Ten years after the Great War against the demon-beasts, the empire rules over the world and prosperity relies on the massive use of aer.
Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo are two young men who have just enrolled the ranks of the prestigious Imperial Knights. One day, they are sent to the town of Ceazontania, where abnormal aer activity has reportedly caused the proliferation of horribly mutated beasts, with serious threat for the whole region.
Meanwhile, the Knights Supreme Commander Alexei Denoia and the naive Princess Estellise are involved in a behind-the-curtains struggle for power in the capital. The situation in Ceazontania deteriorates as the garrison of Imperial Knights finds that they cannot expect any immediate support from the capital.
Then, Niren Fedrok, commander of the Imperial Knights in Ceazontania, takes an unexpected decision that is going to change Yuri and Flynn's destiny forever.
What are the secrets behind the extraordinary events that are happening around Yuri and Flynn? Will they be able to defend the innocent people of Ceazontania and stay true to their beliefs?
In recent years video games, be they console or PC based, have moved to the forefront of popular entertainment. One of the upshots of this trend has been the a marked increase in the number of adaptations and spinoffs that can be found in manga and anime (and that's without including the doujin market). The major problem though, is that studios, production companies and storytellers are doing nothing more than recycling an existing concept, and while the adaptation may actually be pretty decent in some cases (Tears to Tiara for example), more often than not one is served a big plate of mediocrity (I'm looking
at you Ragnarok et al).
However, while outright adaptations are rife, prequels and sequels to games are actually quite rare, and it's here where Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ separates itself from the horde.
The story takes place a few years prior to the game and follows two of it's main characters, Yuri and Flynn, during their early careers as knights of the empire in the town of Shizontania. Unfortunately the town isn't as safe as it used to be, and their captain, Niren Fedrock, suspects greater forces are at work.
One of the criticisms that people may throw at this movie is the fact that it is very open ended, however given that this is nothing more than a prequel to the game, the reason for this is understandable. The story itself is pretty straightforward, with a remarkable lack of convolution that can sometimes appear in game adaptations and spinoffs. The main advantage of this is the fact that it is easier to tie the events in the movie to those in the game, however the downside is that the plot lacks a degree of depth that simply can't be hidden, which is often the reason why such terrible plot convolutions occur in thefirst place.
Thankfully first time director Kamei Kanta and writer Yoshida Reiko have kept things simple and direct, and because of this Tales of Vesperia actually manages to become interesting to a degree, enough to at least enjoy the movie and maybe consider buying the game (more on this in a bit). The one thing that most surprised me though, is how very different the feel and tone is from the game, and while both have lighter and darker moments throughout their respective stories, there is a certain brevity inherent in the movie that the game lacks, partly due to the RPG nature of the latter, and partly because of the need to wrap the story up within 110 minutes.
Many people will be familiar with the work of Production I.G. and it's nice to see that they've maintained their standards in terms of art and animation.
Maintained though, not bettered.
Overall the show is well put together, with some nicely detailed backgrounds and atmospheric settings thrown into the mix. The characters are modelled along the lines used for the original game for the most part, with the two leads and sundry other characters who appear in both looking pretty much the same. It should be noted though, that there are a number of characters who only appear in the movie (for example, the twin female knights Shastele and Hisuka Aiheap), a fact which may confuse some fans of the game. Be that as it may, in terms of design the movie is pretty solid, however that is as far as it goes because of the design limitations placed upon it by the source material.
One thing I should point is that this movie is far more graphic in its depiction of violence than the game, and doesn't shy away from some of the more greusome occurences which have only really been shown in a very sanitised manner within the Tales series thus far.
As for the animation, while the majority of the film runs very well there are some scenes where things just feel off kilter. This unfortuantely occurs in several scenes which involve CG animation of some sort, and while the problem isn't large enough to warrant major criticism, it is noticeable so it bears mentioning.
The sound quality is very good throughout the movie, especially when it comes to choreography. The music is, for the most part, absent from proceedings, however this serves to enhance its effect when it is used. The choice of tracks is also well thought out, and while there is a degree of genericism about those used for dramatic or action scenes, overall the quality of the pieces adds to the scenes.
One point I should mention about the music is the surprising, and pleasing, choice of theme song. Like the original game, the Tales of Vesperia movie has "Ring a Bell" by Bonnie Pink as the title track, a fact which may please fans of the game.
In terms of acting, this film has a big plus in that the characters of Yuri, Flynn, Estellise, Rita and Raven are played by the actors and actressses who took on the roles for the game. This factor adds to the sense of continuity that is needed in any direct prequel or sequel, especially as the seiyuu in the other, movie specific roles are equally as comfortable with their lines as their more experienced colleagues. That doesn't mean there's hamming it up, but for those most part the acting is pretty natural and flowing.
