So I’ll start this review with the disclaimer that this anime is a prequel to a series of games I’ve never played and my total lack of knowledge of the games may affect how much I enjoyed it. It is supposed to be able to stand alone though, so…
The movie focuses on two novice knights, Yuri and Flynn. Something is causing the forest around the town where they are stationed to start to wilt and is agitating the monsters within it. It’s also interfering with the magic devices Yuri and Flynn use, limiting their ability to protect the town. They discover that the cause of the problems is an experiment in a fortress outside town, an experiment which, they understand, the higher-ups in the kingdom have authorized. Their immediate superior destroys the experiment, but loses his life in the process and shatters the barrier of the town, requiring it to be evacuated. With his commanding officer dead, hot tempered Yuri leaves the knightly order over its supposed corruption, although he bids a fond farewell to Flynn. They vow that they will one day meet again.
The animation on the DVD is on par with most anime. It’s not fantastic, but it’s not bad. The CGI, on the other hand is fairly awful. It’s really obvious and looks about ten years old. I’d love to tell you about how well the subtitling was done, but it didn’t work on my copy. Or, to be more precise, it was there, but off screen. I saw about the top quarter of every letter, which is not enough for me to use to pass judgment. I’m going to assume it was just an error on my copy rather than a systemic error. The DVD is distributed by Funimation, which usually does a good job subtitling, and I haven’t read any complaints, so I’ll, give the company the benefit of the doubt.
Due to mildly graphic violence and a few swears, I’d keep this away from anyone under 13. Other than that, it’s fine.
In the minds of many fans of just about every medium and fandom, there is no worse crime than being average. The bad stuff can be entertaining because of its flaws. The corny stuff can be endearing in its corniness. The stupid stuff is a great guilty pleasure for when you need to veg out with your brain off. And the good stuff is, well, good. But the average stuff is none of those. There are no big flaws to laugh at. There’s no endearing corniness. There’s no amusing stupidity. And there’s nothing particularly good about it. The average stuff is just kind of there, like the bread you get at a restaurant. It’s perfectly okay, but you don’t want to eat too much lest you ruin your meal, and usually it can be ignored completely to no ill effect. This is how I could describe Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike. Maybe it’s better if you have some understanding of the video games to which it’s a prequel, but I kind of doubt it (although that would probably explain the cameos). It’s not a bad anime, per se, but there’s nothing in it I can really recommend. I’d give this one a miss.