuki–and at AnimeLab in AU/NZ territories.

Image Copyright © BNEI/TOZ-X

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