Greetings! Today is our first review for April, and no, this is not any sort of April Fools joke. The anime up for review is the very popular Fate/Zero, of which we will be covering the first season. So sit back and enjoy, but beware that there may be minor spoilers ahead.
Now without further ado, let us begin the review!
Summary: With the promise of granting any wish, the omnipotent Holy Grail triggered three wars in the past, each too cruel and fierce to leave a victor. In spite of that, the wealthy Einzbern family is confident that the Fourth Holy Grail War will be different; namely, with a vessel of the Holy Grail now in their grasp. Solely for this reason, the much hated “Magus Killer” Kiritsugu Emiya is hired by the Einzberns, with marriage to their only daughter Irisviel as binding contract. Kiritsugu now stands at the center of a cutthroat game of survival, facing off against six other participants, each armed with an ancient familiar, and fueled by unique desires and ideals. Accompanied by his own familiar, Saber, the notorious mercenary soon finds his greatest opponent in Kirei Kotomine, a priest who seeks salvation from the emptiness within himself in pursuit of Kiritsugu.
Fate/Zero is, without a doubt, an anime with a greatly complex. There are many intricacies woven into the premise and the story that help make it an engaging world. Additionally, the anime avoid one of the most common pitfalls of action anime in that there is little reliance on flashbacks, which helps the general flow of the series. However, its complexities result in some near catastrophic failures on its plot. The immediate offender is just how long it takes the series to even set up the plot, which results in an awkward pacing that permeates the rest of the season. Another issue is that there is little variation in the scenes, which are either intense action battles or deep philosophical discussions. The heaviness really gives the viewer no time to breath or understand what happens. There is some slight comical relief, but this is quickly then drowned out. The season also ends at a bad point, being not really cliffhanger so much as an awkward pause mid scene.
The characters are easily the best aspect of the anime, which those chosen to be focused on getting heavily developed. The Servant characters are especially interesting, as the real world historical basis is well integrated into their character designs. The show also balances the large cast really well, trying at every point to give each character a part in the limelight. The anime also draws some clear lines of who is evil and who is not, but also maintains a degree of mystery of who the actual archetype hero is. It does run into many of the same problems that plague anime with shorter run times and large casts in that some of the characters do feel throw away or redundant, serving little more than filler.
Impressive action scenes is one of the biggest selling point for Fate/Zero, being beautifully animated. The rest of the animation all runs together smoothly, and the environments working well to enhance each scene.
The soundtrack is fairly decent, fitting well with the show. However, it is not really memorable, in part due to the viewer being plenty distracted by the action scenes or character interactions.
The show explores a lot of broad themes, primarily through the participants of the Holy Grail’s motivations. Two of the biggest themes are identity and pleasure. Many of the Servants go about seeking their former glory as part of their motivations, these former glories being closely tied to their identity. Their masters also show struggling with their identities to some degree, and understanding their place in the world. Identity as it ties to reputation is also huge, as the reputations of some characters directly drives their actions. Pleasure is another theme, or more specifically, the seeking of pleasure. This is most directly manifested in the priest Kirei Kotomine, who’s whole motivation is trying to find what gives him pleasure, as he does not gain it from his deeds, good or bad. The themes are more stated outright in Fate/Zero, which sort of takes away from what is a theme. Additionally, many themes get lost in the plot complexity as the viewer is forced to juggle many things happening.
Final Score: 8.0/10
Final Grade: B
Fate Zero was a pretty good anime. It had a plot that I was not the biggest fan of, but it managed to keep my attention and make it work. My biggest problem with it was how slow the plot moved at time. Sometimes it just felt like it was dragging on making it hard to watch at times. The characters were pretty good too. They all had pretty complex motives for the most part, however some were not as complex which really conflicted with the others. The animation was also good. To be honest the animations and fighting scenes were a big selling point for me. Out of 10 I would give this anime a 6.5. I would recommend this anime to someone who wants to watch some well-done fighting and is willing to push through the parts where the plot is slow. – B-Ro
To give context to my review, I watched Fate Zero in a bit of a different manner compared to most shows. I watched it over a few weekends with friends as opposed to over a few nights alone in the dark. And I must say, between trying to guess some of the twists, talking about the plot itself, or collectively reacting to the action scenes, I had a great time watching this show with a group. But now that I’ve had time to think about it, I feel that I also would have enjoyed Fate Zero on my own. I absolutely adored the diverse cast of characters and the genuine intrigue that the show maintains in its concept and plot execution. A lot is kept in the dark and intentionally cryptic in order to keep you guessing, and characters often have multiple motives. The show does a great job at making you feel either deep sympathy or deep hatred of each one, while keeping all of them interesting to watch. I also loved what they did with the familiars themselves with their identities. The aforementioned action is fantastic, and the humor (mostly involving Rider) is pretty effective as well. All of this is accompanied by a really effective soundtrack, with the opening by LiSa and closing being enjoyable as well. Perhaps my main problem would be that the show can sometimes get a bit too confusing for its own good. The first season also ends rather poorly. It didn’t end on a cliffhanger to me so much as mid story arc. Granted, it’s already obvious that season 2 came out, and can be watched right away. Still though, I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I were watching when it first came out. All in all though, I really enjoyed Fate Zero season 1, and I can’t wait to dive even deeper into the Fate universe
Final Comments: Season 1 of Fate/Zero is a bit of challenging watch with numerous plot issues among a few other problems, but for viewers who enjoy beautiful animation and strong characters will be well rewarded.
Let us know what you thought of the first season of Fate/Zero or what you thought of our review. Be sure to comment below, and check out our Anime Review Archive. Look forward to our next review, which will be Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume!