Posted on 24 June 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Fate/Zero




Fate/Zero was one of the big titles of the past Spring Season. It already had an incredibly solid first season, and this promised to only get better as it fired off. And yeah, the second season indeed ended up trumping the first and using its build-up. I have some qualms with it, but really: this was an incredibly well made series.

In a season with so many series that stood out with their visuals, Fate/Zero stands among the best: its consistency is amazing: characters stay amazingly on-model, even after 25 episodes and there is a ton of eye candy with brilliant use of CG. The director, Ei Aoki is a guy who started in Photography, and it shows: just about every frame in this show looks good. To put this into a perspective: in a season with three Satelight series airing at the same time, this second season alone the eye candy surpasses that of all three of them combined.

The plot continues off where the first season left off and contains a number of very satisfying climaxes that are surrounded by an interesting plot that just keeps taking turns. There are a few issues with this plot, though, most notably that you really need to be familiar with the Fate Franchise, otherwise some plot points won’t make any sense. This series may be just a prequel to Fate/Stay Night, but even then there were events that happened before this series that this series refuses to line out.

Like the first season, this series again does a wonderful job to melt the setting from the European middle ages and the ancient middle east together, putting Chivalry on one hand and conquests on the other. The two mesh greatly as they clash, on top with the Fate franchise’s interesting system of magi and mages.

Now, as for the characters. I do feel that I need to clarify myself a bit after claiming that the emotions feel empty, and things indeed are a bit more nuanced than that. The cast of Fate/Zero definitely has a number of characters that are developed really well throughout the series. The second season in particular contains some really heavy scenes that show many of them completely breaking down and there definitely are a lot of big emotions in this series. What I feel like the creators could have done better is flesh out these characters. This series puts a lot of time into battles and explaining the actions of its characters, but not so much on the touches that make their characters more human or show them in different emotions. Balancing these scenes out could have been done better: when this show builds up, it’s usually very slow (there in particular is an arc devoted to the background of just one character that takes up 2 whole episodes, but in the end is a bit too focused on explaining why he is involved in the story and a bit too little on creating a dynamic character). I feel that this could have been built up a bit better and because of that things don’t come together at the end as well as I hoped.

This series is a bit overhyped, but still, Fate/Zero remains an excellent series. Even though some plot twists come from nowhere if you’re not familiar with the Fate franchise like myself, it’s a big recommendation and there really is nothing like it around. This series pushed what can be done with animation further and the people of Ufo-Table have really grown into a powerhouse of a studio at this point.

Storytelling: 8,5/10 – Great action-packed climaxes with many interesting plot twists that are best enjoyed when you’re familiar with the Fate franchise.
Characters: 8/10 – Excellent development and loves to make its characters break down.
Production-Values: 9.5/10 – The consistency of the amount of eye candy in this series is amazing. 25 episodes and it still manages to look amazing with very few weak points.
Setting: 8,5/10 – Great themes, blends different settings together really well. Make this a full 9/10 if you’ve seen Fate/Stay Night.

Suggestions:
Kara no Kyoukai
Berserk
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Posted on 23 June 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

There was only one thing I didn’t understand in this episode: the entire series has been stressing that people die when they’re killed. And here this episode suddenly pulls back Kotomine Kirei back from the dead and turns him into a zombie. How? Did the grail turn him into this weird kind of servant or something? It just doesn’t fit in with the dark and gloomy themes of the rest of this series.

Setting that aside though, this was a very solid ending with a very solid aftermath. It”s very rare to see an ending so gloomy, especially Kiritsugu really worked in this episode. The guy is one of the few to have completely survived the drama, yet his will and resolve were completely broken (which again makes it all the more weird why Kirei pulled that zombie-card). I was also really glad that there was also a minute pulled out for Berserker. that really made the ending work for Saber. Combined, it was all so gloomy and depressing, and this was in a very good way.

Overall, out of all of Gen Urobuchi’s adaptations and series, I’d rank Fate/Zero on the third place, with Phantom still on number one and Madoka Magica on number 2. I’d say that it had two things going against it: the first is the way in which it required knowledge of the rest of the Fate franchise at key moments, and the second is that its emotions felt a bit empty. This final episode was an exception for the latter of those by the way. Emiya showed more emotion than what he showed through the entire series here and I liked that a lot.

Still, Fate/Zero was an excellent series that was really well made with a rare focus on adult characters and struggles and for that I really appreciate Ufo-Table for going with it.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 16 June 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

After nearly finishing this series, one thing that surprised me is that Kotomine Kirei didn’t really turn into such a psychotic villain. In fact for me he’s one of the most interesting characters in this second season in the way he’s searching for something to fill his doubts with. I’d much rather label Kiritsugu as the psychopath, especially after what happened in this episode.

