Alright, it’s time I finally got around to doing this. Alisha Diphda, another character from this same series, was one of the very first characters I did a proposal for here, and I always meant to do this as well if no one else did, but I suppose summing up all the heroism of the main hero was just too intimidating. Well, now that I’ve refreshed my memory by going through the series again, today I finish what I started. For any who have played the original Tales of Zestiria game, keep in mind this is specifically about his depiction in the anime adaptation. That said, I don’t think his characterization and heroism differs that much in the game, so I think it’s likely he qualifies in both, but if there’s anything that could potentially be an issue from that version, let me know. At the very least though, I definitely think he qualifies in this version.
Oh, and I’m well aware my usual synopsis-like writing style will probably not work well here since being the main protagonist, describing every step of his journey will make this proposal really long, so I’ll do my best to only focus on his notable heroism and provide basic surrounding context, but again, he’s the main character of a TV series, so I can’t be too concise without leaving out important details. Regardless, I’ll try to strike just the right balance, but this will be a longer proposal out of necessity. Just please don’t let that scare you away if you’re interested. Anyway, time to get started.
What’s the work?
Tales of Zestiria the X is a Japanese anime television series based on both the Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Berseria video games, but primarily the former, that debuted in 2016 and ran for 2 seasons and 25 episodes (26 including a prologue episode titled "episode 0"). It follows the same basic storyline as the game, but with quite a number of specific differences in terms of exactly what happens, and how it happens. The story starts off by following Princess Alisha, the princess of Hyland from its capital city of Ladylake, who is investigating the increased presence of Malevolence, a powerful contaminating force that’s created by negative human emotions and corrupts those who are overcome by them into monsters called Hellions. She is also investigating the disappearance of the Seraphim, a spiritual race that used to keep nature running smoothly and in balance, with the few who have stuck around being corrupted by Malevolence as well and morphing into mindless dragons, capable of widespread destruction. Finally, she's trying to find out if the Shepherd, a regular person who could wield the sacred sword and be able to combine their powers with that of the elemental powers of Seraphim to purify Hellions and Malevolence itself, really exists. Early on, after a tragic incident where she loses many of her friends, she discovers Elysia, a village full of Seraphim (who are invisible to her and most humans) where she also meets a regular human named Sorey, who has grown up with them, and unlike most others, can actually see and hear them. After listening to her story regarding how bad the corruption is getting in the world and being the kindhearted person he is, Sorey decides to help her, and follows her back to the capital city of Ladylake along with his best friend, the water-based Seraphim Mikleo, only to discover he, himself, is the one who possesses the qualities that make him ideal to take up the mantle as the new Shepherd and save the world from Malevolence.
Who is he and what does he do?
Sorey is the main protagonist of the original game Tales of Zesteria, as well as its anime adaptation, Tales of Zesteria the X. He’s an upbeat and optimistic human teenager who has grown up in the capital of Elysia, which is otherwise only populated by Seraphim due to its guardian/protector, Zenrus (or “Gramps”, as he calls him) adopting him for reasons that at least in the anime, are never addressed. Unlike most people though, he has very high resonance, in part due to living among them, allowing him to see and speak to them. As he grew up, he became increasingly fascinated with a book called the Celestial Records that covers a lot of the history between humans and Seraphim, including the days when humans used to pray to them, and in turn, they would bless them and maintain balance in the world. Because of that, he also regularly enjoys exploring ancient ruins with his best friend, a Water Seraph named Mikleo, to search for relics and clues about the past so he can discover how they can return to living in harmony with one another.
One fateful day, he and Mikleo come across an unconscious girl named Alisha Diphda while exploring some ruins they haven’t been too before, and despite Mikleo reminding him he’s been warned about staying away from other humans, he feels he can’t ignore someone who might be in need, so he checks on her to make sure she’s okay, and when she comes to, he takes her back to his village. There, as he helps her recuperate and get back on her feet, she gradually opens up to him and explains about how the world is in an Age of Calamity, so to speak, with Malevolence running rampant. She also talks a lot about the Shepherd, a figure who’s prophesized to be able to pull the sacred blade, which resides in the Capital of Ladylake where she’s from, and can use it to make contracts with Seraphim to purify Malevolence and restore balance. Once she’s ready to leave, she tell him about the Sacred Blade Festival event that’s happening shortly in Ladylake where knights try to see if they’re worthy by pulling the sacred blade from its pedestal, and says he should consider participating, especially after he shares his dream of helping create a world where people and Seraphim can live together again, which resonates a lot with her. He ultimately decides to go after her out of concern after he and Mikleo come across a vicious Hellion named Lunarre, who trespasses into Elysia looking for her and expresses a desire to eat her. Zenrus acknowledges he was bound to leave and explore the world someday, so he has no issues with him departing, with Mikleo deciding to accompany him on his journey.
