The Holy Grail War is a ritualistic battle fought to determine who is worthy of commanding the Holy Grail: an omnipotent wish-granting device. The war is held between seven mages, each armed with their own familiar, an ancient heroic spirit of legend.
The Einzberns, a major contender in the grail war, have recruited the infamous mage killer Kiritsugu Emiya as their representative in the Fourth Holy Grail War. Though armed with his own arsenal, Kiritsugu is faced with six other mages vying to win. From bettering humanity to garnering respect, all opponents have their own reasons for seeking the Holy Grail.
Taking place 10 years before the events of Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero illustrates the events of the fateful Fourth Holy Grail War.
Fate/Zero was initially released as a doujinshi collaboration by Type-Moon and Nitro+ between 2006 and 2007 at Comic Market conventions. A six-volume bunkoban edition was officially published by Sekaisha in 2011.
The series received four drama CD adaptations between 2008 and 2010, an image soundtrack in 2007, as well as two anime adaptations, produced by ufotable.
After hearing that Fate/Zero will be made into anime. I decided to read its novel and in the end I was very impressed with the storyline and the characters in here.
The storyline of Fate/Zero takes place 10 years prior to the events of Fate/stay night. You don't have to play or watch Fate Stay Night first to understand its story but it would be better if you do so because it will give you much more understandings about this novel.
Fate/Zero is about war between 7 magi in the event named Holy Grail War, in this war each of the magi summon their own servant(the heroic
spirits) and each servant has his/her own class(saber class, archer class, lancer class, etc). They all have one goal, to obtain the holy grail, a legendary item capable of granting wishes. I will talk more about the story in the enjoyment sector.
As this is a novel I can't write much about the arts, but the pictures that were provided in the novel is successful enough to describe the characters or some events that happened in the stories.
The characters in here is one of the strongest points of this novel, there are many characters appeared in here and each of them has their own agenda/goal. I will only make description about some of the characters that appeared in this series. Well, let's begin :
Emiya Kiritsugu without a doubt is one of the sell points of this novel, his personality is completely different compare to his son Shirou(protagonist from F/SN), he never hesitates to use any methods as long as his objective achieved, but although it seems he has cold personality, he has a noble goal, he is participating in this war because he believe Holy Grail could grant his wish for world peace.
Another interesting character is Kotomine Kirei, a man who ended up participating in this war even though he is a magi killer, he keep questioning about the reason why he participate in this war, and about his goal in life. And last but not least, Saber, one of the icons of this franchise, heroic spirit Arturia, a noble, loyal, and brave heroic spirit with goal to redo her life where someone more suitable and effective would lead Britain in her stead.
For the enjoyment section, I would say that Fate/Zero has high enjoyment value. Reading novel can be a little bit tricky because after all the story will be affected by how you imagine the story that was told. But with some good ways of storytelling this kind of weakness can be overcome and Urobuchi Gen managed to wrap and tell the story in Fate/Zero really well. When you're reading this I could say that you will imagine the scene that happened in here, the character's thought as if you’re watching the anime/manga version of it. The story was told in a really detail manner so you can easily imagine the scene that happened in here.
You can also expect a good story in this novel along with some betrayals, bloody moments, and plot twists in it. Fate/Zero is a story about battle between 7 magi so it's natural if you expect some of good battle moments in here. And I can safely guarantee that Fate/Zero has it. You can check it if you don't believe it ^_-. Overall, for action, fantasy, and supernatural genre Fate/Zero has exceeded my expectations. This is a really good novel and fans of these genres should check out this novel.
Fate/zero Is the prequel of Fate/Stay Night. I only watched the anime series , but there's a manga and a few eletronic games named Fate/Stay Night.
Fate/Zero has a different mood compared to FSN, it's more dark, and more dramatic. Also it's more mature , with many intelligent quotes around the history.
History:in short, the history is about 7 mages that become masters of 7 heroic spirits summoned to fight for a artefact called Holy Grail, that can realize 1 wish. while FSN is about the 5th grail war, this one is the 4th, with many characters of the FSN present, but at the same time,
Characters: Different from Fate Stay Night, Most of the Masters are adults, with their own personality and objetives. The protagonist of the history, Kiritsugu isn't the perfect example of a "hero" which appears in random series. Here he is a man with a heroic ideal, but actions that make him a human. In fact, all the characters have their good and evil sides. No one is entirely good or bad, and this is what make the characters more interesting. Also the Servants or Heroic Spirits, are not necessary servants that do all their master's orders without questions.