But that definitely was a great cliff-hanger at the end of this episode. Although that does leave me to wonder: Tohsaka Tokiomi wanted a wish that would require to rewrite the laws of reality right? If such a wish is possible, then why can’t Kiritsugu’s wish of wanting to save everyone come true? To take the boats example: why not use magic to fix both holes? I get what this episode was going for in that Kiritsugu’s wish was way too naive, but if you’ve already gone over nine thousand multiple times, then this seems a pretty strange place to stop. Also, why did the grail appear, even though there were still some people fighting over it?

In any case, the action scenes were all great here, although the fight between Saber and Berserker felt a bit underwhelming, considering most of happened off-screen, and we still don’t really know why he became Berserker. Kiritsugu vs Kotomine was very well directed though, and I liked a lot how professional both were.
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on 10 June 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

If I had to give Fate/Zero’s second season one criticism, then it’s the convenience of some of the noble phantasms. I don’t mean all of them; Rider’s noble phantasm was great and Assassin’s and Berserker’s were also well used. But for some of the others: first there was Lancer, whose noble phantasm conveniently nullifies Saber’s powers. Things then got worse when Caster needed to be taken care of and Saber’s noble phantasm just so happened to be perfect for that. And now Archer reveals this giant delete button of his which conveniently ends up being the perfect thing to take away Rider’s trump card. My memory isn’t perfect, so it could be that they built up to this and I just don’t remember it, but if they didn’t: pulling this thing three times is a bit much, guys.

In any case though: there was one thing for which this episode was really clearly building up to. With this episode, it became really apparent, but the entire second season has carefully been leading up to this moment: Rider’s fall. It started with him wasting too much of his energy on taking care of Caster, and ever since he lost that air of invincibility around him. That moment in which Rider charges Archer by himself is where all of this came together.

Also, I am not sure who was behind the visuals of Rider’s noble phantasm, but once again the scenes that took place in there looked gorgeous. Especially the point where it all started to fall apart had a lot of visual talent behind it.

Also, Berserker… I now understand why they kept his identity hidden for so long.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 June 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

This show picked a really good use for its “calm before the storm”-episode: some last-minute character backgrounds that give a really different dimension to the characters involved. Waver and Irisviel had some very shocking plot twists here.

Waver had a surprisingly genuine moment with his grandfather, or the guy he used magic to turn into a grandfather. I’m not sure if it was revealed why he had to do this, but he probably used this as a guise to hide out from the other masters and servants. This was both an interesting revelation and a great way to flesh him out at the last minute, because you could really see that that talk made a huge impact on Waver.

And then there was Irisviel’s death, which eventually turned into that really trippy scene where ends up in the holy grail or something? Was she made specifically so that this would happen? And so how did she end up with Kiritsugu of all people? Did he make her, or was she created by somebody else, who left behind that huge pile of dead Irisviel’s bodies?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 27 May 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

The second half of this episode took some huge risks. This series has been very composed in terms of acting; with some exceptions, the acting in this series was subdued and even during the over the top parts, the characters knew exactly how to act with just enough restraint whilst still giving off great performances. This episode drops that and descends into overblown melodrama. Not just to show how a character feels, but also vital to the story.

These are the moments when a character completely loses it. They’re not meant to be pretty, they just are about characters completely breaking down and looking very ugly in the process. This is incredibly hard to act right because it’s just all too easy to scream at the top of your lungs and do the most outrageous thing out there. Another key to this is willing suspension disbelief: as a viewer we really need to get the idea that these characters have broken down. Which is why I’m a bit puzzled that the creators chose to do this with the master who has gotten the least amount of airtime to get fleshed out so far. To be honest, that breakdown scene… it didn’t really hit me and looked more silly due to how little we actually know of these two people. It also felt like there was just too little build-up and aftermath for it. Tohsaka killed the woman, walked away and immediately we switch to Archer and Kirei sitting back and having some wine celebrating. It… doesn’t flow well.

Also, an observation that I made before this all happened: in the first season, Rider really was the stand-out character: his charisma and monologues were wonderful and it brought a lot of spark to the series. In the second season… this just doesn’t apply at all. He has been weakened and beaten pretty often, with in this episode him losing his chariot, in favor of characters as Kotomine Kirei and Kiritsugu. This can be quite interesting build-up if the final episodes know how to handle it.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 21 May 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

The previous two episodes really were an intermezzo: they were completely standalone compared to the rest of the linear storyline. In theory, they could have been shown at any point in the series. The place the creators ended up choosing is interesting. The effect is that this episode immediately started with the aftermath of what happened three, four and five weeks ago, only to follow with one heck of a climax as well.

