With the promise of granting any wish, the omnipotent Holy Grail triggered three wars in the past, each too cruel and fierce to leave a victor. In spite of that, the wealthy Einzbern family is confident that the Fourth Holy Grail War will be different; namely, with a vessel of the Holy Grail now in their grasp. Solely for this reason, the much hated "Magus Killer" Kiritsugu Emiya is hired by the Einzberns, with marriage to their only daughter Irisviel as binding contract.
Kiritsugu now stands at the center of a cutthroat game of survival, facing off against six other participants, each armed with an ancient familiar, and fueled by unique desires and ideals. Accompanied by his own familiar, Saber, the notorious mercenary soon finds his greatest opponent in Kirei Kotomine, a priest who seeks salvation from the emptiness within himself in pursuit of Kiritsugu.
Based on the light novel written by Gen Urobuchi, Fate/Zero depicts the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War—10 years prior to Fate/stay night. Witness a battle royale in which no one is guaranteed to survive.
Type-Moon have made a habit of finding success with their dark blend of magic and supernatural elements in modern day settings, but with the release of the Fate/Stay Night visual novel on the PC in 2004, the developer seemed to have found its flagship title. Unfortunately things never really work out the way people expect, and while Studio Deen's 2006 anime adaptation of the "Fate" storyline was well received by fans, many who were unfamiliar with the source material found it all a bit ... juvenile.
At the end of 2006 the developer began collaborating with Nitroplus in order to create a prequel light novel series,
but this time the story was penned by the relatively unknown Urobuchi Gen (with Type-Moon co-founder Takeuchi Takashi providing illustrations). Set ten years before the events in the visual novel, Fate/Zero chronicles the events leading up to and during the fourth Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City, Japan - the same place where the battle will be held in Fate/Stay Night. After three successive failures in the contest, the Einzbern family recruits the notorious mercenary Emiya Kiritsugu, also known as the "Mage Killer" - a man who is willing to use whatever means are necessary to realise his goals.
Meanwhile, the other principal magic families - Matou and Tohsaka - are preparing for the coming conflict, and although the church is taking part as well, they have also sent someone to assist the Tohsaka family - Kotomine Kirei.
At first glance it may seem as though Fate/Zero is just another action anime, but nothing could be further from the truth. The series has a very different tone than either Fate/Stay Night or Unlimited Blade Works, and in many ways it has more in common with the dark, brooding atmosphere of the Kara no Kyoukai movies. That said, the series does assume that the viewer has some familiarity with the franchise, but this is balanced by a much tighter plot than that of either of its predecessors, and more focus on preparation, planning, and even dialogue between the different parties. The result is that the narrative has far more depth and structure than one might expect in a supernatural action anime, and there are layers of subtext that are gradually added as the series progresses.
One of the most noticeable aspects of Fate/Zero is that it's a far more mature story than the original visual novel or its adaptations, and unlike many other shows, there are very few occasions where the characters engage in pointless conflicts or endeavours. The series carefully tries to avoid insulting the viewer's intelligence by adopting a patient, methodical build-up to the action set pieces, and on many occasions the story focuses on information gathering and planning. In addition to this, the battle lines shift constantly as the combatants form short-term alliances in order to counter the moves of other opponents, but there's always the understanding that the foundation of these is nothing more than "the enemy of my enemy".
In truth, this anime has far better examples of tactics and strategy than anything found in Code Geass, and certain plots are Machiavellian enough to give Death Note a run for its money.
When it comes to production values, Fate/Zero could be considered the final evolution of everything Type-Moon and Ufotable have learned from each other during their long collaboration on the Kara no Kyoukai franchise. The series looks every bit as good as one might expect, and the darker colour palette is offset by the high standard of animation. That said, although the action sequences are fluid and very well choreographed, the real testament to the quality of Ufotable's work are the subtle differences in the way the characters move.
While there are plenty of new faces in this prequel, it's actually the design of recurring characters like Sabre that really sets the standard. Fate/Stay Night's popularity turned her into one of the most iconic female leads in anime, but while she may appear to be exactly the same in Fate/Zero, there's an edge to her features and a preciseness to her movements that was missing in the original series. This fact is also true for the characters that are unique to this show, and even Tohsaka Rin's "adventure" has been given the same level of care and attention to detail.
