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Released in 2005, Tales of the Abyss has been loved by RPG fans for over a decade for its deep characters and story. Now, you can see those characters come to life in the play, Tales of the Stage -The Last Score-. And damn, can those characters dance.
The story of Bandai Namco’s Tales of the Abyss video game revolves around Luke fon Fabre (played by Kota Iwaki), the spoiled son of an aristocrat who for some reason hasn’t been allowed to leave his estate after he was rescued from a kidnapping as a child. His only friends are his bodyguard/servant, Guy (Ko Hosokawa), his childhood friend and princess of the kingdom of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear, Natalia (Fuyuna Asakura), and his self-defense teacher, Van (RYOJI).
After a priestess named Tear Grants (SENA from the idol group THE HOOPERS) attempts to kill Luke’s beloved mentor Van, she ends up accidentally bringing Luke out into the outside world with her. It’s there that Luke starts to show how naïve and selfish he is due to his sheltered upbringing—not caring about the safety of anyone but the people he knows and stupidly trusting anything they say. Luke must grow as a person when the world is in peril.
Like other Tales games and RPGs and general, Tales of the Abyss is a long game. It can take forty hours or more to complete just the main storyline, and obviously, an audience can’t sit in their seats for two days straight. The performance of the stage play lasted around 1 1/2 hours, so of course, a lot of things had to be cut. Near the beginning, the play does a good job of combining separate events from the game together into single scenes—like when Luke and Tear get transported away from the mansion and when they meet Anise (Chihiro Kai), Ion (Saki Takahashi), and Mieu. It was a fast and easy way to introduce the characters and keep the story moving.
The stage play itself, however, is a love letter to fans. From the very beginning with the game’s start screen projected in the background to the battle and victory music, this show is obviously meant to stir up the nostalgia in long-time players of Tales of the Abyss. Dance is used to portray battle scenes, with each of the actors being very skilled in acrobatics. This play is full of flips, cartwheels, and jumps to portray combat, and both the main cast and the ensemble pull off their stunts perfectly.
But the most stand-out performance was, without a doubt, Master Van, who for some reason is given the power of… dancing. He has two main dance numbers, with his final battle being accompanied by a battle song from the game remixed into dubstep. It’s a little bit jarring to see this fantasy character start doing this extremely modern dance out of nowhere when no other characters do it (though they do have a group dance number at the very beginning and end). Amusing, yes. Out of place, also yes.
Image Source: テイルズ オブ フェスティバル 2017 on Twitter
But the cast chosen for this production fit the characters not just in looks, but in voice as well. They recreated the feeling of the original game very accurately; especially Anise, who pushes the energy of the character flawlessly. Her scene where she went out into the audience and actually interacted with the patrons was extremely charming and fun. Mieu, the cute mascot, on the other hand, is portrayed by a stuffed animal who moves by the performers moving the doll with their hands. The voice samples are provided by the character’s voice actress, Miki Maruyama.
As mentioned previously, the stage play covers the first half of the game. It ends with a montage of scenes that happen in the second half. While the stage play was performed only once at the Tales of Festival 2017 event on June 9, the play will be getting an upgraded version that will run on August 30 and 31 in Osaka, as well as on September 5 and 6 in Tokyo. The play will not only recreate the performance from Tales of Festival, but will also add in new scenes that, according to the press release, “will allow fans to view realistic depictions of events portrayed through the eyes of each of the characters and witness Luke fon Fabre as he struggles to grow in this play surpassing two hours in length.”
The Tales of the Abyss stage play is not meant for newbies, but is a tribute to fans who have loved the game throughout the years. And personally, I would pay money just to see Master Van dance to dubstep again.
Tales of the Abyss is available for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo 3DS. The 26-episode anime adaptation of the game was originally licensed by Bandai Visual USA, but they relinquished the license to FUNimation after closing their doors. Although FUNimation announced they had acquired the license to the anime in 2013, the company has made no further announcement of a home video or digital release.
[Disclosure: Anime Now!’s owners, ACJ, are part of the Tales of Zestiria the X production committee. In addition, ACJ is a subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings, which owns the rights to the Tales of series.]