The world of Auldrant is bound by the Score, a series of prophecies from centuries past that dictate the world's future. It is considered an absolute fate that everyone lives by—even people whose actions lead to bloodshed and tears. Using magical abilities known as the Fonic Arts, a war between the nation of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear and the Malkuth Empire is waged in hopes of bringing the Score's foreseen utopia to life.
Tales of the Abyss follows Luke von Fabre, who spends his days locked away in his manor after being kidnapped and losing memories as a child. One day, while honing his swordsmanship, a woman named Tear attempts to assassinate his master. Luke defends him, but the clash results in the two being teleported to a distant land. Luke and Tear’s journey back quickly escalates into a quest that will either free the world from the Score's chains or destroy it completely.
Now, I should mention first that I have not played the Tales of the Abyss video game on which this anime is based. Despite that, I found it a great series to watch, with excellent characters and character development, brilliantly animated scenes, spectacular artwork, and a well-paced excellent story.
The story starts out slowly, but each character gives the viewer an immediate impression when introduced and one quickly develops feelings towards him or her, whether good or bad. Each character is developed to the fullest extent, with detailed backstories, distinct personalities, personal motivation and conflicts, and excellent designs. You can truly feel the
conflicts they experience, and the depth they get into is truly spectacular. The antagonists are as well-developed as the protagonists, and since their development is on the same level, when conflict does arise, it’s felt much more forcefully since you don’t know which side has more willpower to win the ensuring battles. The development is especially strong for Luke, and just seeing him undergo his transformation throughout the series is breathtaking. Also, all the characters just mesh in with each other extremely well, and the chemistry amongst everyone is well-done, again, both protagonists, secondary characters, and antagonists.
The animation, like the characters, is wonderful, with fluid movements and flashy attacks. Pair that up with colorful drawings and excellent backgrounds and scenes, and scenes exceed my expectations. It even gives the .hack series a run for the money in this aspect. The pacing helps get the animation and drawings noticed, since there are moments where it’s slow enough to admire the drawings and detail work woven into the scenes, but it’s not too slow so that you get bored and drift off. There is enough action mixed into each mission to keep the pace up, plus good dialogue amongst the characters.
Unfortunately, there is a flaw in the dialogue in that the vocabulary often used is difficult to comprehend, and many references are made to these words. Explanations are given for the vocabulary and what the world is like, but having not played the games is a bit disadvantageous, since the explanations are long and require pausing, rewatching, and analysis before one understands it. What’s offered in the anime is just a fast-placed blurb and a quick picture where you have about 5 seconds to absorb all the information. Thus, without pausing, it limits the viewer’s degree of plot comprehension. I’m sure those who have played the games will be able to enjoy and understand the series without pausing and thinking for this kind of comprehension.
Despite having to take a little more time to understand some of the terminology in Tales of the Abyss, I do think the series is well worth the time. Even if you haven’t played the games, the series is very enjoyable. Great characters, good plotline, fantastic drawings and animations await those who watch Tales.
Tales of the Abyss was originally developed by Namco for the Playstation 2 and released on the 10th anniversary of the “Tales” series. The anime first aired 3. Of October 2008 and it’s the fourth installment of the “Tales” series to be adapted into an anime. I liked the game a lot and thought I should review the anime for the users on MAL.
In the review below I’ve tried to include an objective opinion of both the fan treats and possible faults that a game adaption poses to viewers, who haven’t played the game. To this end a section called “Compared to the game”
can be found later on in the review.
Tales of the Abyss’ storyline has a balanced amount of both good and bad points. The main storyline is interesting, but is highly dependent on long tiring explanations of terms like “fonons”, “Yulia’s score” and “fomicry”. However the main story moves along at a fairly good pace even if a few explanations are needed along the way.
Also the short stories about the characters’ relationships and pasts are very good. They bring a fresh perspective once in a while and makes sure the viewer isn’t left totally clueless about the characters’ former lives. Especially the slight romances make the story appear more appealing.
