In an earlier Animediction post here, I reviewed Fate/Stay Night, the first anime in the Fate/ series. As promised, I have now finished watching Fate/Zero, the anime that serves as a sort of "prologue" to the Fate/Stay anime, setting in motion many events that come to fruition in the Fate/Stay night anime. I'll be honest, I started out this anime a bit skeptical, because hey, I didn't particularly like Fate/Stay Night. However, from the very first episode, Fate/Zero captivated me in a way that F/S never did and ultimately, is a far superior anime than its predecessor.
|Rider (Alexander the Great) and Waver Velvet|
Fate/Zero is much darker than F/S in that the Holy Grail Wars are carried out as a true war. The majority of the magi are not only qualified, but hell bent on completely destroying each other for the grail. We do get a magi that seems undeserving of being a master in the form of Waver Velvet, who essentially steals from his teacher the artifact he planned to use to call upon his servant. Waver does succeed in becoming a master and ends up summoning one of the most awesome servants I have seen on this show, Rider (Alexander the Great). While Waver is portrayed as a weakling throughout most of the series especially in contrast to Rider, he is actually really smart and brave. His relationship with Rider really endeared both characters to me as they both learned great lessons from each other and strengthened each others resolve to attain the grail. In addition, Rider has one of the greatest Noble Phantasm's (i.e. kind of like an ultimate attack) among all of the servants in the form of Ionioi Hetairoi. It is seriously wicked awesome.
|Lancer, one of the coolest and|
most tragic characters
Other master/servant relationships that stand out is the relationship between Tokiomi Tohsaka and Archer (Gilgamesh). It's not a strong relationship and ends up being one where Archer dominates Tohsaka as if he were the master. While Kayneth was an arse, his servant Lancer (Diarmuid) is another of my favorite characters of this show. He remains loyal to Kayneth, attempting to regain the honor he lost during his lifetime. As of late, I have been reading a lot about mythology and the Fenian Cycle really stood out to me. I was so excited to see a warrior of the Fianna show up in Fate/Zero because I had just been reading about them! Anyways, finally, there's Saber and Kiritsugu, who have a tense relationship, each believing in using very different paths to achieve victory. These master-servant relationships is what really made Fate/Zero in my opinion. You grow attached to the characters and you want more than one to win. In F/S Night they're just kind of there and no one seems to have much of a noble reason to want the grail except for Shirou of course. In Fate/Zero, while everyone is trying to destroy each other, you also learn about their histories (both of the servants and the masters) and come to understand why they want the grail so badly. There are times when you sympathize more with the servant than the master, but there is definitely more character development in this series than there was in F/S Night. I really appreciate that the character development did not distract from the plot at all and only served to further it. It's a hard balance to attain but in this case, was executed perfectly.
The ending to this anime was one of my favorites among the many animes I have watched. I think that the way the Grail showed Kiritsugu that his method of trying to save lives was wrong was well designed. Now, here are major spoilers if you haven't watched it all, so skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to have the ending spoiled.
Of course, I knew Kiritsugu would find Shirou and survive, but his desire to no longer be a hero was strangely satisfying to me. Kiritsugu lived in a manner where he was destroying himself for what he believed to be a greater good. I was very happy that he seemed to be freed of that burden. While it's sad he was never allowed to see Illyasviel again, I was happy that tie with his past was severed, no matter how sad it was. Saber ending up in the battlefield while all her men are dead around her and realizing that she shouldn't have been King as she didn't know how to lead was another great ending for me. It was like what Gilgamesh and Alexander had been telling her all along finally set in: she couldn't wish to save Britain because in order to do that, she had to give up her title as King. It was her mistake, not a cruel twist of destiny. Kirei I loathe and I understand the Grail granted his wish, wish just shows how messed up he was :/ Finally, I liked that Gilgamesh had the decency to not attack Waver after he defeated Rider. Like, yes Gilgamesh is arrogant but he knows to honor bravery and loyalty and I was happy he never strayed from that path.
I also loved all of the historical hints that are dropped from time to time, tying the servants back to their previous lives in history. For example, when Rider was looking at maps of the world and realized that in fact, the Okeanos he had so longed to reach during his lifetime did not exist. And when Lancer notes that the look in Sola's eyes (who is the fiancé of Kayneth), is the same look that Grainne had. If you look up Diarmuid and Grainne's story, the parallels between what happened to him and everything that occurs with Sola are well thought out and incorporated. While Berserker's identity is not revealed until the end of the series, it makes complete sense that he is Berserker as he, historically, is said to have gone mad and was only saved by laying eyes on the Holy Grail. It makes sense that Berserker is now searching for the Grail to cure his insanity once again. Speaking of Berserker, his master's story, that of Kariya Matou is truly sad. I truly felt for Kariya, until the very end, even though what he did was, well, horrible.
Overall, watching Fate/Zero helped clear up many of the more confusing aspects of Fate/Stay Night. If I had to recommend an order, it would definitely be to watch Fate/Zero first, however, F/Stay Night may not keep your attention for long just because Fate/Zero is far superior. Learning of Rin's past and what happened to her mother and father only reinforced my earlier belief that in F/Stay Night, she should have won the Grail. But then again, maybe it's better she didn't, as the Grail is ultimately a terrible wish granting device. There is so much I learned about history through this anime and I felt like each episode was well thought out with little to no unnecessary scenes. The music really brought the anime to life, thank you Yuki Kajiura! All in all, Fate/Zero had become one of my top ten anime's and I will definitely be watching Unlimited Blade Works sometimes in the near future.