[Anime] Fate/Zero: Review

FateZeroOne of the things that I always struggle with when writing these series reviews is who exactly I’m writing them for. For a series like Fate/Zero, that struggle is particularly daunting. Who is this review for, really? Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m well aware that most, if not all, of this blog’s active readership has not only seen Fate/Zero but is also infinitely more knowledgeable about the series and the universe it is set in than I will ever be. That’s not the point though. Ostensibly, at least, a review of a series like is meant to be for the uninformed – but the trouble here is, what kind of uninformed are we talking about, exactly? There are so many different degrees of Fate related knowledge – you could be familiar with the Fate/Stay Night visual novel, either of the two anime series or none of them at all. For the purposes of this review, it would be nothing less than criminal to treat those familiar with the Fate universe the same as newcomers and vice versa. Writing two different reviews is out of the question…right? Well, yes and no. It turns out that most of what I want to say about the series can be said without diving too deep into its specifics. Occasionally, I’ll want to go a little deeper and explain my point with some examples and so, with that in mind, I’ve introduced a spoiler bubble of sorts. It’s pretty elementary stuff but hopefully it gives me a little more latitude to talk about the details.

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[Anime] Fate/Zero: Fate/Zero (S2E25)

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This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero. If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

Before I even begin this post, I need to thoroughly apologize for the delay between this post and the last. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks between exams, interviews and real life and I just haven’t had the time I needed to do these last two episodes of the series justice. I saw both ‘The Last Command Spell’ and ‘Fate/Zero’ back to back and I think it’s simpler to digest the episodes together since it is only collectively that they offer the closure and resolution of a finale. The two episodes really should have been combined into a single hour long festival of crushed dreams and shattered ideals; no one came into this series expecting sunshine and rainbows but neither had I expected to see a man’s spirit snapped in two like a particularly frail twig. The first episode, ‘The Last Command Seal’ draws the audience in by revealing the Grail’s true nature to the audience and the futility of Kiritsugu’s lifelong struggles while ‘Fate/Zero’ finishes the job off with an emotional sucker punch that is just designed to leave you empty and reeling for a while. This post will be a long one, but I have attempted to have some semblance of order and flow into it so that it’s not just one big blob of incoherent musings.

Spoilers beyond. Beware

[Anime] Fate/Zero: The Sea at the World’s Edge (S2E10)

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This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 23). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

After an episode filled with of characters being forced to come to terms with the consequences of their ideals, you can’t help but walk away feeling like it would be better to never dream at all. In one of the series’ most emotionally charged scenes so far, Gilgamesh and Rider have their final confrontation. No punches are pulled, no quarter is given; Gilgamesh brings out Ea and Rider uses Ionian Hetaroi but it was clear from the beginning that everyone involved knew what the outcome would be. Rider exits the stage with his head held high; he was defeated in battle but Gilgamesh could not conquer his marauding soul. Meanwhile, the episode’s other big reveal, Berserker’s identity, was the source of further anguish for Saber, because clearly the poor girl hasn’t been through even. She is forced to accept the truth in Rider’s words when it looks her right in the eyes and says her name. There is a lot to praise in this week’s episode ‘The Sea at the World’s Edge’ but also a couple of points of criticism.

Spoilers beyond. Beware

[Anime] Fate/Zero: All The World’s Evil (S2E9)

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This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 22). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

Is there a word in the English language for a feeling where you both want and don’t want to know what happens next? This week’s episode of Fate/Zero left me with some mixed feelings; sadness at what I know is coming next and excitement at finally getting to see it. This episode, ‘All The World’s Evils’ brings us as close to the final showdown as possible without actually showing us any of it – an upcoming fight between Saber and Berserker is mentioned and a showdown between Kirei and Kiritsugu is looming on horizon as well. I face a weekly struggle to keep myself from binging through the remainder of this series, but this week that required an exceptionally Herculean effort for which I think I deserve several pats on the back. I have learned over the course of this series that my death flag sensor isn’t particularly refined, which is good in a way because all I saw in this episode were death flags. Waver gets an emotional farewell from family he never knew he had and gives Rider a final set of missions while Kirei is forced to accept that his read on Kiritsugu was totally wrong, though Iri pays a hefty price for teaching Kirei that particular lesson. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that this Grail War was Kirei’s to lose but since I do know better, I’m just going to remark on how startling it is that Kirei loses this despite the haggard state the rest of his competitors are in.

Spoilers beyond. Beware

[Anime] Fate/Zero: Knight On Two Wheels (S2E8)

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This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 21). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

Love brings out both the best and the worst of mankind, doesn’t it? Sometimes, it inspires men and women to overcome herculean obstacles but occasionally, it also drives people stark raving mad. Matou Kariya was never the most stable of characters to begin with but in this week’s episode ‘Knight on Two Wheels’, we see Kirei gleefully push him over the edge and past the point of no return. Elsewhere, Saber’s dedication to duty drives her in pursuit of Rider, only to discover that she, and the audience have been deceived – Irisviel is not with Rider and never was. Kiritsugu reaches a similar conclusion but the stakes are higher for him than for Saber; Irisviel isn’t just his wife, she is also the key to ensuring that all of Kiritsugu’s actions weren’t for nothing. This week’s episode was a thoroughly enjoyable one – the motorbike action sequences were a little dull but watching Kariya’s sanity collapse like a house of cards sort of made up for it, in a very sadistic sense.

Spoilers beyond. Beware

[Anime] Fate/Zero: Return of the Assassin (S2E7)

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This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 19). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

After two long episodes of backstory, it’s good to be back in the thick of things. This week’s episode, ‘Return of the Assassin’, is fairly eventful – we catch up with Irisviel and the rest of team Kiritsugu as they make preparations for the final stages of the War, and we take a look at what Team Rider and Team Berserker have been up to in the aftermath of the battle at the river. One thing to remember is that very little time has passed since that battle; the number of episodes separating events can easily deceive us into thinking that it has been a long time since Caster’s demise, when in actuality it’s been just a day or two. The events at the end of the episode – Maiya’s death and Irisviel’s capture – seem like they will be the catalysts for getting the business end of this story going as the various factions begin mobilizing for a final showdown. We also see Kiritsugu shed his reservations about what he has to do – he seems to be steeling himself for the unpleasantness that’s coming ahead though we see that he is not nearly as a cold hearted as he believes himself to be.

Spoilers beyond. Beware

[Anime] Fate/Zero: Where Justice Is Found (S2E6)

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This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 19). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

Welcome back to the shit show that is the life of Mr. Kiritsugu Emiya! This week on Fate/Zero, we continue our flashbacks – this time into Kiritsugu’s adolescence. This episode makes an exceedingly strong case that, contrary to what Kiritsugu’s adoptive, mercenary mother Natalia tells us, Kiritsugu’s true Origin is misery. He not only draws it to himself, but he is also frighteningly good at producing it. The idea of these past two flashbacks seems to have been to contextualize Kiritsugu and his life – we know that in a few episode’s time, Kiritsugu will give the fateful command to Saber to destroy the Holy Grail and it seems that the series is preparing us for that moment. This episode, while much better executed, in my opinion, than the last, still hasn’t fully sold me on Kiritsugu’s traumatic past. While I certainly did feel for him in this episode, I still find my connection to the character lacking. In today’s discussion, I’ll go a little deeper into just why I don’t feel as invested in Kiritsugu’s fate as I did in Shirou’s, as well as whole bunch of other points about the parallels between certain characters in the series. This episode brought up quite a few of the recurring ideas that fans would be quite familiar with – particularly, the trade-offs between personal happiness and personal ideals.

Spoilers beyond. Beware