Tales of the Abyss: The Animation Review

After watching Tales of Symphonia I just had to check out more from the Tales series. Sadly, Tales of the Abyss was more of a letdown for me. So if I didn’t care for it then why write a review? Plot ideas can be tricky to come up with, I’ll admit, but when a story has too many ideas it ends up as a convoluted train wreck. The main story of Abyss derails itself so often that I found myself sleeping during the show, only waking myself up to see the character back stories. With that said, I want to inform you of the really cool aspects of this show, the occasionally crumbling plot aside.

Set in the common medieval atmosphere the Tales series likes to enforce, Auldrant is a world run by the Score, a prophecy written many years ago. Luke fon Fabre, the spoiled yet confined heir of the kingdom of Kimlasca, spends his afternoon in sword training with Master Van until a mysterious woman by the name of Tear Grants shows with the intent of taking Van’s life. Suddenly, Luke and Tear are warped across the world to the opposing empire of Malkuth. Now that Luke has the freedom he has dreamed of for so long, he begins to realize why he was restricted from the world, who he really is, and what his hidden powers are. All the while there is a band of look-alikes that are trying to kill the heroes, a not-so-holy church that wants Luke, a sea of miasma that threatens to destroy the planet, and an oncoming war between the two kingdoms.

These plot ideas sound kinda cool, no? But when all of them are thrown together it doesn’t benefit the anime.  Speaking of adaptations, Tales of the Abyss the Animation is actually based on an RPG, but an anime was released later on. You can ask anyone, but Tales of the Abyss is by far the closest recreation of a Tales RPG in anime format. Most of the scenes are translated exactly like they appear in the game, not taking away from the Abyss vibe.

I do not remember all of the characters from this series, and that is really a bummer because they all link together in one way or another.  Tear, a Seventh Fonist for the Order of Lorelei is a character I enjoyed because of her straight forwardness and her knack of guiding Luke in the right direction. She remains a strong and reserved character through the duration of the story. Though she acts coldly to Luke on occasion, she is quite respectful and well-mannered to everyone else. A second character whom I enjoyed was Jade Curtiss, the necromancer of fonic artes and a Malkuth army colonel. He is a generally happy character, but he doesn’t reveal his preferences or personality, making him seem complex to the other characters. With his dark background, one couldn’t tell if Jade was acting for the greater good or if he had something planned up his sleeve. The only problem with Jade was that some of his later happenings were predictable, but it is also like this in the game, so whateves. I love the way the Japanese always pronounced him as “Jeido Kaatisu” – I still call him that today!

Other than those couple characters, I found the rest of the cast to be decent, but nothing spectacular. Most of the best scenes were not when something epic was happening, but when all of the characters were just conversing with one another. The interactions were golden, especially any of them with Jade or Tear. The anime had also included many notable flashback scenes in just the right places to help flush out characters. A character death in particular made me bawl for hours; it was the way in which he made it sound that did me in. With as big a cast as this one, it felt as if some characters (clones or noblemen) were placed in just to balance another, and that is not how it should be! But it is an RPG, so some of those characters are necessary. Other than that, character motives made sense and dialogue was pretty interesting.

The OST for Abyss stands as . . . suitable, actually. Listening then and now, the concert band songs are beautiful and express grandeur. They keep to a fantasy adventure theme that sounds as if the pieces came straight out of the game, which they might have. Some tracks like Tear’s song that she sings and “Peaceful Times” are especially easy to remember. Most of the characters have a fitting theme that is a perfect reflection of their personality. The opening theme “Karma” by BUMP OF CHICKEN is the same opening the game uses, so fans of the game can appreciate that. Personally, I rock out to that song! All-in-all, the soundtrack is decent classical dance as it appropriately captures the moments from traumatizing to engaging.

Tales of the Abyss was animated by Sunrise Inc. in 2008, and they did a great job of adapting the art from the game into an anime. Again, I have not played the game, but if you view some concept art you will notice the breathtaking similarities. One of the highlights for this show was the artwork for the landscapes. Characters might just be conversing or walking into town and the background animation is just splendid! Adding in that and the year it was done up makes Tales of the Abyss one of the best animated adaptations for the Tales series.

While I may have been bored or confused at times, that does not mean that the entirety of the show was uninteresting. There were many entertaining scenes that make up for the tedious ones. The anime is definitely an adventure, but whether it is one I would traverse, I would have to say no. Show-wise I was amused, but it was not a driving force by any means; it is not one where you would drop whatever you were doing just to watch it.

I was not changed or moved in any way by this anime. It was good, yes, but no more than that. Other than a few characters and plot points, I can’t recall much from this anime other than it was a mess. While this show did not push me to do anything in particular like high-ranking anime should, this show was my first “okay” anime, for everything up until then was no letdown. If you enjoy somewhat heart-filling adventures with action and great music, are investing yourself in the vast Tales series, or are looking for new ideas to use in writing, gaming, or whatever, then this show is for you. Otherwise, spend your time with something more beneficial and organized.

Though I didn’t pick up a copy, you can purchase all four parts by Bandai Entertainment (sub only) on Rightstuf.com. I’m sorry if I sound like I hate this anime – maybe I just can’t appreciate all that it has to offer. Hopefully you will have better luck with this one! Until my next review, I’ll pass on Tales of the Abyss with a push of my sketchy Jade glasses and a wave of fonon arte magic as I steal an apple from the Malkuth marketplace, because, you know, “why do I have to pay for it?”

Thanks for reading!

– Takuto, your host