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Fate/Zero | Where it begins.

Ah, the where it all begins. If you do not know Fate/Zero or the seasons the come after it then you truly are missing out on something spectacular – LITERALLY. It is time that re-live Fate/Zero where it all began, the series that provided us with amazing action, drama and a stellar story.

Let us get rolling with this review. Let us talk about what could possibly be one of the best, if not the best animated series we have ever seen!

At first glance, it may seem as though Fate/Zero is just another action anime, but nothing could be further from the truth. The series has a very different tone than either Fate/Stay Night or Unlimited Blade Works, and in many ways, it has more in common with the dark, brooding atmosphere of the Kara no Kyoukai movies. That said, the series does assume that the viewer has some familiarity with the franchise, but this is balanced by a much tighter plot than that of either of its predecessors, and more focus on preparation, planning, and even dialogue between the different parties. The result is that the narrative has far more depth and structure than one might expect in a supernatural action anime, and there are layers of subtext that are gradually added as the series progresses.

One of the most noticeable aspects of Fate/Zero is that it’s a far more mature story than the original visual novel or its adaptations, and unlike many other shows, there are very few occasions where the characters engage in pointless conflicts or endeavours. The series carefully tries to avoid insulting the viewer’s intelligence by adopting a patient, a methodical build-up to the action set pieces, and on many occasions, the story focuses on information gathering and planning. In addition to this, the battle lines shift constantly as the combatants form short-term alliances in order to counter the moves of other opponents, but there’s always the understanding that the foundation of these is nothing more than “the enemy of my enemy”.

When it comes to production values, Fate/Zero could be considered the final evolution of everything Type-Moon and Ufotable have learned from each other during their long collaboration on the Kara no Kyoukai franchise. The series looks every bit as good as one might expect, and the darker colour palette is offset by the high standard of animation. That said, although the action sequences are fluid and very well choreographed, the real testament to the quality of Ufotable’s work are the subtle differences in the way the characters move.

The series opens with a well-choreographed sequence that blends action with a montage of the main participants in the Holy Grail War, all set to the rather pacey rock song “Oath Sign” by LiSA. Each episode closes with “Memoria” by Eir Aoi, a bittersweet rock ballad that fits well with the images of the heroic spirits as pieces on a game board and at moments in their own history. Fate/Zero also has one of the most diverse scores in a 13 episode anime, with martial themes, operatic pieces, strange little tunes with drums or pianos as the major instrument, and more besides. The audio effects or of a very high quality, and the clash of steel on steel is as sharp and clear as the sound of the lightning whenever Rider makes a dramatic appearance.

hen it comes to development, a large group of characters often means that some will undoubtedly fall by the wayside. Fate/Zero neatly sidesteps the entire issue of development because it’s first and foremost a prequel of an existing story, but in addition to this the series has created a set of individuals who leave extremely strong impressions on the viewer, and much like Baccano!, there is a distinct lack of a true main character. Because of these factors, the series can focus on showing how each of the combatants became what they are, and this plays a major part in one’s enjoyment of the anime.

The emphasis on characterization rather than development allows for a remarkable degree of definition, and although it’s ultimately the personalities of each individual that captures the viewer’s attention, standing at the top of them all is the King of Conquerors – Rider. His addition to the franchise has been nothing short of a revelation, and while die-hard fans will continue to worship the ground that Saber and Archer (not Gilgamesh, the other one), walk on, Rider’s enjoyment of life, his exuberance and almost boyish eagerness for battle and glory, have captured the imaginations of many fans.

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