They also have their reasons for fighting for the grail, and their own way of thinking, which rule their actions. So even if you dont like one specific master, you may like the servant and vice versa.
Throughout history, the characters were who made me laugh or cry. they are simply perfect ,the complexity of the personalities and their backstory that i can only give 10.
Narrative: The story is told by all the perspectives, it's what i called Multi-dimensional.
Basically before the fight begin , you will know all the names of the masters, and their journey before they even become masters. The relationship of all the servants with the masters are showed as well .
So you will care about their destinies, and not just the future of the protagonists. I found myself worried about 4 or 5 characters around the story, even when they were enemies of each other.
I hope that the television adaptation of the Light Novel keep this nice feature, because it's what make the story unique, and enjoyable to the end. The first episode will be 1 hour long, and i think it's enough to show all the characters, I'm really optimistic about it, but who knows?
End: the closure of the history is something debatable, some will find it pleasent
others will hate it. The history has a good ending in my point of view, of course i will not give any spoiler here.
Like Baccano ,you won't see one ending, but many through the history. because the history is divided, all the characters have to meet their end, or find peace somehow, and that is the beauty of the ending. This is a story that show the sacrifices of all the characters, and their fates, i hope you guys like it.
Read, or at least watch, Fate/Stay Night before getting into this novel. It should make the reading experience much smoother and way more enjoyable.
I find the anime adaptation of the novel to be superior in virtually every way. I’d suggest reading the novel only if you want to learn more about the Fate universe, or if you are interested in checking out the writing style of this story.
Fate/Zero by Gen Urobuchi is a prequel to the highly acclaimed, overly popular and endlessly adapted visual novel: Fate/Stay Night. The story sheds light on the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War, the contents of which were
only briefly explored in the original visual novel.
As a big fan of Fate and as a good friend of its original creator, Gen Urobuchi gladly accepted the offer to be the author of this prequel.
Those familiar with Urobuchi’s works can most certainly already imagine the following: Characters suffering, characters dying, characters being mentally broken and... guns. Lots of guns.
Staying true to pretty much every trope that earned him the nickname “Butcher”, Urobuchi yet again delivers a story in which he maniacally enjoys dismembering the very characters he crafted.
“Maybe Urobuchi’s Holy Grail War is indeed the true Hell.” - Nasu Kinoko, the creator of Fate/Stay Nigh.
The plot revolves around the Fourth Holy Grail War, a ritualistic deathmatch between seven magi. Whoever wins the war will earn the right to obtain the Holy Grail and to grant any wish.
Every participating magi is granted a powerful Servant, a being whose might will transcend logic and the very laws of physics. Servants are Heroic Spirits: renowned warriors of legends, summoned to our modern times through sorcery; Alexander the Great and King Arthur are examples of such.
Unlike Fate/Stay Night, the story of Fate/Zero follows the actions of all Masters and all Servants who participate in the war. The perspective changes with almost every chapter, cycling through the big array of characters. This is both a strong and weak point in the novel.
The story begins in a very slow pace, as the first two volumes focus mostly on building the many characters. The scarce action that happens in-between leads to relatively few developments.
For those not familiar with the Fate/Stay Night universe, the prolonged introduction may seem needlessly stretched and ultimately rather... boring. It’s highly advised to read (or at least watch) Fate/Stay Night before challenging this novel.
From the third volume onward the pace of the story continously escalates, as battles become more frequent and more fatal. If you successfully bear through the slow beginning which mostly builds characters, you’ll then be rewarded with seeing these familiar characters clash against each other in creative, fast-paced death matches.
The fast pace is not without faults, however. At times, the developments feel rushed and the story fails to fully explore the many characters it spent two whole volumes to establish.
Thus, the story both benefits and suffers from having so many characters.
Luckily, over the course of the story you’ll eventually grasp which characters are meant to have a more dominant role than others. At the very least for these characters, the road and the eventual conclusion would be greatly satisfying.
The story follows the seven Masters and seven Servants who participate in the Holy Grail War. Every chapter shifts its point of view toward a different character, allowing you to explore the full scope of the Fourth Holy Grail War.
