What if the main character wasn’t the hero? The case of Tales of Zestiria the X


I’ll be the first to say that I’m not the most difficult person to please when it comes to my anime. If you want to rehash a cool concept and use it again and again, I’m usually pretty cool with that as long as it’s well written with some interesting characters. However, every so often I, like most people, hypothesise on what would make for a great story and it was when I was watching Tales of Zestiria the X that an idea last crossed my mind.

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Without turning this into a review of the two cour series, suffice it to say, Tales of Zestiria is a 24 episode series that follows the journey of Sorey from country bumpkin to saviour of the world. It’s an emotionally charged, action packed coming-of-age tale with some beautiful animation and a colourful palette that makes for generally enjoyable viewing.

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One of the strongest aspects of the show in my opinion though is the side characters, most notably Alisha and Rose. If this was a review of the show I could tell you about the in depth back story given to each of these characters that helps to shape and justify the way in which they interact with the rest of the cast and the story more generally. It is testament to the writing of these characters that, in the first season in particular, you feel that they are necessary to the progression of Sorey’s journey.

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However, that’s not really what I want to talk about. Sorey is without doubt a hero who needs to learn and develop so that by the end of the final episode he can save the episode. This is a guy that can communicate with spirits, use magic, slay dragons and take on all of humanity’s evil, so of course it’s natural for the focus of the show to be on him. It occurred to me though that actually, Tales of Zestiria the X might be even better if all of the events pertaining to Sorey’s eventual saving of the world and balancing of malevolence, etc., etc., was seen through the eyes of one of the exceptionally well written side characters.

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This approach obviously wouldn’t work with the majority of action fantasy shows as the supporting cast often tend to stick with the main character throughout the majority of the story. This is not the case if Tales of Zestiria. For much of the first and second season Alisha is not actually with Sorey and the seraphim as she is busy trying to save her own little part of the world as forgotten princess of a kingdom.

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All of this hit me as I was watching Sorey gain more powers, using his strange kind of magic and never really losing to anyone. This is of course great for my shounen loving tendencies, but it doesn’t particularly make for a unique experiences. Imagine though, if we got, instead, to follow Alisha who hears the story of Sorey the hero Shepherd through fragmented messages that have travelled great distances to get to her, and thus, us the viewer. All the while, we would get to experience Alisha’s equally important story as she fights against the micro-problem of malevolence in the city of Ladylake and all of the associated problems that go with it.

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This wouldn’t mean we would never see Sorey and his mythical seraphim saving the world in the same way that in the story’s preferred incarnation we still get to see Alisha when the two cross paths.

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My point then is that while the hero of the world is obviously very exciting, important and, typically, powerful, they don’t always have to be the primary focus of a story. Tales of Zestiria the X is one of the best examples to show this because, as many who have also seen it will testify, the threat of Sorey ever losing never feels particularly close in a typical example of shounen plot armour.

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What do you think of the hero taking a backseat role in anime? Can you think of any anime where this is the character setup? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Thanks for reading! 😀

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8 thoughts on “What if the main character wasn’t the hero? The case of Tales of Zestiria the X”

  1. That’s quite an interesting concept there but I think I agree that Alisha’s side of the story would make for an interesting watch. She was a good side character in season one and the problems she had made the stuff going around her more interesting than what Sorey was doing because we knew he would win. That was not the same case for Alisha. Thinking about it, seeing Alisha’s struggles, her meeting Sorey and then Sorey’s eventual triumph may have made for an interesting sequence. Who knows.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas! That was quite interesting to read! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s that thing about seeing the main character win over and over and there never being any doubt about it that really got my thinking about it. It’s not that I want to see the main character defeated, it would just be nice not to always be able to guess the result of a battle before it starts.
      Thanks for commenting your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s true. With Sorey it was way too predictable. You didn’t even have to watch the second season to know the outcome of the show. It’s nice when the show leaves you guessing because that does make it more interesting.
        My pleasure! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This would actually be kind of cool if we followed an ordinary character who just happened to know the hero. The ordinary character would deal with ordinary problems but occasionally get swept up in stuff. The hero would be off doing heroic things but occasionally drop in to help out. It could work. But no, I can’t think of any examples where this has happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, it is a shame that there isn’t an anime of some kind like it out there. I can see that there might be a problem creating interest in an original concept, but I could imagine a spinoff from an original series focusing on a popular side character doing reasonably well.

      Ah well, it’s always nice to imagine these things, even if they are unlikely to ever exist. Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe Medaka Box could count. Zenkichi is the main character yet his childhood friend is the one who is overpowered while he initially starts as just a supporting character.

    Puelle Magi Madoka Magica could also count. Madoka doesn’t do much in the series and the true protagonist is probably Homura.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to check Medaka Box out, I’m not sure I’ve even heard of it before! Thanks for the suggestion.

      Madoka is a good shout, especially in the second half of the series when it the reality of the whole thing becomes clear.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mmm. Didn’t watch the show but the manga was something else. A lot of wordplay and written by the writer of Bakemonogatari. It’s both clever and stupid at the same time.

        Mmm.

        Liked by 1 person

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