Ten years after facing defeat in the Fourth Holy Grail War, Waver Velvet, now Lord El Melloi II, teaches classes at the Clock Tower—the center of education for mages. However, his new status as "Lord" comes with a caveat: obey the orders of Reines, the younger sister of the deceased Kayneth El Melloi, until she is old enough to rule the House of El Melloi.
Waver, along with his mysterious apprentice Gray, takes on a series of cases assigned by Reines and the Mages Association. With each case proving to be more complex than the last, could there be more to the Clock Tower than meets the eye, and what secrets does Reines hide?
Like the sands of an hourglass, the Fate franchise almost seems to be timeless since it started. It’s 2019 and we now live in an age where another one of its light novel series gets an anime adaptation from the Nasuverse. Taking place years after the events of Fate/Zero, you have to wonder how the show will be able to keep up its hype. This is especially true with a protagonist like Waver Velvet, a professor from the Mage’s Association. But with a sigh of regret, I am rather flabbergasted at how this Nasuverse anime ended up being no more than mediocrity.
Watching Lord El-Melloi II
Sei no Jikenbo Rail Zepplin Grace Note feels like you are thrown into a world where you need at least some prior experience with Nasuverse. If you have no experience with Fate/Zero, then I would highly suggest at least reading some insight about that series. Before getting to the juicy part of Lord El-Melloi, I should also mention the series is seemingly divided by two arcs. The light novels is still ongoing in Japan with 10 volumes running so common sense logic designates this show as an incomplete adaptation. That’s not a main problem but it doesn’t stray from the fact that the anime feels like an advertisement. My impression from the first few episodes is based on the introduction of the characters, in particular members of the Mage’s Association. Waver Velvet feels like a character who practically lives with his job. As a lecturer of the Clock Tower, the man has a reputation and is well-known for his knowledge of magic. Rarely showing emotions and devoted to his work, Lord El-Melloi may be a character that the audience won’t be easily accept or relate to. On the other hand, I do appreciate a protagonist who is has a strong head with knowledge. Lord El-Melloi II may not be an easy person to make friends with but he is an extremely valuable asset to the Mage’s Association.
Nasuverse contains an expanding lore that can be rather complex if you’re unfamiliar with its franchises. This anime won’t be too easy to understand at first based on its magic system. Some episodes uses a method of ‘show and tell’ while others vaguely touches upon its branches of magic. However, I do feel that the anime contains a feeling of mystique at times. It seems the anime wants the audience to figure out how things work before certain concepts are explained. In fact, the first half of the show has weekly mysteries that connects to the series’ overall themes. It isn’t until the second half where we get an ongoing plot, known as the Rail Zepplin arc.
With that being said, there’s one main character I’m sure fans have taken notice from the start. Gray, the hooded girl with “Saber-face”, is the apprentice of Lord El-Melloi II. Coming from the countryside, there’s a certain level of mystique about her character that will get the audience curious. The relationship she shares with Lord El-Melloi II is that of a master-apprentice. It’s straightforward with the two collaborating on missions although sometimes, it’s shown that Gray can let emotions get the best of her. This is noticeable in some episodes when Gray is anxious about Lord El-Melloi II’s safety. Their relationship is not fully developed in this anime and stands out best at mediocrity. This is in similar stance to Reines, the bloodline successor of the El-Melloi household. Throughout the show, she has a brother-like relationship with Lord El-Melloi II but the anime doesn’t make the pair significant enough to appreciate. In fact, I think this is one of the main weakness of the series. It lacks character relationships that are meaningful to talk about. From start to finish, I can’t recall any character pair that makes the show worthwhile to watch. This is a bit ironic considering some of the previous Fate series usually has character pairs in the form of servants/masters. Even Fate/Apocrypha has character relationships elements that are worth talking about. In this show? Not a chance.
