Headscratchers / Tales of Vesperia

So why is there a prison inside of the palace where the ROYAL FAMILY lives? I mean if there was a breakout...
  • They send the truly bad people off to Ragou.
  • Keep in mind that what they actually have is not a prison, but a set of jail cells. The difference being, holding anybody in those cells is going to be extremely temporary and most of the people in them will be there for minor infractions. When Yuri's down there, all the other cells are empty (except for Raven), and all the Knights know Yuri as "that jerk who would never really hurt people", so it's not surprising that the guard who's supposed to watch him is taking a nap. (For more evidence that the Knights know Yuri isn't a bad guy per se, re-watch the scene where Leblanc & Co., when given the choice between pursuing Yuri and pursuing the Red-Eyes, obviously choose the criminals who are actually a danger to citizens. And this is after kidnapping a princess has been added to Yuri's list of crimes.) Basically: there's hardly anyone in those jail cells for the Royal Family to worry about breaking out. (And also, hardly any Royal Family members actually live in the castle; Ioder, Estelle's only real rival for the throne, grew up outside the Castle.)

What's so special about the lower quarter's fountain? The people spent all their money on fixing it (pre-game) and Yuri goes halfway across the world to get the core back when its stolen. Wouldn't it have been far easier to just say "shit happens" and let the Empire fix it if they happen to feel like it? It's not like it's their only water supply or anything, there is a river right next to it.
  • It's mentioned that the river water is of inferior quality, and the residents of the lower quarter will get minor stomach and digestive issues from drinking it.
    • Not only that, but to be blunt the lower quarter's needs are pretty low on the Empire's priority list.
  • The blastia purifies and filters the water, too. You can't just drink water you find in the river, in most of the world, that'll usually make you sick; and as tropers said above, we know that the river water by the Lower Quarter was no exception.
We know that an apatheia is needed to make a blastia, but can a single apatheia go into making multiple blastia, or can it only be used once? It hit me some time after the ending and I don't recall the game going into detail about this.
  • Apatheia aren't really used to "make" blastia so much as they power them as the blastia core. If the core is removed from the body, the blastia won't work, and while multiple bodies can be made, there are a limited number of cores.
    • There is a skit in the game that mentions this. Apparently apatheia are too potent to be used without processing, which generally involves breaking it down into several cores.
Shouldn't there be elemental spirits for the light and dark elements? Sure, earth, fire, wind, and water may be the "great four" elements, but light and dark are used to damage enemies dammit. It shouldn't be too hard to add two more entelexia, or would that have involved making the "gathering spirits" part of the story last longer than normal? And yes, I'm aware that this scan implies that spirits can only be made into those elements, but this page is called It Just Bugs Me! for a reason.
  • Isn't it said or implied that at the end, the component bits of Adephagos and the blastia turn into new spirits? Two of those probably became Light and Dark spirits.
    • But we're not shown anything about the new spirits after the ending.
    • Because Efreet, Undine, Sylph and Gnome are an iconic foursome. If there were going to be any two added, it would be Celsius and Volt.
      • Shadow has been around for as long as the spirits of the four classical elements and Rem is always his counterpart in the games not taking place on Aseria. There really was no reason not to include them like Tales of the Abyss did.
    • I imagine they probably didn't want to add more sequences where you had to recruit surviving Entelixaia to become Rem and Shadow. Not to mention; there wasn't really anyone introduced earlier who could have fulfilled the role. Khroma was kind of pushing it.
    • Also, that would bring up the Rem/Luna conflict. There already is enough speculation about what canon this game ties into, and since it was made by Team Symphonia, they probably didn't want to further separate this from the rest of the series.
      • Why not? They specifically mention Shadow by name in Tales of the Abyss when Tear and Jade are explaining Field of Fonon use. And if they wanted to avoid conflict, they could have had twin spirits born from the same blastia core become Luna and Shadow.
    • They could've recovered the apatheia Alexei used to control Estelle, which were now just forgotten.
      • There's that, and also, they could have had a test against a blastia core to see if there even was enough of a apatheia inside to even create a spirit. Rem and Shadow could have been born from the same blastia core during a test because there's two Entelexia's apatheia crushed inside, like the Luna and Shadow idea just above. I mean, it wouldn't have been hard to explain a very minor subplot about a light-providing blastia. Hell, they could have done it in the Shrine of Baction, since there's light blastia all over the place. They could just mention blastia there when talking about turning cores to spirits after getting Sylph. Example:
      Estelle: "We now have all four elemental spirits!"
      Raven: "So... to Tarqaron?"
      Yuri: "Hold on. We should see if cores can even become spirits. It's only part of an apatheia, right? What if it doesn't work?"
      Raven: "Yeah. And the spirit might not be all that powerful, too."
      Rita: "Hm... you're right. I'm certain my theory is correct, but even so, we should test it. We can't afford for it to not work."
      Karol: "But what blastia core can we use? We can't use any of ours, we need them."
      Estelle: "Yes... and it's not like we can ask someone if we can use their blastia."
      Judith: "What about the ones in Baction? There's quite a lot of blastia in there, as I recall, and no one is using them."
      Rita: "Yes. Those should work."
      Yuri: "So it's off to the Shrine of Baction."
    • Actually, the game notes that Halure's tree created a spirit and it's noted to be a flower spirit, so they're not just limited to the four base elements. The only explanation I can think of is that Gnome and Undine account for Shadow/Luna, and Sylph and Efreet account for Rem, because that's how the Fields of Fonons work in Tales of the Abyss. There are no FoF artes of Light and Dark- standing in a Dark FoF nets you Ground or Water altered artes, and a Light one nets you Wind or Fire. Presumably, the flower spirit of Halure is under Gnome, and thus under Dark.

