Each year, Bandai-Namco holds a giant Tales-centric event in Yokohama. This year's, Tales of Festival 2013, had nearly 12,000 fans in attendance each day. With concerts, new game announcements, and an array of voice actors from across the games, it was an unbelievably entertaining way to spend four hours.
On the second day of the event (which I attended), the Festival began with 8-year old Elle (Tales of Xillia 2) attempting to read the pre-show warnings and rules, but failing because the words were too big. Luckily, Milla (Tales of Xillia/Tales of Xillia 2) was on hand to help her through it. Elle proceeded to ask what the crowd was like, to which Milla responded “probably a lot of women.”—and she was definitely right about that. Of the 12,000 people around me, it was perhaps 90% female (if not more).
What followed next was a screening of the anime openings for every game in the main Tales series. The audience took this as a contest of sorts and cheered whenever their favorite games and characters appeared on the jumbotron. Based on the cheers, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Xillia, Tales of Xillia 2 and Tales of the Abyss were the most popular games.
As for character-centric cheers, I noticed a pattern. Lead male characters (other than Yuri from Vesperia) got few to no cheers. However, every brooding pretty-boy villain/anti-hero or glasses-wearing genius character got a huge pop from the crowd. As for the female characters, the cute young girl characters were often cheered for a bit, but otherwise none of the female characters seemed very popular—except for Milla (Xillia/Xillia 2) who, interestingly, received the biggest pop of the night.
After that, we were all shown the first trailer for the Tales of Symphonia: Unisonant Pack (the PS3 re-release of Tales of Symphonia and its sequel) and were then shown some of the new unlockable costumes that allow the characters in Symphonia to dress up as characters from other Tales games—i.e., Genis dressed as Luke and Lloyd dressed as Guy.
Then began the main event: a live reading of an original Tales crossover story starring a wide-ranging cast of characters from across the franchise. The plot revolved around the characters having a field day competition, and the voice actors all appeared on stage in character. The hosts of the competition were Milla (Xillia/Xillia 2) and Yuri (Vesperia). The rest of the characters split into teams of two. Lloyd and Zelos formed team Symphonia; Amber and Jadeite formed team Hearts; Asbel and Cheria formed team Graces; Elle and Ludger formed team Xillia; and lastly Luke, deciding he didn't need anyone else, formed team Abyss by himself.
The skit that followed was nothing but wall-to-wall fan service. The field day consisted of four events—sword tech distance, a gel eating contest, last man standing gauntlet of boss battles, and a relay race around the arena. When characters spoke, their animated skit portraits showed up on the jumbotron. Characters used special attacks and said famous lines. Numerous surprise characters showed up (as most of the voice actors have voiced more than one Tales character). But perhaps the most entertaining bits came from team Xillia as Ludger is a silent protagonist who has to talk almost entirely through Elle. He also had conversation trees popping up throughout the event (which the audience voted on).
All in all, the skit lasted about an hour and Luke—with a little help from his rival Asch—won the competition and learned a lesson about the value of teamwork.
After that, there was a lengthy interview with the voice actors and a mini-competition where the voice actors attempted to voice characters other than their own. To wrap it all up, there was then a five-song concert with DEEN who sang the themes to both Tales of Destiny and Tales of Hearts.
In the end, Tales of Festival was a lot of fun. The live reading was hilarious and a real treat for anyone who enjoys seeing voice actors behind the scenes. Moreover, when it ended, I was quite sad. After all, I had only seen half of the event as the guest list was different on the first day—so there was an entirely different skit on the first day that I had missed. Luckily, the entire Tales of Festival was recorded and will be released on DVD later this year. So, if you speak Japanese and love to see voice actors in action, you should definitely give it a watch.
For a taste of what it was like, check out the commercial for last year's event at the top of the the page.
The Tales of Festival 2013 took place on June 1 and 2, 2013, at the Yokohama Arena. A DVD of the event will be released in Japan later this year.
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