Fate/Zero – 04 Review

Episode 04 – The Demon Spear

Reviews by M0rg0th and Saranaufogus:

Saranaufogus:

Although this episode is dedicated to the fight between Saber and Lancer, but the highlight of the episode for me has still got to be the interaction between Waver and Rider.

You gotta love that pair of fools. =P

Saranaufogus’ Review:

The question that I have is whether this long awaited fight scene lived up to your expectations?

The biggest issue about this episode for me was the amount of dialogue and the way it had broken up the fighting sequence between Saber and Lancer and how that had made the episode feel slower with those long moments of pauses.

The episode was definitely more intricate and more focused on being insightful and informative as oppose to placing a bigger focus on action. This style really suit the series since the show is more than a mere straightforward action show.

I am fine with the way the episode was structured with their flashes between the different Masters and what they are currently doing. However, I did not like how Saber and Lancer’s fight always comes to a total standstill whenever they are having an internal monologue about each other. Be it whether it is Irisviel that is analysing the situation or Saber that is trying to measure Lancer’s strength, I felt like some moments of pauses where the two of them were standing around were not really called for and did not add to the intensity of the atmosphere for me (then again, it is my personal preference that they should speed up their talking and think when they are fighting instead of stopping to think).

However, it is not like I am saying that this was totally unnecessary. I do understand the fact that one should stand their ground when they are trying to analyse their opponent, and I appreciate the insight that we were given to the situation and the characters in that fight, but boy was that a lot of dialogue. =P (I know that I am sounding indecisive with being unable to decide if all the dialogue was good or bad)

I did like that the writers had integrated the “explanation of the fight” and more “tips about the war” into the fight. Some things that we had picked up from this episode were the fact that Masters could heal their Servants, and one other fact that had been constantly ingrained into the audiences mind is that knowledge is gold when it comes to the Holy Grail War. This episode had made that fact very apparent, and the personality of Rider also shines through when he simply did not give a damn about it and waltz in like the king of the world. =D That was hilarious. I just love that pair of fools.

What I thought was shocking was the explanation of what Irisviel had said previously about her existing for the Holy Grail War. The fact that she is a Homunculus that is an artificial master created for the war makes Kiritsugu’s strategy, of giving the other masters the wrong impression that she is the master of Saber, logical. And was I the only one who felt that Kiritsugu gave off a more “evil/menacing” vibe in this episode? I guess makes sense since he is a man of war and a killer, but I am sure I felt his excitement level rise in this episode. Then again, with the blank look in his eyes, one can’t really tell. =P

Oh, and what I found funny was how Tokiomi had come to the conclusion that Irisviel was a Homunculus based on her appearance of having Silver Hair and Red Eyes. He had said that it did not seem human. How harsh! What about all the Albinos who have white hair (that’s close enough to silver since it is so dark and once can’t really tell anyway) and red eyes due to their lack of pigmentation? That’s just mean Tokiomi. Tsk tsk. =P

Lancer’s master is still shrouded in mystery but we all know who he is from what Tokiomi had said in episode 1 through connecting the dots.

What I had liked about this episode was the montage of scenes with all the other players hiding their presence and scouting out one another. It made the whole secrecy theme a lot more intriguing to watch and it is nice to see the players in action in a not so obvious manner.

I really liked Lancer’s character and his Noble Phantasm.

Another nice thing was the action scenes of this episode. When we finally got to see Saber fight Lancer, the flashes and sparks got me so excited =D It was pretty cool and a hell lot of fun to watch. Of course they had to stop their fight every now and then to bring back the dialogue/insight. But I guess it was worth waiting and listening to their talk since it did bring more depth to their actions as oppose to them being two characters that are merely slashing one another.