So I've just saw The First Strike. Let Me Get This Straight: Yuri "Snark King" Lowell, who quips with the best of them, doesn't get joke his commanding officer made about the twins chests? Really? I find that a little hard to believe. That doesn't mean the scene isn't funny mind you. It just seems odd.
  • Then again, the Yuri in The First Strike seemed a lot more tame than the one in the game. I'm guessing that it's because he's younger, and the fact that he'd probably never seen the really ugly bits of the world (outside the lower quarter) before joining the Knights. Then he got a little more battle-hardened after having to kill Lambert and watch his squad captain die. So he might have been a teeny, tiny LIIIIIIIIIITTLE bit more innocent. But not much. Or he's just never been bothered or perverted enough to pay attention to Hisca and Chastel's busts.
    • Not to mention that snark =/= perversion. Yuri's pretty much a Celibate Hero. The only time in the game he makes a comment outright bordering on lewd, Judith invited him to. He teases people, but he respects personal boundaries.
    • He's pretty clueless about Judith's teasing on the whole, really. Maybe he just doesn't notice the ladies'...ah...features because his preferences lie elsewhere?
      • I dunno about that- he seems to get flirty with Judy if she's in your active party with him and they converse with the battle is over. Like she'll ask how she did, and he'll say "beautiful", and if you watch his face in skits, he reacts to Judy, just not verbally. And he makes it pretty plain he's got a thing for catgirls in the skit about Rita's waitress costume.
  • Not to mention, The First Strike has numerous problems with continuity and characterization, of which this is the least of them. (The ending sequence with Yuri and Flynn and the movie's villain takes my personal cake for not making any sense with previously-established character traits and in-game dialogue.) If you check on imDB, you'll find that none of the writers for the actual game were involved with The First Strike, and it's not really a rarity for the anime, whether it be TV series, OAV, or movie, to change things from the original game as the writers and producers see fit. If you'd like to smile, the PS3 version features a cameo from the movie's twins, and Flynn and Yuri have a brief conversation afterwards about how they'd completely forgotten those girls — and why are they still wearing the uniforms from that time? are they still in the knights? Flynn thought he knew all the current knights — and isn't all of this REALLY WEIRD?, which seems to point at the PS3 writers poking fun at the incongruity, especially since none of it is resolved during their sub event and they disappear afterwards, never to be mentioned again. So if you don't like something about The First Strike, I think you should probably feel comfortable ignoring it.
  • Yeah, First Strike also features Flynn helping Yuri kill a criminal and then covering it up with a false report, which is exactly the opposite of his philosophy - and the thing that infuriates him about Yuri - throughout the game. The resolution of the movie thrives on Character Derailment, so I'm not surprised a single punchline does.