Okay, so now that I’ve covered the main setup in the first few episodes, I’m going to start making a more concentrated effort to abbreviate and focus more narrowly on his heroism from this point onward. His first particularly notable act happens at the Sacred Blade Festival when a Hellion with a dragon-like appearance (at least to those who can see it) manifests from the negative and uncertain emotions of many of the attendees and starts threatening the wellbeing of all present. When Alisha sees him, she encourages him to try pulling the sacred blade, which he succeeds in doing once he introduces himself to the Fire Seraph, Lailah, who serves as its guardian and has been the main companion of all the previous Shepherds, and finds both the fact he can see and hear her and his motives highly encouraging. He then armatizes with her and handily defeats it, saving the people who hadn’t already been evacuated, but falls unconscious for about 3 days due to the strain it put on his body. Alisha takes care of him while he recuperates and observes how people are becoming at least a little more hopeful now that a new Shepherd has emerged. He then tracks more Malevolence down into the city’s aqueducts and purifies a colony of bats with some help from Lailah and Mikleo. However, shortly after that, a tornado which is being caused by a dragon (remember, those are corrupted Seraphim) approaches and threatens Ladylake, but thankfully, it goes away without attacking.
A little later, Sorey accompanies Alisha when she and a sizeable amount of soldiers are sent to the town of Marlind where the people have fallen gravely ill. Along the way, he takes a detour through a mountain called Rayfolke Spiritcrest since it appeared in dragon folklore, and he’s trying to learn as much about them as he can so he can hopefully learn how to purify them, be better prepared if one attacks Ladylake again, and prevent them from spreading the great amount of Malevolence they give off. While there, he encounters an Earth Seraph named Edna and saves her from a dragon that is actually her corrupted older brother, Eizen. Though he doesn’t even come close to purifying him due to not being strong enough for such a thing, his display of power when rescuing her makes Eizen’s dormant humanity at least slightly awaken and remember who he was enough to let off on attacking them and fly away. Edna then joins him and Lailah by making a Sub Lord agreement, encouraged by his hopefulness and determination with regards to finding a way to purify her brother.
Next, he meets up with Alisha in Marlind, who is struggling alongside her soldiers to help the people there, but she’s losing hope due to them not getting any better. He finds out this is a result of a bad case of Malevolence there, which is coming from a strong source; a Drake, which is a corrupted Seraphim who has turned into a dragon-like creature, but hasn’t matured into a full dragon yet. He and the others then chase after it desperately to capture and purify it, but it still proves to be very strong without having become a dragon. Thankfully, Mikleo, who went off on his own mission to find a Divine Artifact in some ruins shortly before Sorey set off with Alisha to Marlind, comes to the rescue with the artifact in question, which turns out to be a bow. He and Sorey then quickly form a contract, armatize, and with this new powerful artifact, manage to defeat and purify the Drake. The Drake turns out to be Rohan, the Seraph that looked over the village, who thanks them in the aftermath, and leads to the Malevolence lifting and its residents getting better as a result. The two of them then spend the next nine days going through all the water underneath the town, continually performing rituals to purify all of it, and when that’s done, Sorey starts helping Alisha and her soldiers rebuild the town.
Shortly after they get started on that though, they are pulled away by an urgent situation. As it turns out, Lord Mathia Bartlow, the chancellor of Ladylake, was deliberately scheming to get Alisha and those loyal to her away from the city so he could make his war-related preparations without interference. Specifically, he has sent approximately 20,000 Hyland soldiers to Glaivend Basin, which acts as the border between Hyland and Rolance, in order to invade the latter for supplies. He and his Seraphim team accompany Alisha and her followers to Glaivend Basin to help stop the war and purify as many soldiers of Malevolence as possible since they know there’ll be tons of violence and hate being generated from the battlefield. Thankfully, despite his lack of experience when it comes to purifying humans, which is especially difficult since he absorbs the Malevolence into himself when he does it to them, as well as arriving shortly after the war’s already started, he manages to neutralize/purify hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers of their Malevolence on both sides, saving many of their lives before the combined efforts of Alisha and Rose lead to Hyland being forced to give a seize fire command. In the aftermath, he also heals Alisha from a serious wound inflicted by a Hyland solider on the order of General Landon, the one who was put in charge of Hyland’s attack and who tried to defy Alisha’s order to stand down. Additionally, he makes a Squire’s contract when she requests it so she can both see Malevolence and help him purify it moving forward, as well as see and talk to Seraphim like him. He then heads off with Rose to Rolance since he was already intending to go there due to it being rumored to have many ancient ruins where dragons were deified as gods.