The first two volumes will focus almost entirely on familiarizing you with these many characters, all of different origins and with different circumstances. Once you feel comfortable about these characters, the story will mercilessly remind you that they are enemies in a cruel deathmatch.
There can only be one winner.
A cold fact that might seem ironically cruel for a novel with so many characters. But it’s precisely because of this clash, between “many characters” and “only one winner”, that you can experience such a brutal, cruel tale that builds and breaks its characters.
Sadly, not all the characters receive equal love from their creator. There might be times when you’ll be mildly disappointed by how poorly a certain character was handled, without being granted the chance to realize its full potential and without being explored to the depth you desired.
Among the dozen characters, the following are arguably the MAIN main characters. The Holy Grail War will test not only their mettle, but also their ideals and beliefs.
An irregular magi who was hired to participate in the Holy Grail War as a Master.
He is dubbed a “Magi Killer”, a ruthless expert who combines magecraft with modern technology to assassinate magi. Always cold and calculated, he doesn’t care what means he must use to achieve his goal... at least, that’s how he tries to appear on the surface.
In truth, the Kiritsugu of the present struggles with internal conflicts after founding a purpose for his life: his homunculus wife Irisviel and their daughter Illyasviel. With the knowledge that he’ll have to sacrifice his beloved wife to win the Holy Grail War, the once heartless assassin must now reinforce his conflicted heart and make a difficult choice:
Should he flee the battlefield and protect his beloved at any cost?
Or should he kill his emotions and sacrifice anybody and everything, for a chance to realize his idealistic wish of saving the world?
The gender-bender version of King Arthur, summoned as a Servant of the Saber class. She is the very same Servant who plays a key role in the original Fate/Stay Night.
Much to her disdain, the noble King of Knights is summoned under the command of Kiritsugu - a Master whose methodology couldn’t be farther removed from her own. She desires to claim victory through fair, noble duels with other Servants, whereas Kiritsugu prefers to assassinate other Masters from the shadows.
Behind her gallant figure and sharp blade, the small-framed knight hides many regrets and many doubts. Throughout the story, you’ll see Gen Urobuchi doing his absolute utmost to exploit every weakness the King of Knights could possibly have.
The author will deliciously break and rip apart one of Fate’s most popular characters, diving into her ideology and her faults way beyond what the original Fate/Stay Night ever dared.
“This book of mine, that wasted the entirety of more than one thousand and four hundred pages of paper for the sake of shouting out ‘I love Fate’, is now respectfully set before you.”
Gen Urobuchi has summarized his own novel as such.
As a big fan of Fate/Stay Night, Urobuchi poured his soul into a novel with a great story, deep characters and he stayed faithful to the Fate universe. Yet, his fanboyism also ended up getting in his way at times, making parts of the novel feel like poorly written fanfic.
While the plot and characters are well structured, the actual narrative that delivers them feels sloppy at times, especially in the first two volumes.
There are many times when Urobuchi needlessly forces his fascinations with guns onto the reader, making you read walls over walls of information about gun models, gun sizes, gun bullet types and so forth.
On other occasions, the narrative will become side tracked by going in length about the history of locations and traditions. Though the information might be interesting at times, by the end of the day you’ll realize that nothing important was learned and your time was wasted on empty scrolls.
Urobuchi’s inner fanboy is felt the most when you suddenly come across terms such as [Gáe Dearg: Crimson Rose of Exorcism]. Or even worse: [Invisible Air: Bounded Field of the Wind King].
The author’s habit to drop the full, overly lengthy name of every skill will no doubt make you feel overly nerdy as you read this novel.
Is Urobuchi's writing so horrible that it makes the novel unbearable? Not at all.
With all the faults aside, the writing shines when it depicts fast paced action scenes. The narrative is quick, minimal and easy to digest. Combat, in particular, is very immersive thanks to the fast pace of the developments.
While the minimalism might at times feel underwhelming, especially when compared to epic moments from the anime adaptation, the action sequences are overall more than satisfying. When the pace of the story picks up and battles start happening one after another, the narrative does an excellent job in delivering the experience.
Watch the anime.
