Tales of Symphonia Orchestrates Racial Harmony By Overcoming Great Tragedy| OWLS “Colors”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  fourth monthly topic, “Colors,” I decided hit up a show that originates from a GameCube JRPG—the one and only Tales of Symphonia which was, fun fact, the SECOND anime I had ever watched!! You know what that means—aww yeah, old-school Takuto wrote a dope review about it (here) years ago that is littered with grammatical errors but full of heart. It currently has zero comments and likes, so go mess that up for me, will ya? Be gentle 🙂

We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how people of color or
characters of different “races” (could be a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial
characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.

I had the recent pleasure of finally finishing the Tales of Symphonia PS3 game recently, so I’m excited let the experience come full circle by revisiting one of the titles that got me into anime. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the various races and factions that appear in the 2007-2012 11-episode OVA series “Tales of Symphonia: The Animation,” based off the GameCube game by the same name, created by Bandai-Namco, produced by Ufotable, directed by Haruo Sotozaki (“Tales of Zestiria”). SPOILER WARNING

When One World Flourishes, the Other Withers

Enter Sylvarant, a fantasy world of monsters yet very little magic. Why? The mana that flows through the realm has been draining out for a long time now, and it seems that the land will only grow drier (literally) with each passing day. Little to the peoples’ knowledge, a second world exists out there, one that mirrors their own home, and the reason it prospers and thrives is because the mana flow resembles that of an hourglass, Tethe’alla, this second world, residing on the bottom.

This is where the Chosen one comes to save the day! “Chosen” by the heavens, Colette Brunel of Sylvarant sets out on her quest of World Regeneration to flip the hourglass back in their favor. But her clumsiness and well-being worry her friends Lloyd Irving and Genis Sage. So the two, along with Genis’s older sister Raine (who happens to be their village’s teacher) and a mysterious mercenary named Kratos, embark on a journey, encountering new friends and more foes with their own philosophies that will forever shake the foundations of their precious world that they’ve studied for so long.

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Just when our gang finally learns to love the world for what it is, things take one tragic turn after another, forcing our heroes to question the reason they fight, and whether their quest is one of nobility or selfishness. Remember, when one world flourishes, the other withers—people are bound to make great sacrifices.

Symphonia remains one of the top, if not THE #1 game in the incredible Tales franchise. Rife with gorgeous visuals, dramatic Celtic-inspired music, and heartbreaking characters, the animation holds on its own by establishing a fantasy adventure world (or two) where there’s always something to be lost for one of its characters. As the series progresses, we viewers, too, begin to question if a happy ending even exists for this broken cast of many ages and races. Symphonia tackles the harsh realities of acceptance and racism through its memorable characters.

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Oppressed, Punished, and Exiled

In this vast fantasy world, several races and factions exist, most of which frequently bump heads with one another. Aside from the dwarves, who lead quieter pastimes as master craftsman, there exist elves. They live reclusive lives hidden in villages among the trees, like Heimdall, and choose to isolate themselves from society because half-elf breeding (the result of human x elf mating) is frowned upon. Largely stemming from human jealousy—for elves have much longer lifespans and can use magic, but humans possess neither—and disgust for one’s blood to be tainted by the others’ race, both humans and elves decided to hate the “perfect” half-elves all around, which leads us to Symphonia‘s most tragic bunch.

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Half-elves cower at the tip of every whip cracked and at the shackles of every chain latched. Disdain from both humans and elves has caused these poor people to be punished for their mixed blood, and, if they are lucky, exiled from the land. Some literally fled to a floating isle called Exire to avoid their tragic fate. Those who could not escape detainment were hunted down, beaten, and even tortured. The main reason for their abuse, aside from their physical make-up, derives from the legend of the the great Kharlan War. In it, humans and elves fought over the two countries, Sylvarant and Tethe’alla, which left half-elves, near-omnipotent magic users with longevity in beautiful human bodies, to be caught in the crossfire.

If We Could Just Include Instead of Exclude . . . 

Lloyd Irving, the main character, was raised by a dwarven father, meaning that he has seen the abuse from a more objective standpoint than that of a human, elf, or half-elf. Out of rage for their treatment, the Desians, a treacherous organization of half-elves, had swept through Sylvarant, enslaving humans and sacrificing them to create enhancing magic crystals called Exspheres. What they are doing is wrong, and Lloyd knows it, clutching his own mother’s Exsphere from when she was still among the living.

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With a burning desire to end all enslavement and restore the two worlds to one so that all can live in harmony together, Lloyd uses his own experience with the people he holds dear to guide his quest. When it is revealed early on that his best friend Genis and sister Raine are, in fact, half-elves, Lloyd doesn’t grief or retaliate harshly. There’s even a scene where Genis mourns because he knows that when Lloyd and all of his friends eventually pass away, he will be left behind alive but lonely. Instead, Lloyd sympathizes, and smiles because he is still able to enjoy their company in the present, looking beyond racial treatment and into the value of their personality.

Genis himself undergoes his own journey when he meets the great Mithos, suppposed Hero of the Kharlan War. In actuality, he manifests as a young half-elf boy just like Genis who only wished for a world where he and his sister Martel could live in peace. Viewing Mithos as a painful mirror of his very being, Genis seeks solace in this poor boy. Unlike Lloyd’s determination to seek symphonic harmony with all races, however, Mithos sought to convert everyone into one homogeneous kind, believing that if race didn’t exist, then neither would racism. The boy is right and his ideals are true, but the execution of his plans via brutal nature was naive and cruel. The heart was in the right place, but the mind wasn’t, and that’s why Mithos continues to suffer until his own sister rejects him.

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We need more people like Lloyd and Genis—people who have had experiences with trauma on both sides, yet still manage to see the good in others regardless of their race or status. But there’s only one way to handle this matter carefully. Rather than force people to accept the beautiful array of colored people on this planet, shoving our own ideals down their ignorant throats, we need to integrate warm, positive spirits into communities that suffer from racial exclusion.  We must value the characters, not appearances, of all different peoples in order to end this childish thinking.

Dividing the world into two so that people could exist on separate planes was not the answer. Same goes for establishing one master race. The weight of Lloyd’s unwavering acceptance and determination to create a world for everyone is the greatest joy that can come from the series. It’s the hope that someday we can all overcome our own tragedies to play in one harmonic symphony together that makes “Tales of Symphonia” ring true to so many hearts. Life in this kind of new world begins not by looking at what which makes us different, but celebrating what we share in common, and that is beautiful. 

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“Dwarven Vow #1: Let’s all work together for the sake of a peaceful world.” – Lloyd Irving

Tales of Symphonia is a really neat show full of heartwarming themes and deep characters, so do check it out if this kind of fantasy is your thing! For those who have seen it, what do you think of the game or its anime adaptation? What about how it’s emotional bits are portrayed? I preferred the anime’s flow in this department, but hey, let me know your thoughts!

This concludes my April 22nd entry in the OWLS “Colors” blog tour. Please check out Stephanie Clarke’s (Anime Girls NYC) post over the darker colored villains from the currently popular Twin Star Exorcists! And now the magic will trickle down to Eren (sakuradaisuki) as she walks us through “Colors” in the dear-to-heart Sailor Moon on Monday, April 24th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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19 thoughts on “Tales of Symphonia Orchestrates Racial Harmony By Overcoming Great Tragedy| OWLS “Colors”

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  6. Wow, this was a great post, Takuto! I never got around to playing or watching Tales of Symphonia but you sure do an amazing job selling it!
    The themes inherent in ToS is really applicable to real life situations since some people seem hesitant to embrace couples that aren’t of the same ethnicity. I know you talked more at length about the half-elves (who really suffered, wow), but I imagine the elves who loved humans and vice versa faced discrimination, as well.
    A friend of mine is not Asian and is married to someone who is, for instance. She faces racism not only from total strangers (one cashier asked if she knew how to use hoisin sauce when she was buying a bottle from an Asian supermarket! My friend enjoys making traditional dishes to please her husband’s palette) but from her own in-laws! They ended up having to get married without his parents’ knowledge. Thankfully they slowly warmed up to the idea, but the fact that the couple experiences such discrimination is ridiculous.
    Once again, wonderful post. We must continue to hope that, in the future, people will stop such childish thinking and embrace our similarities rather than our differences. Thank you for being as engaging and thoughtful as usual!