In addition, it’s worth noting the anime reintroduces some of the previous characters Fate fans may be familiar with. Characters such as Luvia and Kairi makes appearances with various roles that sometimes feel like they can overshadow the protagonists. New characters such as Flat Escardos and Olga also has more personality than the main leads. It’s a sad state of affairs when the main characters can’t carry an anime together. Perhaps the better question to ask yourself in this case is how much we should appreciate the plot. An important arc known as the “Rail Zepplin” takes place in the second half of the series with high stakes and mystery. It also takes place on a unique train that gets darker and darker with each progressing episode. Hell, the arc even adds elements of murder suspense that turns the show into more of a thriller. However, the overall execution turns peculiar turns with introductions of characters such as Hephaestion. The mystery involves with a murder case and the Mystic Eyes that fans may draw references from the Garden of Sinner franchise. But with all due respect, putting Lord El-Melloi on the sidelines weakens his character importance even more. Instead, the anime decided to gives more role to Luvia and Kairi during their investigations. Gray herself deals with Hephaestion who develops a sort of rivalry between the duo. The overall Rail Zepplin arc really depends on how you’d appreciate it but at the end of the day, mixing different kinds of genres together without character development is no good.
Even as the show retains a rather serious mood, there are occasionally tongue and cheek humor. The anime plays around with some character gags such as Gray’s unfamiliarity with being normal. There’s even one particular episode where she goes shopping with her female friends. Other times, we get characters acting like goofballs such as Flat at the academy. Ironically, the Mage Association hardly feels like a school and more about preparing students for mages. Outside of Lord El-Melloi II’s class, you don’t get to see other professors or classes being taught. This isn’t Hogwarts, folks.
Studio Troyca helms this show and visually, it retains a familiar look with its other previous projects. As the director, Makoto Katou designs the characters with similar style but also visually enough to make each unique. Lord El-Melloi II is perhaps most noticeable as someone who looks like an older adult and genuinely gives the impression of a professor. Plus, let’s not forget about the technical quality. If there’s something to brag about the show, this is it. The production quality looks like poetry in motion. The battle cinematics looks like watching a film on occasions especially in the second arc. Each fight is impactful and draws out the abilities of the characters. If that wasn’t enough, we do get to see flashy weapons used such as Gray’s signature scythe. Fan service does exist although minimal and isn’t distracting. The show relies much more on its visual dynamics than showing skin. And to top it off, we also get a stylish OP song without lyrics but with a mesmerizing tune.
As a fan of the Nasuverse and some of its previous Fate franchises, Lord El-Melloi felt like watching a long movie as part of an major saga. With 13 episodes, the anime didn’t have enough time to develop its cast or craft storytelling that is worth remembering. However, I do have to give credit about the show’s technical elements thanks to the work of the director and studio. With all that being said, this anime is probably worth watching if you’re instinctively curious about the expanding Nausverse. But if you’re someone expanding a lot from this show, you should turn back now.
In the world of mages, it doesn't matter who did it, or how.
I'll preface this short review with a quick statement about myself - I'm writing this review as a novice fan of Type-Moon lore. I have yet to reach a level of knowledge that could even be faintly construed as being an expert, and as a result I welcome any corrections to lore mistakes I may be making!
When I first heard that Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files would be receiving an anime adaptation, I was overjoyed. I have read a portion of Case Files before, and I am aware that Makoto Sanda is
the go-to man for Kinoko Nasu with regards to fixing any inconsistencies in the deep lore of the Fate universe, specifically those with regards to the Clock Tower and the Mage’s Association.
Permit me a metaphor, if you will. Many people would love a series or movie dedicated to exploring the underworld of the Continental and other institutions in the universe of John Wick. Case Files effectively is that series, except for the convoluted world of one of Fate’s three primary magical institutions. We got a teaser of the Clock Tower's proceedings at the end of Unlimited Blade Works, Zero hinted at this by introducing the idea of Freelancers and Sealing Designations; the latter of which also appear in Kara no Kyoukai, and Hollow Ataraxia’s Bazett Fraga McRemitz is an Enforcer of the Clock Tower. However, these little pieces of information leave more questions than answers, and rarely addressed the mechanism of how the Clock Tower operates.
Herein, to me, lies the real beauty of Case Files. Beyond a detective story, it introduces us to many aspects of the Clock Tower that highlight just how chaotic and conflict-riddled an organization it truly is. Case Files also makes multiple references to other spinoffs of the main Fate world; some will have noticed some familiar faces when the show outlines the concept of the twelve Lords, such as Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg from strange/fake, Tsukihime and Heaven’s Feel. Others will recognize characters such as Kairi Shishigou, Luviagelita Edelfelt and Olga-Marie Animusphere.
Apologies for the verbiage. Let us begin with the actual review.
This adaptation of El-Melloi II’s Case Files is split into two halves; Episodes 1 through 6 focus on a series of anime-original content (collectively, the Grace Notes). The second half, starting from Episode 7, adapts the Rail Zeppelin arc from the novels.
