12 of 12 episodes seen
The second season carries a much different tone than the first. The first season consisted mainly of exposition and was dialogue-heavy as characters were fleshed out. There were battles here and there, but they were primarily skirmishes with only one major participant slain. In the second season, the war truly goes into full swing, dropping the viewer immediately into a titanic battle in the very first episode. In these first few episodes, the pace is ratcheted up, with Masters and Servants falling at a rate of one per episode and then...we're greeted by the grinning face of a young boy on a tropical island. It baffles me why the writers decided to take a sudden detour towards Kiritsugu's past. Certainly, a flashback was necessary to show what Kiritsugu went through in order to explain his motivations. However, it would have been a better choice to have shown it in the first season, which crawled along at a snail's pace setting things up. The only reason I can figure out why this was done was to take advantage of the incredible irony of Kiritsugu's actions on Mother's Day(ouch). The first season suffered a similar issue with Rin's adventure, which would have been better as an OVA because it really had no relevance to the main plot at all. What's worse is that while the first season took it's sweet little time developing the characters, the second season seems to do the opposite by actually running out of time. Nowhere is this more obvious than Saber and Berserker's story, which is unfortunately resolved in a few minutes near the end without the epic duel that was expected. The ending itself is far different than the flashback shown in the opening sequences of Fate/stay night, with a more tragic, sorrow scene that fits in with the despair-filled tone of the series. I actually preferred this as it perfectly set up the events of F/sn, fulfilling F/Z's role as a prequel.
The highlights of the series have to be its intricate action scenes. If you're looking for mindless action, go watch a shonen. Befitting its story of a war, the battles in F/Z are epic and breathtaking. A major factor of this is due to the outstanding battle choreography. The very first battle of the war took two full episodes, yet it had me at the edge of my seat the whole way through. The penultimate combinations of visuals and choreography had to be the aerial BALLET between Berserker and Gilgamesh, Rider's final charge against Gilgamesh, and the long-awaited mano y mano between Kiritsugu and Kirei in a room that looks like the batcave from the Dark Knight. It's a big reason why I was disappointed that Saber and Berserker never got the duel they deserved. The supposed climatic confrontation with Caster was also a bit underwhelming as it basically amounted to 'killing the giant boss monster with a special move.' It lacked the grace of the other fight scenes, but it was refreshing to see Saber bellow out her trademark 'EXXUUCALLIBURRR!'
The production values are high, with very consistent animation. Vivid backgrounds, flashy weapon and magic effects, as well as rich character designs are the norm here. The distinguishing feature of ufotable's animation is the fluid use of CGI. While quite a few studios struggle to blend CGI into their animation, it is absolutely seamless in F/Z. You'll never see anything that is out of place in a scene and sometimes it's difficult to tell whether something was hand-drawn or done through CGI (which is a good thing!) The sound and music were excellent as well, courtesy of the legendary Yuji Kajiura. The tracks range from exhilarating battle themes to forlorn pieces that project the recurring themes of grief and loss. The opening features a beautifully choreographed montage of all the characters along with the strongly sung "To the Beginning" done by kalafina. The ending song with its melancholy tune feels almost like a a bittersweet recollection from Irisviel on the time she was able to spend as as a true human being instead of just a disposable homunculus. The soulful piano fits in well with the loving scenes of Kiritsugu and Irisviel together. The only nitpick issue I had with the music was that it felt a bit repetitive at times with so many of the tracks containing a vocalizing choir in the background, though it's expected of Kajiura's style and it fits the tone of the show well for the most part.
Another one of Fate/Zero's strong points is its diverse cast of characters. And no other character deserves first mention than Rider. He is easily the most charismatic character, and he gives off a larger-than-life vibe that makes him impossible to dislike. However, behind his 'lovable oaf' exterior is a complex, philosophical man. He is certainly ambitious, but if you follow his "my subjects are my greatest treasure" statement, is his ambition self-fulfilling or so that he can please his subjects? After all, if he already has the greatest treasure in his followers, why would he need to seek out the treasures of the world? We also have his master, Waver, who at the beginning is nothing more than a kid in over his head that feels he has something to prove. Though often bewildered with Rider's headstrong nature, he matures over the course of the series and at the end he is able to stare down Gilgamesh without flinching. In many ways, Waver's tale is that of a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story and his companionship with Rider was enjoyable to watch. Gilgamesh and Kirei also share a favorable relationship with each other, though it's far more twisted. Gilgamesh chooses Kirei solely to be amused as Kirei unleashes the inner, sadistic monster within himself.
