Funimation // 2009 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // July 21st, 2012
Brothers in arms united in adventure!
There were many times that I popped in a Japanese Role player in the Playstation or Playstation 2 era to be met with a lavishly animated intro sequence that always made me wonder whether one of these companies could pony up the cash to really give some of these fantastic tales the great film treatment they deserve. Enter Tales of Vesperia, based on the Xbox360 JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) of the same name for Microsoft's Xbox360. It isn't quite Suikoden III, but could a solid adaptation involving the game's original creators actually change years upon years of crapped out video-game inspired anime?
In a mythical kingdom, mystic knights combat evil monsters in an attempt to save civilization from the warring beasts. A mystical energy source called Aer (said like "air") is corrupting the forests, causing the monsters to grow ever more aggressive. Enter two knights, the stern and stiff Flynn, and the rebellious wild card Yuri, charged with joining their fellow Imperial Knights in solving the mystery of Aer. Action, adventure, betrayal, and all of that fun stuff follows.
If the above plot description sounds a little vague to you, then you've hit on the chief problem I have with Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, all of the action just exists. The narrative drive is just the usual anime fluff, and the characters are simple archetypes. There's just nothing here that hasn't been seen before, and it's handled in the same rote fashion. Beyond that, there's more simple idea than fleshed out concept present in both the world the characters inhabit, and the abilities they have. That said, fans of the genre will likely be content with Tales of Vesperia. While it doesn't play with convention at all, it handles its conventional nature rather well. The smooth animation is great, and the design of the swashbuckling characters and the world they inhabit is just unique enough to make an impression, even if it isn't really fleshed out at all. It's difficult to really say anything really terrible about Tales of Vesperia, but it's also almost as difficult to really single out anything particularly good.
Funimation has done their usual job here, and presented a fine 1080p high def transfer that is devoid of authoring issues that I could detect. Some color banding, likely inherent in the digital source material does appear from time to time, but overall the disc looks sharp, clear, and colorful. The sound mix is equally well executed, with a TrueHD mix that is lively and clean. The only extras are promotional trailers for the feature, but they're in High definition.
Despite some serious narrative misgivings, and less than appealing characters, Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike is a solid anime feature that does a pretty decent job of using the tropes of anime and Japanese role-playing games (like the "Tales" series) to its benefit. If you're a fan of either or both, you just might find something redeemable in this one. Funimation's technical treatment, as usual, is top drawer.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Studio Tour
* Art Gallery
* DVD Copy