Review: Fate/Zero

Fate/Zero

From the very first minutes of its premiere, Fate/Zero grabbed my attention. No, that’s not correct. I’d be lying if I denied being hyped for this way before it started airing. However, it still managed to surpass my expectations with that double-sized first episode that not only sported movie-like animation quality, but also managed to make exposition exciting rather than boring. In sum, once it got my attention, it never let go. 9 episodes in, and I had already finished the light novels, which became one of my favorite books to date and took the anticipation for what was about to come in animated form even further.

Being a prequel to Fate/Stay Night, it shares its premise of the Holy Grail War – a battle royale between seven magi, who each summons a Servant – a Heroic Sprit that’s essentially the embodiment of a legend from another age – in order to obtain the Holy Grail, a wish-granting instrument capable of realizing miracles. It’s a rather simple premise, but it is one with a great potential, for it can develop in really any way you can imagine.

While the premise isn’t new, the execution is top notch, its presentation exceeding most of what we’ve seen in the latest years. With the jaw-dropping action scenes and overall excellent animation (it did have its not-so-good moments, but in a whole it was simply amazing), ufotable have outdone themselves, delivering a visual quality hardly ever seen in a TV series.

But Fate/Zero isn’t all about action. In fact, the action frequently takes a backseat, reminding us what this series is all about – the characters and their pursuit and struggle for their ideals and innermost wishes. In this 4th Holy Grail War, instead of teenagers who were unwillingly dragged into it (mostly), we have mature adults who each have their reasons to fight and wishes they’d give their life for.  Adding to that the Servants and some other relevant characters, we have a great and varied cast to explore. And does the series succeed in doing so? I believe it does. A bigger cast often means less time available for each character to be presented and developed. I won’t say Fate/Zero completely surpassed this problem, since time was, in fact, a real issue, and this is the one and only reason I find the novels slightly better. However, it did manage to create believable characters and show us a bit of each point of view. But most of all, their characterization was great, to the point that even if we didn’t get much time to sympathize with some of the characters themselves, we got to understand what drove their actions.

And here is where one of the biggest strengths in Fate/Zero lies. Through each character’s mindset, we’re presented one different mindset, one different way of life. The focus on this contrast and on the arguments about what one should pursue and the right way to do it makes this series an engaging and thought-provoking one like not many others can boast of. It’s ultimately a story of pursuing one’s ideals, and screwing one’s own life for blindly doing so. But the questions it raises along the way are nowhere near discreditable, as it presses the viewers’ to analyze the characters’ views on life and trying to realize their own, since neither of the mindsets portrayed are presented as being the correct one. That lack of a pure white, each character having its good and bad traits and its moments of morally questionable decisions, pulls this series away from the dichotomous division we’ve grown so accustomed to. That’s also something to be taken into account, since it makes the characters, those we end up liking and those we don’t, feel more human and more believable.

The soundtrack, which plays a big part in the spectators’ immersion, always stroke the right notes, managing to be ever-present and elevating the emotional impact. However, it managed to do so without feeling forced, which is a big plus on my books, seeing as there are series in which it feels so manipulative you could cry on the music alone. It is, in fact, missing a song that most people wanted, but that point alone doesn’t detract it from being an excellent musical score, which is complimented by both likable OPs and EDs, which fit the theme and mood of the series in their particular moments.

Fate/Zero is a series that can be brutal and heartwrenching to watch, for at its core lies tragedy and despair. Despite all that, or should I say, because of all that, it managed to be both intellectually and emotionally compelling. It’s a healthy mix between realism and fantasy, honorable heroes from other age and ruthless man from the modern world who’ll stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Of course that inside these two generalized divides, there are great differences as well and with this varied a cast, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

As a prequel to Fate/Stay Night, it had its fated shortcomings, such as the fact that most viewers already knew its ending, or that the ending couldn’t be as conclusive and wrap every plot point. However, due to its impressive writing, the knowledge of how it ended became anticipation to see how it would get there, and the finale was conclusive enough to get a nearly perfect closure on the characters and the outcome of the 4th Holy Grail, if nothing else, resulting in a satisfying conclusion which still put many of the half-assed endings we see to shame. With this in mind, Fate/Zero is a prequel to Fate/Stay Night, which means it’s better appreciated with knowledge of its continuation, but still manages to stand on its own as a great narrative I will not forget in a long, long time.