The most alarming point of the anime’s story is the sudden leaps in time and progression. A few times during the show an episode ends on a cliffhanger only to skip the situation, and leave the viewer wondering what happened in between the two episodes.
These sorts of skips are continuously used throughout the show and might irritate even the most die hard fans of the game.
Despite the tiring explanations and unresolved cliffhangers Tales of the Abyss presents a fairly enjoyable story with a lot of powerful action and appealing side stories.
The protagonist of Tales of the Abyss is primarily Luke von Fabre. However the rest of the protagonists play essential roles regarding both the main storyline and the immense character development of Luke.
One of the best elements of this particular anime is the character development that all the main characters go through. The development of each character is carefully included in the storyline and none of it seems forced or out of place. This makes for a cast of very likeable characters and a pleasant watch.
Even so a few of the major developments happens in a very short amount of time and a few characters loose some of their distinctive and humoristic character traits. This is a very small fault but it’s still bound to upset some viewers, even if the characters actually seem more likeable after the development.
Altogether the anime presents the characters in a good way and the character development is smooth and nicely included in the main storyline or some of the previously mentioned short side stories.
The category in which Tales of the Abyss performs the best is animation.
The high quality of character models and scenery is constant through all 26 episodes, and it doesn’t seem like Sunrise and Bandai Visual made any noticeable or irritating mishaps.
The production team should especially be credited for the fast paced swordfights which are all breathtaking and surprisingly fluid in motion.
Also a select few scenery shots seem particularly well made; for example the shots of the capitals: “Baticul” and “Grand Chokmah” seen from bird’s eyes view.
The character models are all highly detailed, very distinctive and recognizable. This is certainly a positive aspect during the high paced fighting where some viewers might have confused one character for another, had the characters been more alike.
The only slightly infuriating thing about the characters might be the cast of “good” characters, who seem a bit neutral compared to the “evil” characters. The evil “God-generals” simply seem to be more unique and interesting in design. Animation wise some of these characters definitely deserved more screen time. However, despite the critique, the good characters shouldn’t be called boring or uninteresting.
The show also contains a high amount of well placed CG and the CG objects don’t seem out of place. Some of the computer generated spell graphics are a bit extravagant. However this isn’t really a flaw since the same graphics and spells were used in the original console game.
All in all the show should be particularly credited for the high quality of animation which the production team at Sunrise and Bandai Visual is responsible for.
The music of the show didn’t impress me much. The background music used during the actual episodes is neither spectacular nor bad. The music helps set the mood but I personally didn’t notice the music much throughout the episodes.
I did like the opener “Karma” by Bump of Chicken but just listening to the song without the animated intro makes it loose some of its charm. Especially because a lot of the emotions expressed in the song is complimented by the opening sequences. Nevertheless “Karma” is worth recommending to any fans of J-rock (myself not particularly being one of them though). The ED "Bouken Suisei" by Kurumi Enomoto, like the background music, was okay but nothing out of the ordinary.
The voice actors did a decent/good job portraying the emotions of the characters and it’s always a treat for the fans of the game, when the original voice actors also do the voices of the anime. However the voices of Luke fon Fabre and Mieu did irritate me a tad at first but getting used to both voices doesn’t take long.
Compared to the game
Being an adaption of a RPG game, it’s inevitable that the show doesn’t contain some obvious game-based faults, one of them being the unexplainable fast-travel from one location to another.
If the viewer hasn’t played the original game or equivalent, the jumping could seem weird and confusing, since no information about the trips is given. Also the spells, abilities and tech terms (see Story) might be confusing if the viewer has no knowledge of the game. The use of the original spells is simply a treat for the fans without any real meaning to the individual watching Tales of the Abyss by chance.
The last big fault is the dramatic change in tempo during episodes. The action is definitely one of the best things about this anime, but the high paced action makes the story progressing conversation seem boring at times.
Yet even with the obvious fault, the production team did a good job adapting the game into a fairly enjoyable anime adventure which should please fans of the “Tales” series.
