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.
The feature Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
(2009) serves as a prequel to the popular series of Xbox 360 games. Teenage Imperial Knights Yuri and Flynn are classic, mismatched roommates: Yuri is rebellious, hot-tempered, and sloppy; Flynn is disciplined, focused, and a bit of a prig. But they must work together under swaggering captain Fedrok to protect the remote village where they're stationed. A decade after a series of wars with monsters devastated the planet, humanity obtains power from a mysterious substance known as "aer." Although the crystallized aer provides energy, it's dangerous when it becomes too concentrated. A nearby ruined castle seems to be producing massive quantities of aer, turning the forest animals into monsters that threaten the existence of the village. Captain Fedrok defies orders from HQ to lead Yuri, Flynn, and the rest of his troops on a mission to eliminate the threat. Tales of Vesperia
boasts handsome costumes and settings, and Flynn's memories of his heroic father are presented in striking, monochromatic flashbacks. What's missing is any sense of urgency or menace. Flynn and Yuri brawl in a tavern, punch each other out, and battle stone monsters, but the fights proceed at a leisurely, almost balletic pace. Director Kanta Kamei fails to infuse these sequences with the requisite energy, and the results feel limp. It would be interesting to see what a more capable filmmaker--say, Masahiro Ando of Sword of the Stranger
--would do with this potentially exciting property. (Rated TV 14: violence, tobacco and alcohol use) --Charles Solomon