Fate/Zero – Review
First off, I’d like to apologize to anyone who may actually care for not writing episodic reviews for the last three or so episodes. I’ve had a lot of stuff to do, and didn’t have an adequate amount of time to sit down and write proper reviews like I like them, so I decided that it would be best to hold off on that and write a big end-all be-all review of the complete series. So without further ado… let’s begin.
I’ll be honest here, after seeing the first episode of this series… I wasn’t really too pumped up about it. I had heard a lot of sub-par opinions about it’s sequel, and I already knew that it was a prequel to Fate/Stay Night going into it, so I kind of assumed that having seen that series would be a perquisite to being able to enjoy this series. At first, that seemed to be the case with this series, as the first episode seemed to me to just be a long-winded exposition-fest filled with characters that I though I should already be familiar with. And so after that first hour of dialogue about things that I didn’t understand or comprehend, I didn’t think that I would end up watching any more of the series. However, because of how good people said the novels were, I decided to go ahead and watch the second episode of the series. And obviously, I’m glad that I decided to.
The show is about The Holy Grail War, a battle fought between seven Mages and their summoned Servants. The Mages summon a servant with and artifact and the pairs then battle each other in order to obtain the Holy Grail, an object capable of granting the owner of it any wish they desire. Fate/Zero sounds like a very standard kind of Highlander, “There can be only one”, type of thing on the surface, but it isn’t anywhere close to that at all. Most series like this would have a very obvious and noble main, one who stands up for what is right no matter what, and who’s only wish is for everyone to be happy or something like that. Then the other characters would be introduced episodically each posing a new threat that our hero will obviously overcome because… well, he’s the hero, and he’s obviously going to win. All of the challengers that the hero would face would be impossibly evil, like the type of evil who’s wish would be for everyone in the world to be raped in the ass by an elephant or something just for the hell of it. Obviously, these people’s malicious and selfish desires would not stand a chance against the unshakable morality of the hero, and they would fall one by one, each breaking under the hero’s unbreakable desire to do good. But this show isn’t like that in the least. Which is a good thing if you were actually wondering.
The series, surprisingly has some fairly decent production value and animation. Although some people may assume this is an action show, given the context of the series, it really isn’t in the end. It has plenty of good action scenes that are doe fairly well, but a majority of the series consists of dialogue and is more about the beliefs of the characters. But still, for a show like that, that animation is pretty good. It generally maintains a rather dark atmosphere most of the time, and the animation complements that very well. Some of the CGI parts of the series are kind of annoying, but that may just be because I really don’t like CGI in anime. To be fair, however, there isn’t really a whole lot of it throughout the show, so it wasn’t that big of a problem even to me. The voice actors are all good, with a few being perfectly cast for their roles, and some being really meh.
The thing that sets this series apart from others are the main characters, or lack thereof. There isn’t really one true main “Hero” character, although the series obviously favors a few specific ones over others. Also, each of the characters are given a fairly decent amount of screen time, though it takes the show a while to balance it out evenly amongst everyone. Almost all of the masters and their servants have very unique personalities instead of the usual stock “do-as-much-bad-as-possible” villains, although the one group that fits that description fits it to a “T”, and they’re badass to say the least. Some characters have good and selfless motives, while others are either completely unknown or so petty they shouldn’t even be in the War, and because of this there are several characters and pairs that you’ll like. This is one of the best things about this series; because there is not a true “main character” you root just as much for one pair as you do another, and along the course of the series your opinions about certain people will be changed entirely. It’s so much better and interesting when you actually give a shit about both sides involved in some big battle, instead of having to say, “Well, I guess I want the Main Good Guy to win”.
The show does take a little while to get started and the better half of the series is spent with the characters running around and talking, but when the series picks up, it really picks up. And of course because of the fact that there’s no cut-and-dry distinction between who the show wants you to like and who it wants you to hate, the story is open to go a lot of different places and will mean different things for different people. For example, some people will like a certain character for his selfless goal, but others will hate him for the methods he’s using to achieve it. Also, while watching this show try not to make any assumptions about who’s going to win the Grail, because they’re just going to get smashed a few episodes later if you do. As I said before, most other shows in this style simply follow the hero mowing down his evil opponents one at a time, yet this show does not follow such a linear format. The series isn’t simply ever pair running around and trying to kill the others, and it seems much more realistic because they actually take the time to think about what they want to do, to make alliances with each other and don’t all treat each other as their sworn and mortal enemy. Well, it makes it as realistic as a bunch of ancient Spirits battling for a magic cup can be.
Also, without trying to spoil anything, I actually liked the ending, although I’m sure plenty of people didn’t. About halfway through this show, I was convinced that there was no way this series could actually have a satisfying ending, given that there were so many characters that I liked, and obviously all of them couldn’t win. And like most of my other preconceived notions about the show, that idea was proven wrong as well. The ending was kind of what I expected it to be, but was a lot more satisfying than I thought it would be too. However, that may just be because I know that the story isn’t over and that it continues on into Fate/Stay Night.
Finally, the sheer epicness of this series makes it that much better. It really isn’t too often that something with such a simple concept can become so much more than what you expect of it. It’s a rarity for a show to have so many likable characters, good and evil alike, and for that show to be able to give each of them enough of their own time to show what they bring to the story. The show does take a little while to get started and the better half of the series is spent with the characters running around and talking, but when the series picks up, it really picks up. This is one of the best all-around great examples of an anime that I can think of, not really because it does anything terribly new, but because everything it does it does so well. The series definitely fulfilled all the promises of epicness that a Magic War fought with ancient spirits could fulfill, and on top of that, it gives great characters with great personalities, and a satisfying story. In my opinion, it’s fucking great.