Fate/Zero Ep 1-13

A month ago, after some subliminal messages encouragement by a fan of the Type-Moon series, I wrote Fate/Zero down on my huge “To-Watch List”. A few days later, in my Spring ’12 post, I apparently promised to marathon the entire first half of the Fate/Stay Night prequel too.

Now, thanks to the planets aligning, I’ve somehow managed to avoid procrastinating and watch through Fate/Zero’s first half.

So, how did the complex lore of the Type-Moon universe treat a newbie like me? Read on to find out.

Before I move, I’d like to say that I don’t really like marathoning series. It somehow feels like a betrayal of the original work, since you just mow through without paying much attention to the minor details. In short, my perceptions may have been coloured, so take this review with a bucket of salt. On a side note, I’m calling this a First Impression, but keep in mind that I didn’t pen my thoughts down after the first episode.

Okay, on to business, how was Fate/Zero?

Story

Let’s start with the plot. It’s simple enough on the surface, a tournament style set-up with 7 players fighting for the Holy Grail, which is able to grant any wish. However, the magic in this tried and tested plot device lies in the details, and boy does Fate/Zero have a ton of detail in it to spice things up. Talk about Servants, Masters, magic, organisations, rules and the Grail itself are just some of the things that might confuse in Fate/Zero. However, newcomers, fear not, as long as you pay a minimum amount of attention you’ll manage to tell your Kirei’s from your Kiritsugu’s.

Seriously though, the terms and rules of the Grail War are explained gradually but clearly enough. They won’t spoon-feed you in one go, but in small packets of info throughout the series that you’ll need to grab and remember.

Coming back to details, each Master tries to grab the Grail in their own way. Some just go about their objectives brazenly like Alexander and his Master (what was his name again?), but the interesting ones are the Masters who deceive and lurk in the shadows like Emiya, Kirei and Tokiomi. They use decoys, lose their battles strategically and form secret alliances to further their own interests, making it somewhat dark and intriguing to watch.

Of Masters and Motivations

L-R: Ryuunosuke, Kayneth, Kirei, Emiya, Tokiomi, Kariya and Waver.

Each Master’s motivations and ideals, however, is much more interesting. I loved seeing the contrasts between the noble and the despicable ideals behind their chase for the Grail. Here’s what I thought of them:

Ryuunosuke: I’m just speechless when he comes to this guy. On top of being a serial killer slash torturer with no remorse, he doesn’t even see the Grail as something important or worth pursuing. I repeat: he does not want the grail at all. That’s also the case with his Servant (Caster)-Gilles de Rais-who has an even more despicable and vile history behind him. With the other Masters gunning for Caster, I hope to see them buried six hundred feet under.

Kayneth: Other than being good at magic, this guy does not seem to have any redeeming qualities. He’s arrogant, over-confident and even boastful. His motivation for the Grail seems to be mostly based on power and greed alone. I grinned at his comeuppance, but pitied his sorry state later. Not only does he lose his source of pride and dignity-his magical skills-he also loses his Command Seals to his wife who’s lovestruck with Lancer. Hard to see whether he’ll regain his powers, but I’m hoping not, given his attitude and motivations.

Kirei: This chap is a whole box of enigmas. He’s a single-minded Church agent who joins the war after losing his wife and couldn’t care less about the Grail. Other than that, we don’t know anything about what drives him other than Tokiomi’s orders. Kirei himself seems clueless about what he desires too. He’s one cold-hearted killer though, that’s for sure. I’ve nothing but disdain after seeing him stab a defenseless Iri just to see the colour of her blood.  I was surprised that he was re-entered by the Grail at the end of Episode 13 after a long but interesting talk with Archer. I think that he’ll be pivotal later on, thanks to his obsession with eliminating Kiritsugu.

Emiya: He keeps ranting about saving the world, but in what sense, exactly? He seems nice enough though, bar the ruthlessness he shows towards his enemies. I nearly crapped when he demolished an entire building just to get rid of three people and when he dispatched Lancer’s arrogant Master with ease. Both plots failed to be fully accomplished, but it just shows how awesome yet ruthless he can be. He’s a likely victor for the war.

Tokiomi: Interested in finding the source of all magical knowledge (I think), he seems like a nice chap. Yeah, he goes around cheating while joining forces with Kirei, but he’s not that bad, is he? Well, if a guy can just give away his daughter to a heartless monster, who tortures her in order to gain immortality from the Grail, then I think he deserves at least some amount of anger. It’s not clear whether Sakura is his real daughter or if he was responsible for making the decision to give her to the Matous, but even so, his inaction speaks volumes about his nature.