So the conflict between Yuri and Flynn over his killings of Ragou and Cumore. I'm going to put it bluntly: who exactly does the game side with? I've been trying to figure that one out for some time now.
  • It doesn't take sides from what I can gather. It's a decision for you to make.
  • The game doesn't take either side. Flynn's law and order mentality is considered to be morally better, but fails when the criminals can just use their power and money to get off with little more than a slap on the wrist. Yuri's method is shown to work better in that situation, but is extreme. It's really up to you whether what Yuri did was right or wrong.
  • And the whole point of their Duel Boss battle is that they finally reach a compromise and work together instead of butting heads over the differences in their morality. A recurring theme in the game is that different people have different ideas of morality, none of which are inherently superior to one another and many of which are actually mutually exclusive. The game "sides" with the idea that people with such conflicting viewpoints should work together to reach a compromise instead of stubbornly insisting that only one side can be objectively correct.
  • Not to mention, when Yuri and Flynn first talk about Ragou, it's clear that Flynn feels helpless and miserable and might be about to take the law into his own hands; Yuri talks him back from that cliff, telling him to just focus on rising up in the ranks until he can deal with someone like Ragou legally, and urging him not to throw away everything he's worked for, before going off to deal with Ragou himself. Yuri thinks Flynn is in the right, and wants to keep him in the right.

Why do people say Yuri killed Cumore? He WAS going to kill Cumore, yes, but Cumore fell his own way. Yuri just didn't offer help. He still didn't finish him off himself.
  • Yuri was the reason Cumore fell in the first place. If Yuri hadn't of chased him, he would have never fell, and not helping him in a situation that he directly caused is the same as if he had pushed in Cumore himself, something Yuri himself would likely acknowledge. He may not have hacked Cumore down the way he did Ragou, but lets not kid ourselves, or get bogged down in technicalities, He killed him.
  • Intent is what's important. If Cumore had somehow managed to climb out of that pit, Yuri would probably have kicked him back in. Or just impaled him.
  • "Murder through inaction" is a real and serious crime that you can be charged with if you are in a position to save someone's life and you consciously choose to let them die. For example: a person accidentally slips in front of you and is left dangling above a fatal drop. If you choose to do nothing, knowing that your life is at no risk and that the person will fall to their death if left unaided, then you can be judged culpable for murder.
    • Well, that depends on where you are. Some countries have such a 'duty to save', while others don't (I think it's generally civil law systems that have it and common law ones that don't, but I'm not sure). We really don't know anything about the Empire's legal system so whether that duty applies here or not is anyone's guess. That said, we're talking about a situation of intentionally and (mostly) actively causing someone's death, so only the most formalistic, literal-minded judges would ever call that anything other than murder anyway. If you do want to judge it on technicality, though, if murder through inaction didn't apply then it would be manslaughter (for unintentionally causing Cumore to fall into the sand pit) and attempted murder (for trying to kill him in the first place) simultaneously. Of course, this is looking at it from a purely legal point of view (morally speaking, I'd say it's pretty straightforward murder), which becomes moot anyway since Yuri is never prosecuted for it.

