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Fate/Zero Review

July 18, 2012 By: Nopy Category: Anime

The prequel to Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero is a 25-episode anime written by Gen Urobuchi and produced by Ufotable. It focuses on the 4th Holy Grail War, a free-for-all battle between 7 magi and heroes summoned from throughout history to be their servants. The prize: the Holy Grail, a device capable of granting any wish. Since I had already seen Fate/Stay Night, I already knew how Fate/Zero would end and simply watched it expecting to see some nice action scenes.

The series blew me away with its intense exploration of humanity and ideals. Unlike Fate/Stay Night, which had a simple right vs wrong approach when characters clashed, Fate/Zero presented conflicts between more muddy positions. Most of the characters deal with some sort of internal conflict, which helped add to the physical battles that they fight.

Kiritsugu, the magi assassin, is torn between trying to stop all fighting and using violence to do so. Kirei, the priest’s son, is searching for meaning in life and questions whether his joy is in defiance of God’s will. Kariya, the tormented son, returns to his family in order to prevent the daughter of the woman he loves from suffering the fate he would’ve suffered if he never left. Saber, the king of knights, struggles to find what it means to be a leader. All of these conflicts made Fate/Zero seem chaotic, but went a long way in explaining everyone’s actions and desires.

In contrast to the conflicted souls mentioned above, there was also a good number of characters that knew what they wanted and stuck to their ideals through to the end. Rider, the king of conquerors, is probably the best example as he always stayed on the path of a king, battling with honour and respect. Not all of them were as stirring as Rider though. Tokiomi, probably the most powerful magi in the war, was utterly dull and boring. His reason for obtaining the Holy Grail was simply for pride and achieving greater magic.

What I found to be the most interesting conflict was Kiritsugu’s battle with himself. He decided to participate in the Holy Grail War in order to use the grail to bring world peace. His method of doing so: killing everyone that stands in his way. This dissonance between methods and ideal intrigued me far more than the Rider’s displays of honour or Kariya’s seemingly eternal suffering.

With so much focus on internal conflict, it would be reasonable to expect a lack of action, but Fate/Zero manages to balance the two very well. Except for the meeting of kings, I thought there were enough blades clashing and explosions to keep me from thinking that I was watching a bunch of talking heads. The shock value of the series is also very high. Some of the atrocities that the characters commit will leave most people with feelings of disgust.

In terms of animation quality, Ufotable really outdid themselves in this series. The attention to detail was extraordinary, and I did not see any instance of deformed/disproportionate characters or objects. The dark setting and atmosphere that Ufotable was able to convey was brilliant. Even in the brightest scenes, there always seemed to be a shadow looming in the background; perhaps that’s more of the director’s work though. There was also a relatively seamless transition between normal animation and CG. While it was obvious that the water and Caster’s monster were computer-generated, they didn’t seem out-of-place.

The music had the same effect as the animation, invoking a sense of darkness and despair. Yuki Kajiura did a great job composing a couple of the theme songs too.

In my opinion, Fate/Zero is a brilliant anime that deserves praise for venturing deep into areas other than moe and comedy. Few series are as dark and manage to be so thought-provoking. Unlike most action series, the character personalities are far more realistic and no one can truly be split into “good” and “bad”. Fate/Zero was a joy to watch, and if you can stomach dark stories, then I highly recommend you watch it.

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19 Comments to “Fate/Zero Review”

  1. TsukuyomiMagi99 says:

    While I agree with you about Fate/Zero, I mean what else needs to be said about Gen? I mean he’s made Madoka an Otaku staple name and Song of Saya is one of the best Visual Novels I’ve played. However this is where we differ, I personally feel the western fandom places too much praise on noir type entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I love dark stories but just because something is dark doesn’t mean it’s good but yet people seem to think that it is.

    • I don’t think I made myself very clear. While I do like Fate/Zero for taking a darker approach, that’s not what makes it good. It’s the amalgamation of all of the conflicts into one cohesive story that made me enjoy it.

      • TsukuyomiMagi99 says:

        I guess I wasn’t making myself very clear either. I was referring to fans who think that just because something is dark regardless of what it is automatically makes it good. It has nothing to do with Fate/Zero. In fact I loved the series.

  2. What I like best about Fate/Zero is the amount of attention and in-depth look poured into the philosophies they executed. It makes the choices the characters picked exciting to see, and it makes the different choices chose between the other characters even the more so contrasting, but nice.

