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Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 6, 2012 by  



The animated prequel to the popular RPG game “Tales of Vesperia”, fans of the video game or fans of action/adventure anime will enjoy the film “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike”!  Definitely one of the better animated films inspired by a video game.

Images courtesy of © Namco Bandai Games Inc./TOV Project. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike

MOVIE RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 26, 2012

Directed by Kanta Kamei

Screenplay by Reiko Yoshida

Music by Akira Senju

Original Character Design by Kousuke Fujishima

Character Design by Tokuyuki Matsutake

Art Director: Hiroshi Ohno

Animation Director: Kazuchika Kise, Takuya Saito, Toshihisa Kaiya

3D Director: Makoto Endo

Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi

Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada

Anime Product: Production I.G.

Featuring the voices of:

Kousuke Toriumi/Troy Baker as Yuri Lowell

Mamoru Miyano/Sam Regal as Flynn Scifo

Arisa Ogasawara/Trina Nishimura as Hiska Aiheap

Fumie Mizusawa/Leah Clark as Chastele Aiheap

Takashi Taniguchi/Christopher R. Sabat as Nylen Fedrok

Chikara Oosaka/Newton Pittman as Chris

Daisuke Gouri/R. Bruce Elliott as Melzome (Merzhom)

Eiji Takemoto/Jonathan Brooks as Raven

Mai Nakahara/Cherami Leigh as Estellise

Mitsuru Miyamoto/J. Michael Tatum as Galista

Rika Morinaga/Luci Christian as Rita Mordio

Yasuyuki Kase/Mike McFarland as Jurgis (Yurgis)

In a mythical kingdom, the mighty Imperial Knights harness a magical substance known as Aer to power their weapons and protect humanity from the monsters of the forest. But something strange is afoot. The Aer is somehow changing, causing the wilderness to waste away and stirring the woodland beasts to attack with greater frequency. As danger creeps steadily closer to civilization, two young recruits – Flynn, the rigid son of a fallen hero, and the rebellious and brash Yuri – must ride with their fellow Imperial Knights to distant ruins in hopes of uncovering the truth behind the transforming Aer.

Some will not survive the thrilling journey. Some will be betrayed. If Flynn and Yuri cannot overcome their differences and learn to fight together, all will be lost for the people of the realm.

In 2008, “Tales of Vesperia”, the tenth “Tales” title from Namco Tales Studio was released for the XBOX 360 in Japan and the United States.  Produced by Yoshito Higuchi (“Tales of Symphonia”, “Tales of the Abyss”), featuring designs by Kosuke Fujishima and featuring a theme song (“Ring a Bell/Kane wo Narashite”) by Bonnie Pink.

The video game would revolve around the character Yuri Lowell, a former Knight, who meets a young girl named Estelle searching for his childhood friend/rival Flynn.  In the video game, both young men noticed the corruption within the empire and Yuri, always taking action before thinking, sets out to take matters into his own hands, while the dedicated knight, Flynn, wants to change the Empire from within. And because of their opposing views, the rivalry between both men continues to intensify.

While the video game would showcase the relationship between the friends, Yuri and Flynn, there is not much known of why these two friends have such a rivalry.

And thus, to explain that rivalry and their origin, the animated film “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” was created by Production I.G and released in theaters in Japan in 1999.

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” was directed by Kenta Kamei (“Bunny Drop”, “Starship Girl Yamamoto”, “Kuroko’s Baseball”), written by Reiko Yoshida (“Bakuman”, “Aria the Natural”, “Dragon Ball Z”, “Getbackers”), music by Akira Senju (“Red Garden”, “Silent Service”, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”), character designs by Tokuyuki Matsutake (“Medabots”, “You’re Under Arrest TV”) and art direction by Hiroshi Ohno (“Akira”, “Le Chevalier D’Eon”, “Natsuki Crisis”, “Nine”).

And now “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” will be released in America via Blu-ray and DVD combo pack in June 2012.

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” takes place before the events featured in the video game.

People are utilizing the powerful substance known as “aer” and the crystallized form known as “Apeatheia” is used and is essential to human life.  And towns have utilized large amounts of Apeatheia to protect the towns from attacks by the large monsters as they are used as barriers.

The film introduces us to a young Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo, two knights who have joined Niren Corps and together with the twons, Hisca and Chastel, along with other Corps members, they are sent to investigate an abnormality as aer is gushing outdoors towards the forests.

And the gushing aer has led to the death of plants and slowly killing the forests, while animals have now become monsters.  So, the first duty of the rookies are to destroy the monster infestation near a civilized town.  But we learn immediately of how different Yuri and Flynn are, despite growing up with each other.

Yuri is action-driven and doesn’t listen to orders and his free-spirited way frustrates Flynn, who is a by-the-book soldier.

We learn that Flynn’s mentality is due to his father, a member of the Imperial Knights who disobeyed orders to fight and protect the town. Because he was killed by not following rules, Flynn has vowed to not be like his father.  But for Yuri, he has always looked up to Flynn’s father for making that decision.

But even their leader Niren, tells Flynn that until he gains more experience, he may eventually learn why his father made the decision to not listen to rules and protect the town.  Meanwhile, Niren confides to Yuri that his wife and daughter was killed because he followed the rules and didn’t protect them.  If he defied his orders, he could have saved his family and thus the reason why he respects the decision that Flynn’s father had made.