The biggest problem with Tales of Vesperia is the characters. Because this is both a movie and a prequel to a larger story, there is little in the way of major development. That said, the two lead characters do grow to a degree, and anyone who has played the game will no doubt find the additional information about them pleasing. However, those who have had neither the opportunity or inclination to play the game will probably find there is a distinct lack in this department.
That's not to say that the characters are bad though. As a stand alone movie they work fairly well, however the open ended nature of the tale leaves one feeling that more could have been done with the time. In essence, the fact that this is a prequel, something which in terms of plot content is an advantage, becomes a flaw when considering the the characters as they an "unfinished" quality about them comethe end of the film.
Be that as it may, I found that I actually enjoyed the movie, however I should point out that I have completed the game, so for me the additional story was a bonus. Unfortunately, it's all too possible that many viewers will find this less of an enjoyable experience, mainly because the story is open ended. If one were to be very harsh, then it's possible to consider the movie as nothing more than a glorified advert for the game. This seems an unfair criticism to me as while there is a clear message to play the game should one wish to complete the tale, the story is original enough to warrant a degree of separation.
The major plus point though, is the fact that the effort has been made to enhance the game's storyline instead of regurgitating it. That said, making a prequel or sequel doesn't always work in terms of content (Advent Children - looks awesome, and that's pretty much it), so it's nice to see that the main aspects of the tale have only lightly been covered, and that the focus is more about showing where the lead characters came from.
On the whole, Tales of Vesperia ~The First Strike~ is one of those movies that you can't fully appreciate unless you know the full story, and that's its biggest flaw. People don't really want to be burdened with having to complete a game that they may not even be interested in just to find out what happens next, which plays a major part in whether one can enjoy this movie or not. The more rlaxed viewer may not be overly concerned with the lack of a true ending, and the movie does have a good degree of entertainment value in its own right, but in all honesty, this is one for fans of the game and the Tales franchise.
Whatever the opinion though, this movie deserves some credit for being not only a prequel, but an original tale, as it could very well have been just another adaptation.
What amazing luck. I happen to complete the game the same week the movie comes out. This caught me completely by surprise, but I was extremely excited. When I initially started the game, I thought it was a bit corny and maybe even childish, but a few hours in and there was incredible character development and storyline threads stretching across, to the point where I even cared for the villains. Truly an exceptional experience from the game.
If you are a fan of the game, then there's no doubt you will love this movie. I went in with no expectations, except knowing that
it's a prequel. That being said, I was very impressed by not only the quality of the movie, but the pacing, character development, seamless crossover between the prequel and the original game, while introducing new characters without harming the original.
The story was simple. But very effective. I really enjoyed the Yuri/Flynn bond throughout the game, and it was great seeing the roots of it in this movie, while also getting some more backstory on Flynn's past. This movie had be laughing at loud at some parts, and crying at others. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but it was a complete package.
I didn't feel cheated or upset by the way things were done, in fact, I think many other game to anime adaptions should look at this movie as a role model. Simply perfect.
I really enjoyed it, and I'm certain so will you, perhaps even if you have not played the game. Definitely check this out!
*Review is biased since I played the game*
As a Tales of fan, I knew exactly what to expect watching this movie, and I got what I was expecting. Since Tales of Vesperia is one of favorite games, I was quite excited, and my expectations were ultimately met, with only a bit of expected disappointment. Fans of TOV will be happy to learn more of the back story of Yuri, Flynn, and Repede, while newcomers will be amazed by the greatness of the Tales of series.
To be fair, The story was cliche, with some points that adds more flair, however, the art, animation, and music were
absolutely fantastic, which completely masked this factor.
The story revolves around Yuri Lowell, a few years before the events of TOV, his best friend Flynn Scifo, and his platoon. The world, Terca Lumireis has a substance called aer, which a tool called blastia can harness. However, recently, the aer has been becoming dense, causing monsters and strange beings to begin attacking the already weakening barrier blastia that defends a town. To solve the problem, Yuri and his imperial knights platoon try find the cause of increasing aer density, and solve it.
The story is carried out by the simple, "there is a major problem, and we fix it format," and is forgettable with a few exceptions, but the other features of the movie makes you completely forget it. The fight scenes are done incredibly well (but also realistically), and the music is majestic, and fits the world and movie quite well. And of course, the movie carries the badass and arrogant Yuri Lowell and the righteous and heroic Flynn from the game, adding lots of spice to the movie.