With all due respect to Urobuchi’s efforts to craft this novel, I can’t help but feel that this novel was born for the sole purpose of being adapted into an amazing anime.
The anime adapts the light novel faithfully and doesn’t leave out any critical detail. In fact, there are more than a couple of scenes which are depicted way better in the anime, while the novel hardly does them justice.
If you insist to read the novel, for one reason or another, prepare yourself for a slow start and some sloppy writing on occasions. The first two volumes will offer little thrill, as you’ll be introduced to the big array of characters and will learn about every gun model in existence.
When you finish the second volume, you will be able to breathe in relief as the plot will finally return to the main event of the story: the deadly Holy Grail War. Characters will clash with each other to death in fast paced, immersive combat.
Near the end, at its peak, the novel becomes enjoyable enough to become completely absorbed in it. However, whether or not you’ll find any meaning in going through the novel when you have the superior anime adaptation - is up to you.
"The Holy Grail War is a competition that decides the ownership of the Holy Grail through intense battle royale. While there have been many conflicts over supposed Holy Grails in the past, this term refers to those specifically based around Masters summoning Servants and meeting in battle until only one pair is left to claim the Holy Grail..."
This is how one would describe the entire premise of each of the storylines within the Fate franchise. In addition to its rich setting despite that there are anything else in the Fate's world that was missing, such as more of the so-called the
'Holy Church', and of the so-called the 'Magic Association', which are quite interesting themselves, despite the Fate series are rather focused on the coverage of respective Holy Grail Wars, each of its storyline played with creating backstories of the Servants as well as their interactions with the other characters, especially the back-and-forth interactions between a certain Servant and his/her Master(s).
For those who do not have a clue about some terminologies involving the Holy Grail War of the Fate franchise, Masters are titles given to certain individuals, usually a magus, who had been chosen to formally participate the Holy Grail War by obtaining Command Seals through the Holy Grail itself and forming a contract with a certain Servant.
On the other hand, Servants are Heroic Spirits (Heroes who achieved great deeds and were worshipped after death through spreading those deeds) summoned by the Holy Grail for the purpose of competing under Masters. Servants are classified into one of the seven standard classes namely Saber (Knight of the Sword), Lancer (Knight of the Lance), Archer (Knight of the Bow), Rider (Mounted Soldier), Caster (Magus), Assassin (Silent Killer) and Berserker (Mad Warrior). Each one of these heroes wield skills and armaments made from humanity's illusion called the Noble Phantasms.
That being said, each of the storyline can be quite difficult to fully understand if one did not know the information about the backstory of a certain Servant although just like what I had said, some stories can be altered in a way it will looked interesting for the Servant and Master interactions. This is mainly due to that history itself is quite vague to be considered real, even if there are significant evidences that contributed towards a certain field of interest, like Leonardo da Vinci (a female Caster Servant in a certain game called "Fate/Grand Order") and his well-known painting, the Mona Lisa, towards art, especially those that had happened before the early 19th century, where photography is not that apparent until that point. This is especially true for any mythological storyline involving certain characters like the Arthurian Legend, the Greek mythology, the Irish mythology, etc. As for me, a well-thought-out usage of said storylines being incorporate into another storyline to create extended purpose to the overall narration made immersion towards that storyline more effective to me as a reader, rather than putting such references quite literally without any creative change/through namedropping to serve a little purpose that can either benefit a little or harm a lot to the overall narration of such storyline.
Of course, it can be a hard task to make the reader to remember those historical/mythological references while reading that kind of storyline, but the task can be rewarding since it will felt that those historical/mythological figures are truly 'alive' on that storyline rather than being utilized for some limited purposes. Of course, regardless of criticism and of praise about many fictional stories with or without these mythological/historical allusions, the most important aim of these books/movies/TV series is to be read and appreciated by its target audiences (but mostly to sell a lot of these books and to be recognized. Never a bad thing though).