How exactly did Estelle find out that Flynn was in danger? What vital information did she discover that she could only share with him personally? (And if it was about the conspiracy, who messed up and let the information slip?)
  • This really bugs me because it's one of the most important plot events in the game. It's the entire reason that Estelle meets Yuri, leaves the castle and pursues Flynn. But it's never explained and the more you think about it, the less it makes sense.
    • I'd be inclined to think she saw Zagi roam the castle looking for Flynn in his not-subtle-at-all manner loudly announcing he's going to kill him...or something.
    • I finally heard a reasonable explanation for this- Estelle heard that the Council was going to do something about Flynn, because he's a knight getting too close to Estelle, and remember that the Knights support Ioder's ascent to the throne and the Council supported Estelle. Estelle doesn't know what they plan to do exactly, but they intend to do "something about him". So she wanted to warn him to be on the lookout. Keep in mind she had no idea who Zagi was and hadn't seen him before he attacked Yuri, and she tried to attack Yuri. This is supported by the fact that Ragou, a member of the Imperial Council, is working with the head of the Blood Alliance, who is working with Leviathan's Claw. Estelle might not know that much, but she does know the Council wants to do away with Flynn before he takes her out of position to be Empress. I think that sounds reasonable. It also handily explains why she "can't be specific"- it'd be treason for her to say that to Yuri about the Council, even if she only knows one or two members are that way (without knowing specifically which ones). The only thing it doesn't explain is what "incident" the knights claim they'll take full responsibility for when they're chasing her down.

Why wouldn't Belius meet the heroes until the night of a full moon? I mean, just think about how much pain we could have spared everyone if she had just talked to us there and then.
  • It's implied that the light of the full moon allows her to make that duplicate of hers in battle. Thus she reserves any personal meetings for that night in order to have a trump card for potential assassination attempts. Kind of makes what happened all the more tragic.
    • Honestly? That just raises further questions. When does it ever indicate that the Entelexeia are affected by the full moon in any way? Also, if she needs the extra power in case of assassination attempts, then why does she say that she's not to be outdone by "mere" humans. That just paints Belius as a bit of an arrogant bullshitter; something she is most certainly not.
  • Actually, she wouldn't meet anyone until the night of a new moon. As in, no visible moon at all. Course, there's still no good reason given, but it could have something to do with how anti-Child of the Full Moon the Entelexeia are (she was rather cold to Estelle until she saw the princess's 'compassion.')
    • ... That just raises even more questions. When is it established that the phases of the moon have anything to do with the power of the Children of the Full Moon? If they had some sort of weakening-effect, surely Estelle's healing power would have been, y'know, weakened. But it wasn't. And it's not just the Children she refuses to see then: she refuses to take any guests until the night of a new moon. So... why? What's the point of it?
  • The most obvious answer is a new moon is the polar opposite of the full moon. It's not anything special, it's just what the phases are called. It's likely meant to be a hint that she's really an Entelexia, since it implies a strong aversion to the full moon and by extension in name, the Child of the Full Moon. It doesn't relate at all to the physical moon itself- just the name. Like how someone who likes puns might buy an instant noodle bowl called Bowl Appetite. It's not to do with the actual contents of the product, just the name. As to why she refuses to see anyone at all, it could still be related, like a cautionary. After all, it's not like Belius can exactly go showing herself to people without causing massive panic- she's significantly reducing the amount of people who can see her. It has naught to do with Estelle's powers, either, since Belius is far more reasonable than Phaeroh. She certainly didn't mind seeing Estelle, even insisting she come to see her. She doesn't seem to mind Estelle's existence at all, as long as Estelle doesn't use her powers or use them too much. Belius is optimistic, charismatic, reasonable, and kind. And she can't exactly tell Natz to turn away the Child of the Full Moon, since ordinary humans can't detect it. Krityans can't, either- Judy relied on Ba'ul to detect Hermes blastia and that brought her to Estelle.