The Grace Notes arc (teamed with the initial episode 0, "A Grave Keeper, a Cat, and a Mage ~There is no such thing as "truth".~", do a respectable job of introducing us to the main characters of the show. It is a fair point to make that this may not be the case for someone who hasn’t watched Fate/zero, and thus this marks it down a little. The anime-original content also does an excellent job of introducing the conflicts in the Clock Tower and the various tensions between departments, such as Waver/Lord El -Melloi II’s own Faculty of Modern Magecraft Theories and the 13th (technically separate) Faculty of Law, or Policies. Other reviews have pointed out that Case Files does not follow the conventions of a detective novel. I personally don’t think that one should approach Case Files as a conventional detective story precisely because it follows so many esoteric rules of magic; rather, one should treat it as an atmospheric exploration of the weirder aspects of magic in the Fate world, with a relatively simplistic detective element thrown into it. However, even with that being said, it is a genuinely valid criticism to be making of the show; from a detective fiction standpoint Case Files is barely a third-rate piece of fiction, given how many puzzle pieces either require so much background knowledge that the show no longer counts as a standalone piece of fiction, or are just straight-up non-decipherable until Waver spells out the magical construct behind it. Basically, it’s magic, not logic.
The Rail Zeppelin arc also explores the concept of Mystic Eyes, especially their ranking. And we all know tier lists are exceptionally important. Once again, there are little tidbits of information that will tickle the fancies of those familiar with Type-Moon lore, such as the appearance of the Child of Ainnash, or the reveal of the class of the main antagonist’s Servant.
However, at this point, I must unfortunately report that the Rail Zeppelin half of the Case Files adaptation showcases the greatest weaknesses of the show so far. While clues are dropped throughout the episodes for the reveal of the main antagonist of this arc as well as the rationale behind their unmasking, very little actual evidence onboard the train points to the main antagonist being who they are. Their relationship with Waver is also sadly under-explored in the show; something which I suspect the novels go more in-depth about, though I cannot comment on the matter having not reached the segment in question.
As a general rule, the Case Files anime's story (especially the Rail Zeppelin arc) suffers from contraction - it's clear some details are missing for expedience, but as a result it is not a friendly story to outsiders from the Type-Moon universe - many of the nuances are easy to miss. As an approachable story then, sadly this adaptation is not successful.
Art and Music
Perhaps the single greatest strength of this anime adaptation is the presentation. Having been to London multiple times, Troyca’s depiction of London is not short of a masterpiece. It complements the story perfectly, and the buildings are replicated in painstaking detail, emphasizing the grandiosity and pomp of London as a city and the Clock Tower as an institution.
Yuki Kajiura has handled the music for this adaptation, and it is beyond perfect. Kajiura’s work often has a single instrumental element that recurs in the more dramatic tracks within the soundtrack of a specific show – for Fate/zero, it was a violin-led orchestral element, and for Kara no Kyoukai it was the choir backing vocals. Case Files’ soundtrack (now that it is out as of September 5th)’s main element is the flute, teamed with the violin; this is most apparent in the opening theme ”starting the case: Rail Zeppelin”. However, some old Kajiura classics seem to always show up – ”deep in old grief” is practically lifted straight from the Fate/zero studio session, and ”waving goodbye” has the soft chimes and choir straight from Kara no Kyoukai.
Waver Velvet is a man on the outside, and a young boy on the inside. Not your average mage, trying to reach the Root like everyone else. He has unfinished business from ten years ago. From time to time, the young Waver that was bullied and tossed around by Iskandar surfaces. Perhaps you can’t teach a young dog new tricks either. He is a man tortured by his past mistakes, and constantly motivates himself out of a desire to finish what he started. Yet he is also undeniably older; and thus far more rational, careful, and calculating. Until he isn’t. At which point he either blushes or goes a little chuuni. He owes his current position to a certain smug Inorin-I mean, blonde young magus.
Reines El-Melloi Archisorte is a heady contender for the crown of smug. Endlessly confident, devious to a fault, curious and creative as well as sadistic, Reines is a perfect overlord for Waver (the man himself does not share this opinion). Cruel all the time, but genuinely compassionate and helpful when she needs to be. It’s not good assistance without some smug comment thrown in on the side. Inori Minase was truly the perfect CV to choose for someone like Reines. Also comes with Kayneth’s Mystic Code Volumen Hydragyrum, which has been changed into a Mercury Maid, Trimmau. I want a Mercury Maid.
