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 (and their village’s teacher) Raine 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 are exist elves. They live reclusive lives hidden in villages like Heimdall among the trees, and choose to isolate themselves from society because breeding half-elves (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 have neither, and disgust for human blood in an elf body, both humans and elves decided to hate 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, magic users with longevity in 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 that 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. 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 his brutal nature and execution of his plans are 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 can 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 some day 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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Sora no Woto, How Oh~So Sweet the Sound

A spoiler-free review of the 12-episode (+2 OVAs) winter 2010 anime “Sora no Woto” or “Sound of the Sky,” produced by A-1 Pictures, directed by Mamoru Kanbe (original work).

In the outbreak of world war between namely Rome and Helvetia, Kanata Sorami was saved by an enchanting trumpeter who appeared to her like a goddess. Years later, 15-year-old Kanata, still driven by the savior music, enlists in the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army to learn not to fight, but how to play the bugle. This particular all-female platoon is located on the edge of “No Man’s Land” in a tiny town called Seize, however, and as a result becomes the butt end of a joke, isolated from combat and mocked by other platoons and even townspeople.

This doesn’t faze the lackadaisical girls, though. Instead, through Kanata’s cheery smile, they seek sounds of joy and beauty even in a world ravaged by war.

I already know the first thing you’re probably wondering: Rome?

Why yes, Rome.

Sound of the Sky is set in a post-apocalyptic world where that “No Man’s Land,” hundreds of miles of desert wasteland, presumably dominates most of the continent – Perhaps even the world. What we zoom in on is the budding town of Seize and its Strike Witches-esque vibe minus all of the, well, boobage. Clearly, the story is set in the future, as both armies pilot giant spider-like mechs and tear each other to shreds. Plus, Japan is but an ancient culture by now. What’s interesting is that the overall tone and use of technology is reminiscent of WWII, heck, even WWI.

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And that’s when this anime strikes a favorite ambience of mine. The “Old Ruin Dystopia.” It’s a term I invented for European-inspired worlds where, despite the obvious advances in technology, people still cling to old-fashioned devices and living (no offense to Europe, that’s just how the architecture looks). Familiar settings include Castle in the Sky, Fractale, Megaman Legends (not an anime, but it fits) and very few others. Call it what you will, but the concept’s interworking with not only the setting but with the characters, too, is what truly makes this a kind of utopia for myself.

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The 1121st is not a platoon, but rather a family considering its lax position. Commanding officer Filicia Heideman functions as the squad’s mother, being at times aloof yet completely wary of the moods of others. Sergeant major Rio Kazumiya AKA 2nd-in-command would be the metaphorical father of the family, whipping the other girls into shape yet with a compassionate demeanor. Private Kureha Suminoya is the easily-flustered and strong-willed “younger sister” that begs for attention but is easy to talk to. Meanwhile, Noel Kannagi is that “younger brother” who, although always falling asleep, is both smart and supportive. That leaves Kanata, the runt of the litter whose optimism is overwhelmingly contagious as she tries her hardest to progress in trainings – Athletic and musical.

The gang’s all here, including warped owl-kun

BEEPBOOPBEEEEEPBEEEEEE . . . don’t worry, my private lesson teacher had the same face

The structure of the story manages to round out each of the characters wonderfully, even placing backstory for each girl logically within the plot. They might be based on regular anime tropes, but WHO CARES? Contrast between these fine women works brilliantly in the military theme, while the personality also uplifts many pleasant slice-of-life moments. These characters just work in Sound of the Sky’s favor!

‘Moe’ is one word to describe the animation, but ‘lovely’ is a better one. Characters are drawn up in that slice-of-life firsthand look, which is odd coming from A-1 Pictures. Regardless, their naturally pure look and moving flow gives them an adorable aesthetic quality that helps lighten the mood. CG combat with the tanks was also pretty badass. Even better yet was the astounding scenery of Seize and its neighboring land, like wow! The atmosphere established in the animation department brings out those rare moments where no words could describe the enchanting landscape.