    

    

Mimi’s Score: 10 Meeps out of 10 (Masterpiece)

Note 1: I’d like to wait for the 2nd half Blu-Rays to rate this, to be able to properly choose between a 9.5 and a 10, since I really missed some scenes from the novels, but I’ll give it my good-faith for now.
Note 2:
Mimi, you’re free to add your impressions if you do so desire.
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Fate/Zero Episode 25

Fate/Zero

It’s over. The one thing that has lighted up my Sundays for the last few months finally came to an end. And overall, I can say it was a great ride. I had my qualms with it, but perfect adaptations from text-heavy media are no more than a distant and unreachable ideal, and despite every little detail I’ve complained about, ufotable managed to capture the essence of this masterpiece, resulting in a great show. But well, the review comes next and now I’m only here to talk about the 25th and last episode of this show.

It wasn’t as conclusive as one would expect of an ending, since this is, after all, a prequel, leading up to Fate/Stay Night, in which things will reach they’re proper (and less depressing) conclusion. On that note, I found it an interesting detail to end the show with a song called “To the Beginning”^^ Despite that, all the plot points directly related to the 4th Holy Grail War got resolved (or so they should have, as the anime didn’t make it much clear what Angra Mainyu is, what exactly happened as Saber fired Excalibur and how Gilgamesh appeared magically naked and Kirei came back from the dead) and in such a nice lively way at that… for Kirei, that is.

Apart from our very interesting villainous pair, who had the luck of being given further time to live in this world and just arrogantly laughed off at how ironic the outcome of the Grail War ended up being, everyone else has  got a messed up fate in front of them.

Well, Waver is an exception to that, since the Holy Grail War was more of a learning experience for him, who had the luck (and merit) of coming out unscathed, having finally built up the resolve to try new things in his life and strive to be worthy of the trust, praise and responsibility Rider left upon him.

As for everyone else, we only see wishes and ideals backfiring.

Kiritsugu’s brought him exactly the opposite of what he wished for in all the destruction and death he ended up causing. Having lost everything, he was simply a dead man in a living body, searching for either his destruction or a reason to live. Fortunately, the later came up in Shirou, a boy he found in the rubble and rescued from eminent death and also the protagonist of Fate/Stay Night, who ended up trying to realize his foster father’s ideals. So, despite losing his wife, being physically weakened by the Grail’s curse (why wasn’t that mentioned?!), and forbidden to ever see his daughter again, Kiritsugu never lost anything else in his live from then on and actually died in peace, knowing that because of that little boy, not everything had been in vain.

Saber ended up getting back to the hill of Camlann, where time is frozen for her and where she will continuing resenting her failure as a king and as a person until she can fight again for the Holy Grail. She was broken already, but after this 4th Grail war, she just doesn’t want to avert the fate of her country – she ends up believing that all of it is her fault, for she should have never become a king. I love how ufotable always gets facial expressions right, and this scene with Saber was perhaps the best example yet, as her despair and angst are perfectly represented.

 On with the misfortune which stroke pretty much everyone in the series, Kariya’s case is yet another extreme one. His efforts towards what I first considered a kind and noble goal, but was later revealed as rather selfish in nature yet still “morally correct” and worth accomplishing, brought him the worst results possible (though that surely doesn’t come off as surprising in this series). It’s also true that, despite his good intentions, he did mistake after mistake throughout the entire span of the conflict. Considering that, but not forgetting everything he went through, I’m not sure if I’m relieved or indignant that he died believing he achieve what he was set out to do, inside his delusional scene of the happy family he has always desired. Speaking of which, I think I somewhat disliked that scene. First of all, it was, once again, shortened. Kariya doesn’t only have a crappy luck when it comes to his damned life, but a lot of his scenes have been taken out of the anime. I know he’s not the focus, but I still wish he hadn’t pushed this far into the backstage. And then, there’s the Sakura scene, which rubbed me off the wrong way. She was supposed to seem emotionless, of course. And they captured that rather well. But at the same time, I got a slight impression of maliciousness from the way her words were spoken…

Aoi got just as “good” a fate as Kariya (I’m not exactly being ironic – I find it ambiguous as to whether the way Kariya died and the state in which Aoi ended up are good or bad for them, since it was, after all, the happy rest to the turbulences they’d been through), as the brain damage she suffered got her into an everlasting delusional state, stuck in the past when she had her husband and both of her daughter’s beside her, her too stuck in the dream of the happy family she wished for. Of course that’s anything but good for Rin, who despite everything demonstrates a great strength, and her disgust for Kirei, despite not yet knowing the truth about her father’s death is completely noticeable. Not to mention that… This scene was just awful. I mean, Kirei’s action of giving her the Azoth dagger as a memento of her father was simply despicable, though I won’t deny I was really looking for his creepy smile while seeing Rin showing weakness in front of him for the first time. Well, guess I’ll have to be content with the subtle one that was shown.