So how did Zagi get to the top of Tarqaron?
Did he sneak in there when it was still ground-bound to hope on ambushing Yuri? I'd assume that's the common thing.
  • Didn't Duke hire him to stop and/or delay the party or something? Maybe he went with Duke.
    • A better question is how Zagi gets anywhere.

Alexei is behind everything?
Okay, Yeager having been working for Alexei the whole time works, but the game says he was also behind Ragou and Barbos makes no sense giving their plan was to start a war between the knights, which Alexei commanded, and the guilds, and take over afterwords. This game essentially says Alexei started a war that would leave him powerless, and how did Yuri even figure that those were his doing anyways? He just seems to know like he read the script.
  • Not quite. Alexei was working with Barbos. It was a mutually-beneficial arrangement: Alexei could develop the replica of Dein Nomos he needed, and Barbos could use the fruits of their research to increase his own power and take over Dahngrest. However, Barbos was also in league with Ragou, who both wanted to destroy the Knights: Barbos to remove the last major threat to his dominance, and Ragou to cripple Estelle's political influence and install Ioder as a puppet ruler. As for why Alexei would allow the Imperial Knights to be destroyed like this... as long as he has a working replica of Dein Nomos and reaches Zaude, he wins. Alexei doesn't need to give a damn about anything else.
    • As for how Yuri figures this out, you discover the connection between Alexei and Barbos if you investigate the lowest levels of Ghasfarost (Barbos' base of operations) and find a second replica of Dein Nomos.

How does it make any sense for Dein Nomos to be required to instate a new emperor, especially when they...
... IGNORE ALL OF THAT AND INSTALL IODER AS THE ACTING EMPEROR AT THE END OF THE GAME? It sounds to me like whoever designed the imperial law was some kind of complexity addict.
  • I thought it wasn't so much Imperial law as it was necessity, given the sword's ability to control aer. No matter which way the final battle went, that would pretty much be a wash at that point. Come to think of it, that kind of slots in with the game's Aesop too.
    • That does not explain why the sword is needed for some arbitrary succession ceremony, considering that the imperial family is never once mentioned as having ever used Dein Nomos for anything. Neither does it explain how, if it's so important, they can just forget about it and make Ioder the emperor at the end.
      • The statue of the goddess in the castle (with the escape passage under it) has Dein Nomos, so maybe it's a situation where the emperor is considered the child of the gods themselves and Dein Nomos is proof of it (despite divine heritage not seeming to be a prerequisite for wielding it). The spoilered part can be explained by them realizing it's ridiculous to not have an emperor in a time of crisis because the pretty magical sword is missing, so they just grabbed the closest candidate for the throne and said he's emperor now.
    • It seems to be implied that the Royal Family (and naturally everyone else as well) completely forgot what Dein Nomos was even FOR, only remembering that it was important for the royal family to have it for some reason. They probably just decided to go with tradition to be on the safe side.

Why didn't Alexei just shut off Raven's blastia?
No, seriously. I don't get this at all.
  • Because he's trying to be the new poster boy for Bond Villain Stupidity.
  • Who said he could shut it off? At least without tying him down and performing surgery?
    • Indeed, there's been no evidence in the game that you could remotely shut down a blastia. Even Rita has to be pretty close to bring up her holographic screen and take a look at a blastia.
  • Except for the part where Judith asks on Heracles that Raven's blastia could be shut off at any time and he never says that it doesn't work that way.
  • Alexei could have been bluffing the entire time. It's not like there are books on heart blastia in every town's library.

