Fate/Zero takes place in Fuyuki City where a war is about to take place. This war could change the world forever. This is the Holy Grail War. This is the fourth such conflict in the world with the previous three not having a clear victor. The conflict was founded by the Einzbern, Matou, and Tohsaka families a couple of centuries before. These families are high ranking families of mages whose members are typically amongst the most powerful in the world. The purpose of the conflict is to fight for control of the mystical “Holy Grail” which once obtained can grant a single wish to the victor. Seven mages are chosen by the grail to participate in the fight. To aid the combatants, each mage is given the power to summon a spirit to serve them. These spirits hail from history and myth and will also have a wish granted if they succeed. The series chronicles the Fourth Holy Grail War and follows the mage masters and their servants as they fight for the Holy Grail.
Fate Zero has a larger cast than one typically sees in an anime series, particularly one that is so short. There are approximately 20 characters which have a vital role to play. In addition to the seven masters and seven servants, there are other characters which are involved and influence the events of the story. Because of the sheer number of characters, it would be impossible to touch upon all of them in this review.
Kiritsugu Emiya is one of the central characters of the story and master of the servant Saber. He is one of many strong male characters in this anime. He has developed a reputation as a master killer of mages due to his time as a freelance mercenary. He has a violent and dark history, yet his reason for wishing to obtain the grail is truly a noble one. He wishes to end all wars. To achieve this, he will use any means whether it is good or ill. His character in a nutshell is the embodiment of the question: Do the means justify the ends? He also is a master tactician and a skillful warrior. He also cares about the greater good and cares for the safety of those around him. He is one of my favorite male characters in a series. He is not whiny like many male characters, he is a bad ass, and he also is multidimensional. Kirirtsugu is just an awesome character.
The servant Saber is also a fascinating character. A master swordsman, the spirits of the saber class are considered to be the most powerful of all the servants. She shows great combat skills in any battle she is in and proves to have a wide range of abilities. From master swordswoman to superb driver, Saber is able to achieve victory in a number of ways. She also possesses a very noble demeanor and is bound by a strict honor code. She commands respect from those around her which is not something you can say about many anime characters. This puts her at odds with Kiritsugu who will do anything to achieve to his goal. Her wish is different than many of the other characters. She feels that she failed during her life and wishes for an opportunity to erase what she has done. This is an interesting wish and becomes the subject of much debate throughout the series. While many of the characters wish for a return to their former glory, she wishes to return to a more obscure version of her life. Sure all of the characters either have some unfinished business or some regrets; however Saber takes these mistakes to heart and will do anything she can to correct them. She is one of my favorite characters in any anime series. Saber proves to be quite multidimensional and despite being a legendary character from history, she proves herself to be quite human. Her toughness, sensitivity, and sense of honor make her not only a very interesting character, but a character that I can respect.
A third character which I would like to discuss is the servant Rider. A large burly character by appearance, Rider proves to be much more dimensional. Another of many strong male characters in the series, Rider proves to a source of comic relief in an otherwise dark series. At one point, Rider boldly charges into a battle between other servants and simply asks the others to concede the war and serve him. This is one of the most hilarious moments in the series. His interactions with his master Waver Velvet also provide some great dialog between a pair of opposites. While Waver is a very uptight and serious individual, Rider is very relaxed and laid back. In the beginning, he is more concerned with the changes of the world since he lived then the actual Grail War itself. Rider proves to be a catalyst for many of the series philosophical discussions. While his abilities as a warrior are great, his role in the series proves to be more of a cerebral one. These three are just a small sample of the rich cast of characters. Each character has a vital role to play in the story which is a rich tapestry of threads.
If you are looking for a straightforward and predictable plot, look elsewhere. The series constantly changes perspective and while it is chronological takes breaks from the actions to explore the characters thoughts and motives. Each episode contains twists and turns which keep the viewer guessing until the next episode. This is one of the many things the series does well. I found that each episode ended at an excruciating point so I was forced to watch the next episode to find out what happened next. The series also does an excellent job of posing thought provoking questions through the perspective of the characters. What does it truly mean to rule? Do the means justify the ends if the goal is pure? What is the true meaning of strength? These are just some of the questions the characters pose to not only themselves but also to the audience. This is highlighted by an episode where a group of the characters joins together to discuss their reasons for trying to obtain the grail. This is not only an enlightening episode but a deep philosophical one as well. The pacing is a little more methodical than some series; I did not have a problem with this because the pace fits the story really well. A faster pace and the story really starts to fall apart and create a lot of plot holes. Despite what I have been discussing, there are plenty of fights and action in the series. It is called the Holy Grail War after all. The action sequences each have a purpose and is well choreographed and exciting to watch. Who wouldn’t enjoy characters from myth and history battling it out?
The stage in which these characters undergo their journey is certainly a magnificent sight. The animation is absolutely gorgeous. I was amazed as to the character designs and the beautiful backgrounds and scenery which are shown throughout the series. The animation is better than what you see in most movie settings and is my favorite of any anime series. It is clear that a great amount of effort went into the animation. No great form of entertainment is complete without an awesome soundtrack. Fortunately the series does not disappoint in this aspect either. The music is quite memorable and fitting of an epic fantasy film. The soundtrack does a great job in helping to establish the mood for the series.
I have had the pleasure of experiencing the series in both English and Japanese and both casts do an outstanding job. There are some cases where the character sounds better with the Japanese actor/actress but fortunately these are minor characters and it really doesn’t detract from the experience.
Overall, I really enjoyed the series and it has my highest recommendation. The series has a great premise and story. The cast of characters is colorful and deep. The animation and music are just amazing. This series is one of my favorite anime series and I hope that after reading this, you decide to check it out for yourself.
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