To top it off, there were two scenes I didn’t expect at all in this episode. Illya’s scene was unexpected because… well, I had forgotten about it. But I was rather happy at how they pulled that off, since I thought it was really good time management skills right there. The other one was Berserker’s “death”. I didn’t expect them to add it in flashback style to Saber’s mourning in the hill, and thus I found it rather weird. But it worked, so I can’t complain.

So, now Kiritsugu passed over his will, having passed his last five years of life peacefully, Kirei is set to discover the solving process of his doubts, since the answer was just given to him without any reasoning and the stage is set for what we know that comes to happen ten years later. That said, and while this kind of ending was unavoidable due to the prequel nature of this show, Fate/Zero was still able to shine on its own, and the ending was conclusive enough while still leading into Fate/Stay Night.

Ahhh, why must all good things come to an end…

Fate/Zero Episode 24

The Last Command Spell

I… truly don’t know what to make of this episode. I knew this would be helplessly rushed unless they made it a double episode, and my fears ended up coming true. The good news is, there were obviously some scenes cut – for instance, one can even notice a sound flop right in the beginning when the Saber vs Berserker scene cut to Kiritsugu vs Kirei. And thankfully ufotable already announced they’ll have extra material in the Blu-ray.

Anyway, I have no intention of turning this into a ranting comparison between this episode and the light novel (even though I can’t avoid some parallels between them), so on to the episode itself.

Kiritsugu and Kirei finally come face to face with one another and the much expected confrontation develops before our eyes. And you know what? It was pretty much awesome. Taking out every single one of the light novel’s described moves (there was one thing missing but that’s irrelevant), the battle choreography was perfect and exciting. The scenario was way brighter than I had imagined, but it works great in delivering more contrast with the moves of the black-clad contenders. Kirei is a real monster when it comes to physical ability, as besides his prodigious strength and battle prowess we were already aware of, he has even the speed to keep up with Kiritsugu’s Time Alter, even when the later is moving at three and four times the normal speed. It was undoubtedly a very visually pleasing battle, even though I despised the flashbacks we were shown while Kiritsugu was exposing his reasoning. Seriously, the viewers aren’t stupid, you know, ufotable? It’s rather hard not to remember what the Origin Bullet did to Kirei or the fact that Kiritsugu received Avalon from Irisviel. Those cuts were rather awkward, interrupting the otherwise flawless flow of the battle.

While the aforementioned confront develops inside Fuyuki Hall, in the underground parking lot, the battle between Saber and Berserker, following last episode’s revelation of the later’s identity, finally comes to a close. A lackluster one though, as we see almost no transition between Saber’s weak blocks to her being willingly beaten up to her sword piercing Berserker. This was supposed to be a scene of character development even more so than a battle, and it mostly failed at it. When Saber, with her resolve to get the Grail, steps into the music hall where Archer awaits her, I got a completely different grasp of her motives and her rage than I did while reading the novel. The emotions just felt too superficial…

On the other hand, Kiritsugu’s illusion within the Grail was emotional enough to make up for it. Faced with the will of the Grail, which took up Irisviel’s form and personality, he was shown the shortcomings of his way of life, the true consequences of his utilitarian perspective on the right thing to do and the way to save people. The objective of the Grail was to show him how it would grant his wish, but the outcome was Kiritsugu’s realization of the wrongness in his nature, which led up to the ultimate decision of rejecting the Grail and exiting the illusion by “killing” his wife and daughter. While he did know that wasn’t reality, doing that brought him great suffering, especially considering that the will of the Grail used the shell of Irisviel’s personality, being that her reaction to Illya’s death was exactly the reaction Irisviel would have had and the hatred she showed was the hatred and resentment the real Irisviel would have borne towards Kiritsugu. That scene was pretty much insane.

As for what preceded it, the argument showing the flaw in Kiritsugu’s ideal was quite well done, with things happening according to his mindset, yet against his will. I did imagine the “game master” to have been Irisviel (aka. Irisviel’s voice), rather than Kiritsugu himself. It was still great though. It interesting how always choosing the most favorable option considering the current circumstances can end up in the most unfavorable scenario in the long run, for there are plenty of factors beyond any human’s control, yet Kiritsugu never realized that before it was laid out like this, right before his eyes. But… Irisviel’s dress was supposed to be black. Seriously, what’s up with its white color? It’s a symbolism to the corruption of the Grail and its color was even showed as foreshadowing before, bringing up kind of a continuity issue with this episode.