Flynn's Hypocrisy...
  • Let me first say that yes, what Yuri did was a crime, and Flynn makes a point about changing the laws for the better... but Yuri has a point too and is correct about the implications of Flynn's moral stance when they talked after Cumore's death; while changing the laws of the empire is a noble deed, but as Yuri pointed out, Flynn's habit of blindly following the rules is doing nothing to help the people who are suffering in the meantime. This holds more ground when looks like the Empire doesn't even bother to teach their civilians anything about self-defense or citizen's arrest. As was shown later, Flynn's law-&-order mentality was bordering towards fascist territory where he was prioritizing law and order over the lives and safety of people. But while Yuri continues to receive the What the Hell, Hero? attitude from everyone, no one, aside from Yuri himself, ever calls Flynn out on his behavior? So by the theme's logic that has been thrown at Yuri so much, I can say the same thing for Flynn; what gives him the right to tell people what they can or cannot do based on his own individual sense of morality, discarding the different views of others?
    • When was Flynn prioritising law over the safety of the people to the point of fascism, may I ask? He did literally everything he could (at one point resorting to illegally obtaining evidence) to have Ragou brought to justice, and was visibly livid when he was let off (remember that Yuri actually had to talk Flynn out of doing something he would regret at that point). His brigade has successfully liberated Mantaic by the time that the incident with Cumore occurred (Yuri pretty much jumped the gun on that one: we don't actually know that Cumore would have escaped lawful punishment, considering he was a lot less powerful than Ragou was, and Flynn was in a much more influential position by then too). He did blindly follow Alexei's instructions when he ought to have known better, but he himself admitted that he fucked up there after Yuri called him out on it. There would have been no point in anyone else calling him out on it because he had already learned his lesson (by contrast, the reason Yuri get's the What the Hell, Hero? treatment multiple times is because he persistently ignores it and continues to disregard how his actions affect those close to him). Plus from a writing point of view, there are no other established characters who could have called him out on it (his subordinates certainly couldn't, since they're just as guilty and the rest of the party don't know him will enough).
    • The actual issue with the whole Cumore thing (which perhaps goes beyond what you were asking) is that Flynn kind of flip-flops on it. We don't know how long he was standing there, but it was long enough to witness what happened and he did nothing to prevent it. Also, if he had just been about enforcing the law then he would have arrested Yuri on the spot rather than letting him walk away and then asking for an explanation. It was only after he started arguing with Yuri that he started to get self-righteous about it (which, considering that he witnessed the crime and did nothing to prevent it, is pretty hypocritical of him) and then made a rather half-assed attempt to arrest Yuri (of course our next encounter with him is when the shit is hitting the fan, but notice that after that me makes absolutely no attempts to arrest Yuri again). I believe there's a scene in the PS3 version later on where they discuss it again and Flynn basically says that while he can't condone Yuri's actions, he can't completely condemn them either, and I think this view sheds a light on why he reacted the way he did at Mantaic. He was conflicted, shocked, and angry and seemed acting based on those emotions rather than actually thinking things through. It's also worth considering his 'you intend to dirty your hands?' question. Yuri's response is not a confession, Flynn already knows what he's done, so the fact that the question was in future tense in the first place means that his concern was actually not just with what Yuri had done, but with what he was going to do. It's not just about the law again, at least part of his reaction was because he was worried about what Yuri was turning into (and not without reason, considering how extreme some of Yuri's views later become). Yuri, however, either completely missed the point of that question or chose to ignore it. (Though, given all the stuff that happened immediately after, Flynn probably would have done better to worry about himself.)
    • So at least on some level, and more explicitly later on, Flynn does acknowledge that Yuri has a point in doing what he did, though he definitely handled the situation poorly at the time. As for telling people what they can and can't do, he never claims to have that right based on his own individual sense of morality, quite the opposite, in fact. The reason Yuri's actions are considered problematic is, as stated above, if Yuri has the right to decide to act as judge, jury and executioner against people he unilaterally deems deserving, then why should no one else have that same right (say, for example, Sodia). Flynn isn't claiming that he has the right to decide how people should or shouldn't act or telling specifically Yuri not to do those things, he's saying that no one has the right to unilaterally decide things like that. Even Yuri himself somewhat acknowledges that he doesn't have the right to do what he did ("I accept it for what it is...etc."), he just decides that it was the least-worst option anyway. There's actually no real in-story justification for why Yuri gets to walk away scot-free from that, and thematically speaking it's a rather significant point that was ultimately left unresolved (ok, he was probably pardoned on account of having saved the world, but that is exactly why the adephagos arc is accused of being a Conflict Killer)