Gray is our requisite Saberface. It isn’t a Fate spinoff without a Saberface. Perhaps this is why Strange/fake has yet to receive one. She has a complicated backstory herself which I will not go into as it is a rather major spoiler (though it has since been hinted at and partially revealed within the show). She’s a perfect sidekick to Waver, dedicated to taking care of him. She finds reassurance in that he tolerates her and does not expect anything unreasonable from her, as well as having a certain degree of respect for her, addressing Gray as ‘Lady’. Also has Add, a talking cube/scythe/hammer voiced by Daisuke Ono. No JoJo memes here. In Add’s final form, The Lance that Shines to the Ends of the World, Kawasumi Ayako also makes a guest voice appearance, courtesy of a changed role for her in Fate/prototype. Fate spinoffs are only made when Saber or her voice can be stuffed in.
Aside from the main three, several characters very familiar to those with Fate experience appear. Kairi Shishigou, Caules Forvedge and Rocco Belfaban of Fate/Apocrypha (though it is important to remember that Apocrypha takes place in an alternate world line, and thus these characters do not have any memories of that event), Luviagelita Edelfelt of Hollow Ataraxia and UBW fame, and Flat Escardos of later Strange/fake repute, just to name a few. Some original characters also appear, such as Yvette Lehrman and Hishiri Adashino. Overall, these characters do spar with each other rather well, although Yvette’s attempts at being a consort are about as endearing and successful as Waver finds them.
Alright. I’ve dragged on for long enough. I should probably dedicate this much effort to work instead, but that’s nowhere near as fun. Time to wrap it up.
In summary, Case Files is indeed a rather mediocre detective story. The latter half of the show, the actual adaptation, also unfortunately severely lacks in depth of lore as well as exploration into the world of Case Files on the level of the previous anime-only episodes. But what it makes up for instead is an almost unparalleled insight into how the Clock Tower’s various rivalries and tensions work, an overview of several magical concepts and theories in the Fate universe, even more lore to give Type-Moon fans a headache, top-class animation and music, and enjoyable characters that riposte off each other with a quaint charm.
Did I use the word quaint? I did, didn’t I?
Isn’t that the perfect word to describe the world of Case Files, then?
"You've really done it this time Waver! What in the world is going on here?" My thoughts exactly Melvin. What in the world is going on in this series????
Ah, Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note, this is I think the first time ever I have given an episode 0 a higher score than the actual series!! I have long awaited this anime as a big fan of Fate anime series, and summer 2019 seemed like it was going to be an incredible season!! For nearly a year I looked forward to Lord El- Melloi, Vinland Saga, and Mo dao zu shi
season 2! You can imagine how heartbroken I was when all 3 of them were total busts. Fortunately the season did feature a couple sleeper hits in Given and O maidens in your savage season, but that's not what I'm here to talk about.
Who would I recommend this series to? Well the answer is simple, readers of the light novel. That, and people who want more of the loli from Gosick, just with a bigger forehead this time.
I couldn't at all make sense of the plot in this show. Episodes 6 and 12 especially were just moronically written. Perhaps if I had read the LN, and was familiar with every last corner of the Nasuverse, I may have enjoyed it more.... But that's a lot to ask of a viewer.
Studio TROYCA though, I do not think is to blame. They have proved themselves time and time again as probably the strongest up and coming anime studio in Japan right now! In 2018 they animated two major domestic hits in Idolish7 and Bloom into you. Neither of these got very much attention in the west (aside from that ass Gigguk randomly shouting out Bloom into you as he does with every seasonal show), but were very popular in Japan. In fact I highly recommend both Idolish7 and Bloom into you. They were put together fantastically well. Lord El-Melloi II was as well, at least in terms of production.
TROYCA alway animate faces extremely well, displaying a lot of emotion and subtle changes, this holds up in El-Melloi as one of the show's strong points. The voice acting is also really well done.
“You are correct Magus. And I have no intent of listening to any more of your nonsense.”
The above is a line that doesn't make any sense, just like the rest of this story!!!
Sometimes you just gotta ask yourself, what the hell is this plot?
The last 5 minutes of the series was the best part, as all I really wanted out of this show was to see more Waver/ Iskander banter.