Tales of the Abyss isn’t a masterpiece but probably never had the potential either. Yet it’s still a fairly good series with a balanced amount of good and bad elements. The story is complicated and some of the leaps in time are awfully confusing, but the characters are likeable, the character development is interesting and the animation is great. The fluid movements during action scenes would without a doubt be pleasing to every anime action fan out there.
For the fans of the original game this is a must see, while other potential viewers should be aware that some parts of the anime is included purely as treats for fans of the game.
Tales of the Abyss is good but nothing spectacular. If you’re a fan of the “Tales” series or an adventure/action fan this show is worth checking out.
"I'm not living for anyone else. There's no meaning in living. When I sensed my own death, I wanted to live. I know now. That's all I needed."
Being an adaptation of a video game, ToA has to balance between two things:
1: It has to remain true and accurate to the source material for the diehard fans who are watching it for the label, while also
2: Keeping the storytelling format interesting to the viewers who've never played the game.
And I feel this anime has managed a balance between the two that you rarely see in any kind of adaptation. I give my feedback on the two
points separately below, in order.
If you want to know how well it adapts the story:
Tales of the Abyss runs a story very much similar to what the game-players will remember while leaving out only the most minor of details, things that in hindsight even a die-hard fan would admit the story could do without.
For example, instead of using the scene where Engeve's villagers discuss the food thieves, the anime moves right from when Luke takes the apple without paying to being brought to the village chief, a smooth and clean transition that cuts out runtime it didn't really need. This even at times adds some realism; no slowly-sinking town so you can leave for three days to get the Albiore, it's sinking NOW and the Albiore just swooped in to save the day.
Best of all, while it cuts out the unnecessary portions, it adds some scenes the game could have benefited from: backstories that were originally only dialogue get actual flashbacks depicted.
If you want to know about the story itself:
The story centers around Luke fon Fabre, the spoiled, sheltered son of a noble who knows nothing of life outside the villa and is basically designed so that you'll hate him out of the gate. He's soon taken far away from his known universe into the outside world when Mystearica Grants (usually just called Tear) breaks into the manor to kill Van, Luke's swordfighting instructor. Feeling responsible for them being teleported away, she vows to get him home. This is where Luke's long journey of character development begins, as he has to learn of even the most basic of real-world concepts, initially not even understanding the concept of money.
As much as Luke develops, the story still manages to give plenty of screen time to the other five playable characters of the game, and let them develop sufficiently as well. Nothing is iced over, even traits that are initially portrayed as comical are of large importance to their characters. Guy's afraid of women? That stems from a deep trauma we later learn about. Anise is obsessed with money? She's got people around her who always need it. Their pasts and their connections to the villains are well fleshed-out. Only one villain out of many is your generic, power-hungry fool, and he was ultimately a pawn. The rest all have deeper motives for doing what they do, and you may even mourn the deaths of some of them.
This tale is centered around several varied but important themes such as being outside of the world you've known, defiance of what's claimed to be inevitable, prejudice based on the uncontrollable being unjustified, living with a sin that can never be forgiven, finding a reason for life, and why everyone deserves to live. If someone has lost their way to despair, they would likely feel a kindred spirit in Luke and find an answer through this powerful Tale.
Overall, this anime would fit the bill as "mediocre". False hope, plus the excellent experiences with the Tales of xxx franchise (e.g. Tales of Phantasia fan-translations on SNES and PlayStation) kept me interested... but the operative word was "false".
I won't summarize the story, or explain why it was "dreadful" for me. Rather, I'll tell you why I hate this: there was potential for greatness, but from the very beginning, major details ruined it.
Annoying characters, huge plot holes, directing which seemed to not take itself seriously, personalities which are easily interchangeable, and no sense of "suspended disbelief".
Nothing in this anime was worth the time
it took to make it. Somewhere, early in the design process, a competent director and editor were misplaced with writers who previously only wrote fanfics and a commitee who designed the storyboards.
As as result, even with competent animation and enthusiastic efforts by the music and character design staff, the end result is much less than the sum of its parts.
Please give me back the nearly 13 hours of my life that I wasted on this!