Early on his journey in Rolance, which marks the second half of the series, Sorey meets Sergei Strelka, the general of the Platinum Knights, who are Rolance’s imperial guards. At first he’s suspicious of Sorey because of his power and feels he needs to keep an eye on him, but quickly realizes he’s trustworthy, isn’t trying to “bring the war to Rolance”, and expresses gratitude for both stopping the war and saving so many lives. As he opens up to him, Sorey inquires if there have been any natural disasters, at which point he tells him there’s been nearly endless rain falling in the capital city of Pendrago. Therefore, he sets off there to cleanse it of Malevolence. Along the way though, he finds out Rose and the rest of the Sparrowfeathers aren’t just travelling merchants, but secretly a band of mercenaries/assassins called the Scattered Bones. When he finds out she’s about to murder a particularly evil and personal enemy from her past called Prince Konan, he rushes to try and stop her from taking revenge on him. In the aftermath when Konan is presumed dead from drowning, he comforts Rose by assuring her he doesn’t look down on, let alone hate her for what she is, as well as sees her as a strong person since everyone carries Malevolence, but while most choose to ignore or hide from it, she faces her own darkness head on. However, he also tells her that regardless of the circumstances, he believes killing is strong, and right now, they need to focus on making sure there’s less violence and hate in the world, not more of it, in order to truly combat the main issue, namely the overwhelming amount of Malevolence being created by people’s negative emotions. This causes Rose to seriously rethink her idea of justice.
After meeting with Doran, the emperor of Rolance, he goes to Pendrago with him, and when he arrives with his team of Seraphim along with Rose and Dezel, a Wind Seraph who’s constantly been at her side her whole life, they find the source of the Malevolence in the city’s cathedral, which is none other than a dead dragon. Despite it being a very difficult task, with some help from the Seraphim, Sorey and Rose are able to purify it together after she makes a Squire’s contract with him in order to help him in his goal of purifying the world of Malevolence, cleansing Pendrago and stopping the tainted rain that had been seeping into the earth for a while. Sorey and his group then quickly rush back to Ladylake in Hyland after Alisha telepathically contacts him (as a Squire, that’s another thing she can do with him) to tell him about how Bartlow has framed her and her allies for treason for interfering in the war, and is trying to have Hyland’s forces hunt down and kill them. Thankfully, she and her allies are able to sort that out on their own, but they also have another problem; the tornados are returning, and while they’ve been dying out before doing much harm, they’re getting progressively closer to Ladylake. After Bartlow has been exposed for his lies and treachery, then subsequently commits suicide to avoid imprisonment, a particularly powerful tornado with the dragon creating it at the center comes along and proves to be a great threat to the city. Thankfully, Sorey and the rest of his team get there in time, and he’s able to incapacitate the dragon by armatizing with Mikleo and shooting it down. He then makes an attempt to purify it, with proves to be very, very difficult; after all, no previous Shepherd has purified a dragon before since they contain such an overwhelming amount of Malevolence. However, with both Alisha and Rose present to absorb some of the Malevolence for him, they all manage to achieve what had been thought to be impossible and succeed, though Alisha and Rose fall unconscious for over a week.
In the aftermath, Ladylake starts to rebuild from the damage caused, and the citizens are both so inspired and filled with hope after the display that many start enlisting to become soldiers or to help out the city in other ways, something that, as Alisha’s teacher Lady Maltran points out, was seriously lacking not long ago when they were holding the Sacred Blade Festival. Also, for mysterious reasons, Symonne, a dark Seraph who is Heldalf, AKA The Lord of Calamity’s primary servant, reveals to them that he’s gone to the northern lands where he’s planning on gathering all beings with Malevolence there so once enough has been gathered in one place, he can essentially end the world by unleashing an overwhelming tidal wave of it across the globe. Therefore, Sorey, Alisha, Rose, all the Seraphim, the rest of the members of the Sparrowfeather/Scattered Bones and many of the strongest soldiers and recruits make a big trip up there. Later, they get additional reinforcement from Sergei Strelka and the Imperial Knights from Rolance, along with his former rival, Groodman, and the Blue Storm Knights. While previously an antagonistic rival to Sergei who was primarily concerned with politics and advancing his own career, as well as a minor antagonist to Sorey when he first went to Rolance, Groodman has had a change of heart since witnessing what he did in Pendrago and now wants to help them essentially save the world.