Even if you watched Fate/ Zero, there is absolutely no guarantee that you will understand this series. If you don't care about plot than this series is well put together otherwise. Waver also is very attractive which is a plus. Gray was nice but I don't really understand why they chose to keep her hood up the entire series, except for one short scene where Waver scolds her, for reasons that were either never explained, or simply went over my head. Some of the Mystic eyes introduced in this show were kind of cool, but the 6 episode arc concerning them was chalked full of inconsistencies which was truly a bummer for me. Plus the antagonist of this arc had two different colored eyes which always bugs me in anime.
Edit: It really didn't help that the this show premiered every week immediately after Kimetsu no Yaiba lol.
In conclusion, you should watch this show only if you've read the LN, or are some sort of Nasu expert. Just being a fan of the anime side of Type-Moon may not be enough...
Imagine a story taking place in the fate world except all the focus is on magician lore instead of hero lore and you got rail zeppelin. Set a few years after the grail war, Rail zeppelin is heavily focused on the exploits of a former master and his apprentice, specifically it is focused on a magical train where an auction on mystic eyes is held.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
The main character is one of the surviving masters from Fate Zero, Waver Velvet, who is now a famous magician and one of the lords of the mages association. Most of the story is focused on
him and his students and apprentice investigating and solving all sorts of mysteries. This story genuinely had potential to be great, it had an interesting cast, a likable main character and took place in an already established well thought out world.
Problems quickly arose however with how the story unfolded, the mysteries were not fun to watch because it is assumed the audience has a master thesis understanding of Fate Lore and on ancient magical systems. Mysteries were exclusively of the supernatural nature, and they genuinely could not be solved by the audience without a deep understanding of half the chuuni nonsense that was coming out of Waver’s mouth. The average viewer does not know what the fuck mystic eyes are, what the fuck old and new magic are, what the fuck the model of celestial bodies has to do with magic, and I doubt that even with thorough explanation, the average person watching rail zeppelin is going to understand what a human modelled after a servant really is.
This heavily detracts from the plot as it is a mystery show, in a mystery series viewers are supposed to be able to come to their own conclusions from the evidence presented and from the behaviors of the characters. This does not happen though since the vast majority of viewers can’t figure out anything from the evidence themselves since it is all supernatural nonsense that no one who hasn’t played the games and read up the Light Novels would get. The motives and such are also hard to understand since most viewers are not versed on the politics of the mage underworld in Fate. I feel sorry for anime only viewers since I doubt the viewers ever got any enjoyment at all out of the mystery plotlines which were probably half or more of the show. Other aspects of the story were not so bad though, the power games between the major players, the backstory of how Waver Velvet ended up in the seat of El Melloi and the zeppelin arc itself were quite solid. This raised the enjoyability of the story for a lot of viewers since it was easy to follow and did not require a strong background in fate lore to understand.
The visuals were absolutely beautiful, although they were overshadowed by truly exceptionally good looking shows this season like the firefighter anime or demon slayer, they definitely lived up to the standards Fate related anime is held to. The studio may not be Ufotable but you can tell some of the same freelancers also worked on this project, the background was clean and a great copy of London, the character designs were beautiful, of course every girl is cute and adorable as is expected in a Fate show so you got a lot of best girls to look forward to. The opening is exceptionally well done and is likely in the top 3 of the season, which is quite impressive given how all out the firefighter anime went with its opening.
The combat choreography and animation were solid as well, although not to the standards of Ufotable who normally animate the main Fate storyline, but it was definitely better than all but 2 shows this season. You can look forward to some decent flashy fights and clean movement and transition while watching this show.
The opening song is really good, good enough to add to a playlist of songs you would want to listen to again, but most of the soundtrack out side of that was fairly average and not something you will remember or consider listening to outside of the show.
There are a lot of best girls like most Fate shows, they are all cute, have distinct personalities, and have fun dialogue. Most of them also grow a bit through the show, have important roles in the plot and their own highlight scenes. Overall solid characters, but don’t expect anything to exceptional, the most notable characters were still Waver and his Apprentice.
This show was enjoyable enough that I had no problems watching it, and if you like the fate series its an interesting bit lore and world building, but due to how poorly executed the mystery aspects of the show was done I can’t ever give it a high rating.
The poorly executed main story detracts enough that this show has no chance of being as good as the main Fate story, it also requires viewers to have watched most of Fate and played the games to really get what is going on. Since everything else was solid or even pretty good I won’t say this is a bad show or not worth watching, if you really love fate it is worth a watch.