At one point of the show I had thought that we would not see any sign of Waver and Rider’s nonsense, but thank god they appeared as they bring the much needed “light” to the dark and heavy atmosphere of the show.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

Overall it was a good episode, it had a lot more depth to it than I had expected out of an action scene, and the battle scene got dragged on to last the whole episode instead of a few minutes. The few drops of information were nice and I can’t wait to learn more about the Holy Grail War through this series. Also, I am hoping that we will finally get to see all the masters reveal themselves and Caster will finally make a reappearance.

-ra

M0rg0th’s Review:

Well, technically, Lancer is in the presence of two kings… But I guess the whole question of who’s a king and who’s not will be an issue for another episode.

You know how with anime-adaptations the fans of the source-material always start this debate over what should be done how and why the source-material does something better and at what point the adapatation should’ve been faithful to its source-material, well, stuff like that. But what I’ve noticed while watching this series is that I have less patience with it than I usually have for a series. When you know the source-material, you already have the whole picture of what’s going on and like that the adaptation doesn’t hold any surprises for you (as long as it’s really faithful of course). And since you have this image of what’s going you look at it differently. Right now for example with this fight, for me it’s too slow. I feel sort of distressed by the pacing. It’s like a play shown in a theatre and you as part of the audience already know the text. So the drama has already this structure of acts and chapters and what happens now very surprisingly is that in the shown play there’s a break in the middle of a chapter. What makes that distressing for this person is how it destroys his expectations and his image of the story. You get this image of the play, not only in terms of story but also in terms of structure. And like that I know that now starts the finale of Volume 1 and this one big fight is for me one chapter. Therefore seeing it stop like that at the end of the episode is of course normal because of the time-constraints but to me as someone who already knows what’s to come, it’s too slow.

Or you can blame the guy who cursed him in the first place! Actually, who the hell would curse a mole? What about his nose? I would say that’s the far more obvious place for a charm-enchantment, who the hell would pay attention to someone else’s mole?

But back to what happens in this episode it’s the fight between Lancer and Saber which is important. Of course there are some set-ups that now are only minor. Kiritsugu and Maiya hide in the shadows to overlook the fight and strike when a chance presents itself. There’s also the Servant Assassin whose presence leads to the indirect involvement of Tokiomi also. In terms of plot-development it’s Lancer and Saber who are important right now, though. First of all, the fight was well-animated and you could see in that fight one strength of Urobuchi’s writing but also one of his biggest flaw in this series. On one hand you can see how thorough this fight was written, on the other hand it really slows down the pacing to have all this exposition needed to explain what’s going on. And I think it’s kind of mind-boggling to think about how the whole series only stops in moments to have exposition needed for a scene so that you can understand what’s going on. It also makes naturally the whole story very interesting in the way each element contributes to the storyline in its own way without being just an iffy name for a generic supernatural plot-device.
In terms of characterization the whole thing is a bit exaggerated in this episode. Since Lancer and Saber are these honourable, I mean, very honourable characters. Now, you wouldn’t usually expect exaggeration in anything else besides comedy to create funny characters. But looking at Lancer and Saber, I guess, everyone can agree that the term ‘honour’ is really exaggerated with the way they fight and talk. This isn’t bad automatically but what it does is making it less charming. Since honour is exaggerated like that their behaviour is more something depending on the ideal than their personality. So when you happen to not like the concept of characters taking honour seriously you will like it even less when this attitude is exaggerated like that. That is of course not the most charming way of characterization which is why you usually have a character who counter-balances this exaggeration (with comedy it’s usually a ‘straight guy’ whose down-to-earth opinion contradicts the exaggerated humour). And the problem in this series is that there’s simply no such character. This series is serious business full of tragedy, heroism, honour, valor and other neat things.
And I don’t think Rider and Waver are this counter-balance. They are more charming in the way they are characterized. What makes them so funny and charming is the complex contradiction of their relationship. Waver is just an average guy with no talent whatsoever but who has great aspirations for becoming someone great. And now he meets Rider who’s great (literally great, also) strong and charismatic but funnily Rider is nothing like the image of a great person Waver had in his mind. And Waver is just this confused guy who has no idea how a person like Rider could be considered a great person while Rider drags him around trying to show him what he really should aspire to be like.