I get the feeling that there would have no point in the second season where the past arc would really have fitted in: there are four different storylines going on at the same time and the build-up and aftermaths of all are so intertwined that it’s impossible to find one clear point where everything has quieted down. the first season had these moments, but it seems the creators were really saving that arc for the second half of the show. This is all a good thing, by the way. It’s a sign that the storytelling is great if there is always something going on like that.

The interesting thing is that this episode contained even more background, but this time it was much more weaved into the narrative. These really were the remaining bits of background that were still missing, like who the black-haired woman was, and why Irie devoted herself to the Grail War (her loyalty towards Kiritusgu did not turn out to be the only reason; that surprised me”).

And then there was Rider. First of all I really liked that this episode showed some of the things that went on in his mind during his monologues in the first season of Fate/Zero, but at the end of this episode he really showed a different side of his. The first person he actually killed, the black haired woman. After so much heroic talk, he finally shows that like Kiritsugu, he isn’t going to take it easy on his opponents. There was no chivalry in it whatsoever, which is a great point against Saber.
Rating: **+ (Excellent+)

Posted on 12 May 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

A message to the commenters who have already read the Fate/Zero light novels: please do care to avoid spoilers here. This is not a blog about the Fate franchise, but rather this a place to discuss the Fate/Zero anime. If you’re going to spoil that Natalia dies it rather diminishes the impact of that twist, especially since that was the entire thing that this episode was leading up to. This is the one thing I dislike about adaptations of very popular works: it’s really hard not to get spoiled about things.

In any case though, the way in which Natalia did die… was pretty creative. It also tied in very much with Kiritsugu killing a few in order to save a lot, and the plane being taken over by an extreme version of killer bees: it showed another layer of what can be done with the magic in this series. It’s also interesting how professional the characters operated. It’s not often that you see professionalism to such a degree in anime. Although I do wonder who Natalia was able to smuggle guns on a plane. Is that something that magic can do as well?

Overall, I’m surprised that we get two whole episodes of Kiritsugu’s background so relatively late in the series. With this though we can understand his actions in trying to eliminate Lancer, and how his views are the total opposite of Saber’s Chivalry. And I guess that some sort of intermission was needed before the showdown between the four remaining pairs.
Rating: *+ (Great)

Posted on 6 May 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

An, so this is this season’s kid episode. I like it much better than the first season’s, because instead of giving character to one of the characters of Fate/Stay Night, it’s entended to shed some light into Kiritsugu’s background, and explain why he became a mage hunter. We see him as a kid, growing up on an island somewhere in the south of Japan that gets infested by what I’d call zombies, caused by the research of his father.

This explains that with all of the talk about lineage, we haven’t really seen anything about Kiritsugu’s parents so far. This episode doesn’t explain what happened to his mother, but I suspect that that’s got something to do with anime’s “weak and dead mother”-syndrome. What I liked about this episode is how well it fleshed out Kiritsugu and his childhood friend Shirley, together with Kiritsugu’s father… only for everything to fall apart.

One thing that I do wonder is what triggered Kiritsugu’s sudden character change at the end of the episode. I mean, I get that seeing your entire world being turned upside down is a huge shock, but would that turn Kiritsugu really from an innocent young boy who grew up normally, into a cold blooded killer with no fear of death whatsoever, in a matter of hours? The start of this episode whowed that he’s reckless, when he dived off that cliff higher than everyone else, but I don’t think that any other part of this episode hinted at that darker side of him.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 29 April 2012 with categories: Fate/Zero

So now that Caster and Lancer are gone, this series immediately moves on to another thing that it has been promising for ages now: Kotomine Kirei. The entire episode was dedicated to just building up to the moment where Kirei would betray his master. The moment itself wasn’t really unexpected, as right when Irisviel requested him to pull back from the Grail war it was obvious that he wouldn’t just let that happen, and afterward he was handed a knife of all things, but the scene itself was very satisfying. Also helped by a lot of budget being poured into that one scene.

Now, let’s see what he can do in this series now that he has some power again, and can act independently. With four episodes this series killed off a huge amount of characters, compared to how relatively few important characters died in the first 10 episodes. It definitely made good use of the build-up.

The one thing I don’t really get as someone unfamiliar with the Fate franchise is the squiggly lines on the priest’s arm that Kirei took over somehow. How does that work anyway? What power does this guy have, and why does he have it? Why did the grail find it good idea to have a guy like this, especially when he’s allied to some of the masters and could have just refueled Tohsaka’s command spells on a whim? Also, if one needs to defeat all seven servants in order to get to the holy grail, then what about Rider’s wish to become human? And does his master know about this? So what’s in it for the servants to win the holy grail war anyway?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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