Fate Zero Anime, First Season

January 29th, 2012

There’s Fate Zero, then there’s the Fate Zero in my mind.

Fate Zero is a prequel to the Fate/Stay Night Visual Novel about which I know and care nothing. I only care insofar as the Fate Zero anime was mostly introduction and exposition at this point, and I’m hoping it holds together as a series on its own.

The story is, relatively speaking, simple – 7 great heroes/evildoers of the past are reincarnated with even greater powers than they actually had when they were merely men who achieved notable things, and they each have a master who wishes to find the Holy Grail to achieve some goal, selfish or otherwise. Who the heroes are, is the most interesting part of the series to me, and how their myths are rewritten to determine their powers.

I was asked some weeks ago about my interest in the reincarnated heroes, as I’ve mentioned here in the past that myths are typically a good hook for me. Since these heroes aren’t really connected to their past incarnations in any meaningful way, these are clever and some good fun, but I don’t actually feel a connection between one and the other. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the heck out of this series – even when large chunks of episodes were merely expository conversation.

Let’s start from the top – the heroes themselves.

Lancer was a hoot for me, it’s not often I get to see Fionn mac Cumhaill in an anime. Or, ever. When people think of Irish heroes, they always default to Cuchulain. I liked how he was noble, but his master is a prick. A story from his perspective would be much different than the one from Saber’s.

Rider‘s really the hero here. I’m pretty sure that Alexander the Great didn’t look anything like that great huge mountain of a man, but I loved the interpretation of “Great” as meaning looming large in every way. Rider’s what you think of when you think “Age of Heroes;” great huge muscular men, laughing as they fight, drink and die. (Except for Cuchulain, I think he’d be a mope no matter what he was doing.) Rider’s master is weak, but not bad, and having Rider as a servant will man him up pretty fast, so if he survives, it’ll be good for him. Poor bastard needs it, with the name Waver Velvet.

Oh Saber. Who can’t love the idea of a conflicted, tortured King Arthur? Everyone tortures Arthur differently. Whether you force him to deal with a wife who is having an affair, or make him have an affair himself, or turn him into a woman who had to hide his gender, or even turn him into Sailor Moon, Arthur is a splendid tabula rasa on which to draw. He’s timeless. Even though Saber’s master is the utterly dull Kiritsugu, we’re supplied with a Guinevere for him to adore in the person of Irisviel. I have no doubt that most of you were writing little stories in your head about Saber and Irisviel, as I was.

Caster is half of the best comedy team I’ve ever seen. He and his master, voiced absolutely deliciously by Ishida Akira, were perfect. Gilles de Rais is the name of a man so loathed, so envenomed by the ages that I’m kind of inclined to think he probably didn’t do any of the things he was accused of doing. You all know Bluebeard, right? Well, you should. I have to tell you, I *loved* his speech about “What do I have to do to be punished by god?!?” That was almost as good as Saber on her bike for me.

Beserker is Lancelot? Well, that’s just dumb. Lancelot was no beserker, I can tell you. They should have picked someone Norse. It doesn’t make any sense to have a Berserker Lancelot. Gawd. Now I’m just depressed. ( I retract this. Berserk Lancelot does make sense. And it caused a fraught conversation in the second season between Saber and Berserker.)  But Berserker isn’t the interesting half of this story anyway. Kariya, his master, is the most pathetic of all the masters. (Pathetic in the sense of inviting pathos.) You really have to root for him, because if you don’t you are consigning at least one, possibly two little girls to a eternity of foulness, which means you’re a heartless wretch. Fooey on you.

Gilgamesh is Archer and a delightfully wtf interpretation of the myth. I have no idea how they got that trash-talking asshole from the legend of Gilgamesh, but I look forward to his destruction. Kotomine is a snooze – I was so happy Gilgamesh thought so too. What a BORE.

If you don’t grok Assassin the moment they mention them, you fail in your study of legends, myths and secret societies.

The animation is stunning – we expect no less from Type Moon. The characters are well drawn, well-acted and so far, at least, really well written. The only complaint I have is that the first season ends where the plot begins and if they don’t actually give me a story to hold on to, I’ll be peeved, since I have no intention of ever playing any game/reading any Visual Novel.

Since I don’t care about the Visual Novel, or the series as a whole, I’ve cheerfully rewritten the story in my head. Of course Irisviel and Saber get to be together, duh.

Ratings:

Art – 10
Story – 6 It’s been all character all the time, which has had moments, and also been a lot of blah blah blah.
Characters – 9
Yuri – 0, but in my head, it’s more like 7
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 7

I await Season Two with the faint hope that Kiritsugu dies, Saber survives the war with Irisviel, and they live happily ever after, just like on this clock I got from Young Ace magazine.