Anyway, the battle between Kiritsugu and Kirei, which would end in a tie, had it not been interrupted by the black mud, was decided by the simple fact that Kiritsugu woke up from the dream before Kirei did, which showed his mental superiority. It’s still a rather ironic and somewhat ungrateful way to decide the victor but things were as such. The trade of words that followed really showed the difference in their mindsets but what really matters here is how Kiritsugu shot Kirei in the heart. Really well deserved. *runs from Mimi*

Following the amazing battle, the victor heads to the music hall, where the Grail still is, only to be met with the sight of Saber and Archer. The little scene between those two was also rather entertaining on its own, while far from a true battle, as we get to see how Gilgamesh’s obsession with making Saber his wife came to be. I still find his attitude quite disgusting, but he has the power to back up his arrogance, so he does come off as a believable character and seeing him tease Saber was actually somewhat amusing. And just as she regains hope by seeing Kiritsugu arrive, believing that with the power of a Command Spell, she’d manage to beat Archer without destroying the Grail, that hope is suddenly taken away when he uses said Command Spell to order her to destroy the wish-granting device she so desired. While she tries to resist, neither the higher than usual Magic Resistance provided by her class nor her unbelievable determination can overcome the power of the second Command Spell. And thus, with a painful shout, Excalibur is unleashed.

All the fighting has now come to a close, but a lot remains to be tied up, and next episode we’ll know what happens to the Grail and Fuyuki Hall, as well as what happened to all surviving characters and how this ties up with Fate/Stay Night. Fate/Zero has one of the best epilogues I’ve read, so I’m really looking forward to it.

All in all, and if I’m allowed a final comparison I’ve tried to avoid during this entire post, this episode felt very much like Deen’s adaptation of the Unlimited Blade Works route – let’s put in enough information for the novel readers not to get lost and be happy with the eye candy and forget everyone else’s understanding of the events. Still, I hope (and believe) most of this problem will be fixed in the Blu-Rays, so I guess I’ll be holding up my score of this show until then.

Fate/Zero Episode 23

The Sea at the World’s Edge

One more episode of Fate/Zero and one more feast for my eyes. The beginning of the battle between Saber and Berserker was even more awesome than I imagined, yet it was still overshadowed by how gorgeous Rider vs. Gilgamesh looked, not to mention how epic it was.

Rider went into the battle with the notion he would lose, but with the will and tenacity to try and win it. Yes, despite the awesome visuals, some may be somewhat disappointed at how Rider lost so easily, but the simple fact that he got Gilgamesh’s full respect, as shown by the fact that he was willing to use both Ea and Enkidu, as well as the little drinking scene at the beginning, should be a testament to how powerful Rider is, for we know that Gilgamesh is a character who was written as overpowered as it is conceivable by human imagination.

Seeing Ionian Hetairoi being completely ripped apart by Ea was truly saddening, not only due to it dictating Rider’s loss, but because it was the embodiment of his journey, and the bonds he formed over time. It was more than a simple weapon, it was something that defined his personality and goals, and though you could say the same about every Noble Phantasm, I feel it differently when it comes to Rider, maybe because those are, indeed, other Heroic Spirits, beings with will that willingly followed him, and not mere objects.

Despite that physical and emotional strike, Rider never gave up, and to the last moment fought with all his might. After losing his army, after losing his beloved horse, and after having his body pierced by Archer’s treasures, Rider still kept moving forward for his last desperate strike, which was mercilessly stopped by Enkidu, a chain which can bind even gods (in fact, its strength is proportional to the target’s degree of divinity). To that followed his inevitable death, which also marked the awakening from his dream. He realized the mythical edge of the world was within him and his journey had been worth it. So, in spite of the tears in my eyes during that scene, Rider actually got somewhat of a happy ending.

On another note, the music playing during that moment was as epic as the scene itself, and that piece alone is enough for me to eagerly look forward to the release of the second volume of the OST.

