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You know, after the first episode of this show, I didn’t think it was possible that I could actually be more confused about the actual plot than I already was. However, this episode certainly proved me wrong, providing very little detail about anything relevant while at the same time raising even more questions about the show than I already had. Not only that, but the entire episode felt like a tool to force all of the characters to interact with each other instead of an actual attempt to expand the story.
The explanation for what the giant chocolate monster was in the first episode is very rushed and makes almost no sense. All that’s given is that some deity is residing within Sasami’s brother for whatever reason and it uses it’s power to grant whatever random desire he has. Also, apparently this world is full of god-things, which isn’t explained in the slightest; it only mentions the one in the brother is the strongest. So, if that wasn’t enough to confuse you, it’s also revealed at the end of the episode that whatever kind of god is in her brother was at one point inside Sasami… or something like that.
So, I think it’s safe to assume that this is a show that isn’t going to be very adept at conveying it’s story, because even the actual story of this episode didn’t make too much sense. They explain that a lot of students are missing from school and that they think a large number of them are skipping because they’re playing some MMO game. And so, they decide to pretty much play the game to find out why people are skipping, as stupid as that sounds. I mean, what are they even trying to find out, if kids are actually skipping school because of the game or not? Can’t they just ask the students themselves, or maybe their parents? Also, why the fuck do they need to go to Sasami’s house to use her computers? I’m pretty sure a robot-person would have a laptop or two lying around somewhere, and a school in Japan in this day and age has to have plenty of computers for faculty to use. As a matter of fact, Shana-knock-off-girl was even playing some hentai game on one in the first episode. So it makes no sense for all them just to go to Sasami’s house just for her computers, but like I said, it’s just an excuse to get the characters to interact with each other.
And in my opinion, the characters are all pretty weak. Out of the three main girls, the blonde girl (who is apparently in elementary school) is pretty much a complete throw-away character. The other two girls, whose names I can’t even remember, aren’t much better and aren’t really anything beyond what their appearances suggest about their obvious archetypes. See, I can’t even remember their names, that’s how uninspired and stock they are. Sasami’s brother is also very annoying and is practically more of a plot point than an actual character. Sasami, though better in almost every way than the rest of the cast, still isn’t all that interesting in the end. When everything is said and done, she’s a very standard smart but socially awkward hikikomori character who doesn’t seem to venture too far from that trope.
Despite Shaft being pretty as always, I really don’t think this will end up being that great of a series. At this point I wouldn’t even be surprised that directors know they can probably coast on Shaft’s popularity and not try as hard to really make the story all that great. The characters are pretty bland and forgettable and there isn’t a much of a concrete story to be found in all of this. One thing I will say is that I’ve liked a lot of the background music in this show, because for whatever reason there’s been a fair amount of blues/rock music in it, which is kind of odd, but it’s nice to see the show at least has some variety in that aspect.
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.
Kind of late, but better late than never I guess. Anyway, finally after around four months of waiting Fate/Zero makes it’s return to computer screens everywhere. However, it didn’t really feel like it warranted the huge break in between the two parts of the series. What I mean by that is, this doesn’t really feel like the start of a new season, and it probably isn’t supposed to (seeing as how it’s been called episode 14 everywhere I looked), but I still that the gap between the last episode and this one warranted something bigger. This isn’t really anything to criticize, because it’s not like the show cut off right before they fought Caster and we had to wait to see if there would be another season, but still, another forty-five minute episode would have been fine by me.
This episode contained a lot of action, which is fine by me, but some of it did seem a little over the top, such as the dogfight between Berserker and Archer. Speaking of Berserker, it’s about damn time he finally came back – him and Kariya both. Karyia and Tokiomi’s conversation was one of the few things in this episode that wasn’t all out action, and I was really glad that Kariya finally got to have some time in the spotlight. Seeing as how he’s entered into the war for completely selfless reasons, it seems kind of odd how downplayed he’s been so far, especially with his badass Servant. For a standard show, it would stand to reason that someone with such a noble cause would be the main hero, but Fate/Zero isn’t really a standard show, which is a good thing. Maybe he’ll come into the show more now, especially since Ryunosuke is dead.
But other than a series of brief conversations between Archer and Tokiomi, not much else really happened in this episode. Even though Caster’s master is dead, he could still technically find another master before all of this is over, assuming that the other servant’s don’t find a way to beat him somehow. But I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Caster’s going to be out of the money pretty soon here, seeing as how it’s a kind of common trait in anime for a villain pull his biggest gun right before he dies. That and the fact that I don’t think Caster could bear to go on without his oh-so-amazing master Ryunosuke. Who will slaughter children and make artwork out of entrails with him? Who could possibly find the same joy in the screams of innocent women having their flesh torn from their body? Only Ryunosuke….
Anyway, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this episode, considering about half of it was taken up with Caster tearing shit up, Archer not wanting to kill him, and Berserker flying around on some demon-possessed jet. This show has been plenty good so far, so I don’t really have a reason to believe that that’s going to change any time soon, I think I just felt that this episode was a little underwhelming as a big epic come-back episode, but perhaps that was just my presupposition of what it should have been. Hopefully next week, we’ll finally get to see the first servant fall, even though it will be a little sad to say goodbye to Caster and all of his craziness.