"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" - Lord John Dalberg-Acton, 1837.
There are many types of power - financial, military, political, religious, etc - and at one time or another each has been used to further the goals of individuals, organisations, and even nations. The odd thing though, is that even though it has been referenced for thousands of years in everything from legends and myths to folktales and history, magic has rarely been placed in the same category. The problem is that people don't really believe in magic any more, and the subject has been relegated to the realms of fiction and fantasy - even though it was often said that practitioners had the ability to wield primal forces, command spirits, and shake the foundations of heaven.
Everything has a price though, and in order to achieve or seize power of any sort you have to be willing to give up certain ... things. So the question is, what would you sacrifice for the chance to be a god?
The continuation of Fate/Zero opens with two F-15 jets that have been dispatched by the Japanese Air Force with orders to investigate the situation on the Mion River. Archer/Gilgamesh watches with disdain from on high as Sabre, Rider and Lancer continue their temporary alliance, and the pitched battle with the giant creature summoned by Caster/Gille de Rais rages on.
Little do they know that a new player is about to enter the field ...
One of the most noticeable differences between the first and second halves of Fate/Zero is the shift from preparation and planning to all-out action - something that is rather eloquently symbolized by the battle on the Mion River. With much of the preamble over, the storyline is able to place the kid-gloves to one side and ramp-up the tension between the combatants. This is most often achieved by drawing on the conflicting ideologies of each of the characters - with some thoroughly unscrupulous tactics thrown in to drive home the fact that the participants are involved in a war. The plot remains as focused as ever, but there's a palpable change in the atmosphere of the series, and many episodes have a less forgiving, more brutal air about them.
This shift in "attitude" has been handled extremely well by series director Aoki Ei and his writers, and a great deal of attention has been paid to the impact the numerous action scenes have on the characters - something that's becoming a rarity in modern anime. It's an interesting and effective usage of screentime that is markedly different from the patient build-up of the first half of the story, but crafted with the same care and attention to detail that have become a hallmark of Type-Moon/Ufotable collaborations. This prevents the show devolving into a legendary free-for-all, and allows for some very interesting confrontations - several of which have their roots in the layers of subtext that were added during previous series.
With the focus on action instead of intrigue, one might have expected there to be some differences in the visuals. Thankfully there are almost no major alterations present throughout the series - aside from a few cosmetic differences in clothing and apparel. The high production standards have been maintained and character movements are as sharp and crisp as ever. There are a few relatively minor issues with the blending of CG and standard animation, but these are pretty easy to ignore. What does stand out are the rather dazzling visual effects, many of which are bigger and bolder due to the shift from preparation to action. The choreography and timing of these - together with the quality of the character animation - make for some truly stunning combat sequences.
Composer Kajiura Yuki's all-female band Kalafina - the long-time muses of Type-Moon/Ufotable collaborations - open the second season with the operatic rock ballad "To the Beginning", while the main participants in the Holy Grail war are re-introduced in a well-choreographed montage that contains a few hints of things to come. On the other hand the closing sequence is a rather simple yet moving account - told through a series of still images - of the relationship between Emiya Kiritsugu and Irisviel von Einzbern - with Luna Haruna's pop ballad "Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau" adding an uplifting and slightly bittersweet tone. Kalafina also return with the martially themed operatic ballad "Manten" as a special closing track for episodes 18 and 19.
The first season of Fate/Zero featured a very high standard of audio production, and it's nice to see that sound director Iwanami Yoshikazu hasn't allowed anyone to rest on their laurels. The background music is as diverse and atmospheric as ever, and while there are a few tracks that may sound a little off-kilter, this appears to be a purposeful move in order to heighten the mood of certain scenes. That said, there are two areas where this series is arguably superior to its predecessor - both of which have been pushed to the fore by the move to action.
The audio effects are as sharp and clear as ever, but the increase in combat means that the production standards need to be pushed even higher and more diversity needs to be added. In addition to this the quality of the audio/visual choreography - which was already excellent in the previous series - often went unnoticed because of the focus on preparation and planning. Thankfully Iwanami is arguably one of the most experienced sound directors working in the industry, and his skills - developed over many years working on a variety of different anime - really make the difference. The superb effects and remarkable choreography really set the second series of Fate/Zero apart from other shows released this year, and mark it as a front-runner for any potential awards in this department.