The series opens with a well choreographed sequence that blends action with a montage of the main participants in the Holy Grail War, all set to the rather pacey rock song "Oath Sign" by LiSA. Each episode closes with "Memoria" by Eir Aoi, a bittersweet rock ballad that fits well with the images of the heroic spirits as pieces on a game board and at moments in their own history. Fate/Zero also has one of the most diverse scores in a 13 episode anime, with martial themes, operatic pieces, strange little tunes with drums or pianos as the major instrument, and more besides. The audio effects or of a very high quality, and the clash of steel on steel is as sharp and clear as the sound of the lightning whenever Rider makes a dramatic appearance.
One of the areas where Fate/Zero excels is the dialogue, and while there are occasions where conversations go on a bit too long, the script is intelligently written, rational, and insightful. One of the best examples of this is Rider's discourse on the true nature of kingship and Saber's reaction to it, but even that is nothing more than words on paper as everything lies in the delivery - so it's a good thing that the acting is of a high standard.
Kawasumi Ayako reprises her role as the King of Knights (Saber/Arturia) from Fate/Stay Night and Unlimited Blade Works, but her performance here is markedly different. Her portrayal of Saber is colder, deadlier, and far more focused than before, while Tomokazu Seki's performance as the King of Heroes (Archer/Gilgamesh), is more arrogant, more proud. That said, it's Ootsuka Akio in the role of the King of Conquerors (Rider/Iskander), who really steals the show, and his testosterone-fuelled proclamations and battle-born wisdom are one of the pillars that support the series.
When it comes to development, a large group of characters often means that some will undoubtedly fall by the wayside. Fate/Zero neatly sidesteps the entire issue of development because it's first and foremost a prequel of an existing story, but in addition to this the series has created a set of individuals who leave extremely strong impressions on the viewer, and much like Baccano!, there is a distinct lack of a true main character. Because of these factors the series can focus on showing how each of the combatants became what they are, and this plays a major part in one's enjoyment of the anime.
The emphasis on characterisation rather than development allows for a remarkable degree of definition, and although it's ultimately the personalities of each individual that captures the viewer's attention, standing at the top of them all is the King of Conquerors - Rider. His addition to the franchise has been nothing short of a revelation, and while die-hard fans will continue to worship the ground that Saber and Archer (not Gilgamesh, the other one), walk on, Rider's enjoyment of life, his exuberance and almost boyish eagerness for battle and glory, have captured the imaginations of many fans.
In many respects he, more than any other character, is the epitome of the heroes of old, but simply having a bunch of overzealous combat junkies beating each other to a pulp isn't really entertainment (unless you have an IQ equal to your shoe size), so there has to be something to balance it - and there is. Each of the mages taking part in the Holy Grail War is more like a chessmaster, planning as many moves ahead as possible, whilst preparing themselves for anything their opponents may try.
The simple fact is that Fate/Zero wouldn't work as either a story or entertainment if it was just the mages or the heroes, and it's this aspect of the series that separates it from not just its predecessors, but also many other action anime out there.
Unfortunately it's not all sweetness and light.
One of the main criticisms of this series is the episode about the young Tohsaka Rin, which many people found unnecessary. Now although there's some truth to that perception, one could also have the opinion that Rin's actions tie-in to an event in the previous episode, and together they lead up to the end of the series. Both are fair arguments, but in all honesty the whole thing doesn't really fit with the rest of the anime, and it seems like nothing more than an attempt to allow Matou Kariya some long overdue screen-time.
Fate/Zero isn't a perfect show, but while it does have several minor issues (and one "filler" episode), it does exactly what it sets out to do - capture the attention of the audience and make them want more. The story is intelligent, and while conversations and discussions can sometimes feel a little tedious, the dialogue is often quite interesting - moreso than the show's predecessor's anyway. Although the series can boast stylish, fast-aced action set-pieces, it also studiously avoids combat for the sake of gratuitous violence.
That said, Fate/Zero is still a prequel series, and at this point only half of the story has been told. Unfortunately the anime industry has a habit of messing things up, but given the quality of this show, the fact that the original story was written by Urobuchi Gen, and the knowledge that the series is being produced by Type-Moon's long time collaborators - Ufotable, fans can be cautiously optimistic about the second installment.
A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that Emiya
used to make me smile.
And I knew if it had a chance
Fate/Zero could make those haters dance
and maybe, we'd all be happy, for a while...
But Studio DEEN made me shiver
As Blade Works was delivered
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more ep
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about ufo (in all it's pride)
But something touched me deep inside
So bye, bye crappy CGI
Urobuchi writing this stuff (I could really just die)
TYPE-MOON fanboys jerking left and right
Singing this'll be the day that I cry!
be the day that I cry!
Did you read the tale of Bluebeard?
And do you have faith in all that's weird?
(Sakura could tell you so!)
And do you believe in Hassan's code?
Can the grail save your mortal soul?
And... Can you teach me how to lance... r~eal slo~w?
Well I know that Ilya's in love with him,
so's her mom, Saber, and even Rin.
Lancer kicks off his shoes
because he's gruff and cannot choo~se!
Waver's a lonely teenage angsty fuck,
with no parents, no magic, he just sucks
But he knew he was in luck
He started singing
"WHY WHY OH AH WHY
BRING THIS CHARIOT DOWN AH
OH NO WHY
RIDER STOP OR I MIGHT JUST DIE!"
Singing this'll be the day that he dies,
Singing this'll be the day that he dies...
Now for ten years, we've gone back in time
To a prequel that is far well rhymed
But that's not how it used to be
When ufo animated the kings and queens
that everyone thought would get picked up by DEEN
In a way that delighted you and me~
Oh and while the DEEN was looking 'round
For another show they could just drown...
It was just absurd
ufotable had returned!
And while they read a book of Gen
The masters started animatin'
The prequel to a decent shonen
We were singing bye, bye, cheesy old lines
About people getting killed right when they die
And I saw tons of reviews delicately try
To explain why Fate/Zero must be tried!
Explain why Fate/Zero must be tried!
Animation, pacing, my blood is racing
when I think about Saber's graces
10/10 and growing fa~st!
So land right down on your ass!
Go download this show, it's got a ton class!
It's a show that you will be able to love... a~t last!
But there's a halftime, I must quick presume
You know about, I know it too!
But you should all get up and dance,
before you never get the chance!
Cuz by Spring 2012 the show will be revealed
You'll be behind and unable to feel,
I'm telling you now, I always squeal
that Fate/Zero blo~ws
O ALEXANDER, RIDE!
DRIVE YOUR CHARIOT TO THE BATTLE
AND WIN EVERY TIME!
THIS SHOW IS JUST GREAT!
I COULD NOT EXPLAIN WHY
IN ANYTHING BUT RHYME
NO ANYTHING, NOT ANYTHING!
I’m fairly confident this review is going to get near as damn 0% helpful marks simply because of my ratings. If anyone feels what I said wasn’t helpful in this review, drop me a message, if you disagree with something I said, drop me a message, thanks.
Story – 3
Firstly, I think it is a bit of a cheat essentially splitting fate zero into two separate series, so that all the good bits can be condensed into ‘one’ of those series. Nonetheless, I will still assess this as a single series, in terms of setting the stage for the second season.
has a great set up. A survival game with some interesting aspects (such as the wish granting prize and the involvement of the church) as well as 7 moderately even teams (in terms of likeability and development). At its earliest points, it is unclear who is going to win this survival game, but, rather disappointingly, this quickly deteriorates into having a clear ultimate winner. This can still be equally as successful however, as long as this group has a stronger underlying connection with the story. Which is more or less covered in the second season.
Fate Zero suffers with a great depravation of detail. Although I’m sure the manga and novels cover this, it can’t be an excuse to not cover anything at all. I am at a loss as to why the church is involved (was Jesus a hero?), why absolutely none of the world gives a single flying shit about entire cities getting threatened with destruction. The same is true with the history of the Holy Grail wars; did they have a single impact on anything we are currently watching? Do the writers have a single bloody clue about the heroes in Fate Zero? (I think not, ie, don’t try and make yourself look clever by saying this is a historical figure, then change their name, characteristics, life story and even gender) Etc. This lack of detail also seems to be confusing the participants of the game, half of them don’t know what is going on. Nor why they are even involved. Lazy.