How the hell do Yuri's boots work?
They appear to be open at the front, but do not have laces. How do they stay up? Even if they were made of a fairly rigid material, the amount of moving around Yuri does, especially when fighting, should cause them to just flop around (and possibly trip him up)
  • I think what looks to be eyeholes for laces are actually buttons, and the "boots" are attached to his pants.

Are Tison and the Red-Eyes a different race of people?
Are there three humanoid races on Terca Lumireis? Because Tison and the Red-Eyes all move too unnaturally to be human. Like they don't have any bones, or like their bones are able to be flexible. I could maybe buy that the Red-Eyes are all just really flexible people and move like that to be creepy, but Tison moves and stands in just the same way, and all of them have a habit of trying to keep their eyes hidden. They even talk similarly, the difference being in volume.

This might be a really dumb question, but is Aspio actually part of Tarqaron?
Like a very small corner of the city that was Tarqaron. Presumably the rest of it was buried, but the part that became Aspio was in a bubble of some form.

Regarding Karol and his being in the Active Party
This is definitely a gameplay headscratcher. I mean, every time the team splits and they aren't put back together exactly how you had them before the split, Karol is ALWAYS somehow in your active party, even if he was the very last person in your party list. Like after you flee Nordopolica. If your party consisted of Yuri, Estelle, Rita, and Repede (that is, none of the two people who branch off after defeating Belius), once you have everyone back in the morning (bar Judy), Karol is somehow in your active party. Even the times you split off with everyone, but one person left at a different time, Karol will be forced into your active party after. He's also forced into your party in the Atherum one every meets up again, and the game tries to force you to use him in Part 2 when you don't have Estelle and Raven (since he's your second best healer after Estelle in terms of variety of healing moves). I mean, there's the option that Yuri really is a Decoy Protagonist to Karol, I suppose. It really feels like the game really, really wants you to use Karol. My second related question is about his Coward Skill. Why doesn't it work when Karol is not in the Active Party? It's supposed to prevent surprise encounters. You'd think it would only work if he was not in the active party (meaning he wouldn't be able to fight). It kinda loops around back to my earlier point of the game halfway demanding you use Karol... So I guess my first question is: why the hell is Karol constantly being shoved into your Active Party, and my second question is why does his Coward Skill, which prevents surprise encounters, not work when Karol is in the inactive party where it would make sense for it to work, as surprise encounters force you to use your inactive party members?

Why do Rita, Karol, and Raven insist Yuri is rude?
Yuri's repeatedly noted as being rude, but in all the skits and most dialogue, Yuri is actually surprisingly polite, considerate, and reasonable. His "rudest" moments are just him being blunt. Hell, compared to Rita, he's practically a gentleman, but one of the excuses Yuri is given (courtesy of Raven) for why he's not part of the waiter minigame is "a rude waiter like Yuri'd be bad for business". But... Yuri is the most polite of the three guys and the least likely of them to offend anyone? In a skit he says he just doesn't want to do it because it's a bother and it's boring, but Rita of all people doesn't? I just fail to see how Yuri is so rude it's commented on several times and he agrees he's rude (less so this since Yuri clearly has a low opinion of himself).
  • Lost in Translation: The Japanese language is noted to be exceedingly polite, to the point that it doesn't really have anything that could be considered bad like say, f***. Those words have to be added in dubbing and translations for flavor. By Japanese standards, Yuri would be considered rude due to only using informal speech regardless of association with the person he's talking with, while the norm is to be informal when the other person is close to you or gives you explicit permission.