Moving on to Waver, it’s easy to perceive that, just as last week, this was a pivotal point for his development. We see that he truly has earned Rider’s respect, as the later invites him to serve as one of his subject, to which he promptly and emotively agrees. Thinking about it, as the Throne of Heroes is a place outside of space and time, Waver could actually be part of Ionian Hetairoi… Anyway, it is not only Rider’s respect he has earned, but also Gilgamesh’s, which is definitely something hard to achieve. The way he stood up to Gilgamesh, simply saying he had a promise to keep, and not showing fear to the overpowered Heroic Spirit, was extraordinarily brave and truly worthy of praise, especially as he showed true loyalty and commitment towards the promise he’d made to Rider, impressing even the King Of Heroes. That’s what allowed him to fulfill it and live on, even though the fact that he was no longer a Master (no Command Spells) had obviously it’s weight on the matter (not as a deciding factor – rather, it was the absence of Command Spells that allowed Gilgamesh to make a decision, else Waver would have died).

Neither Rider nor Waver are my favorite characters in Fate/Zero, but as a team, they’re definitely the most likable, so I find their scenes to be some of the best to watch, be it an amusing scene or a dramatic scene – they’re always welcome – thus, it’s a shame the Holy Grail War has ended for them, as I’ll sorely miss this epic duo. (Though with 2 episodes left there won’t be much to miss them from xD)

Away from the bridge and into the Fuyuki Hall, Saber is suddenly attacked as she enters the parking lot. Her reaction to the surprise attack was truly sharp and showed a great battle prowess, but nothing would have prepared her to what came next – the reveal of Berserker’s identity. The animation on Saber’s efficient approaching strategy using a destroyed truck as shield was pretty amazing and the transition between CG and regular animation for Berserker’s armor, was really well done, as was the suspense in the scene that lead towards the uncovering of his identity. However, while the transition to such reveal was rather good, I felt that they cut the best lines in their trade of words afterwards (well, Saber’s lines anyway, since Berserker doesn’t say much more than “Arthur… urrr…”). I wasn’t too bothered by it, but the repeating of “Arthur…” and “Lancelot…” felt rather awkward. Also, one would not understand a thing of Saber’s thoughts at the time without knowing King Arthur’s legend, since the cut most of the flashback. Either way, she should have looked more shocked, as she did look surprised, but not despairing to the point of losing her will to fight.

But as some kind of compensation, Kariya’s scene was taken up a notch from the VN. That’s how you adapt a monologue by someone who has, for all practical effects, fallen into complete madness – you make it a delusional dialogue with the cause of such fall. It was rather creative and had some more impact to me for the simple fact that he was directing his words to Sakura, who could actually be seen.

Gorgeous animation and music totally on par with it mixed with epic content make this episode a really entertaining watch. On a last note, I’d like to talk about the preview as well. It’s not something I usually refer since I may end up giving away a spoiler of two, but this week deserves it for one simple reason – the content that is shown will not fit into 20 min, however rushed they might intend to make it. That, along with the fact that there were announced 4 animation directors for next episode, instead of the usual number of 2, makes me think I’ll actually have my which of a 50 min special granted, except it would be the second to last episode rather than the finale. Either way, double episode or not, next time we’ll be proven why consequentialism is wrong and deontologists are hypocrites (aka. character development for both Kiritsugu and Saber). So look forward to it!

Fate/Zero Episode 22

All The World’s Evil

First of all, I have to apologize on the lateness of this post. Life can be harsh sometimes – work and work and more work. Deem it a worth excuse or not, I’m now here to write about the latest episode of Fate/Zero, which is actually something I would have loved not to delay this much since it was great. If you’ve been reading my latest episode posts, you must know how I’ve had my qualms and slight disappointments with some of them. In fact, I’ve felt that with every single episode (save episode 19) since Lancer’s death. But not this one. This one was perfect in every sense of the word. Was it exactly like the novel? No, but it was probably even better.

The episode’s focus is shifted between too situations: Waver and Rider’s return home and Kirei’s questioning of Irisviel. In the first, we see Waver returning with his shoulders down, which was a nice touch, since it’s an easy but effective way to show his tiredness from the huge walk. On top of that, awaiting him was the revelation that his hypnotic magic hadn’t worked as he wanted. Glenn understood Waver wasn’t his grandson, but rather than that being an unsettling event, it actually put to surface how Waver hadn’t simply used them. Even bellow the hypnosis and deceiving, there had been built a real and sweet relationship. He didn’t mean to, in fact, he did something which would normally be morally condemning, yet he brought happiness to that old couple. The conversation between him and Glenn not only was heartwarming, but also served as an important life lesson for Waver. Sometimes, youngness makes us give too much credit to the present. All the “one in a lifetime” things we go through are given an importance similar to our entire life, and that happens even with smaller events. For Waver, the recognition he’d receive for winning the Holy Grail was something worth risking is life for. Glenn tells him otherwise.  Those important moments will serve as great experiences for Waver later in his life, whether he succeeds or fails. What he needs is to keep himself alive so he can use such experience and look back on everything he’s done with pride and joy.