Also, I wonder what the fallout of the absurdly priced Blu-Ray release will be. I can’t imagine too many American fans coughing up that usurious a price for what amounts to light entertainment.

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20 Responses

  1. JIN H. says:

    “Also, I wonder what the fallout of the absurdly priced Blu-Ray release will be. I can’t imagine too many American fans coughing up that usurious a price for what amounts to light entertainment.” I was wondering allot why they do this as opposed to selling cheaper for volume profits. I understand the market is different than live action films and USA hollywood productions but even with just north americans there would be more sales in volume at a cheaper price. Too many people state they cannot afford it, but at 10 or 20 american dollars (like with movies)it would sell fast. Even Anime related goods are usually for an outlandish price only hardcore otaku maybe spends. In comparison manga is cheap and you get much more compared to american comic – after advertisements and recycled stories there is only colorful, wooden art left. Do you think once smoke clears on internet piracy maybe prices go down? Would not high prices also hurt the industry?

  2. @JIN – Comparing 13 episodes (330 minutes,) plus soundtrack and drama CD made and produced in Japan to a domestically produced, non-HD, 135 minute movie is naive. It’s like comparing apples to persimmons.

    American fans are missing is that this release wasn’t made for the American market at all. Aniplex is simply giving you a English language version of what they know they can sell to the Japanese fans.
    In Japan being a “fan” is expressed by buying things related to that series – even, especially extremely expensive things. This is how you show you are a true fan.

    Yes, they might sell more at some cheap ass release price, but they aren’t going to, because more in the US might be 300 more and that’s not enough to bother having a cheap-ass release in the first place. They’d rather get the folks who REALLY want that HD Blu-Ray release and who will pay for it.

    Think of it this way – if they get 100 at $400, they’ve still made more then if they get 1000 sales at $30.

  3. Judy J. says:

    Speaking of high priced goodness:
    Saber on her bike ! http://www.goodsmile.info/product/en/3426/Saber+Saber+Motored+Cuirassier.html

    So hot.

  4. I’ve got it on my Wishlist for Amazon JP. Hopefully they’ll be willing to ship it here. ^_^

  5. Anonymous says:

    To draw a parallel on the pricing, when the Star Trek Next Generation DVDs were first released they were similarly exorbitant (around $400 per season IIRC).

    I totally agree that Berserker = Lancelot was terrible casting. To be fair though, they mention in the novel that the Berserker-ness was something forced on him by the summoner that drew out all the resentment he had against Arthur, and he would have been really different if he hadn’t been Berserkered.

    Mind you it’s still terrible casting, especially when one of Arthur’s villains could have filled close to the same role. I mean, Mordred is almost perfect for it, and we’d get to see why he thought Arthur was such a bad king.

    I could go on for a while as I have a truly inappropriate love of this series, but I guess I’ll finish with this: you said “I liked how [Fionn mac Cumhaill] was noble, but his master is a prick. A story from his perspective would be much different than the one from Saber’s.” But I dunno, I think that sums up Saber’s perspective pretty well also.

  6. Rynnec says:

    In my head, the only reason Irisviel hasn’t ditched Kiritsugu for Saber is because Kiritsugu has that awesome duster.

    I don’t mind Lancelot as Berserker, largely because he’s a black knight, and I’m a sucker for black knights. Plus we really haven’t seen his side of the story yet.

    Funny how you mention that Cuchulain would be a mope, because the Type-Moon version of the character is anything but.

    Iskander is the best character in the show. I love his dynamic with Waver, and you can’t help but have a big grin on your face whenever he appears. Gilgamesh is pretty cool too, and you can already tell that he’ll be the closest thing the show has to a big bad.

    As for Saber, what else is there to say other than her relationship with Irisviel is adorable (and she further reinforces the idea that woman who dress in men’s suits look far better than any men who dress up in suits)? As for her master, all I can say is that at least he doesn’t need an alternate universe counterpart of himself to be interesting.

    If there’s any anime from 2011 that I’m hoping gets a TV (read; goes on Cartoon Networks adult swim programing block) it’s this one. It’ll need it with it’s ridiculous BD price.

  7. Lady_Rufus says:

    Oooh, they got some celtic mythology in my japanese anime! And it seems like you know more about it than i do, heh heh. I am a bit drawn in by references to mythological heroes when i recognize them, though i can’t say that happens a lot – i am not very familiar with all that stuff, lol. Have we read Táin Bó Cúailnge?