Kariya: If Emiya didn’t get that much screentime, I’d place my bets on this poor soul winning the Grail. I pity his situation, yet I find it admirable that he goes through so much pain just for Sakura (Tokiomi’s daughter), who’s not even his own flesh and blood. I’ve a feeling that he won’t last till the end or even see the Grail, but I do hope that he accomplishes his primary goal.

Waver: Ah, now I remember his name…I keep forgetting because Rider grabs the spotlight every single time they get screentime. Anyway, he initially wants to prove himself to Kayneth, the lecturer who humiliated him. Later on, he abandons that goal and seems lost until a pep talk by Rider. He still hasn’t clearly stated his intentions, but he seems like an all-round nice guy compared to the other Masters, so I’ll be watching him closely as well. Possibly a winner, but it’s hard to tell at this point.

The Servants

Besides the Masters, the Servants are also quite intriguing in their own right. For one, I find that guessing who was who in the beginning was a very fun plot device. I knew Saber was King Arthur thanks to previous knowledge, but it was nerve-wracking trying to guess who the rest were. Although most of them don’t shine in their dialogue, there was one scene were it did-the entire ‘Holy Grail Dialogue’ episode. The banter and arguments between three kings-Gilgamesh, Iskandar and Saber-was amusing because, to see enemies sit down and talk about their differences and whether or not they’re worthy of their shared target is quite rare.

Moving on, the Servants’ Noble Phantasm (ultimate skill) was also a notable strength of the series. Not only were they unique and fitting for their users, they also were a pleasure to watch thanks to high animation quality throughout the series. The quality had some lapses, but it held up consistently for the most part.

Who do I think is the most awesome Servant? Berserker, by a mile. His approach to life along with his mannerisms are just so lovable and admirable. His Noble Phantsam reveal was also awesome.

DAT THEME

I feel that the whole series had a decent OST playing throughout. It had a mix of modern and traditional instruments in them including electronic and orchestra music.

Most awesome of all the music though, is DAT THEME-“Tragedy and Fate”. It plays multiple times throughout the show and even has variations to fit the different moods it’s required to convey-from relatively happy moments to epiphanies. Awe-inspiring yet versatile, this is sure to top my list of previously-unknown gems this year.

Weakness

However good Fate/Zero’s premise, animation and music might be, I still can’t shake the feeling that it lacks something crucial, namely thrills. It’s hard to feel thrilled when you know that the main cast isn’t in danger of dying so soon in the series. It may change as the climax approaches, so this isn’t such a big issue just yet.

On an unrelated note, I pity Assassin (A-SSA-SHIN: What a cool name!) for being just a pawn in Kirei and Tokiomi’s plans. He didn’t even make it to the second half! Worse still, he’s even made a joke of in the Blu-Ray specials. Although the specials were funny (and educational), I can’t help but feel that his potential was wasted…

Round-up

The roster as of Episode 13.

Art/Animation: Good, with some creative shots and well-animated fight scenes. The animation was fluid and a treat to watch. Even with some lapses, it looked pretty damn good.

Story: Interesting and better than expected for the most part. I was caught off guard (in a good way) by how secretive some of the Masters were and their covert tactics. However, I had a little trouble keeping track of each Masters’s actions in between each battle.  Sometimes, they’re just too many details and schemes to remember. Also, I still don’t really get why Kirei and Emiya fear/are fascinated by each other. Perhaps it’s the lack of build-up or context…

Music: Top-notch. Right tunes in right moments. Awesome theme to go along as well. The OP is quite upbeat and unique, but the ED is nothing to write home about-it lacks something unique to set it apart from other EDs.

Seiyuu: Generally okay, they pulled off their roles believably. However, Kirei’s voice sounds a lot like Tokiomi’s, so it’s confusing at times. Might need some time to get used to that. Notable (read:AMAZING) voices include Caster’s and Rider’s. I’ve got a thing for dramatic-sounding characters. =)

Overall: It surpassed some of my expectations (story, music and seiyuu), but fell short of a few as well (lack of thrills, trouble keeping up with events). If I had to decide however, I’d say go ahead-it’s entertaining enough and it has a deep and intriguing universe for those of you who like this type of anime. Definitely worth the time spent. Now, to enjoy the remaining episodes…

Well, that’s it for my take on Fate/Zero’s first half. Got a bone to pick with Tokiomi’s parenting skills? Give a shout at the comments below!

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