Back in the Holy Grail War storylines of the Fate franchise, the premise itself is an interesting take for a good battle royale concept. After all, every participant in each war is chosen to have his/her wish able to be granted by the magically omnipotent chalice depending on how it interests them. Each of the storylines varied in some concepts from one another such as the number of participants joining (or rather, the required number of Heroic Spirits to be utilized in order to perform its actual purpose) but the end concept still remained the same. Like what I had already said, this kind of set-up is really basic as it was a competition after all just to win a certain prize, similar to those concept seen in Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy and in George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series (or simply put, the well-known "Game of Thrones" TV series), both of which are plot-driven works regardless of the development of their characters. Because of this concept, such storylines will work effectively better as plot-driven works rather than as a character-driven ones. It does not mean that one particular storyline cannot be considered a character-driven one especially with the "Fate/stay night" visual novel being a clear character-driven story that focused more on the main protagonist's growth throughout it rather than the war itself, which means it leaves the Fifth Holy Grail War hanging without him fighting someone.
Regarding this concept played in the Holy Grail War, this entire battle royale is seriously flawed. As the Grail required the energy of all seven Servants to help activate the Great Grail and open a hole to Akasha, it would mean that all Servants includ`ing the winning Servant would have to be killed, and since the Grail can only be held by Servant, activating the Greater Grail, let alone retrieving the Holy Grail, cannot be achieved, as Masters are incapable of doing so without a Servant. This flaw made the Grail capable of only granting wishes to Masters and Servants.
Because of this, the storylines varied in perspectives to be focused on regardless of success, mainly because the aims of the authors for their own works completely differ from one another.
Perhaps, the one storyline that truly stood out among those works in terms of utilizing this concept in a most convincing way in my opinion would be "Fate/Zero", which is going to be the light novel to be focused by this review. That is, provided that Rhyogo Narita's "Fate/strange fake", which also has yet another interesting take for the Holy Grail War storyline with some of the rules being altered yet again (just like "Fate/Apocrypha") and yet the Grail War itself continued despite the changes, and is currently published as a light novel under the Dengeki Bunko label.
"Fate/Zero" is a series of light novels made by Gen Urobuchi (with the cooperation of Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi) which focused on the events of the Fourth Fuyuki Holy Grail War from the perspectives of different participants of the said war. As anyone who is aware of this series will tell that this event took place ten years prior to the Fifth Fuyuki Holy Grail War, which involved the events that took place in Fate/stay night.
As a side note about my thought about the author, Gen Urobuchi had been the only writer that had been involved in anime industry, I am still completely aware of its name until now through his works "Puella Magi Madoka Magica", this light novel series and "Psycho-Pass", along with the aformentioned Rhyogo Narita ("Baccano!" and "Durarara!"), Kinoko Nasu ("Kara no Kyoukai", "Tsukihime" and "Fate/stay night") Chiaki J. Konaka ("Digimon Tamers" and "Serial Experiments Lain"), Naoki Urasawa ("Monster" and the manga-only "20th Century Boys"), Osamu Tezuka ("Astro Boy" and "Kimba The White Lion"), Akira Toriyama ("Dragon Ball" series) and quite surprisingly, Reki Kawahara ("Sword Art Online" and "Accel World")... that is, without the aid of any search engine.
As such, this series served as the prequel to "Fate/stay night". This means that the conclusion of the Fourth Holy Grail War is already determined through the appearances of some of them in the next Holy Grail War (with one exception, as that character made an exclusive appearance only in the "Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV)") and the assumption that none of the seven chosen Master-Servant pairs will actually succeed in this event. Because of this, the story was written by the author in a manner that it IS clearly established as a prequel for a good reason.
That reason in itself is that Urobuchi's aim towards "Fate/Zero" is not to provide a complete closure until the storyline of its sequel "Fate/stay night" happened, despite that these works were done by two authors that have distinct writing styles. Granted, Kinoko Nasu is the one who gave Gen Urobuchi the task of creating the prequel story and this prequel can actually standalone on its own with some of the remaining significant events being invoked in its sequel. After all, "Fate/stay night" gives the proper conclusion to the consequences of its prequel. This means "Fate/Zero" was given the act to provide the missing puzzle pieces for the entirety of this Fate storyline ("Fate/Zero" and "Fate/stay night"), particularly on the backstory of Shirou Emiya's adopted father (Kiritsugu Emiya) and his ideals as a hero being transferred to his son (given a slight focus of the Unlimited Blade Works route with regards to Shirou's ideals); on the backstory of the Fate version of Arthurian legend (one of the main focuses of the Fate route); and on the backstory of the familial conflicts between the Three Families of the Beginning, specifically on the Tohsaka family and the Makiri/Matou family with regards to Rin Tohsaka and Sakura Matou and on the relationship between Illyasviel von Einzbern of the Einzbern family and Shirou Emiya (two of the main focuses of the Heaven's Feel route).
