With everyone being forced to quarantine inside their house in order to practice social distancing and to slow the spread of COVID-19, many, including me, have relied on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu in order to escape from our boredom by watching new TV shows or movies that they haven’t had the chance to see yet. One of those TV shows that has now become my favorite show of all time, is the anime, Fate/Zero.
Fate/Zero is an anime adaptation of the light novel of the same name and is written by Gen Urobuchi and illustrated by Takashi Takeuchi. It was made as a prequel to another visual novel called Fate/Stay Night. The anime is directed by Ei Aoki, written by Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida, and is animated by the studio, ufotable. There are two seasons released from October, 2011 to June, 2012.
One of the immediate hooks for me from this show was the concept itself. Fate/Zero revolves around “The Holy Grail War”, a battle royale where seven mages, also known as “Masters”, are chosen to battle for the opportunity to use the powers of the “Holy Grail”, an omnipotent magical instrument that gives the winner any wish they desire. However, that is not all. Each of the Masters has the ability to summon one “Servant”, a heroic spirit from the past that will fight with them in order to win the “Holy Grail War”. The battle ends when one Servant and Master duo remains and they each get awarded their wish.
The concept is already crazy, and Fate/Zero does a great job in not telling you who is going to be the clear winner. They achieve this by showing each of the Masters and Servants as a possible winner. There is not one true protagonist, which lets us see what they each desire from the Grail, and let’s us see how each of them work. This also reveals each of their mindsets and beliefs, which is one of the core themes of the show: beliefs.
Each of the Masters brings something new to the table with a different view of the “Holy Grail War”, which I love. The first episode is 40 minutes long and shows us five of the Masters participating in the war and how each of them perceives the war. Even though it is really slow and exposition-heavy, it is necessary so as to connect with the Masters shown.
The standouts from the first episode are: Kiritsugu Emiya, Kariya Matou, and Waver Velvet. Kiritsugu the first Master we encounter is one that seems really caring, and is discontent with being chosen to participate, but he is later shown as the one who is the most ruthless out of all the other Masters, and will do whatever it takes to win.
Kariya is the only Master shown who has an actual good reason for participating: saving the child of a friend, which makes him someone you want to root for. Plus, seeing his transformation to being capable of fighting in the war makes him extremely weak, but his determination keeps him going.
Waver on the other hand, doesn’t have a clear wish, but participates in the war to prove himself to the people that see him as inferior, showing a selfish will to fight in the war, contrasting with Kariya’s selfless will to fight. The other masters either don’t appear or aren’t interesting at first, but are definitely still pivotal and exciting to see.
Tokiomi Tohsaka wishes to become the most powerful mage, revealing a conservative thinking style and shows that mage traditions are the most important to him. Kirei Kotomine starts off as a helper to Tokiomi even though he is a Master in this war, but doesn’t see why he was chosen to fight, until a certain Servant opens his eyes to his wishes.
Kayneth-El-Melloi shows another ruthless side, but one of tragedy in the process. Finally, Ryunosuke Uryu has literally no wish he wants granted, and doesn’t even realize he is in a war. To top it all off, he is a serial killer with a Servant who shares his views, which adds an agent of chaos into all of this.
The Masters are interesting to watch, have different beliefs which make them unique, and their Servants help to show a new side to each of them, and for some lets them grow more as a person,
The Servants are by far the most entertaining part of the show and in my opinion make the show. Each of them being divided into different classes of fighting makes for interesting fight scenes, since each bring something different to the table. Each of their views are taken to the extreme, which while shows their good side, highlight the bad sides as well. The Servants are divided into seven classes, one for each servant, those being: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Assassin, and Berserker. While the classes don’t necessarily bring much to the story, the heroic spirit is what makes each shine.
For example, Saber’s true name is King Arthur from the Legend of King Arthur, who is paired with Kiritusugu, and while each of them are efficient, the ruthless methods of Kiritsugu makes Saber dislike him, and Saber’s Chivalry Code makes Kiritsugu see Saber as someone who isn’t reliable, and them not agreeing about anythings brings another layer to their Master-Servant dynamic.
Two of the highlights for me are definitely Archer and Rider, whose true names are Gilgamesh, and Alexander the Great, who are paired with Tokiomi and Waver respectively. What makes Archer interesting is not what he does, but what he doesn’t do, as he has no desire for the Holy Grail, and is really only participating to make sure no one else wins. Tokiomi having to beg Archer every time to do or not to do something, changing Tokiomi who is a prideful person, into a servant when he is the Master. Finally we have Rider, who while it doesn’t seem like he respects his Master, he cares about him and shows him time and time again, that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can be someone big, even if other people think you can’t, making Waver grow as a person who doesn’t need people’s approval. Lancer’s honor code leads to troubles with his Master Kayneth, Caster and his Master and basically bffs because they want to kill people. Assassin, while having a Master isn’t really used by him, and Berserker pushes his Master to his limits. They all have a purpose in the story and with their Masters, are all pieces in a chessboard ready to move.
I already talked more than enough about the story and characters, but that is because they are so good and there is even more to talk about for each of them, and I haven’t even talked about the animation and music. The animation by studio ufotable is amazing. All the characters look great. the designs look great, and the fight scenes in this show are spectacular with Saber vs Lancer, Archer vs Berserker, and Kiritsugu vs Kayneth being standouts when not getting into spoilers.
The music is also perfect. Yuki Kajiura, the composer for Fate/Zero is amazing and even makes a race between snails amazing. The music added into scenes like the Summoning of Heroes, and the battle between Archer and Rider make them some of the best scenes I have ever seen and it’s all thanks to Yuki Kajiura’s music.
Overall, Fate/Zero has become my favorite show, and has amazing characters, amazing premise, amazing animation, and perfect music, that makes it almost a perfect show, since there really is only one or two episodes that I didn’t adore, but they are all still amazing. I give Fate/Zero a 10/10, must watch.