And yes – An anime about music is complete with a fantastic soundtrack provided by Michiru Oshima! Her rendition of “Amazing Grace,” albeit not my favorite song, was made most appropriate for this anime. The rest of the score encompasses heavy string and lute tunes with solo trumpet that are all equally enchanting. Music has not made me so emotional such a long time, however, until “Servante Du Feu,” a French ballad, played during the most impactful moment of the show (episode 12). Guys, it’s a feels trip.

But we can’t forget the reason I got hooked on this anime – the opening, “Hikari no Senritsu,” and I’m proud to announce, my all-time favorite Kalafina song! If an opening had ever fitted its show so well, it’s right here! Rich and bold, yet delicate as a flower at the same time. Not to mention, its animation depicting the girls in the goddess garb is hauntingly beautiful. Ending theme “Girls, Be Ambitious.” by Haruka Tomatsu also deserves a shout out for being so radically upbeat!

soranowotodanceSound of the Sky, through the tragedy of war, remains a tale dedicated to finding beauty in music and friendship even during desperate times. It shines in revealing how music can really change the world and empower minds to overcome the toughest of challenges. Though the characters might slide you by, the ambience of the show is unforgettable. It’s a shame that it leaves us believing there is so much more for Kanata and friends, but what we got is – without a doubt – a phenomenal anime. Don’t let the obscurity of this title slip by – Its message of peace is simple, powerful, idealistic, and full of heart. So much heart . . .

“Hey, Rio. You were asking if there was some meaning in this world. When I was the only one who survived, it was all I could think about. Why had I, alone, survived? What did it mean? And I realized, I’m sure there’s no meaning in this world. But isn’t that wonderful? That means you can find your own. And I’ve found mine. The meaning to my being here . . .” – Filicia Heideman

+ Characters guide the show and its message fittingly and passionately

+ “Old Ruin Dystopia”ambiance established perfectly

+ Quality of scenery is astonishing

+ All music nails the atmosphere

– Poor localization (no Blu-Ray nor English dub)

This one stole my heart. Let it steal yours by watching it for free on Crunchyroll! Just know that if you own that Limited Edition 2011 version released by Nozomi I’d be willing to trade my SOUL!!! That’s right, if you want Takuto’s soul, just send LTD ED moe soldiers my way. A “Caffe Mocha” whipped with happy and sad feels. Thank you for reading! I’ve nothing more to say. Enjoy your day 🙂

– Takuto, your host

Parasyte -the maxim- Review

I kid you not, as I was following this show during the fall season, I found myself acting in this more “unemotional or robotic” way. I didn’t really talk to people, I only ate and slept for energy, and I even recognized all of the unnecessary and disgusting things some of my friends do. Upon finishing my simulcasts as of late, I noticed what was manipulating me – possibly one of the most influential anime I’ve seen to date – Parasyte -the maxim-.

They called themselves alien beings, but we know them better as Parasites . . .

Izumi Shinichi is a lanky and awkward 17-year-old high school boy who lives peacefully with his mom and dad. One night, tiny aliens silently rained from the sky, burrowing themselves into humans and taking over their brains. As one of the worms tries to crawl into Shinichi’s ear, the headphones he wore while sleeping blocked the entrance. It tries to drill itself into his right hand, but Shinichi rips off the ear buds and ties them around his arm, preventing the bug from entering his brain.

Forced to coexist with “Migi,” the two form a close bond (literally!). And while the separately conscious pair stumble into other Parasites on the streets, the two form strategies and acquire new skills to ensure their survival.

Though I don’t care much for this survival of the fittest concept, Parasyte at the very least deserves the award for one of the most well-paced anime I’ve ever seen – and it keeps this effort up until about episode 18/24, after which it dramatically slows down to introduce the core villain, but picks back up again in the last couple episodes for a satisfying conclusion. The only con to this ending is the still-unknown origin of the Parasites, but hey, I really didn’t care about that by the end.

