Fate/Zero

Fate/Zero

2ee05df6e44530437069955b71f09daf1317839234_fullOkay, so I may have my Type-Moon Fate series a bit back-to-front. The first thing I watched was Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, and now I’m watching Fate/Zero before actually watching the main anime series: Fate/stay night (which I’m watching at the moment – I’m getting there, I promise!).

Fate/Zero is, in fact, a prequel anime to another series: Fate/stay night. It takes place ten years prior and details the events of the fourth Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City. For those of you that are unaware, the Holy Grail Wars are a great contest in which seven mages each summon one of seven Heroic Spirits to help them compete in a grand battle royal in order to be granted a miracle by the most legendary treasure of time: the Holy Grail.

The Fate series does come with a lot of hype and fandom attached to it, which puts me off and does try to influence my attempts to approach new anime with unbiased impressions – but in this case the hype is deserved. I approached Fate/Zero with a curious interest, and I was hooked before I knew it. Although I hadn’t watched the main canon, I was just completely taken in by the whole premise of this world and absolutely fascinated by the servants: legendary characters of lore brought back to life in the present day to fight for a miracle. It just proves, impressively, that viewers don’t have to have watched Fate/stay night to enjoy Fate/Zero as a stand-alone series.

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In my opinion, and probably in a lot of others, Fate/Zero is one of the best Type-Moon TV shows I have seen. The characters are fantastic, and the animation in general makes the action scenes truly something impressive. These things, compared with the fast-paced and intriguing storyline makes this series a real thrill. You can really see the effort and complexity put into the characters, and their motivation and ambitions are outlined from the beginning and often a stark comparison to the other mages and their servants. There is plenty of context and underlying symbolism, which really makes this series stand out as a deeper, multi-layered series.

The relationships between the masters are filled with tension, usually exploding into a great confrontation. Emiya Kiritsugu and Kotomine Kirei are a great example of this. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the servants are lacking in personality either. Archer, Rider and Saber are great together, particularly in a scene where their opposing philosophies of what it is to be a ruler and their personal beliefs come to life. I always enjoyed seeing Iskander get the screen time he deserved, but I also found myself looking forward to the psychotic antics of the Caster servant and his obsession with Saber.

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For some reviewers, they find the plot of Fate/Zero to be a bit slow, not ‘fast enough’ to be considered an action series. I say that with an anime steeped in such history and colourful backstory such as this, it would be a crying shame not to explore it on parallel with the battles. Otherwise the fights would have no meaning and all become much of a muchness. Animes like this need that extra facet to set themselves apart as something extraordinary. I myself loved trying to guess which famous historical figure the servants were. Towards the end, a few episodes are dedicated to Emiya’s backstory, and tries to explain the reasons behind his behaviour. Even though these pretty much halt the pace of the show, I would argue that they are truly needed. Emiya Kiritsugu has a strange character that makes him somewhat more un-relatable than the others. As the main character, this is something that needs to be addressed – which is what his backstory ultimately does. Not only does this help his distant character in Fate/Zero, but it also succeeds in fleshing him out in the beginning of Fate/stay night.

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Watching Fate/Zero was addictive, and I love when an anime grabs me with an obsessive hold. The story was intelligently planned but at the same time exciting. I also love not knowing what is going to happen next, and what characters are going to survive. Technically, in the Holy Grail Wars, no one is safe, and it kept me on-edge wondering what fate would befall these characters.

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I’ll admit to have watched the Fate series completely wrong-way backwards: the spin-off, the prequel, and then the main story – but you know what? I’m glad I did. It just shows the variety (and the versatility) of the anime in that anyone can pick it up anywhere and enjoy it without knowing all the backstory. I’m usually a stickler for this type of thing, and like to watch my series’ in order, so it’s refreshing to know that if you find one part of this franchise, you can watch it and trace your way back to its roots at your leisure without feeling like you’re missing something. I actually enjoyed seeing the different portrayals of Illyasviel von Einzburn as a magical girl and a small, innocent child before I saw her as she was meant to be: a prodigious, unhinged mage.

Fate/Zero is anime at its finest, and well worth a watch whether you love Type-Moon or have since Fate/stay night. Even if you haven’t (like me, at the time), it is definitely worth a watch.