If you think about it, Irisviel’s role in this episode was so minor that it was easy to forget that she was even there…

Like I said in the beginning I’m a little impatient with this show to move on instead of remaining in one place exchanging their lengthy dialogue. It’s only because of how well-written the dialogue is (even if it lacks in content to talk about) that the slow pacing becomes somewhat bearable and on my second watching the episode was far more entertaining since I knew now what to expect of the episode in terms of plot-development.

The fourth episode (finally) starts the action and the flaws and strengths of Urobuchi’s writing remain in this faithful adaptation. While it bugs me a bit how all the exposition and dialogue slows the plot down it’s also apparent that it makes good use of it in creating plot-twists and a nice atmosphere.

Episode-Rating: 7,5/10

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About Saranaufogus

An Anime fan who can't seem to keep her thoughts to herself. Find me on: Instagram | Twitter

Posted on October 23, 2011, in Anime, Fate/Zero, Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I think that they could have dropped one or two of their “Saber, you are indeed a exceptional fighter.” “I could say the same of you, Lancer.” exchanges. I appreciate the duel between honorable fighter (perhaps a foil to their not so nice masters) dynamic they have going but it made the fight seem plodding from time to time.

    Kiritsugu definitely had a evil vibe going on and I was actually rooting against him. I mean, attacking with snipers while two combatants have their honorable duel is cheating no matter how you look at it. You can expect dirty fighting from the likes of Kotomine and Tohsaka who are card carrying villains but seeing as Saber is one of the few indisputably “good guy” characters, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth to have her master lurking in the background ready to strike down people who actually respect the rules. From where he is, Kiritsugu could BOOM HEADSHOT two enemy masters. :/

    If I were to compile a short description of what we know about the masters and servants I would say:
    Uryu + Caster: Evil, Rule Abiding
    Kotomine + Assassin: Evil, Rule Breaking
    Tohsaka + Archer: Evil, Rule Abiding
    Kariya + Berserker: Good, ???
    Archibald + Lancer: ???, Rule Abiding
    Waver + Rider: Good, Rule Abiding
    Irisviel + Saber: Good, Rule Abiding
    Kiritsugu + Maya: Neutral?, Rule Breaking
    What a motley crew!

    I award massive props to Rider’s over the top hammy-ness. It definitely brings a bit of light into the show when it gets dark and morally dubious. It has yet to be seen if he will ever take the war seriously though. lol

    One detail I thought was strange was an assassin observing the battle. One, if all he is doing is watching than the magical familiars they command could do just as well; two, by having Assassin out where anyone could see him they kind of blew the whole element of surprise they had going since the end of episode 2. It’s been acknowledged that everyone is scouting everyone, and that everyone knows that everyone is scouting each other. It seems awfully clumsy to send out your secret servant without any kind of stealth tactic. If standing atop a building constitutes being stealthy than Rider has accomplished as much. (and he is none too subtle ^^;)

    Still waiting on more scenes with Kariya + Berserker, and Uryu + Caster.

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    • One, if all he is doing is watching than the magical familiars they command could do just as well; two, by having Assassin out where anyone could see him they kind of blew the whole element of surprise they had going since the end of episode 2. It’s been acknowledged that everyone is scouting everyone, and that everyone knows that everyone is scouting each other. It seems awfully clumsy to send out your secret servant without any kind of stealth tactic. If standing atop a building constitutes being stealthy than Rider has accomplished as much. (and he is none too subtle ^^;)

      Ah, damn it, I’ve thought about adding an explanation for that like last week to explain the reasoning behind it…
      So here’s the explanation for it:
      First, one thing one must understand is that the Grail War is traditionally a fight between mages together with their servants which is why persons like Tokiomi conceive their plans with magicians as his opponents. The second thing is that one of the Assassin-class’ special abilities is Presence Concealment which makes these Servants undetectable by magical means. And the third thing is that when you combine these two points it’s reasonable to assume that as long as he keeps out of sight he isn’t discovered by anyone using magic to detect enemies. Kiritsugu naturally cheats sort-of by using his mundane equipment which ignores Assassin’s special ability.