So an impressively-paced anime must include some interesting characters, right? Absolutely, and Izumi Shinichi’s dynamic yet gradual change from absolute human to slightly less than machine couldn’t have been more fleshed out than this! The struggles, externally and internally, of what it truly means to be “human” that Shinichi overcome are seriously scary – Do you think you could kill another (or several) human(s), one bearing a child at that? Sure, his foes are technically Parasites, but it’s damned hard to tell in some cases! Great developing character; an ideal lead for the “did nothing wrong” trope.

Representing the cold, harsh truth is Migi, Shinichi’s newly named right hand after the Parasite took over it. Because he is attached to his body, he receives nutrients from the food Shinichi eats, meaning that he has no need to kill humans for food. He doesn’t understand humans. The rational Migi values his own life over all others, threating to kill anyone whom Shinichi leaks the news to. As the series progresses, however, Migi slowly reveals a human side, and as it happens, Shinichi is absorbed more into the monstrous nature; the Parasite lifestyle. It’s a brilliant concept that is executed without flaw.

Shinichi and Migi deserve another round of applause for their superb voice actor and actress, Nobunaga Shimazaki and Aya Hirano, respectively. Shinichi’s confusion, transformation, and choking on blood sounds convincingly realistic, and Migi’s emotionless yet matter-of-fact speech is one of this show’s charms. Migi is so gosh darn cute – especially when he/it detaches from the arm and waddles around :3

The only other interest is Tamura Reiko, Shinichi’s substitute math teacher who is actually a Parasite. I won’t spoil the crimes that she commits, but she almost outdoes Shinichi in the transforming humanism aspect. She is a key character because, though she does kill to survive, Tamura is among the few that question their own origin by “experimenting” on other Parasites and humans. Let’s just say that when she’s taken out of the picture, the story as a whole loses some drive and fundamental curiosity.

Shinichi’s friend/love interest Satomi Murano is an annoying piece of sh*t.

If you enjoy more realistic animation, then you’ll enjoy what Madhouse has to offer. With the exception of the “anime eyes,” everything is pretty proportional. To me, the flesh-colored tones and dull colors are boring, but despite that the animation is indeed solid. The UNSENCORED BLOODY Parasite fights nice; intense and fluid in motion, using bright colors during quick and deadly execution. In contrast, emotional or romantic scenes feature cool/rich colors to mellow out the mood and add a sense of hearth.

And while Migi had some personality, all of the other Parasites were just the same monster; variety is not prominent in this anime.

I am torn when it comes to the OST. Parasyte is infamous for its use of dubstep BGM, even though there are killer monstrosities on the run. That, I can understand, makes for some lackluster encounters. On the other hand, there’s a music box-sounding track that plays during parts where you’re like, “Oh man, something really bad is going to happen any minute now.” The soundtrack is very enjoyable when it plays the right song, but otherwise it can draw away from the mood.

The first part of the strong opening (verse) “Let Me Hear” by fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas is really freakin’ cool, however, from the chorus and on the opening is just a screamo song. My thoughts aside, it fit the show quite well. The ending, “IT’S THE RIGHT TIME” by Daichi Miura beautifully wraps up each episode with melancholy and a longing to just go home. Though I absolutely love the song, it doesn’t fit well when some episodes end on the world’s largest cliffhanger. 😀

Parasyte -the maxim- succeeds at appealing to all levels of relationship: maternal, paternal, friendship, mutuality, comradery, and by distant acquaintance. Its address on the qualities of humanity attacks your very soul, challenging and questioning you as to what it truly means to be “human.” This anime does lack notable supporting and antagonistic roles, but it’s nevertheless an exciting story of power struggle. Because of its uncensored, slasher gore, the horror that is Parasyte is not for young or soft viewers. But for those who can handle the gripping thrill ride, do yourself a favor and check it out!

“I might be about to commit an irredeemable sin as a human being, but can I say that an organism has no right to live just because it’s harmful? Even if it is not beneficial to humans, to Earth, it may actually be . . .” – Izumi Shinichi

Parasyte -the maxim- has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks, so we can expect an English dub soon, fingers crossed – this is Sentai, after all. For legal streaming, the whole series is out there on Crunchyroll for FREE! Did you like this anime? Feel free to like and comment! Until next time, this has been

-Takuto, your host