    Aside from that, animations are damn gorgeous, obviously. The use of CG graphics doesn’t feel out of place, agreed, and my eyes are always on Berserker whenever he emerges due to the use of CG. His fights with Gilgamesh are always a sight to see, but I still like Kirei VS Kiritsugu best anyhow.
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    • The in-depth look into each ideal was a good point about the series, it’s so much better than the usual good vs bad.

      Berserker was pretty cool and it’s impressive how they managed to fit him right in with the regular animation.

  3. I liked this more dark grown up attempt for a Fate story at first.
    Since the anime was splitted in 2 seasons, I have to say that the first one was epic while the second one wasn’t what I wished for, the servant battles where short and underwhelming, for example Rider vs Gilgamesh, what a joke. Kiritsugu had the best and more intense fights, in this anime. I understand that action isn’t the main part of that anime. But overall I would have liked a better balance between deeply portraying the characters and some action. I feel like it worked better in the first season. Nevertheless Fate zero was definitely a great anime, maybe a bit too cruel for me, especially the last scenes with Irisviel where quite disturbing.
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    • Given the setting, I was expecting more action too, but I was fine with what they provided. Personally, I found the idealistic battles to be just as exciting as any physical battle.

  4. I gotta say, I watch Fate/Zero mainly for the action thrills. So when I’m not getting as much as I anticipated especially during the second of half of the series, it’s natural that I feel disappointed. Although I don’t deny that Fate/Zero provided a good ground for us viewers to debate the ideals in lives and to question what’s to consider right and wrong.
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  5. Its been a while I havent been so mesmerised in a anime since well clannad i think., the level of animation is out of this world they really up their game but thats to be expected from ufotable.

    Its not the best well it can be a contender for it but just lacked a bit of that masterpiece. they should have extended the number of epsiodes because at some point it felt rushed and some arc lacked screen time and the other had a bit to much like Kiritsugu’s past. but all and all it was mind blowing so much so that i bought myself the BD and also have the second season in order.
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    • The ending was rather rushed and not quite complete, but since it had to leave off where Fate/Stay Night began, I think it did a good job. It would’ve been cool if they could’ve drifted from the Fate timeline set by Stay Night though. I would’ve loved to see Kiritsugu and Kirei finish their fight.

  6. Action + drama + twists! These are the elements that keep me watching Fate Zero from the start till the end and this series manages to make each one of them shine!
    Ufotable has done a wonderful job adapting this series and I hope they’ll find a way to do an adaptation of Heaven’s feel as well…:P
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    • I’d love it if they animated Heaven’s Feel. It would complete the series and it would redeem the original Fate/Stay Night’s mediocre-ness.

  7. I still have a couple of episodes left but I enjoyed watching this series. The animation is really good and there were awesome fight scenes. It would have been nicer though if they give more of a backstory to reinforce character buildup.
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    • A little more backstory would’ve been good just so you know more about the characters, but I think that might’ve made it too long. You were still able to understand everyone’s motivations in the series (mostly).

  8. I just finished the series just now. I really love it! Though I admit I’m really sad with the rest of the characters dying T_T Or maybe I’m just not used in watching dark themed animes. All in all, I really enjoyed the series thanks to your awesome review! :)

    • It’s sad that so many of the characters had to die, but it was all part of the story. I don’t think it would’ve been as exciting if everyone lived.

  9. Fate/Zero is one of the few recent series that really got my attention. It has been a while since I watched something that is serious, dark, and something that balances action with the hull quite alright (it didn’t feel forced) since Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

    Most of the masters fought with a reason different from each other based on their ideals and beliefs, and it’s not something that can be outright labelled as right or wrong. What’s more is when you can relate yourself to them, generating a resonance that makes you feel sorry for them. Hence Kiritsugu really gets my attention in the way he is portrayed and the actions he carries out, hence the post you made earlier.

    As a prequel there exists a problem where you can easily predict what happens to the characters that don’t appear in the original, but that is rather inevitable. On the other hand, the fight between Saber and Berserker could have been a bit longerm, with a conclusion that isn’t ended too abruptly. But that’s just a minor point.
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    • I agree with you wholeheartedly. The way each of the masters had a legitimate reason to fight was a major contributing factor to the series. If it weren’t a prequel I bet it would’ve been far better as you would not have been able to predict what would happen.


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