"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.
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.
Love the graphics, the depth of the characters and the battles. The music goes well with the story.
The ending part was sad, it seems that all the good people ended up worsen off. It is true what they say, this series is much more mature with a darker mood than FSN. But I think having watched FSN the ending doesn't leave as muh of a saddening taste. Still though poor kerry and saber. Kirei has really become one of the most disturbed hated character right till the end.
With hyped up animes like these where the expectation is so high, the ending sometimes is difficult to pull off but I enjoyed the part with shirou and Kiritsugu, I think it was a good way to end the series. For once it shows Kerry finding salvation.. as compared with him in the rest of the series.
The only complaint I have is that I think it should have been an episode longer so the last few episodes doesn't seen rushed.
FZ is easily one of my top 5 animes of all time, if not the best one of 2012 so far. Highly recommend it for all. For complete beginners, I think watching FSN first is the better choice. (Although some would disagree) but personally I think the overall series would be more effective if the viewers is introduced with the lighter story, it makes the heavier one much more heartening.