Unlike many other anime, the move to an action footing hasn't caused the script to devolve into random shouts, grunts and screams, and the writers have done well to retain the maturity and intelligence of the first season. There is a bit of a change in the delivery though, as with the goal in sight, some of the actors appear to have been encouraged to add more emotion to their roles. This works surprisingly well with characters who were cold or aloof in the first series - Sabre and Archer for example - and the differences in their feelings becomes more pronounced as the story progresses and the battles take their mental toll.
One of the biggest criticisms of Fate/Zero is that it has tried to weave a coherent narrative from too many character and plot threads without relying on a lead role. Now this may seem like an anathema to those who prefer their development to follow a distinct linear progression, but those tales often suffer from an age-old problem in storytelling - every good protagonist needs an equally good antagonist. It's an issue that has affected anime for many years as - contrary to popular belief - creating and developing a good opposite (the antagonist doesn't have to be a villain after all), to a hero/heroine is not an easy task.
Thankfully Fate/Zero takes its cues from shows like Baccano!, and the lack of a lead role is actually a boon to the series as it allows multiple perspectives to come to the fore. Each of the participants in the war for the Holy Grail is effectively the antagonist of one or more of the other combatants, and all of the players bounce around the plot like peas on a drum - colliding into each other and changing their directions, alliances and enemies in the blink of an eye. It's a rarely used and fascinating approach to character development that highlights in particular the ever-changing nature of the battlefield. One big plus is that while the first season was rather staid in its portrayal of the heroes, the second half of the story pulls very few punches - showing clearly the lengths to which several of the combatants will go in order to win, opening the scars of old wounds, and ensuring that the viewer knows exactly what everyone has put on the line for the ultimate prize.
Over the years there have been many anime that have changed focus and tone from one season to the next, but rarely does it happen in the space of one series. The reason for this is because it's often extremely difficult to reconcile what may eventually turn out to be conflicting portrayals of the story and characters - and therein lies the greatest achievement of Type-Moon, Ufotable, and author Urobuchi Gen. The successful blending of two different perspectives has created a remarkable story that isn't afraid to show off its intelligence or maturity, and the second half of Fate/Zero successfully builds upon the carefully laid foundations of the first season - even with the increase in action and combat.
Prequels are often tricky to deal with as they are very easy to get wrong, which is one of the reasons why this series is a little bit special. In addition to shedding new light on the events that occur in Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero is also a singular example of just how good seinen action tales can be, and a testament to the quality that can be achieved through long-term studio collaborations.
Quite driven throughout the entire series. Plenty of plot twists in the story that changes the nature of the show.
Absolutely strong throughout the series. From interaction between characters, fight scenes, and precious moments, the show does a great job of displaying them with detail.
Appropriate settings between the intimate moments among characters. Music is good overall.
Perhaps the strongest trait of the show. All characters have the potential to be very relatable and likeable with a well written background and overall character development.
The "best" among the entire series for its well developed characters and overall beautiful visual appeal.
Type Moon are the best visual novel company, Studio Ufotable is the best anime company, and Gen Urobuchi is the best anime writer and director. So what happens when you combine the three? Well, it's impossible to create anything less than an absolute masterpiece, of course. Now, keep in mind, I'm not trying to be a bias fanboy with this review. It's very rare that I actually rate an anime perfectly. In fact, Fate/Zero is the first I've done that for, ever. Now, when I say perfect, I use it in the loosest term possible. I don't believe anything is truly "Perfect." What I mean is that, even though it may have flaws, they're so minor, insignificant, and nitpicky, that they're not even worth talking about, and that most people, including myself, probably won't even notice them to begin with.
The story is one of the most original and interesting concepts I've ever heard. Taking figures from history and mythology, having them basically be reincarnated in specific classes, under the control of Masters, and having them battle it out for the Holy Grail? It's genius! Even though some of the backstory of all of the Servants are fabricated, Urobuchi made sure to get the core elements of their real life personalities, while adding his own cool quirks. However, not much can be said about the story, as Fate/Zero solely character driven. It's not about the Holy Grail, as much as it's about the personalities and goals of the Masters and Servants searching for it, their reasons and aspirations; the plot is basically just here to GIVE the characters goals.