Not every Master and Servant pairs up as well, with Saber and Kiritsugu being an obvious example. For Kiritsugu, you can't help but be turned away from his brutal assassination methods and his "I don't care what it takes as long as I achieve my goal" approach, especially since he never places a limit on what he is willing to do. On the other hand, you feel sympathy for Kiritsugu with the cards life has dealt him, doomed to be alone after losing his home and loved ones. It's no wonder why he broke down in tears when he finds Shirou. As for Saber, we see that her cold behavior in Fate/stay night was a result of the distance between her and Kiritsugu. Shirou's attempts to reach out to her in F/sn are a complete 180 to how Kiritsugu treated her, more as a tool than another human being. Lancer shares a similar troubled relationship with his master Kayneth due to the curse of his mark. Combined with his sense of chivalry, it's none too surprising to see him befriend Saber. Finally, we have Kariya and Berserker, the pair that felt the most hollow to me. Kariya is obviously painted as a sympathetic character by sacrificing his body for another, and you can easily guess what fate has in store for him. Even so, it's still sad to see his fall particularly since he ends up hurting the ones he wanted to save. Meanwhile, Berserker really serves as nothing more than a convenient agent of chaos, popping up just to look cool by hurling street lamps and blowing planes and cars up. His backstory is barely touched upon and the only insight we get from him are his last dying words, which doesn't amount to much.
Overall, Fate/Zero is one of the better anime shows to have come around recently. It has a few flaws, but nevertheless has an impressive story filled with memorable scenes, strong visuals, and great characters. It does an excellent job of setting up Fate/stay night as a prequel and is a fantastic watch as a standalone series. read more
17 of 25 episodes seen
That being said, I am completely ok with this. Why? Because it makes it interesting. Think about it. As a basketball fan, it'd be great to see the teams run plays like horns or pick and roll, but you can't expect the average viewer to understand what's going on. Plus, trying to explain this and other technical terms would eat up screen time and bore a lot of viewers.
This is first and foremost entertainment. Kuroko no Basket is great to watch BECAUSE of these elements. Watching Kagami slam the ball down or Kuruko go ninja and make a flashy pass is far more exciting than watching a player hit an open jumpshot from good ball movement. It's the same reason why many people label the Spurs in the NBA as "boring" despite their well-oiled offense. If you really wanted realistic basketball, you'd watch an actual game. What Kuroko no Basket excels at doing is showing how exciting basketball can be to a mainstream audience. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the episodes, as they have all left me with a big, goofy grin on my face from the thrilling games or cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Look around and you'll see that many viewers are not basketball fans, but love this anime. This is great because it's garnering interest in basketball in people that would have never noticed the sport were it not for this anime. This is especially true in Japan, where basketball is nowhere near as popular as sports such as baseball or football(soccer).
As for the anime itself, it captures your attention with epic scenes, likeable characters, and funny comedy. Kuroko's sudden appearances that startle every character out there is a running gag, opponents with names like "Papa" and Kagami's Engrish "THIS IS JAPANESE LUNCH TIME RUSH!" keeps things interesting. The story is your classic sports anime, with the Seiren basketball team aiming for the top. However, if you were expecting some athletic, hot-headed knucklehead who excels in the sport...well, that's the deuteragonist Kagami. Kuroko is the protagonist here, and he's an unconventional lead for a sports anime. He's terrible at almost every aspect of basketball except passing and stealing. Together, he and Kagami form a exciting duo to watch reminiscent of real-world duos such as Stockton and Malone. The other characters aren't explored too much and I was afraid the other Seiren members would just become useless bodies, but slowly we've been introduced to their own unique skills. The only other characters that the anime really delves into are the members of the Generation of Miracles, who are all distinguished by their special powers and...colorful hair, Kuroko included. Here is where the shounen aspect of the show is most visible, with the members displaying everything from behind the backboard shots to full court shooting range(though I have to admit that's really pushing it). They are the equivalent of the boss characters you see in other shounen anime, as Kuroko, Kagami, and the Seiren team must find a way to overcome them.
The art and animation are pretty good, however, animation isn't as consistently fluid as I would've liked. The movement of players shooting or passing the ball feels too rigid or unnatural at times, as if they didn't draw enough frames (with the exception of Aomine's ridiculous handle). It compensates for this by having a lot of slow motion and close up shots of dunks, blocks, and steals which really help excite the viewer and make this anime so thrilling. It is definitely one of the better looking sports anime out there, which is part of what makes it so appealing to a wider audience. For the most part, the music consists of guitar-heavy tracks that come in whenever something notable happens, such as opponents being surprised by one of Kuroko's passes. The opening and ending feature rock songs that keep the same adrenaline pumping feel the anime has. The one thing that really bugs me though is how each episode starts off with a narrator introducing the Generation of Miracles story. It's understandable in the first few episodes, but past that there's no point in it, since viewers would already be familiar with the backstory (Edit: They finally stopped this nearly HALFWAY through the season).
In short, Kuroko no Basket is an entertaining anime to watch, even if you don't like basketball. The thrilling games will capture your interest and many can relate to the story of going for the top and exceeding expectations, as the underdog Seiren team does time and again. Don't go into Kuroko no Basket expecting expertly executed plays like in real basketball. Don't go into it thinking you'll see a mirror image of a real game in anime form. Go into it expecting a thrilling game of dunks, blocks, and crazy passes, a lot of O.O faces from the characters, and competitive trash talking. Watch it for the determined characters, comedy, and overcoming special powers we've come to love in shounen anime. It doesn't portray basketball too realistically, but realism in this case would only drag a fun anime like this down. read more