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!
This'll 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!
BUT RHYME!read more
Being the prequel of the well known franchise Fate/Stay Night, Fate/zero certainly captured the attention of many very easily. What is immediately clear about this production though is not only does it match its predecessor, it far surpasses it in every way imaginable. Whether it be the directing, visuals, character exposition, or anything you can possibly think of, Fate/zero manages to move into a class of its own. In the end, this all adds up to a much more complex and interesting tale, which one will certainly not be soon to forget.
The very base of Fate/Zero is no different from Fate/Stay Night. It revolves around something called the Holy Grail War, a war between 7 magus or masters (Magic users) who through the power of the grail summon heroic spirits who are people of legend, historical fame, or myth to do battle with each other to claim ownership of the grail which is said to be able to grant the owner any wish. But while the base of this story is pretty much the same as Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero is decidedly more dark, gritty, and violent. Any viewer who has taken care to watch the predecessor may initially be disoriented by tonal shifts in the universe, but if one is willing to move past this, there is undoubtedly a rewarding experience awaiting.
There are several things that Fate/Zero does impeccably well, but perhaps one of the most easily enjoyable aspects of the show is the chess like manner in which the war is carried out. The conflicts are enthralling in many ways, but what adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the show is how each move made by the characters is a well thought out, planned action. The masters constantly balance every decision with pros and cons and tries to maneuver through the war in the best manner possible. The war does not consist of mindless brawling and action and it is usually the best prepared individuals that benefit the most throughout the story. As a result, the action in this show is much more layered and hence captivating than that of your standard action show.
Of course though, this show is about much more than seeing entertaining action, and cool magical powers. What the show really is at its heart is a very engrossing spiritual journey. The cast, particularly the masters and servants, are all engaged in a battle that defines their goals, wishes, and motivations in life. They all engage in a conflict for which their fate is solely in their own hands. Each character is forced to understand themselves and their foes as they continue on their quest. Indeed, Fate/Zero is very much so a character study, and a very captivating one at that. This is primarily owed to its excellent cast that surely will manage to intrigue just about anybody willing to look beyond the on the surface elements of the Fate universe.
An interesting note about the cast in Fate/Zero though is that it mostly consists of older men. This is particularly noteworthy because so few anime today dare to make a cast of older men. It showcases just how a story with older cast members, even if they are men, can be quite entertaining and that perhaps the same old tired formulas do not always need to be employed to reach certain audiences. A story does not always have to be about high school kids, and hopefully this show can set an example of that.
One thing that most certainly not be forgotten though in this story is just how much it excels at the simple things. Of course as always, studio Ufotable provides excellent visuals (Though perhaps a bit stagnant at times in animation), the show has very solid direction, a very nice OST as displayed again by the talented Yuiji Kaijura, and excellent writing as expected of the now famed Urobuchi Gen. Perhaps most of all though is that Fate/Zero manages to capture the essence of its source material supremely well. This is made apparent by even the littlest of details such as the way they truly make the servants seem super human in their abilities compared to their masters or the way they frame the dialogues between the characters as they quibble over their philosophies, hopes and goals. Little touches like these just add so much more to the experience and really display how much care and effort are put into the production. This is something I felt was sorely missing in Fate/Stay Night, much to its detriment.
Ultimately Fate/Zero is a high class production. It is something that can be both thrilling, and intellectually satisfying at the same time. It displays a level of care and detail that anyone should be able to appreciate. But most of all, Fate/Zero is a quality piece of entertainment that one will certainly not be soon to forget.
Fate/Zero is a prequel of Fate/Stay Night. Some of the differences between the two can be quite shocking since really, the Fate/Stay anime was an extremely poor adaption by Studio DEEN. For newcomers into the Fate universe I highly suggest if you can to instead play the Fate/Stay Night game in preparation for watching Fate/Zero if you are interested enough. It is an extremely enjoyable story, that I think is every bit as good as Fate/Zero and I think should really be experienced the way it was meant to be experienced. This means none of DEEN's budget cutting, anime original arc injections, poor scripting, etc. If there is one thing that was made extremely obvious during Fate/Zero it's that Ufotable gets Fate, and DEEN does not. The level of difference between the two studios in their renditions of the Fate universe is truly incomparable as Ufotable's adaption leaves DEEN's adaption in the dust.read more
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.read more
Fate/Zero is a brilliantly constructed anime that deals with the complex themes of morality and the justifications of violent actions. Each episode reveals deep insights through its intense character development and storyline, but the opening is also a statement in and of itself!