That being said, for those who will be reading this light novel or who will be watching its TV adaptation in the future if you are still reading this review, it would be advisable to read/watch the entirety of "Fate/stay night" (the visual novel) first it before going to "Fate/Zero" to provide the maximum understanding of this Fate storyline (while the other information about the world of Nasuverse can be provided through its other works like "Kara no Kyoukai: The Garden of Sinners" and "Tsukihime").
One certain question is raised here: What makes "Fate/Zero" stand out among the other works within the Fate franchise despite that it suffered on its status as a prequel (which already provided a foregone conclusion even before the story began) like, as always, George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) to its sequels, its original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)?
The answer is that "Fate/Zero", which is clearly a plot-driven story, took more focus on the journey (interactions among the characters) rather than on the destination (characters attaining the goal), answering the mystery behind that destination given in "Fate/stay night", by providing the readers about the major events of the Fourth Holy Grail War.
Said events include presenting all of the fight sequences among almost all of the participating members of the battle royale, with all of them can be described as either mature and strategic (every battle that had happened on the first two volumes of the series but one from the second volume); or glorious, tragic, enthralling or beautiful (every battle on the last two volumes of the series and that one battle I excluded beforehand [since it is a completely instant annihilation to the point that the author doesn't even bother describing it] fits well on either one of the three or even all four of them) on each one of them.
However, strangely enough for a thriller (like Koushun Takami's "Battle Royale" novel), there is really only one battle that can really be described as intense and that would be the battle between two certain Masters on the fourth and final volume of the series. Also, strangely enough for a thriller and action story, the action is not as much as most other action stories out there, but when it does, it really does well given the descriptions I could tell from each one of them. Because of this, none of those battles are considered pointless given all of the circumstances played for each one of the characters on those battles, as well as their abilities each one uses. The reason for this is that each of the fights has a particular theme that played by the participants' acts such as chivalry, pride, mystery, showmanship, entertainment, etc. This is all dependent to the point of view of each of the characters in the story. Of course, that one fight I considered to be intense happened to have a particular theme of finding answers. After all, these two people had been wondering on knowing the reason about one another's participation in the Holy Grail War as Masters.
Perhaps, to compensate for the lack of sheer number of fights (though all of the fights are rather significant to each of their own), some of the other segments of the series were given to focus on forming temporary alliances, well-planned/decisive strategies, acts of betrayal and deception, clash of ideals and glorious/crippling/meaningful deaths among all almost of the participants of the war (or even those who do not as well). This is expected for a light novel (treated as a novella among Western audience) that also aimed towards older audience aside from the Fate franchise fans, despite that some people claimed light novels are supposed to be targeted towards young adult demographic (personally, light novels can be just as worthy to read as other books in my opinion. I even thought that some light novels like this book and Isuna Hazekura's "Spice and Wolf" are targeted towards older audience. Like someone in Goodreads said a year ago, "light novels are like normal novels but with less salt and trans-fat."). After all, each of the Masters (well, almost every one of them), who had received the Command Seals from the Holy Grail because of their wishes/reasons, visible or hidden in their hearts, had appeared to win the war for those reasons.
As an extra though, it is very notable that even that the 'Skills' that the Servants used also have an effect on them in the plot, like Saber's Riding, Assassin's Presence Concealment, Archer's Independent Action, Caster's Mental Pollution and Rider's Divinity. These terminologies cannot be much of a problem if one is well-versed to the mechanics of the Holy Grail War (including the statistics of the Servant which is very dependent to the Master each one served, specifically Luck). Otherwise, these terminologies are treated as what they literally meant by those who do not, which can be a bit troublesome if one condsidered the Riding skills that both Saber and Rider have.
It is easily not as simple as that though, given Gen Urobuchi's storytelling capabilities (being known for his dark style, nihilistic themes and tragic plot twists) and aims for this series. And because of those storytelling capabilities, he made "Fate/Zero" a (Greek) tragedy storyline... and an interestingly impressive one at that.