That conversation was the key for what happened next. Upon the sight of Kirei’s victory declaration, Waver’s struggle between pride and low self-esteem finally came to an end with the splendid moment in which he uses up all of his Command Spells for giving Rider such vague orders that will only have a prana boost effect, simply because he came to terms with himself, thinking that if he’s a hindrance, he should just throw away his pride and back-off, while giving the Servant he respects a better chance at winning. It was such an amazing moment… And they made it so epic without forcing on the sound part ❤ It was a truly beautiful moment for me.

However, Rider doesn’t seem to share Waver’s opinion that his Master is nothing but a hindrance, rather seeing him as a true worthy friend and comrade in arms. This pair makes for one of the best (if not the best) character interactions in the anime, so watching them develop like this is always rewarding.

The other noteworthy event in this 22nd episode is the conversation between Irisviel and Kirei. I find Irisviel to be such a great character due to her great dedication to Kiritsugu and her incredible sharpness in regard to understanding people, despite being a homunculus. Both of these qualities are emphasized in her last moments, as she manages to see right through Kirei and make him angrier than we’ve ever seen so far. (Not even Zoken managed it to this degree xD) She kept her determined and defiant attitude right till the end, even in that hopeless situation. Kirei, on the other hand, has now confirmed Kiritsugu to be a disappointment, since he’s not a hollow individual as himself, but a man who pursues “childish ideals”. He’s far from being the answer to Kirei’s doubts. Seeing as he got what he wanted from Irisviel, and even more than that, the death count once again rises by one. This was both a painful and satisfying scene to watch. It was painful because a character that I truly love dies, and satisfying due to this being, in my opinion, her best moment in the series.

Leaving the dead homunculus behind, Kirei has now a new-found resolve: his goal changes from learning from Kiritsugu to crushing his hopeless ideals. Well, I can say the later fits Kirei’s sadistic nature much better, so it’s not that bad of a change, since it’ll make things more interesting and exciting^^

Back to Irisviel, Fate/Zero shows how an anime adaptation can be sometimes better than the original work. That scene had way more impact as I watched it, and it also served as very good foreshadowing for the awesomeness that’s yet to come. Irisviel, while inside the Grail, asks herself who she is. As and homunculus, self-identity should already be an issue, but now, as she merged with the Grail, fulfilling her purpose as the vessel, she starts losing whatever sense she had of it. However, despite all the similar designs before her, despite being equal to the very first Einzbern homunculus, her wish didn’t fade. The wish for the happiness or her daughter, and her motherly love didn’t disappear. And while that was a positive and hopeful development, it seems like the wish will not be without its taint, as decay surrounds the embraced mother and daughter. I won’t get on to it too much, though I hate not being able to speculate due to previous knowledge of the outcome…

On a brief note, it seems like Kiritsugu and Saber still can’t have a simple conversation. *sigh* They’re both hopeless idealists who chase after something impossible with all their might. Despite their different methods I think they could have been “good friends” had they given a chance to each other (Kiritsugu is the guiltier party here, though. Saber at least tried.) It’s so frustrating watching those too with those desperate, tired faces, yet still turning the back on each other…

In sum, this was, for me, one of the best episodes so far, if not the best. As the scene between Irisviel and Kirei was one of my favorites from the novel, I do have the childish hope that all the dialogue will be included in the Blu-Rays. If that’s too much to ask for, I’d simply love to hear Irisviel say (referring to Kiritsugu, obviously): “Hmph, don’t make me laugh. You aren’t even up to his heel in worth.”. And that’s not to mention Kirei’s mad laugh after deciding his new goal.

Next week the death count will rise yet again, and the timing of the adaptation is now adjusted to perfection for finishing with a nice long epilogue. I’d still love a 1 hour special as the final episode but that’s another wish I’m rather skeptical about seeing granted.

Fate/Zero Episode 21

Knight on Two Wheels

(Before you start reading, please pretend that this post is filled with Saber vs. Rider screenshots, as that is what I would have done, would my conscience and sense of duty not dictate otherwise.)