Art & Animation
The art, like many modern anime, really appeals to me. If you look at a picture of Fate/Zero, you should instantaneously recognize it as a Ufotable anime, even if you know nothing about it beforehand, so long as you know anything about Ufotable beforehand. The animation is really where it gets amazing, though. Fate/Zero has, without a doubt, the greatest animation that I've ever seen in an anime, period. I don't think there's a single scene where there isn't SOMETHING moving, and the fluidity is simply stunning. Ufotable even went the extra mile by having the CLOUDS move in the background when there's nothing else moving on screen. That's a detail that most studios wouldn't even consider to do, let alone to actually do, but that's one of the reasons Ufotable is my favorite anime studio; because not only did they consider it, but they also did it, and very well, I might add.
The music is such a blast to listen to; it's so good and catchy that I actually have it downloaded, which is really rare for me. It's the kind of music that I could listen to for days on end and never get tired of it. The show has two openings and two endings, both of which are really awesome.
Like I said before, Fate/Zero is a character driven anime, and that's where the show really shines. Fate/Zero has some of the most complex and interesting characters in anime, and Urobuchi rights them in such a way that you care about the slightest thing done with them, weather they're killed off, or put through torturous hell.
My favorite, without a doubt, is Saber, for many reasons. I love her personality, and it's one I respect greatly. In life she was King Arthur, King of Britannia. However, she was different from other kings due to her kindness and her sense of honor and loyalty, primarily because she was a Knight BEFORE she was a King. It's something that I respect highly, as many traits of her personality are traits that I personally share with her. I love Saber so much that the ending of Fate/Zero, (which I will NOT spoil for you), almost broke me emotionally. That's the primary reason, (although trust me, there's many others), that Fate/Zero is my favorite anime of all time.
Another great character is Kiritsugu Emiya, the master of Saber. He's the Master of the Einzbern Family, and the husband of Irisaviel von Einzbern, who also acts as Saber's master occasionally. He's the Anti-Hero of Fate/Zero, as well as the resident badass of the series. He entered in the war to obtain the Holy Grail and wish for all wars to end, and believes that the ends justifies the means, brutally murdering many participants in the war, and even some innocence who aren't in the war, all for the end goal which, he believes, will be completely worth it in the end. He hates war and conflict, but is willing to commit these sins so he can obtain the grail and end it all. Both Saber and Kiritsugu are easily the most complex characters in the series, as they're the only four dimensional characters, as well as the most interesting ones. However, I'd say Kiritsugu is more complex, primarily due to characterization; all we know about Saber's past are the few things we've heard in present day, but we had an entire 2-3 episodes dedicated to Kiritsugu's flashbacks, making him more fleshed out than her.
I'm not a fan of Rider, like a lot of other people are, primarily due to his conflicts with Saber, and NOT believing he is a badass, (again, that goes to Kiritsugu), but he does serve a purpose in the series, those being to kickstart the necessary conflict with Saber's character, and to turn his master, Waver Velvet, into a respectable person, both of which he succeeds at.
Both Zouken Matou, and Gilamesh aren't too deep or complex, but what makes them interesting is how good they're written in terms of being villains. Zouken Matou is a despicable villain that you love to hate, and Gilgamesh is a fun villain, whom you also love to hate, so they're well written in that regard, at least. Lancer is also a notable character, being one of only two characters in the anime, the other being Irisaviel von Einzbern, who actually respected Saber in a way. In Lancer's case, he was an honorable Knight in his previous life, just like her, and the two wished to have an honorable battle to the death.
I immensely enjoyed Fate/Zero from start to finish. I finished the anime in two days, which is saying something, because I rarely ever marathon anime. As much as I've complimented the anime before, the enjoyment might be the best part about it, for me personally, and definitely worth mentioning.