As one will look at "Fate/Zero"'s entire cast, the characters, especially all of the participants in the Holy Grail War including their assistants (Irisviel von Einzbern and Hisau Maiya for Kiritsugu Emiya (Master of Saber) and Saber's team and Sola-Ui Nuada-re Sophia-Ri for Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald (Master of Lancer) and Lancer's team), have given well-defined and complex personalities, ideals, specified backstories (though the Servants' backstories will be completely understandable if one is aware of their histories such as the information about their Noble Phantasms [and the reality behind most of the extent of the name of each of the Noble Phantasms such as Saber's The Everdistant Utopia, Avalon/Avalon: The Everdistant Utopia and The Sword of Promised Victory, Excalibur/Excalibur: The Sword of Promised Victory), and most importantly, well-thought-out worldviews and flaws that are dependent on their actions they made in the story more than anything else.
Of course, on Urobuchi's part however, like most of his own works, the characters served more as physical embodiments of their ideals more than actual people. That being said, the focus of the story is on their interactions and not the characters themselves.
Also, while all of the actions the characters made were true to their personalities and ideologies and the fact that this series has an ensemble cast, the sacrifice of focus towards some of the other characters in favor of focusing more on some specific characters (especially in Kariya Matou (Master of Berserker) and Berserker's case in comparison to the other participants).
As a side note about the characters specifically some of the Servants like Rider/Iskandar and Saber/Arturia Pendragon, it is very notable that they give their thoughts that historic records are never meant to be one-hundred percent accurate, through their conversations with the ones closely associated to them. Also, in Saber's case alone, the implications of her character being a man instead of a woman to be a 'perfect ruler' (or a little girl, since in the Fate franchise, she does not age ever since she drew The Sword in the Stone/Caliburn) opened up the social issues concerning the female populace and the political issues concerning female leaders (which are some of the focal points in the Fate route of "Fate/stay night") as well as the questions about the true meaning of kingship through the so-called the "Holy Grail Dialogue" between three certain Servants (this entire conversation does really not have any closure until the Fate route of "Fate/stay night"). Upon reflecting their personalities (even those Servants that I haven't mentioned here) with what they have been depicted by certain people through historic/mythological records through history books and myths, I always felt that these characters seemed to be 'living' (i.e. the physical embodiments of certain historical/mythological figures) as they made conversations with others and told them their experiences in the past as if they are aware of it.
How did these characters make to be connected to the story being a Greek tragedy?
To simply put, "Fate/Zero" is one of the books (or even one of the animated series/TV shows) that I thought that have follow the structure of an ideal tragedy storyline or an ideal tragic plot that Aristotle proposed through his work Poetics.
In this case, "Fate/Zero" is filled with an all-grey morality where neither of the participants is considered to be totally good or completely evil , with the Masters either being in the Holy Grail War for their arguably selfish reasons (Waver Velvet (Master of Rider) wanted recognition from others, Tokiomi Tohsaka (Master of Archer/Gilgamesh) wished to get to the Root for his family, Kayneth also wanted recognition through his pride as a Magus of a well-known family, and Kirei Kotomine (Master of Assassin/Hassan-i-Sabbah) sought to know the answers about the reason why one without a central purpose in his life was given a chance to win the Holy Grail War, granted he does not have a wish to begin with), have genuinely good intentions but will do incredibly questionable actions in order to attain their goals (Kiritsugu has a wish to save the world through the complete elimination of conflicts and Kariya wanted to save a certain daughter of a woman whom he has an unrequited love with) or are plain evil (Ryuunosuke Uryuu (Master of Caster/Gilles de Rais), for being cheerful and openhearted, wanted to have fun by doing his current hobby (murder)).
All of the seven Masters summoned their Servants, regardless of the ways, in order to formally begin the Fourth Holy Grail War. More often than not, their Servants mirrored the personalities of their Masters either in a positive way (Ryuunosuke and Caster (their own personalities), Kariya and Berserker (their backstories regarding certain specific loved ones) and Kirei and Assassin (their capabilities and some of their personalities)) or in a negative way (Kiritsugu and Saber (someone who followed the codes of chivalry and honor [the latter] versus someone who doesn't have one [the former]), Kayneth and Lancer (chivalry against pride as well as an extent to Lancer's fate because of Sola-Ui), Waver and Rider (initially someone seeking recognition against someone wanting respect) and Tokiomi and Archer (someone who wanted to own something he sought as a Magus against someone who claimed that he owned everything in this world including the one Tokiomi seeks).
