Anime Review: Fate/Zero

[Note: My intention is for my reviews to be spoiler free, I’ll avoid saying anything specific about the series or film itself, however if you’d like to discuss specifics you are welcome to do so in the comments.  So be warned comments contain spoilers!!]

Take some of Final Fantasy VII, the first ‘modern’ role-playing video game, and mix it with a more classic, fantasy based Final Fantasy.  Throw in some legends and historical figures, and that is the setting with which Fate/Zero (F/Z) is produced. It’s outstanding, and I’ll briefly explain why.

Before moving into the review, know that F/Z is based on a Visual Novel. I have never read a Visual Novel before, and the first time I heard about it was when reading about Clannad.  Also, F/Z is actually a prequel to another series–Fate Stay/Night (F/SN) that was adapted by another anime in 2006.  I haven’t watched F/SN and didn’t even know about it until I was in the middle of watching F/Z which is unfortunate, as I tend to like watching series or movies in production order rather than chronological order (see: Darker than Black, in which you really should watch season 2 (Gemini) before it’s prequel (Gaiden)).

Saber, one of the main protagonists.

The premise here is basically that there are individuals (billed ‘masters’), who get assigned spirits (‘servants’) that they can use to win the “Holy Grail”, which grants the victor whatever they wish (Some of the individuals are from families that have been involved in this war for generations).  The main protagonist depending on how you look at it is either Emiya Kiritsugu, a stoic, brooding character that’s actually more anti-hero than hero, or Saber, one of the spirit knights who is pure and full of conviction and virtue–she’s more of a conventional hero for sure–and the contrast of her uncompromising principles with Kiritsugu’s relativism is one of the running themes of the series.

This sounds like a  tournament type series Dragonballz style, but trust me, it’s FAR from that.  There is a lot of talking.  There’s so much subtlety, philosophical debates, etc in this series.  The first episode alone is one hour of…talking.  For me that’s a good thing, but apparently from the forums, many found that annoying.  Another thing to keep in mind that even though most of the focus is on the two aforementioned protagonists, there are A LOT of other characters, all across the spectrum in personality and morality.

Kiritsugu himself has ambiguous morals depending on your world view, and that’s what I like about the anime.  Lots of shades of grey here.  Some of the stuff he does like how he gets rid of a rival will just blow his mind, it’s something a lot more ruthless than most villainsdo.   Another way that ‘shades of grey’ is in the servants–you’ll have guessed by my description of Saber, that the servants have independent personalities and motifs on their own right.  Some of them are not even interested in the Holy War.  This makes for an intriguing web of relationships between the servants, but also between the servants and masters–there is a debate in one of the episodes between three of the servants on what it means to be a King which is so deep it would not be out of place in a philosophy lecture class.

Kotomine Kirei, one of the central characters in the story

Anyway, I  like epic, fantasy related stuff, but it’s hard to find good ones–that includes books, comics, etc.  This one was top quality from the production to the storytelling.  The pacing was a little off sometimes, and there was an event towards the end that was supposed to have high dramatic effect that kind of came out of nowhere and fell flat.  I’m glad I watched this–it was actually my second choice after Steins; Gate (which I still haven’t watched–is that any good?).

So for those of you that watched Fate/Zero, what did you think? Should I watch Fate/Stay Night?  What is the perspective of those that watched the anime?Rating: 5/5

The sometimes uneven pacing is forgiven for the outstanding visuals, the complex philosophy and the great dialogue and diversity of characters.  Also best “final battle” I’ve seen yet.

Entertainment Review scale:

5=Outstanding, Classic, etc.   4=Very good   3=OK    2=Not good  1= Horibble

Note: Most reviews I put up will be 4s or 5s, very few OKs.  You’ll almost never negative or low-scored reviews from me as I don’t waste time watching stuff I don’t like.

American kids are not stupid

It is often said that for example Americans are dumb, stupid , and superficial.  Schools here get criticized for the wrong reasons in my opinion—kids failing tests or not getting into colleges, or you’ll hear someone lamenting how, “our kids don’t do Algebra like the Japanese do”.   This is wrong thinking for two reasons.

First , figuring things out, and creative thinking are very much part of intelligence.  America is one of the few countries in which there is some appreciation in middle class society for the arts as a profession. As far as figuring shit out, America by far has more self-made millionaires than anywhere else—some of this is cultural, but nonetheless you can’t be “dumb” and create wealth and success. There’s more to enabling a kid to be smart than memorizing formulas or being able to name random capital cities.

The second way that this is wrong thinking is that it causes kids to be labeled as dumb, stupid, or lacking because of SAT tests, or what college they’re getting into.  This is an area in which I hope that the United States doesn’t become like the rest of the world.  In some countries if you tell your parents that you want to be anything other than a doctor, accountant/corporate manager or something related to computer engineering, it will be a family crisis.  Many African men consider anything that is not a hard science “foo foo” (direct quote).

This is unfortunate, and I hope that the USA doesn’t follow in that direction.  It would be the wrong model. Sir Ken Robinson put it best, and I hope you can spare 20 minutes to listen to him:

Liverpool FC in the USA and why you should keep dreaming

Finally got to see my beloved Liverpool football club live this past weekend.  Liverpool, the most decorated club in English football (yes, it’s NOT Manchester United) actually came stateside, so I headed out to Baltimore to watch the game.  Watching the team has been a dream of mine for the longest time, I’ve wanted to go to Anfield in Liverpool to watch them.

Liverpool still has a large worldwide fan base. I was surprised by the number of reds, especially given the hapless opposition.

Legend Steven Gerrard.

M&T stadium is not Anfield, but still this had me thinking about how pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted has come true.  I don’t mean stuff like wanting a Ferrari or a million dollar mansion (and in any case most people that say that’s what they want don’t really truly want those things).

See I work regular daytime nine-to-five office job, and at this time I’m still a grad student.  I’m not “rich”, I don’t have any real savings. And yet in the past couple of years I’ve:  Flown in first class, gone bar hopping in Italy with glowing monuments in the background, had my first real American camping experience, and done some stunts on ATVs by the Pyramids.   None of that should be possible given my profile.

Three takeaways here are the importance of a burning desire, the irrelevance of “your situation” in order to enjoy your life, and the importance of actually having things you want to do or accomplish.

Having a burning desire is when you really want to do something and it consumes you.  I originally read about the concept in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, and the idea is that whatever your fixated in eventually manifests in your life.  That has certainly happened for me, thing is it won’t necessarily—or usually for that matter, happen exactly when or how you imagined but it will happen and you will enjoy it just as much.  The irrelevance of your situation is basically not deciding a priori that it’s impossible for you to do whatever you want to do.  Chris Guilleabeau (a fantastic blogger who you should all be reading) talks about this much better than I can in a recent post.  Lastly, it is good to enjoy these peak moments in life and to plan for them.  Watch videos, take pictures, talk about, write about and think about anything and everything that you’d like to do!