Anyone who has run with this blog in the almost two and half years (damn) since I’ve been here knows that I’m a card carrying, dyed in the wool, 100% Fate fan. I love the series, I’ve watched most of the anime, spent money on the merch, and paid way, way too much for those freaking Blu-rays. I love Fate, and it was actually one of the first ‘event-style’ blog posts I did when I reviewed every single series.
That was a long time ago though, and I’ve grown as a blogger and I’ve been wanting to revisit the series with fresh eyes and an experienced blogging hand. With that said, I’ve been re-watching the series we’ve been talking about today. After the cut, let’s take a dive into the first half of Fate/Zero!
Fate/Zero is, as I said last time, the series that even the non-fans of Fate seem to love. It’s not hard to see why, the characters are adults, it has a damn good dub, the action is good, and the animation is done by now god-tier studio darling Ufotable, who seems to turn anything they want into gold. It was lauded by fans and viewers when it came out, and often comes up on many people’s best of all time lists. When I watched the series the first time, I really enjoyed it, but coming back to it, I’ve started to see it in a new light, and I’ve come to the conclusion that fans seem to have remembered only the highest highs of the series, and not the rest of it.
Now let me be clear, when Fate/Zero hits, it fucking HITS, and this first half has several amazing moments and characters. The opening episode is one of anime’s best pilots. The conversation among Saber, Rider and Archer about what it means to be a king remains one of the series best moments, the bromance between Caster and his master is comically endearing, Waver’s growth as a character will end up paying off really well, Saber and Lancer (oh poor Lancer!) trying to be the knights they were meant to be in a world of cheating is enjoyable, and every time Kiritsugu gets his hands dirty, you know your in for a treat. I mean, the final scene where he screws over Lancer and his master is one of the series best moments. They are all great moments that help flesh out the world of the main Fate/Stay Night, and add depth to the characters who end up walking away from the war. I’m particularly fond of the battle between Kariya Matou and Tokiomi Tohsaka, and the decision to send Sakura to the Matou family. I’ve been on record that I think Kariya is the tragic hero of Zero, and I still believe that. He’s a good man trying to do a good thing that ends up consuming him.
However, Fate/Zero’s first half won’t, stop, fucking, talking.
I’m serious. Clocking in at more or less 16 episodes, Fate/Zero spends most of its time just talking. People having conversations with other people, people having conversations with themselves, people having monologues about conversations, and people pontificating about personal problems with perfect prose. It’s just so fucking much, with whole episodes dedicated to one or two single conversations. And they just go on, and on, and on, and on. The Kirei and Gilgamesh conversation about joy and human nature is good, but it also drags itself on for far too long. We get it, Kirei is a sociopath who gets off on pain, we don’t need 25 minutes dedicated to that point. Yes once the action does happen it’s pretty good, but compared to what Fate and Ufotable usually gives us, it is rather bare bones. I have to wonder if that is why Heaven’s Feel goes so over the top with its action, a way to compensate.
I was just floored at how slow and plodding the first half of Zero can be, and many times I found myself yelling at the screen “FUCKING FIGHT ALREADY GOD!”. Again conversations have their place, and the ones that work in the series are absolutely worth it, but I can’t deny that much of what I watched felt like fat. It bogged down the story, stretched things out when they should have been more condensed. It’s the Holy Grail War, not the Holy Grail Speech-off.
Still, Fate/Zero’s first half is still very enjoyable. It builds a great world and adds meat to the bones of a universe that continues to rake in millions each year. The darker tone and more adult cast gives the series a bit more weight, if at the cost of the teenage angst and reflection that I love from Unlimited Blade Works. I’ll have to wait and see the final half before I pass final judgment on the series, but I have confidence that things will pull themselves together as we get to the finale. As of now, I would suggest that fans of this series try to remember that Fate/Zero is more than just the best scenes thrown up on YouTube, even if those scenes fucking kick ass.