      It certainly isn’t a strength of this series to not only have so much exposition but also making use of that much information. But I guess the pacing would suffer even more if they would explain the reasons for that in the anime as Urobuchi did in the Light Novels which gave all the events a weirdly constant event->explanation-rhythm.

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      • Your explanation makes sense. The way the series handles rule breaking kind of irks me. My impression was the Holy Grail war was a mage fight between 7 masters with their 7 servants. Having “support troops” (kiritsugu has 2 on his side) and using guns instead of magic seems to be breaking two major tenets of the war. Even if one were to say these two things were never stated as rules, it brings into question why no one else thought of it. How exactly is the church supposed to regulate the war if they don’t even use magic? Are they going to tell a master that they don’t like how he is using his demi-god and disqualify him? Looking at FSN (such as someone having two servants or Caster attacking non-combatants) we can see that the ‘rules’ of the war are mostly just guidelines…

        Yes, Kiritsugu is ruthless and the church disapproves of his methods but the point is, when the stakes for the war are a magic cup that can grant any wish (not to mention losing often means dying) EVERYONE should be trying to bend the rules or just straight up cheat. There are plenty of mundane ways to kill someone without using magic, just ask Uryu! Find out where your rival lives, cut his brakes, poison his food, strategically place a banana peel on the ground! Do something! >:D

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  2. “Saber, you are indeed a exceptional fighter.” “I could say the same of you, Lancer.”

    Lol. Quite true, quite true.

    Kiritsugu definitely had a evil vibe going on and I was actually rooting against him. I mean, attacking with snipers while two combatants have their honorable duel is cheating no matter how you look at it.

    Hey hey, they were only using it as binoculars. =P Lol.

    I was going to say that isn’t it weird that people who are unassociated to the war are also participating, that’s cheating! =p

    Kiritsugu could BOOM HEADSHOT two enemy masters. :/

    Then we lose out on the whole magical side of things and it merely becomes a normal war. =P Now what fun would that be?

    It has yet to be seen if he will ever take the war seriously though. lol

    I don’t want him to stop being himself. He is awesome man! Totally adorable in such an odd way.

    by having Assassin out where anyone could see him they kind of blew the whole element of surprise they had going since the end of episode 2.

    That was what I had thought of as well but I had come to the conclusion that none of them were meant to be seen since mortal objects like “binoculars” weren’t meant to be used. =D
    There goes the tag team cheating again. =P

    It seems awfully clumsy to send out your secret servant without any kind of stealth tactic. If standing atop a building constitutes being stealthy than Rider has accomplished as much. (and he is none too subtle ^^;)

    I was wondering why they didn’t even bother to hide themselves and just stand there. They could have found some weird nook to squish themselves into in order to hide. But I guess it comes back to the fact that as Assassin had reported back, all they saw were the main battle area and eve assassin did not manage to see Lancer’s Master even with his golden hair, booming voice, and standly at the top of the world in arrogance. =P (There goes the cheating again)

    Still waiting on more scenes with Kariya + Berserker, and Uryu + Caster.

    I am only waiting for Caster and Uryu. I feel sad for Kariya and the amount he sacrificed.

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  3. @Ren:

    The way the series handles rule breaking kind of irks me.

    Even though the story gives ample reasons for why things are as they are, I agree with you that it’s handled in a strange way. If you hear any rule about anything in this series you can bet that something exists there at the same time which breaks that very rule. You just have to look at the fight between Lancer and Saber: It’s introduced that Magicians can heal Servants but some moments later one of Lancer’s Noble Phanatasm’s is introduced which negates that very thing. Without giving any spoilers away, it’s the story’s explanation that the supernatural system behind the Grails War is out of control and doesn’t work properly – that’s why the Servants are all Uber-Special and douchebags like Caster are considered Heroic Spirits. The rest is just historic escalation since this is the Fourth Grail War.