Anyway, if I had to use only one word to classify this episode, I’d be troubled to choose between two terms. Unfortunately, those are usually not employed together. Whether this episode was “awesome” or “rushed”, is something still unclear in my mind, but it certainly had a bit of both.

It was definitely “awesome”, largely due to how amazing this part of the original source is. The battle between Saber and Rider, as well as the confrontation between Kariya and Aoi were two of my most anticipated moments in this second half. On the other hand, I can’t help but notice how some important details were missing. But as a novel reader, that’s highly subjective, for I could probably have enjoyed better if I hadn’t read the source material.

The battle between Saber and Rider is my favorite one in Fate/Zero, and as far as visuals go, its animated version couldn’t have been better. It was just as awesome (if not more) as I had imagined. However, it was too short. The part where Rider starts destroying the wall of concrete and the trees should have been longer, as I’d love to have seen more of Saber dodging it. Also, the scene where she jumps using that ramp… One could hardly discern what was happening as it seemed to have come out of nowhere, flashing only once in the screen. But, despite my harsh words I was satisfied with how gorgeous everything looked, and I still loved that scene to bits ❤

As for the other highlight of the episode, that’s what I was sorely disappointed with. I’m referring to what happened in the church. The scene was good, the direction was great (even if I think that they exaggerated a bit on the flashbacks featuring Tokiomi) and the voice acting could hardly have been any better. However, it lacked the some of the impact it had in the light novel, especially due to the lack of exposition about Kariya and Aoi’s backstory, and it was also misleading regarding (minor LN spoilers ahead – highlight to view) the motive he chocked Aoi and the fact that she isn’t dead, which is why I’m afraid they’re actually making some changes. Either way, seeing Kariya finally giving in to madness was still heartbreaking, albeit expected.

The episode was also an important point of development for Kirei. His trade of words with Zoken was quite the interesting dialog, as the later completely saw through Kirei’s sadistic nature, which he has always tried to deny, up until this very scene. It is not until later in this episode that he finally embraces his source of pleasure, being even surprised with how he felt after engendering that “real-life play”, as Gilgamesh calls it. On another note, this is also the point where I started to truly hate him xD Using Kariya is fine – it’s not something one would deem morally correct, of course, but it’s a means to an end, and thus is understandable. But he had no need to make him suffer like that. He did so for his own enjoyment and I just couldn’t stand that.

And with this episode, we’re reaching the halfway mark of the last book. As it wasn’t Rider who kidnapped Irisviel, (though I guess that was obvious enough, even for people who hadn’t read the novel) Saber has now no clue regarding her whereabouts. On the other hand, Kiritsugu has just gotten some valuable info from Byakuya (slight change of events but a good choice this time around, imo) and things will now get into the final stage.

In a final balance, I definitely had some qualms with this episode, mainly with the pacing. Some parts felt so rushed that I almost want to (once again) take back my words of two weeks ago regarding the decision of splitting the flashback into two episodes. The motorbike chase was somewhat rushed, they changed some things in the Kariya and Aoi scene and there was a cut in really important foreshadowing during the conversation between Kirei and Zoken. That said, the positives still largely outweigh the negatives, and I’m pretty happy with Fate/Zero’s adaptation so far. There’s also the chance that the missing details will be included in the BDs, as were some important scenes from the first half, so it’s too early to rage (though I wouldn’t just for this, either way). Next episode will have another good battle and another one of my favorite scenes (or two), so I’m as eager for next week as always.

Fate/Zero Episode 20

The Return of the Assassin

Episode 20 is finally here, and gosh, how hard it was to pick only 6 screenshots! With so much going on, and me wanting to show a bit of every camp, choosing which scenes to show here was quite the dilemma. Simply from this, you can see how much I loved this episode.

The episode title, “The Return of the Assassin”, is certainly referring to Kiritsugu and how he “finally looks like his old self”, like Maiya pointed out. Despite that, I feel that the focus of this episode is not Kiritsugu, but Maiya, Irisviel, and their motives for helping him unconditionally.

The contrast between the two is rather fascinating: Maiya is a human, who considers all humanity in her to be “dead” and lives as a machine, only fulfilling the will her “owner”, the person who took her in and let her continue living, as hollow as she might feel; Irisviel, on the other hand, was created as a machine, she a homunculus whose only purpose is to serve as the vessel of the Grail, yet she learnt of human emotions, found happiness in life, and managed to exert love to the point of denying the purpose of her creation as a worthy motive for her actions, having her own will, desires and goals. But ultimately, these two very different women root for Kiritsugu and his ideal, not only because it can change the world one hates and give the other’s daughter the chance of coming to know the world would love to know, but also because he was the one who gave them both a purpose in life.