    Liked by 2 people

    • (Forewarning, I am now getting around to catching up on all of the 2017 OWLS posts, so sorry for any late responses coming out here shortly!)

      As for discrimination on all sides, oh yes, it was quite apparent. If I recall, there were a couple characters that were exclusively elf or exclusively human that have their own backstories full of abuse for liking someone on the other side (Kratos), very much like a Romeo x Juliet scenario. Glad you pointed that out!

      It is stories like yours that truly convince me that discrimination will never completely disappear. As long as something “different” about another exists—however major or minor—people will exploit that difference, typically as justification for point of view. They don’t always necessarily do it to feel better; they might do it to protect their heritage (ex. “White” people are characterized as bringing messy emotions and sloppy manners, while Asian people are likely ridiculed from a physical standpoint, be it facial features or more. That said, racially stubborn families on both sides want to maintain the purity of their own race.)

      Natalie Tran of her YouTube channel “Community Channel” just posted a video detailing her in-depth experiences while searching for why white men date and marry Asian women, and why it typically doesn’t go the other way around. Besides the fact that I love her to pieces, it’s also a very interesting video. As a half-Asian myself, I’ll recommend it to you—you may find answers to the questions that my post does not elaborate further in her vid. I’ll leave it below!

      As you said, all we can do is hope—hope that one day, we become INTELLIGENT enough and CARING enough to NOT point out what makes us different, and instead relish in what unites us. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment! It’s not often that I get these, but I know I can always rely on you for an equally engaging conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

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  8. What a lovely review of a game! My brother loves this series so I recognized Lloyd and kind of understood what you were talking about… I loved when you said: “Rather than force people to accept the beautiful array of colored people on this planet, shoving our own ideals down their ignorant throats, we need to integrate warm, positive spirits into communities that suffer from racial exclusion—we must value the characters, not appearances, of all different peoples in order to end this childish thinking.”

    Integrating warm and positive spirits and valuing character i.e. Actions over ideas sounds like such a beautiful way to create change!

    What a fun idea this OWLs thing is… I found you from the carnival post so know a ting bit about it. Thanks 🌈❤️🌟

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, Dani, thank you so much for stopping by! Arria’s carnivals have also taken me to so many different sites and their bloggers, and for that, and OWLS, I’m thankful.

      I’m glad the game has interested you—and to your brother, he’s got good taste! I also have a brother who does more gaming than I do, and watching him/hearing about the things he plays is something I’m all too familiar with. 😀

      About the post, I’m overjoyed that you liked that line. To be honest, it kinda just “came out” while writing, and quickly became the main idea of the post. The theme or message from the author, if you will. And yes, my theory on change is not by promoting it over-abundantly or with heavy action, but instead by implementing people who already possess an understanding character into those closed-off spaces. People tend to reciprocate the subtle actions of others, after all!

      Many thanks again for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This sounds like a great anime to watch. I’ll definitely add it to my ever-growing to-watch list. The premise of discrimination towards half-elves by both humans and elves is very intriguing. Sounds very similar to real life situations of halfs. I like reading/watching stories like these because they hit home on the hypocrisy of accusing another group of discrimination when one’s own group is doing the same thing. Great post, Taku. As always. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arria, it was an absolute delight, both as a child and even now as a young adult. The emotions that the characters held for one another and the rules of society felt so very real—it’s kinda right up OWLS’s alley, which is why I picked it for this month! I also find hypocrisy of any kind in anime to be fascinating, as they are almost always very relevant to our own lives. Sorry for the late reply, but thank you for reading!!


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