    How exactly is the church supposed to regulate the war if they don’t even use magic?

    On one hand it was secured by the magicians pride of following traditional laws and on the other hand the Holy Church has their own men who are able to fight against magi on equal terms due to martial-arts-training and other iffy stuff (which in this universe actually gives you powers comparable to those of a main-character in a Bruce-Lee-movie).

    Yes, Kiritsugu is ruthless and the church disapproves of his methods but the point is, when the stakes for the war are a magic cup that can grant any wish (not to mention losing often means dying) EVERYONE should be trying to bend the rules or just straight up cheat.

    Hmm, the explanation for that was the fact that until the Third Grail War magic was just more useful than any technology existing at that time. But naturally what you describe has to happen at some point but magicians are conceived as proud and traditional. Even if technology is now as good as magic (or even better when used right), the magicians still have a certain pride that they (and nobody else) can use magic.

    It’s actually insane how thorough Urobuchi’s setting-conception is for making the Fate/Zero-story as plausible as that’s possible. So, even if one says that the series has too much exposition… well, the Light Novels have even more of that.

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    • It’s not that Irisviel was suddenly forbidden to use healing magic, it’s that it wouldn’t work anymore. In regards to the abilities of servants, as long as it stays within the realm of magic I assume anything goes. It is after all a battle between mages. I wouldn’t describe anyone’s Noble Phantasm as rule breaking (except for Caster’s literal Rule Breaker Noble Phantasm which might be the author lampshading the issue). Even Archer’s ultimate weapon isn’t breaking the rules, it’s just a sword that can cut through time, space and narrative. :P

      Perhaps this is just personal opinion but I think Fate Zero Lancer and FSN Lancer were too similar. Both are honorable, fair-fight warriors. Both are womanizers and they even look similar. FSN Lancer had a Noble Phantasm that is armor piercing and prevents healing and Fate Zero Lancer has one Noble Phantasm that is armor piercing (technically anti-magic) and another that prevents healing… When you have a whole world of heros both fictional and real to choose from, it seems like a waste to make them so alike. I still think it was bizarre that they kept Saber as King Arthur even after the gender flip, considering you have Jean of Ark who is a far better fit.

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  4. They are similar, yet they are not really the same.
    Chu Chulain’s Gae Bolg would always go for his opponent’s heart when activated, but this guy’s spear doesn’t have such ability.
    I am more interested to see Iskandar’s Noble Phantasm, though.
    I love Reality Marble :-)

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  5. Sorry for double posting, but they are foolish for summoning Caucasian lancers, arent’ they? Isn’t a heroic spirit’s strength based on how famous he/she is in the location they summoned/having the War of Holy Grail?
    We Asians don’t know these guys.
    I would summon Zhao Yun or Monkey King instead. :-)

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    • There was a throw-away line in FSN about how fame affects the strength of the hero, but they quickly add that a strong hero will be strong regardless. After that, it’s never brought up again. To your credit eterychan, I don’t think most western viewers were familiar with either Lancer. The most well known characters in the west either come from Arthurian legend, Greek mythology and to a lesser degree, Norse mythology.

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  6. “Monkey King instead.”

    Lol, i guess they would need to grab items from theses characters in order to summon them. (It would be funny to see sun wu kong though. lol, another monkey to join the pack alongside Rider and Waver. =D )

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    • Since this is an anime (fiction) to begin with, they could always come up with something. :-) Heck, they even excavated the original sheath of Excalibur, which is, of course, doesn’t exist in real life.
      @ren : Yes, that issue is only mentioned once in each route, but I think it’s really take effect. That’s why Gilgamesh turned out weak compared to other Servants, ONLY, he has that imba skill : Gate of Babylon. (which is luckily countered by Shirou’s reality marble, Unlimited Blade Works) :-)

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