Meanwhile, things are getting worse around the area as the aeria is now creating more monsters and more death to the trees and plantation.  Making it unsafe for anyone to go into the forests and can easily cause destruction to the nearby towns.  But as Niren wants to save the people in towns by finding out the reason of the gushing aer,  Commandant Alexei who wants the group to stand down and enjoy the formal gathering at the imperial capital of Zaphias.

But in a position to save people or follow orders, Niren makes the decision to gather the Niren Corps to investigate the gushing of the aer.  This upsets Flynn because it goes against the orders set by the Commandant but since he is part of the Niren Corps, he has no choice but to listen to his superior, Niren.

And now the Niren Corps must do what they can to find what is causing the problem of gushing aer outside of the civilized town.

VIDEO:

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is HD native.  As the film is produced by Production I.G., for those familiar with the company know they are dedicated to quality.  Best known for their beautiful art backgrounds, “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is an animated film that manages to keep the look of the “Tales of Vesperia” videogame when it comes to character design but also manages to bring in that very detailed look that Production I.G. is known for.

Beautiful lush backgrounds, detailed scenery… it’s what I expect from Production I.G. and they deliver.  Black levels are nice and deep,  I detected no banding or any artifacts.  “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” looks great on Blu-ray and for those who enjoyed the “Tales of Vesperia” video game or fans of action adventure anime, will definitely enjoy the overall look of this animated film.

AUDIO:

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is presented in Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1.  Because the film does feature quite a bit of action, the film definitely utilizes the surround channels for ambiance but also for the major action sequences from explosions or during battle.  There is a good amount of LFE during those action sequences and overall the lossless soundtrack is very good for this animated film.  As for the voice acting, both are well done but I did notice that for the English version, FUNimation opted for voice actors (for the characters of Yuri and Flynn)  that sound older than their Japanese counterpart.  But both vocal soundtracks are well-acted!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” comes with the following special features:

  • Promotional Footage Collection – (8:28) The promotional video for “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike”.
  • Picture Sound  – (3:24) A musical feature showcasing the art of “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike”.
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:34) Official FUNimation trailer for “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike”.
  • Previews – FUNimation Entertainment and BioWare trailers

EXTRAS:

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” comes with a slipcover case.

As a fan and collector of the “Tales” series, I have been following the game since it was first released.

With each release, you pretty much know that you’re going to get an epic tale and be introduced to a wonderful group of characters.

But with “Tales of Vesperia”, the video game was among the few Japanese RPG titles released in the United States that collector’s were excited about because it was one of the first RPG collector’s series to be released in America.  Granted, back then it was a metal case and a soundtrack but for fans of the series, “Tales of Vesperia” was a “Tales” game that many people purchased or is still being sought after by collectors today.

And for those who had the opportunity to play the game, the storyline was of the RPG was captivating especially when it came to the rivalry amongst friends/rivals Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo.

But with all that was featured in the video game, you knew that these two characters had some major back-story and sure enough, to showcase their history, Production I.G. created an anime series based on these two characters but also the the discussion of guilds, blastia and aer.

While I haven’t watched the four episode series of “Tales of Symphonia”, I have watched and reviewed the anime series “Tales of the Abyss”.  “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is rather interesting because it’s a prequel and it is the first animated film that is based on an actual video game.

And as much as I enjoyed the film, it is also somewhat of a caveat for western audiences who don’t play video games.  Personally, I found “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” to be accessible to any anime fan, if you have or haven’t played the video games.  The reason being is that while Yuri and Flynn are showcased in the film, other characters are not in the video game.  The story was written in a way that anyone can watch it, without having knowledge of the video game and the fact that it’s a prequel does help a lot.

In fact, I’ll also say that for an animated film inspired by a video game, “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is one of the better animated films that was created.  So, many animated films based on a video game stray too far from what people loved about the video game or has a storyline that is not well-planned.  Fortunately, “”Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” compliments the actual video game, so it was another reason why I enjoyed this film.

As for the Blu-ray release, the animation for the film compliments the video game by its look and feel.  Production I.G. is my favorite anime studio because they emphasize detail for their art backgrounds and for the most part, they are known for their quality.  And “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” looks and sounds great in HD.  While I did enjoy both English and Japanese soundtracks, I did notice that both Yuri and Flynn do sound much older than their Japanese counterparts in the film.  But regardless, both are well-done when it comes to voice acting.

And while there are a few special features included, I was surprised that there were not featurettes promoting or linking the actual video game. It’s something that you are used to seeing on anime releases with a video game tie-in.  But you do get a few special features and with the Blu-ray release, the additional DVD.

“Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is a worthy prequel because it really goes into the history of Yuri and Flynn’s rivalry and how both are friends but yet rivals with two different mentalities.  Yuri is headstrong and does what he feel is right, regardless of rules or regulations.  Flynn thinks before acting and follows the rules of the Knight.  And sure enough, viewers get to see why the two friends have this attitude towards each other from the video game to this animated prequel.  And also, you do get a few cool characters such as the commanding officer Niren Fedroc but also the fascinating twin sisters Hisca and Chastel Aiheap.  Also, you get to see more of Yuri’s dog Repede when he was a puppy.

Overall, whether or not you are a “Tales” fan or one who loved the “Tales of Vesperia” video game, if you are looking for an animated film with adventure and plenty of action, “Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike” is an animated film worth checking out.

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