  8. @Rynnec – Lancelot traditionally did not favor any color. It’s one of the things that Mallory and deTroyes comment on frequently. He just takes whatever color he’s wearing or whatever he wins from other knights, so he’s not a “Black Knight” per se.

    @Lady_Rufus – If by “we” you mean me, yes, “we” have. ^_^ Also the Mabinogion and pretty much all the extant versions of Arthurian cycle until Mists of Avalon beat it out of me. Gah, what a dreadful book.

  9. @Lady_Rynnec – Back in my mists of time, I majored in Early Medieval Literature, with a specialty in the Arthurian Cycle. ^_^

  10. DezoPenguin says:

    Multiple things to comment on:

    What annoys me about the release format most, perhaps ironically, isn’t the pricing, it’s the fact that they aren’t selling the soundtrack separate from the BD set. I’m more than happy to pay the Japanese price for a soundtrack CD that I like (and I love this one, to the point that I was noticing the music all the time through the episodes), but they won’t sell it, not to Americans or Japanese or anyone else. You want it, you have to drop $400-ish on the box set. The second-most-annoying thing is that it’s BD-only, no DVD release, meaning that if I wanted it, I have to also buy a Blu-Ray player to play the discs as well as an HDTV to play it on. I can easily understand why the Western market is an afterthought or dismissed entirely from a Japanese marketing standpoint, but it seems that Aniplex is going after a pretty narrow niche on their own side of the Pacific.

    Otherwise, I found your Cuchulain comment hilarious because even Type-Moon did in fact go for him first, because he’s the Lancer in the original Fate/stay night.

    The rule on Berserkers is that they have to be someone who spent a bunch of his time in his own legend running around insane, and Lancelot certainly qualifies, with multiple instances of doing that in Malory. Frankly, he spent more time out of his gourd than anyone else in Arthurian legend.

  11. DezoPenguin says:

    …which, from reading your later comments, you obviously already knew. *facepalm*

  12. @DezoPenguin – That does make sense then, since Lancelot loses his mind for a good while. ^_^

    Cuchulain is *so* overused…I don’t even like Fionn, (all the Irish heroes bore me, they are so dour and tragic, that’s why I far prefer the Mabinogion) but at least he’s not so beaten to death.

  13. Lady_Rufus says:

    Sorry there, was using the majestic plural, pretentious twit that i am! ^-^;;; Anyways, that’s pretty cool. At this point i must admit that i haven’t read the Táin myself, have been wanting to for the longest time but won’t get round to it til this horrideous amount of reading for english is over me. Have you heard the folkish re-telling of it performed by the Decemberists (just titled The Tain)? Goes on for more than 20epic minutes.

  14. @Lady_Rufus – No, haven’t heard of that, but in general, I like folk tales told folkily and the Cattle Raid of Cooley has become quite overrun with scholars and pagans for my taste. ^_^

  15. Rynnec says:

    @Erica – I actually meant him being a black knight in context of the show. Granted, they could have used practically any knight from Arthurian myth and decked him up in black armor, but they chose Lancelot because he’s the most well known I guess.

  16. @Anonymous – I can’t see Mordred, but you know who would have been perfect? Roland. He was awfully close to Beserker in his own Song.

    Fionn’s story is rather more clever than maybe the writers realized, because of course having a prick for a master was the original Fionn’s problem too.

    Kiritsugu doesn’t strike me as an overt jerk, more of a lame-ass jerk. ^_^

  17. Anonymous says:

    @DezoPenguin
    Can’t call BD a niche amongst late-night anime buyers in Japan. BD sells several times more than DVD for men’s shows, and even for women’s shows, BD is approaching 50% of disc sales.

    Fate does seem to have a significant female following though, and there are still a lot of women who prefer DVD (as best as we can tell from sales of shows like UtaPrince) so a DVD box might still be a good idea.

    I’m sure it costs less to only have to make one kind of disc, though, and given the overwhelming perference for BD amongst men, and the reasonably steady uptake amongst women, they’ll probably try to push for everything-BD-only sooner rather than later.

  18. Jenny says:

    I’ve long been a fan of Saber. I have a little statue of her that stands on my computer desk, and on the rare occasion that I still CosPlay, I wear her white blouse, blue skirt, black stockings and brown combat boots, and carry a shinai. 8)

  19. @Rynnec – I understand, thanks for the clarification. ^_^

  20. Oh, good, just after watching Episode 3 and you got Saber and Irisviel having a private moment for just a few minutes (and that made me smile) before their balloon of bliss gets pricked by the grim reality of the Grail War. :)

    Am keeping this for good, as Fate/Zero is quite an excellent prequel.

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