Also, most of them had their own ideals and wishes also played at stake on the fights in the Holy Grail War (since only one of the seven pairs should win this event no matter what, despite of whether they are aware of the Holy Grail's actual purpose). This is the reason each of the fights (and a certain dialogue) played a specified theme. For instance, Saber and Lancer's battles played the theme of chivalry on each of their exchange of blows and Kariya and Tokiomi's battle played the theme of familial conflicts because of the misunderstanding between one another.
Because of this, the Fourth Holy Grail War is not just a clash of swords but also a clash of ideals. And because of the existence of the clash of ideals all throughout the fights, conversations and dialogues, this war had create multiple tragic pay-offs among certain characters who may inevitably die in either a good way or a bad one and who may have ideals being either remained in-tact or got crumbled because of the realization of their actions. Among all of the characters though, the utilitarian Kiritsugu, being the main protagonist of the light novel and the adopted father of the future main protagonist Shirou Emiya in "Fate/stay night", is a special case since his actions was focusing more on his wish to attain a miracle to end all conflicts more than on his personality... and whatever happened throughout the story means a big deal to his life after all.
Most of all, the ending of this series (and the beginning of the sequel) fits perfectly to the story and the characters and the transition from this series to "Fate/stay night" does made complete sense considering its intention of not giving a complete closure for this Fate storyline. However, it does not mean that "Fate/Zero" is about attaining the sad ending like most of the non-Greek tragedy storylines do. After all, according to Aristotle, the aim of Greek tragedy is to arouse in them sensations of pity and fear, and to purge them of these emotions so that they leave the theater (story) purified, with a heightened understanding of the ways of gods and men. In this case, with all of the consequences that had happened in the Fourth Holy Grail War, the series had attained the aim of Greek tragedy through the actions of most of the surviving characters among the ensemble cast after the events, but most specifically, on the focus on the conversation at the end of the story between two characters which is already predicted through "Fate/stay night".
Of course, of all the positive things I give to this series, regarding its unique approach of a battle royale concept and the series being a formal Greek tragedy, even I am more focused on the storytelling method and overall writing over anything else when it comes to books, I can be bothered by Gen Urobuchi's writing style as some of the moments he described some of the things much longer than it needed to like weapons and armaments used by Kiritsugu as well as the motorcycle used by a certain Servant. Also, if I am not aware of Nasuverse concepts, I would have the difficulty to understand the terminologies used in the Holy Grail War specifically the Skills and the Noble Phantasms.
As for matters between this light novel and its anime adaptation done by ufotable, there are some differences that may change the interpretation of the events due to the lack of characterization done in the transition from the light novel to the animated series, such as Hisau Maiya's background and some of Sakura Matou's actions. Perhaps, the only one that made a major difference between the two would be that one event that focused on the one of the two daughters of Tokiomi Tohsaka, Rin Tohsaka and her acts of heroism (and realization) as their outcomes are hardly similar to one another.
I always thought there is a lot more that I wanted to say about this series such as expanding my thoughts about its unique approach of the battle royale concept (since the fights are notably not as intense as those on most other battle royale stories I had read/watched by far like the novel "Battle Royale" and the TV series "Future Diary") and my opinion about its status as a light novel that seemed to follow the formula of creating a Greek tragedy storyline. But I thought this might be enough to make an attempt to convince someone try reading the light novel (or watching its faithful anime adaptation) in order to understand the situation that not all light novels are just for young adults or that "Fate/Zero" is a worthy to read.
As of this point though about the matters of the Type-Moon company, I only hoped for the success of their future projects (anime adaptations of "Fate/Extra: Last Encore", "Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel", "Fate/kaleid Prisma Illya 3rei", "Fate/Apocrypha" possibly, etc.). After all, I find their original source material to be at least good to read (except "Fate/Extra" since I personally haven't played it myself). But for now, I always find this series that got my full attention when it comes to the ideas of the Holy Grail War... and with that, here is my personal rating...
Four-and-three-fourths Holy Grails out of five (9.5/10)
(I wonder if ratings really matter at all honestly, although what I gave here is just what I thought about the series)
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!
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