ANIME & MANGA - Review
10:40 - 23rd January 2013, by David West

Tales Of Vesperia: The First Strike

Something is very wrong in the forests around the merchant town of Shizontania. The energy force known as Aer is usually benign and can be harnessed to power a technology called Blastia that can generate force fields or energy bursts. Yet when Aer gathers in high concentrations, it turns from green to red, and causes mutations in the natural world. Now the woods around the town are crawling with mutated monsters, ravenous wolves and huge armoured crabs, and it is up to the troops under the command of Captain Fedrok to uncover the source of the Aer before the town is overrun.

Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo are new members of Fedrok's squad, fresh out of the academy. Yuri is headstrong and impetuous while Flynn is a stickler for order, tidiness and discipline. Of course, they are roommates as well as comrades in arms. Sparks, as the saying goes, fly. The odd couple thrown unwillingly together by circumstance is a well-worn device, but it provides some snap to the interplay between the young Knights.

As the prequel to a videogame, The First Strike stands up surprisingly well as a movie in its own right and you don't need to a be a fan of the game to understand events in the storyline. That said, there are many plot strands hinted at here that are left unresolved and the anime could easily sustain more episodes.

Produced by Namco-Bandai and Production IG, The First Strike looks great, with high quality animation and a smooth blending of hand drawn and CG techniques. The design work is solid - it is easy to tell the characters apart, despite the leads all wearing the same uniform, and the monsters are suitably menacing. Action scenes are a highlight thanks to strong direction and the excellent animation. The tavern brawl when Flynn and Yuri get into a dust-up with the local Guildsmen is a particular treat, with some well placed humour amongst the fisticuffs.

While the overall tone is light and playful, The First Strike finds the right balance between humour and danger. Missions are fraught with peril and not all the characters emerge unscathed. As video game spin-offs go, The First Strike is scientifically proven to be precisely two billion times better than Tekken: Blood Vengeance. Well done, young Knights. At ease.
SCORE: 4/5
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