To put the rest of it concisely, they make their way through numerous Hellions, and once they reach the volcano where Heldalf is hiding, Sorey thanks all the people who came all that way with them since together, they proved humans and Seraphim can indeed live alongside and help each other the way they used to, before declaring him, Alisha, Rose and their team of 5 Seraphim (Lailah, Mikleo, Edna, Dezel and Zaveid) will take on the rest alone. They then encounter a bunch of dragons, which Dezel insists they’re not yet powerful enough to purify all of, so he suggests using Zaveid’s gun, Siegfried, to kill them, but even in this situation, Sorey objects and insists they’ve got to at least try to purify them, since they are corrupted Seraphim after all. This inspires Dezel to do just that by transforming his entire being into the wind and sacrificing his life in the process. After taking a bit of time to mourn for him, they go into the volcano and face the Lord of Calamity.
Though he struggles against him at first, after seeing into his memories of when he was a human and confronting him with the question of why he would go to a more isolated place where the Malevolence wasn’t actually that strong if he were really trying to drown the world in it, Sorey deduces he isn’t truly as malicious as he claims, and it’s eventually confirmed by Heldalf himself that he’s really trying to die/vanish so he can stop suffering from the curse of eternal solitude he’s been bearing for so long. Now even feeling sorry for him, Sorey tries to encourage him to fight the corruption, but he‘s so consumed by hate and Malevolence that it’s impossible. He then resolves to use the ultimate armatization technique with all of the Seraphim at once, and though he struggles to maintain it, they all pull off a powerful technique together that actually succeeds in purifying him. However, all the Malevolence gathered there then starts to use his body as a vessel to restore him to the Lord of Calamity. Knowing that they’re practically out of power and can’t fight anymore, Sorey realizes that the only choice left is to open a passage into the Earthpulse, seal him inside of it, and hold it by going with him. He acknowledges that while it may take years, even decades, he can help him fight off the Malevolence and purify him over time, especially since without knowing it himself, Heldalf is still making an attempt to fight it. While the others object, he says he has faith in humanity, that the world will be fine without him, and in his stead, the world will need them to teach others about Malevolence and how to fight it. He then traps himself and Heldalf while expressing his wish to create a world where humans and Seraphim live together one more time before separating from the Seraphim. While his friends are all initially sad, Alisha and Rose note they’re still alive, which means he must be too since as his Squires, they would die if he did. Full of hope, they then set out to fulfill the mission Sorey gave them.
With the battle done, everyone goes their separate ways. In the following years, this sacrifice seems to have worked as the Malevolence has stopped and lowered to near non-existent levels around the world, with each of them doing their part to maintain it. For example, Alisha becomes Queen of Ladylake and brokers a peace treaty with Rolance, Lailah becomes revered by the citizens of Ladylake and surrounding countryside, as well as leaves on another adventure with a new Shepherd, and Edna becomes a Lord of the Land, with Zaveid becoming her bodyguard. Plus, though Sorey never had the chance to purify her brother Eizen, and he’s still in his dragon form, he appears to have regained a lot of his humanity thanks to the lowered Malevolence. Eventually, however, Sorey indeed emerges an unspecified number of years later (probably just a few based on some characters only appearing a little older) and reunites with Mikleo after contacting him via telepathy. Overjoyed to see his friend again, they embrace, and Sorey shares how he indeed managed to finally purify Heldalf of Malevolence, with him deciding to live in a small town where no one knows him so he can make a fresh start and live peacefully. Sorey and Mikleo then agree to finally return home to Elysia again and hit up any ruins they can find along the way.
Ultimately, there are really none to speak of. Sorey is an extremely kind, selfless, and forgiving young man who practically becomes the show’s messiah figure by the end of it. Despite coming face to face with great evil repeatedly, including bearing witness to just how much hate and violence humanity as a whole is capable of, Sorey never loses faith that it can be saved or in humanity’s better nature. Despite also acknowledging that Malevolence is something that’s in everyone, even viewing it as a necessity so that people can grow and become stronger from fighting it, Sorey never gives into it, never once resorting to lethal force and deals with all types of Hellions, whether humans, regular creatures, supernatural ones, or even dragons, by purifying them. He’s even friendly to many of his enemies, willing to believe the best in them, up to and including the Lord of Calamity himself, and views killing as wrong, even with regards to irredeemably evil people like Prince Konan since he believes it ultimately just breeds more hate. The only time he even comes close to succumbing to rage and resorting to killing is when he discovers General Landon tried to kill Alisha, and upon seeing him in his Hellion form, is filled with rage and disgust. The others, especially Lailah, got very worried that he was going to kill him, but even then, Sorey was able to tame his rage, purify him with a single stroke instead, and leave him to face proper justice in Ladylake.
