Thursday, November 6, 2014

Anime Review: Fate/Zero

For this week's anime review, I decided to check out a series I recently picked up that's proven to be one of the more interesting takes on ancient mythology I've seen: Fate/Zero.

Fate/Zero is a prequel to the popular visual novel Fate/stay night that originated as a light novel before being adapted into an anime in 2006. As a prequel, it does contain some spoilers regarding some of the backstory to Fate/stay night that aren't revealed until well into that story; however, it's still perfectly possible to begin the series with Fate/Zero, as much of the relevant information is exposited early in the story in order to establish the setting. Said setting is Fuyuki City, a fictional city in Japan where a contest known as the Holy Grail War is being conducted; this contest consists of seven individuals with magical abilities called Masters each summoning a legendary hero as a Servant to do battle with one another, with the winner being able to claim the Holy Grail, a magical artifact said to be able to grant any wish. The focus of the story is on Kiritsugu Emiya, an infamous magus well known to utilize any and all means to secure victory, and his Servant Saber, a a powerful swords-woman with a high code of honor whose true identity is the legendary Arthur (or in this case, Arturia) Pendragon; though the two conflict over their methods of fighting, they both want to win the War in order to make selfless wishes. The two are assisted by Kiritsugu's wife Irisviel von Einzberg and his assistant Maiya Hisau, and their opponents consist of the Archer, Rider, Lancer, Berserker, Caster, and Assassin Servants along with their respective Masters, all of whom have their own reasons to seek the Grail.

As an adaptation of a light novel, story and character development are the primary focus of this anime; however, despite Kiritsugu and Saber being the protagonists, a very sizable part of the anime is dedicated to examining many of the other characters, with particular focus on the other Masters and Servants. Of note is that much of the story is meant to reference the future events of Fate/stay night; given that much of the plot of that title relates to the events of Fate/Zero, this anime serves as foreshadowing for that story. However, a large part of the anime is also dedicated to showing off the battles between the Masters and Servants, which are all very entertaining to watch thanks to the high quality of animation. Helping matters is that virtually all of the characters bring something unique and entertaining to the table, an impressive feat considering the overall large number of characters to focus on. While some aspects of the story can be seen as foregone conclusions assuming one is familiar with Fate/stay night before watching Fate/Zero, the anime does a good job of ensuring the audience is invested in seeing how all of the characters turn out, and overall manages to lead into the events of the former very well while still being a good story in its own right.

I'd definitely recommend Fate/Zero to anyone looking for either good action or a compelling fantasy story, and I'd consider it a must-watch for anyone who's enjoyed any other entries in the Fate series. Though this anime is intended to be viewed after experiencing Fate/stay night, it remains a very good way to jump into the series and is a perfectly entertaining title on its own. And as a fan of various real-world mythologies, I can personally attest that this anime's depictions of its legendary characters are all highly entertaining, if a bit loose in their accuracy.

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