*Spoilers, Gamer's Rant*
Although The First Strike was done incredibly well, from someone who had high hopes from the game, I was disappointed. You will not be seeing any azure edges (I like to think of them as demon fangs), tiger blades, first aids, or any artes for that matter. One main feature from the game is nearly completely removed, and the movie is primarily based on melee combat without magic or artes, making the fight scenes not as dynamic as the could be. I guess this is because the producers wanted the movie to be more true to the world since blastia were said to be rare, but come on. Basically the only named arte I got to see was force field. Another disappointment was that some characters from TOV were added just to make the fans happy, and were more of breif cameos than anything else. Estelle, Raven, and Rita all appeared and their roles were nearly insignificant (except for Rita, and not by much). Although I am happy that I got to see Repede's history with Yuri.
All in all, Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, is a great movie, with amazing battle scenes, art, and music. Although the plot is a bit cliche, you will forgive that factor, as the good points will be overwhelming. And honestly, I recommend that you should watch this before playing the game, as it guarantees that you will not be disappointed.
I’ll start this one off by saying hello to all newcomers, and welcome back to all you Tales fans out there. Word to the wise: This movie is a prequel to Tales of Vesperia, an Xbox 360 exclusive video game and the tenth mothership title in the Tales series of games. If you have no interest in Tales, this movie won’t do as well for you as it will for a fan. Keep that in mind before continuing.
VISUALS [ 8/10 ]
This is a solid movie, through and through. Visuals are fantastic for the most part, especially for 2009. We
do see some minor issues here, however. Some scenes are poorly transitioned, which will take you out of the experience for a couple seconds.
As with many older shows, First Strike has problems with distance shots. Characters will appear a bit off model, and will not look anywhere near as sharp as the close-ups do. Movement is a little inconsistent too, with some scenes being better animated than others. Not a dealbreaker, but watch with any level of scrutiny and you’ll notice. Long story short, some scenes clearly got more attention than others. Most importantly, this movie does a great job keeping to that Tales feel. Fans will warm up to this movie like a good conversation with an old friend.
SETTING [ 9/10 ]
Pretty great background art, well produced still shots, and generally just a solid setting in general. First Strike only gives you the minimum amount of knowledge you need to know about the world, but it works well. This is one movie that delivers in its world building. Civilians all look different and can be recognised during different scenes as the movie progresses. It feels like the knights have something worth protecting. You don’t understand the importance of that detail unless you’ve watched something that lacks it.
Scenes in the later half of First Strike start to feel a little samey. Not a huge blow, but they could have done even better.
PLOT [ 9/10 ]
Did you ever want to watch a movie that makes you want to immediately go play the game it’s based off of? That is exactly what Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike does. You will want to go play the game if you own it. There’s a strong chance you’ll want to go buy the game if you don’t. Okay, all that aside, what about the movie?
This is a very unique film, and one you should watch for that reason alone. First Strike is a prequel to Tales of Vesperia. For all intensive purposes, you could watch this and then go play the game. You’d have an excellent introduction to the characters, and I wish I’d known about it back then. Entire mediums are crossed in this movie, and it does an excellent job making that transition.
About a year before the events of the game, First Strike follows Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo, two newly recruited knights in the Imperial army. They are assigned to a brigade out in the country. You get acquainted with what life is like day by day, and then watch as events rapidly spiral out of control in the same way a tornado or earthquake does. Naturally, the knights move to address the problem. Conflict ensues, in the forms of both action and ideology. Characters question their orders, and the actions of others. The tone is mostly serious, but it was never so overbearing that it started to eat at my overall enjoyment of the film. The plot is very focused around the young knights, but will sometimes jump around to other characters. Made perfect sense to me, but there are scenes that will confuse those who haven’t played the game.
CHARACTERS [ 7/10 ]
The weakest part is the characterization. Don't get me wrong, it's not awful - just very minimal. Not a whole lot of character development throughout this movie at all. Yuri and Flynn are affected by the events of the movie, but only a little bit. Everyone else is pretty much static. Supporting characters are actually done pretty well here, but the main cast gets neglected.
The writers were trying to avoid messing with the narrative that follows, since this is a prequel. The lack of development alone is gonna be enough to drop First Strike to about a seven out of ten if you didn't know some of these characters already.
PACING AND PRODUCTION [ 8/10 ]
This is a very solid movie. Nothing extra attached, just a very well produced Tales prequel. Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike has aged beautifully over the years. Sight or sound, you’ll not find anything that leaves you thinking,’Ehh, they could have done better.’ There is a little bit of CG woven in there, but it's not awful. Chances are if aren't looking for it, you won't even notice. The sound design is fantastic. Coming from someone who rarely notices sound at all in an anime, that means a lot. That said, the score for this movie was super average. I don't remember any of the music at all - probably because I was so engrossed in the visuals.
For the most part, First Strike is almost perfectly paced, but there are occasional moments where a bad transition will take you out of it for a moment. There's an odd issue present here, where scene transitions are sometimes sharp and jarring. Not a deal breaker, just one of those odd quirks that anime sometimes have.
First Strike definitely succeeds as a movie, no worries there. My experiences were overwhelmingly positive. You should have no trouble powering through the whole runtime in one sitting.
STORY [ 10/10 ]
Here we have one of those rare prequels that actually lives up to the source material. This section is spoiler territory, so stay away if you want to watch without spoilers.
Okay, so as stated previously, I’m a pretty big fan of the Tales franchise. Coming from a fan, this movie is like a dream come true. You always think to yourself when you first load up the game, “I wonder what Tales would be like if all of it was animated like this anime opening?” This question was apparently answered in 2009 with the release of this movie.
When playing through Tales of Vesperia you always wondered what Yuri and Flynn’s backstory really was. That question was answered with a level of satisfaction I was not expecting, to the point where I’m still upset that The First Strike wasn’t part of the game itself. This is a must-watch for any Tales fan, assuming you’re willing to watch a let’s play of the game, should you not own an xbox 360. If you would rather pretend that this game/movie doesn’t exist, then you should. Tales of Vesperia is one of the best narratives Tales can offer, and you shouldn’t put yourself through the journey if you aren’t willing to experience it from the back seat.
On to movie itself. First thing’s first, First Strike can’t stand on its own for the previously stated reasons. There’s an incredibly strong chance that you’ll want to continue the story after watching this film. Yuri and Flynn are both excellent characters, and for them alone you’ll want a complete story and not just the first arc.
And what an arc it is. All expectations shattered, seriously. Yuri and Flynn are so fleshed out by the end that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without knowing all this about them. Glimpses into their training, a solid understanding of their daily lives, and interesting characters that don’t even show up in the game all prove beyond a doubt that they knew what ‘prequel’ meant when they made First Strike.
Suddenly, without warning, what looked like a simple anomaly in the aer turned into a terrifying and powerful force that seemed to have a will of its own. Aer is the naturally occurring source of energy and magic in this world, and when it goes awry shit gets real very quickly. Beasts turned hostile and tough choices had to be made. First some pretty impressive magic explosives were used to thin out the monster population. After that attacks started happening frequently, and the true foe reared its ugly head. A grotesque and highly aggressive mass of aer began consuming any and all living creatures in its path. Eventually the hunting dogs owned by the knights are lured into the forest and become part of the creature. An impressively violent action scene follows, and Yuri proves himself as he fights the beast almost single-handedly, and ultimately has to put down the dogs.
Meanwhile, Flynn is sent to the capital city to get reinforcements. Unfortunately, politics get in the way and you get a glimpse at the true enemy, sitting nonchalantly at the head of the Knights. Flynn is ultimately unsuccessful due to political unrest in the capital. Flynn makes it back to town not long after the battle in the forest. Both Yuri and Flynn are feeling terrible after their respective battles and end up fighting each other out of sheer frustration. The plot continues.
Most people who watch this movie are going to be coming from the game. They already know just how fantastic Yuri and Flynn are, regardless of who you side with. Getting to see more from them is more than reason enough to watch, with a few moments involving other characters from the game filling in the gaps. In all honesty, this movie is fanservice in its purest form. This movie could brighten up a funeral if there were Tales of Vesperia fans in there for heaven’s sake, which I really think is the bottom line here. You want to see more of these characters, or you’re interested in the game? Stop reading - go watch the movie. It’s on FUNimation Now.
I will take a moment and voice one complaint that I have. The twins. These two sisters are part of Yuri and Flynn’s squad. They’re endearing in their own right, and most of the time they hit home, don’t get me wrong. In certain scenes, however, these two seem incredibly wimpy in comparison to Yuri and Flynn. Their reactions to major story events struck me as how a civilian, and not a knight, would react. Some of their major lines consist of screaming in terror, crying, or both. These sisters really seem like they’re in over their heads, and perhaps that was the point. Or maybe I’m just a cold-hearted bastard. Either way, onwards to the final score.
OVERALL [ 8/10 ]
Fantastic visuals, with some minor inconsistencies
Strong but limited characterization
Amazing dub, featuring actors from the game
Great pacing for the most part
Has that distinctive Tales feel that fans love
An example of what a great prequel should be like
Relies heavily on its source material - for better or worse
Quite a bit more gory than Tales fans are used to
Never wastes your time with unnecessary scenes
Fans of the game will love this movie, whereas people with no interest in the Tales games will be frequently confused
For alternate recommendations, I point to Tales of Zestiria The X for fans of the Tales franchise. I haven’t seen it myself, but seeing as how good this movie is, I doubt they screwed it up. Other recommendations include Soul Eater for excellent characters and plot, Yona of the Dawn for your action/adventure fix, and the series of six movies known as Break Blade if you want to watch a bunch of awesome anime movies. Good luck with your animes, and if you’re not a Tales fan, this is good place to start!