I recently have gotten very interested in Type-Moon material, particularly the Fate series. Last review was on Fate Stay Night. Today, we’re going back to that world with its prequel-sequel: Fate Zero.
The Story: The Holy Grail is an omnipotent relic with the power to grant a single wish. Since its creation, many have fought and killed for the chance to fulfill their wishes. That is the nature of the Holy Grail War: 7 Masters summon 7 Servants, legendary heroes or villains from ages long past, and fight in a no-holds-barred battle royale.
At an unspecified year in the 1990’s, in Fuyuki City, Japan, the 4th Holy Grail War begins. After 60 years of careful planning on all sides, only one will prove victorious.
The whole premise of Fate Zero is a battle royale, yet much of the anime consists of planning, talking, meeting, and character developing moments, and not fighting. That might sound like a bad thing, but it works. It keeps the show from being a Michael Bay movie and actually makes it engaging. It forces you to understand the plot and inevitably bond with some of the characters.
There are two major flaws in Fate Zero, one I’ll address in the next section, and the other isn’t much of a flaw. The show is the prequel to Fate Stay Night. That means the ending is a little predictable, but the magic of the show lies in how they get there, now what the ending is.
The Characters: Because of the way it tells the story, Fate Zero has great characters. Mostly. Like in Fate Stay Night, there are simply too many characters to develop equally. While some are developed well, others are neglected, though can be still be enjoyable in their own way.
The Anime reviewer GRArkada noted that the central dynamic in the show is not the fight for the Holy Grail, but rather the relationships between the masters and servants in said fight and why they want it. He’s absolutely right; supporting characters become interesting because of the dynamic between them and their servants. Some characters you love, some you hate, and some you love to hate through these master-servant relationships.
Kiritsugu Emiya: Kiritsugu’s the main character, if you want to call him that. Unlike many other main characters I’ve talked about, Kiritsugu is not a glorious hero. He’s not morally superior to anyone else in the show. He’s a killer, with just as many evil components as he has good. That dichotomy forces him to be an interesting, complex character, and it works incredibly well. For the first half, he’s barely around, then the 2nd half features him more. That might sound like a bad thing, but that helps flesh out other characters as well in the first half. He’s already pretty developed when he comes later, and following his journey to the end was a good finish. I was very pleased with how he was treated; it fit in the context of the story.
Saber: If you read my Fate Stay Night review, you might remember that I wasn’t a big fan of Saber because of her lack of character. Fate Zero fixes what went wrong with her in Fate Stay Night. Because of the decreased emphasis on combat, we get to see Saber as more of a person, interacting with the rest of the world more. I would say she’s great, but she’s only an enjoyable character because of one other.
Irisviel “Iri” von Einzbern:
Iri is the second component and arguably most important part to Saber’s character. She’s her own character, yes, albeit not much of one, but much of her is defined by her relationship to Saber. Iri’s more of the main character for the first half, as the show focuses more on her and Saber than Kiritsugu at that point.
If we look at Iri on her own, there is not much to say about her. That’s how linked to Saber she is.
Final Verdict: Fate Zero is considered by some to be one of the greatest animes from 2011-12, and I can definitely see why. With good characters and storytelling, Fate Zero is a good choice, particularly for anyone who liked previous Fate adaptations.
Final Grade: A-