What happened to Caer Bocram?
It's repeatedly implied an earthquake didn't actually destroy the place, as in the first skit about it Rita is doubtful the information just never reached Aspio and in the second, everyone is very surprised to see the town and voice astonishment that an earthquake did that. So what did? Was it destroyed in the Great War? Karol did say that it was in function ten years ago. It can't have been the Empire stamping out the guild that used to be there- with how much the game wants you to hate the Empire and prefer the guilds, they would have made that explicit.

About cities and towns.
The geography in this game is not spread out well- two entire continents are unexplainably uninhabited for almost the entire game (I don't count Yumanju as "inhabited"- it's a resort, not a city). Dahngrest is said to have been built by Altosk, a guild founded by the Don, so it's fairly new. Heliord is said to only have been just built. Tarqaron, Temza, and Caer Bocram are all fallen cities. Most of the functional cities are concentrated on Ilyccia, but the problem lies in the fact that the Empire obviously doesn't force people to stay on the continent and there's no reason why there aren't at the very least ruins on other continents if they did try to keep everyone on Ilyccia. Weccea at least has a reason why the only thing on it is Releweise, but there is no logical reason why this is the case with Hypionia and Yurzorea. Why are there no ruins of cities on any of the untouched continents or islands? Or even just natural dungeons like Keiv Moc? Why even include these other continents? Aurnion could have been built on the East Island of Ilyccia if they wanted to construct the town on uninhabited land. There are *four* locations that aren't on one of these continents or their own island- Yumanju, the only thing on the entire continent of Yurzorea, the Shrine of Baction that has no city of worshippers nearby, Egothor Forest, and eventually Aurnion. That's a lot for two entire continents, especially if you compare their size to Tolbyccia- not including the Erealumen Crystallands (which is said to be new and indeed doesn't exist until they are mentioned) or the Carpuson Islands (which could be part of Yurzorea), both of them are around the same size as Tolbyccia with Yurzorea actually seeming to be larger. It's all very jarring. Desier, like Weccea has an excuse for why it's so void of people- it's a desert. So why in the name of Maxwell is everything concentrated on two of the continents? Sure, people live in fear of the monsters, but people also recently built everything on Tolbyccia except Torim and Caer Bocram, and people built Aurnion. Why aren't there more things on the other continents?

Rules about Guilds?
The game tells you that once you abandon the Empire, there are no laws except for what you set for yourself and that you live free, but you're also told that "its against the rules for anybody to be in two guilds at the same time" and later on, that it's forbidden to talk about what you find out on a guild job to anyone else. What rules? There aren't supposed to be any rules except for what you set for yourself- that's why the Blood Alliance and Leviathan's Claw can do what they please like that and why Raven gets after Brave Vesperia for ratting out Mimula. You're also shown that guilds are expected to pay in kind if they harm another guild. While it's plausible that the Union has its own set of rules, this doesn't explain why Brave Vesperia and Palestralle are expected to abide by these "rules"- they're non-Union. Or why the Blood Alliance and Leviathan's Claw are allowed to do as they please. It's implied that the Don was just going to get after Barbos as one guild leader to another for his behaviour, not a leader to his subordinates (considering what happened with Yeager later). Why are there rules about a thing that is supposed to be a symbol of living life according to your own rules and choices? And on the subject, why must guild members be punished so harshly for misconduct? Karol makes it sound like there are no light punishments for even small infractions the two times he remarks about punishment. The guilds on a whole are supposed to be an anarchy with an internal, non-anarchist system for individual guilds (and even then, many guilds likely don't have a specific leader, as Brave Vesperia doesn't after the Don's passing until the Blade Drifts). As weird and ironic as that sounds, that seems to be what the Guilds are supposed to be, because the laws of the guild are made by the guild founders, and people can join and leave as they please if they like or don't like the laws- they are not forced to uphold anything unless they remain a member of a guild after breaking its laws.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Headscratchers/TalesOfVesperia