Lastly, and this is what really grinded my gears, Fate zero (season one) has absolutely no balls. It is never willing to dramatically change the course of the survival game. All we ever see is a series of straight forward fight scenes with no conclusions and loads of conversations on who is the most noble champion. I accept that this is the first season, but with literally no progress and a very basic set up in terms of detail, it raises the question whether the first season was even needed.
Characters – 7
Ideal for this genre. Entertaining and one dimensional.
There is an interesting relationship between the heroes and their respective masters. Each hero is their own individual with their own ambitions, which often conflict with their masters. Three command spells that demand absolute obedience are all the masters have to keep their servants in check. The relationship between the master and servant is crucial in this survival game and is well covered in this anime.
Every character offers a different attitude on the battlefield and character interactions can be quite intense. This is well embodied by the fact that, in the most cases, the servant is nearly a complete opposite of their master. These conflicts make for some interesting interactions seeing that they have to work together to achieve the same goal.
Having such a large cast of characters, and having each character’s attitudes exaggerated (for entertainment purposes) tends to strip the realism of the show. The cliché characters in Fate Zero are largely responsible for the overall childish atmosphere (as well as the fight scenes themselves). Which could well be what you are after, but this is something to keep in mind.
Art and music- 9
The art and animation was phenomenal. The fight scenes were choreographed very well and they were truly a sight to behold. If only the scenery was something more stunning than a dockyard. The soundtrack, as you may know was composed by Yuki Kajiura (composer of Sword art online and mahou shoujo madoka magica for example). She has her own distinct style and if you liked any of her other works, I’m sure you will also like this soundtrack.
Personal Enjoyment – 2
If my personal disdain hasn’t already been evident, here is my chance to make it clear. Firstly, I’ve never been a fan of an action based anime. It always gets out of hand and fate zero isn’t an exception. Unfortunately, Fate Zero doesn’t have much else to offer besides the action. This thus limits how intelligent the anime can be. The best it can do is detail certain moves or powers of the heroes, and it tries to do this with the idea of a noble phantasm. This said power is essentially a secret and extremely powerful move that each hero has, that supposedly stems from their history. These end up having such vague connections and meanings and are all RIDICULOUSLY convenient to the situation. Poor effort. Lastly, Fate zero needs to grow some balls. 13 episodes of literally no advancements in the survival game was so frustrating and it felt like a huge waste of time. The fights were nice though.
Fortunately, Fate Zero 2nd Season advances almost immediately and thus is instantly more enjoyable. Just to be clear, this review isn’t a response to an irrational hatred of the fate zero universe. Far from it, I liked the second season a great deal, and I can see that with the detail that the manga could possibly offer, it can be really great. But as it stands, Fate Zero the anime is a rather pointless and is not needed for the second season.
As this is such a highly rated anime, I would love to hear from those that do think this is amazing, because I need some convincing.
Every once in awhile there will be an epic masterpiece that appears which is truly outstanding and fascinating. Fate/Zero is one of them, and i believe it has the potential to be one of the best anime of the year.
Story wise, it's been following the light novel consistently with great precision, picking up almost every single finest detail that are required to elaborate the story into a fine piece. The battle scenes are just simply amazing, you could never get enough of the fighting scenes, some of the episodes filled with action just make your blood boiled when you watch them. The way how they
assemble the servants together and the relationship in between the servants are also being depicted clearly. I have to say ufotable is doing a great job thus far, their ability to illustrate the art of fate series are second to none. Sound wise, the OP and the ED are just simply amazing. Watching the ED especially brings you into the story, making you wanting to know which era and where does every single servant comes from, and the story behind them in their respective era.
I've watched up to 5 episodes thus far and i only have but one line to say - oh my god its so just damn amazing i almost jizzed my pants off.
Some characters are funny because of all the crazy antics they get up to. But others just have the right kind of physiognomy, which make them prone to pulling off some funny anime faces - intentionally or unintentionally.