There’s a couple of other very minor nitpicks one could make from the beginning of the show, but I don’t think they’re problematic. First off, yes, he did disobey Zenrus/Gramps when he told him the ruins he wanted to explore were off limits and bring Alisha to the village despite being warned to stay away from humans. However, he didn’t do this at all out of disrespect or with ill intent; he was simply too curious to resist, especially since, as mentioned, he was fascinated with artifacts and clues from the past since he believed they were the key to figuring out how humans and Seraphim could live together again. Plus, when he saw Alisha, he simply felt obliged to help someone in need, and that it would be wrong to abandon her. Not only were his intentions entirely honorable, but nothing negative came of it whatsoever; he gets scolded by Zenrus/Gramps for bringing Alisha there, but not only does she not prove to be dangerous, but after seeing how much she believed in Seraphim and her honorable intentions to help the world, he and the other Seraphim actually begin to have their faith in humanity restored. The other nitpick is that he briefly shows his hunting skills to Alisha by shooting a prickle boar, but that’s clearly just a means of providing food for himself since from what we see, Elysia doesn’t appear to have many other types of food like abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables to sustain himself on. So no, at the end of the day, at least in the anime version, I don’t think he has any corrupting factors.
Admirable Standard/Goodness Zone
It’s probably very apparent to anyone else who’s familiar with the game and/or the show as well as those who has read all of this that he passes this part with flying colors. In fact, he’s pretty much synonymous with the admirable standard through his many standout actions as the Shepherd. I’ll try to summarize/run through it all in as concise a way as possible. First off, he purified a lot of Hellions and Malevolence, saving many lives in the process, with special mention going to the huge part he played in stopping the war at Glaivend Basin. It’s all the more impressive because at that point, he wasn’t used to purifying corrupted humans and absorbing their Malevolence into himself. Yet, despite how difficult and painful it was, he purified as many as thousands of them to stop/save them from killing each other. He also inspired and gave many people hope, with many people in Ladylake eventually volunteering to become soldiers or help rebuild their city after he saved if from a dragon. Speaking of that, that, in of itself, is acknowledged to be another standout achievement even for a Shepherd; it is repeatedly pointed out that no other Shepherd had been able to purify a dragon, yet with support from Alisha and Rose, he was able to do even that and give Edna hope her brother could still be saved too. He also brought out the best in certain people like Rose and Groodman, and pretty much constantly advocated that killing is wrong, no matter how wicked people are, since it only creates more hate and Malevolence in the world. Finally, of course, he even managed the seemingly impossible feat of purifying Heldalf, the Lord of Calamity himself, despite it taking a matter of years and being separated from all his friends that whole time to do it. Even with him, he was able to find the trace of humanity he still had, sympathize with him, and ultimately, his efforts gave even him the chance to make a fresh start and live as a normal human again. Ultimately, he was absolutely essential to creating a new era of peace and harmony between humans and Seraphim like he dreamed of for so long through everything he did.
Honestly, I didn’t even address every small act of heroism in my proposal, because there was just so much to cover, and look how long this turned out anyway. But to summarize, Tales of Zestiria has a number of pretty admirable characters in general, but Sorey does far more than enough to pass the admirable standard and is easily the most actively heroic character in the series. The only other character I’d say stands out to a comparative extent is Alisha since she did quite a lot too considering her limitations. After all, she wasn’t the Shepherd and grew up to be just as pure as Sorey despite growing up amongst some pretty corrupt individuals in Ladylake. There are a couple of other characters who may qualify on account of doing enough in their own right, like Lailah and Mikleo, but as of now, I’m simply not positive if they stand out enough or not in comparison.
Woo, that was another huge one, wasn’t it? Still, it couldn’t be helped; there were just too many things I couldn’t leave out without feeling like I wasn’t doing the candidate justice. Anyway, I’m strongly convinced that at least his anime counterpart qualifies and that there’s a good chance he qualifies in the original game too from what I know, but tell me if you’re familiar with it and think he has any potential disqualifying traits in it that I’m not aware of, in which case it may be a slight case of “type dependent on version”. Oh, and I’ve mentioned this before, but this feels like an appropriate time to give an especially heartfelt thanks to any who take the time to read my entire proposals, particularly longer ones like this. I know they can feel arduous and time-consuming, but I really want to give major characters the proposals they deserve. I’m just glad I finally got around to this one. All the best!