That said, there is indeed some things about Kiritsugu that are worth mentioning, namely how he keeps his emotions in check (as noticeable when Irisviel returns Avalon to him) and how close he seems to be to completely breaking. It isn’t helping that all the people he cares for in his life end up eventually dying. Speaking of which, with all the death flags lifted for Irisviel in this episode, it’s kind of a nice twist that Maiya is the one dying. She was not a very prominent character, and we just got a peek to her past in this one episode, but her death was, in fact, somewhat impacting, not only for the event itself, but for how it impacted Kiritsugu.  Irisviel, on the other hand, is a character I’ve been fascinated with since I started reading the first novel. The insight she shows on others, the depth to which she can read them despite not being even human, impresses me, as does the way she endures everything and still manages to keep a smile on her face. She’s not your female badass of the month, but she’s a very strong character in a whole other (more relevant, in my opinion) way.

The Einzbern camp aside, we also got a glimpse of the whereabouts of both Kariya and Waver. And ah, how frustrated I’d be at the dream scene when Berserker’s helmet breaks open but his face still isn’t shown if I didn’t already know his identity. It will still be kept in close for a greater impact upon revealing (that is, if you haven’t already guessed/read the novel/read spoilers). That aside, they made that scene justice – it’s just as creepy as I had imagined it. Poor Kariya, it’s like the world itself is against him. No, it’s not enough to be dying, being eaten from the inside. It’s not enough to have a Servant who’s not only hard to control, but also a mana consumption machine, especially since he has none to spare. While the other Masters have nice little dreams about their Servants’ past life, Kariya has a nightmare in which he’s eaten alive by his Servant. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went totally mad. And that’s not to mention how he now got a mana power-up thanks to his merciful caring “father”. A mana-infused verm, more specifically the lust worm that first raped Sakura. Just how twisted can Zouken be?! I so wish he would just die already… Seriously, that was disgusting to watch, but it’s good to finally have a Kariya scene be made justice in the anime.

On Waver’s side, our youngest Master discovers how Rider is running low on mana for abusing his amazing Noble Phantasm without putting the toll on Waver. Thus, he has decided to eat and sleep and simply let his Servant safely recover some of his mana. Their conversation is not to be taken lightly either – for the first time, the existence of the Grail is questioned by none other than Rider (we already knew that the King of Conquerors has a nice brain on the top of his huge body), and his claim does make sense. If the summoning wasn’t successful in the previous wars (even if it was due to the necessary requirements not being met), how can anyone be sure of its existence, let alone its function? Is something uncertain worth risking his life for? Most of us do live our days for an uncertain future, trying to achieve things we don’t exactly know. But is that philosophy extendable to such lengths? Regardless of what I think or of what they think, the certain thing is that Rider is still determined to fight. But he wants to protect Waver, since, unlike him; his Master has something to lose. And so he leaves to fight Saber and try to correct her naïve ideals. (Which is a whole other issue that’d make my post twice the length of this already enormous one.)

Speaking of Rider, just after his conversation with Waver, after the peek we got on his mindset of not wanting to get anyone killed in order to reach an uncertain goal, he goes and kidnaps Iriviel, killing Maiya as a means to that. That contradiction between his words and his actions really stroke me as strange, as Rider has always seemed as someone who’d always fight head on, not as someone who’d use underhanded means to achieve victory…

But, Saber has now come to the rescue, which means my favorite battle is next week! I got so excited at that preview! It seems I won’t only have my favorite battle, but also one of my favorite dialog scenes. Can’t wait^^

To finish up, I’ll have to make a small anime vs. novel comparison, as there was a big change in the flow of events in this episode. It’s not that bad, since the events themselves don’t change. The motivations behind them do, though. The change I’m referring to is the visit to Tokiomi’s mansion, which happens after the kidnapping, with Kiritsugu searching frantically for Irisviel. (When he receives Maiya’s phone call, he’s staking out for Waver.) While such a change made me a bit wary, I fully support it this time, since there was no better place to put it than during the dialog between Maiya and Irisviel. Not only were they talking about Kiritsugu and his crusade, but it was an extensive dialog scene, which would have been really hard to make visually appealing with simply showing their talking faces. This way, the simultaneity of the events won’t affect the battle next episode and they managed to adapt the dialog in pretty much its entirety without wasting time. Props for that, ufotable.