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.