Overall, Fate/Zero has earned the privilage of being the only anime, thus far, that I have ever rated a perfect 10/10, which is saying something. This is not only Ufotable's magnum opus, but it's also Gen Urobuchi's magnum opus, and if you haven't seen it yet, you definitely should; you shouldn't be disappointed.
Best way to get back into anime after a period of HBO binging. Fantastic anime with everything you could ask for in entertianment, storytelling, and character development. The only downside is realizing this is a sequel to Fate/Stay Night and being INCREDIBLY dissapointed with the original show...I will grind my way through it though. From respect XD.
Fate/Zero 2 is the concluding half to the Fate/Zero saga and one of the most entertaining seasons of any action anime ever. With a cast of fun characters, amazing animation, and some great fight scenes sprinkled throughout, as well as some of the most intense drama you could ask for, Fate/Zero 2 doesn’t screw around with conventions of the genre and instead carves out its own private niche from which many action anime would do good to analylze.
Fate/Zero 2 continues where the last season left off with the big battle between everyone and Caster raging in the river. It’s a visual spectacle, but doesn’t set the perfect tone for the rest of the series. Now, I am not going to detract anything from the tone of the show changing dramatically (the big action scene is the biggest of the series, it mellows out and becomes one on one battles the rest of the show) because this second season was supposed to be part of a single, full season. But the animation department wanted to beef Fate/Zero’s second half up so released it later because of that.
Despite that, the show is not as action heavy as it is made out to be. The series has some excellent action sequences, but hits its stride more so during moments of intense drama than fighting. None of the fight scenes are particularly memorable but for the final one between Kiritsugu and Kirei which I found to be very well done. The rest are good, but never anything you’ll talk about later. Meanwhile, the sequences of intense drama are so much more involving and, especially in later episodes, they leave you at the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. These scenes are very brutal both emotionally and violence-wise. Anybody who has seen episode twenty-four concerning Kiritsugu, his wife, and his daughter know exactly what I am talking about and probably had their mouths agape, as did I, during that scene.
This season expands on Kiritsugu’s past through two episodes that don’t really fit in at all. While I appreciate the thought of adding that extra layer to Kiritsugu’s already badass character, the placement in the middle of the season was not particularly smart and broke things up too much. On top of that, the two episodes were probably the weakest of the twelve of the season. They weren’t bad, but they were average. I could see them as OVA’s more so than part of the series proper.
One thing I can appreciate about Fate/Zero as a whole is the fact it is brutal and unapologetic about it. It is a series with a fairly adult tone and kills characters you grow to like without giving us a long drawn out monologue or something of the like to see him/her go. Probably the one episode that will always come to me when I think Fate/Zero is the one where Kayneth is in a wheelchair and has given his command spells to Sola. This was an episode that had the drama down, it had brutal execution, and it reminded me that I was watching a no-nonsense anime. And that is truly what I appreciate from this series is the fact it doesn’t treat me like a child and announce everything going on, it doesn’t slow down to have characters talk about their pasts and teach lessons. While it does have these elements, they aren’t the slow going you expect from action series. The clip is fast enough to keep you interested.
As I said in my previous review of Fate/Zero, I love the wide array of very distinct personalities the series provides and the way they play off each other. That is one of the strong suits of Fate/Zero, if not the greatest strength of the show. No two characters are alike and none are just cookie-cutter or cardboard. While some are weaker than others, they are distinct, and those distinctions are what drives the series forward.
For those looking for a huge finale, you will be sorely disappointed. The final two episodes are very, very good but, other than a maybe five minute fight between Kirei and Kiritsugu, there is no real physical combat. As far as wrapping everything up goes, the series does a great job and, as this is the prequel to Fate/StayNight, it does lead into that series quite nicely.
Overall I find it hard to mention anything new that I did not mention in my previous review. This series is distinct, and that is something that I like. It is not moe, it is not a high school drama. It is something different with a lot of adult tones that gives it that edge that many fans of anime want. While it is not in any way perfect, it--to me--recalls my time watching Ghost in the Shell when I was surrounded by intelligent characters, an interesting world, and a lot of good drama with the occasional sprinkling of action sequences. That’s just me though.
Dark, haunting, dramatic, and brutal, Fate/Zero is an excellent anime that I’m sure will be popular for many years to come.