Fate/Zero – 01 Review

Episode 1 – Summoning the Heroes

Reviews by M0rg0th and Saranaufogus

Saranaufogus:
Hmmmm…

This first episode is a 45minutes double episode that introduces us to the Fourth Holy Grail War that takes place before the events in Fate/Stay Night.

I did not really know what to expect out of this episode, but what I had expected was no me being more interested in re-watching Fate/Stay Night, than wanting to watch the next episode of Fate/Zero.

Episode Summary

This story takes place 10 years prior to the Fate/Stay Night Series and the episode introduces us to most of the Magis who are participating in the Fourth Holy Grail War and the history of the War.

Kiritsugu Emiya

Also known as the Magus Killer. He is said to be a killer for hire and was not limited to merely killing Magus. However, 9 years ago after an encounter with a Magi in the North, the Einzberns, where he found his answer that he has been looking for. Although Emiya’s “answer” was not really revealed in full this episode, it had played out in such a way that it seems like he had found his answer in his wife, Irisviel von Einzbern, and his child. He is the summoner of Saber.

Kotomine Kerei

He is a master assassin and works for Tokiomi, who is Rin’s father and a fellow Magi in the war. Emiya depicts him as a character that is dangerous and without passion in life thus shrouding his goal behind wanting the Grail in mystery. He is currently working for the church. He is the summoner of Assassin.

Tokiomi Tosaka

Now this is a character who talks a lot and is utterly boring to listen to. He went ranting on and on about the war yet at the end of the day, I am not sure what his purpose or reason is except for the fact that he, like everyone else, wants to win the war and seemed to have summoned Archer Gilgamesh. He is a magus of the Fire attribute and specialises in Jewel Magic.

Waver Velvet

Oh god. I hate this dude. He is so annoying to watch. Essentially, he believes that bloodlines are not the only thing that matters and is sore that his teacher looked down upon him. As such, he ends up stealing his teacher’s artifact so he can participate in the war and make everyone recognise his genius. He ends up summoning Rider at the end of the episode.

Kariya Matou

I pity this guy, the transformation that he had to go through and the fact that he is related to that creepy old man called his father. Kariya is part of the Matou family who was one of the original participants in the war. He had run away from his family but decided to return back to help his dad win the war in exchange for Sakura Tosaka’s freedom. He ends up summoning Berserker and we see how taxing all of this is on him due to his lack of training.

Kenneth El-Melloi Archibald

He is the teacher whom Waver had stolen the artifact from. It seems like he had manage to obtain a new artifact and will be participating in the war. He has an affinity for Wind and Water and is an expert in Necromancy, Summoning, and Alchemy.

Saranaufogus’ Review

As with all first episodes, this episode introduces us to the characters and the plot of the series. How the episode is executed and play out is nothing out of the ordinary and we are essentially simply brought through the process of how each of the Magi came to be and who they end up summoning.

If you are worried that you would be lost as you have not seen the Fate/Stay Night series you have nothing to worry about. This episode does a good job of providing all the details to the history of the war and what is meant to happen. It does such a “good job” at times that it borderlines on being utterly boring to watch. It is not so much the issue of the script but rather the animation that fails the script.

This episode was really heavy on the dialogue and it did not help that the character animations were pretty terrible. Many of the characters were stiff and emotionless while they were talking (especially in the scene where Kirei gets introduced to the war by Tokiomi, image above) and resembled puppets as their facial expressions seldom changed and their mouth was the only one doing the moving in an open and close manner. One the upside, the environment and backgrounds in the episode were decent and the atmosphere helped in creating a nice buildup to the beginning of the war.

Like I had said above, this episode was very heavy on dialogue and it spent all its time developing its characters. So if you are looking for some action in this episode, I suggest you  hold off on that hope for now. I appreciate the effort the writers had placed into developing the main characters and providing us with their pasts. I really hope that this is an indication that the series will be more focused on the characters driving the plot and action rather than the other way around since the characters themselves seem to be rather interesting.

The constant flashback that happens throughout the episode may get confusing at times but by the end of the episode you wouldn’t have any trouble comprehending what you had just seen.

What I did like in this episode was the way the scene between Kirei and Emiya was executed (above image). I liked the flashes between the thoughts of the two people and their readings of one another as it was a good way to establish the rivalry between the two of them and their importance in the upcoming war.

Overall, as a first episode, I think that it was probably as dry as listening to an audio tape but it does its job of introducing the series and its characters. The cameo of some familiar faces from the F/SN series does help with generating slight excitement but overall does not do too much to help the series as of yet. The animation of the characters could be improved on (and I hope that it does) but the show did a good job of delivering the darker and more serious tones of the series. Right now, I am hoping that we will see some action soon, but I doubt that would be the case since we are still in the pre-war plot building stage. I do hope that when the action scenes in this series starts, it would be as nice as the ED scenes but I doubt that the animators would put that much effort into the series. I guess only time will tell just how good this series will turn out to be in the end.

Episode Rating: 6/10

-ra

M0rg0th’s Review
It is always interesting to see how novels one has read get converted to the big screen and I think in this case they did a pretty good job of capturing the spirit of the novel as far as it was possible.

“I’m disappointed to find out that one of my students actually finds the spare-time to write scripts for shounen-series. Let me tell you all this plainly: The notion that effort may triumph over inherited talent is simply ridiculous! ‘Naruto’ is a LIE!”

One of the first things that’s interesting to note is the setting. There aren’t many fantasy/sci-fi-animes out there that are that thoroughly created. All these tiny details like magic being something that’s inherited, the magic worms of the Matou-clan and the way the Grail War is handled as a tradition instead of a “short break from daily life” as it’s usually done in shounen-series. One does wonder whether these many details are necessary but they are if one pays attention to the setting and may be distracting as it doesn’t add anything more but a good background that will never come into play but in terms of world-building it makes the whole experience more immersible. For someone like me who just loves to read fantasy/sci-fi-novels this is a necessary part of the story and it’s a nice touch to see that the writer did think about the setting of just showing the bare essentials that are necessary to start the adventure. In this story the fantastic aspect is indeed its own world instead of just an extra like when the cast is just a bunch of students confronting ultimate evil.
The characters are also really good. The interesting thing about the constellation is how each of the relevant characters is presented as a person with motivation. While I wouldn’t say that we go into the area of “nasty realism” the character are shown as “debatably bad/good” but the most important thing is that it gives the story momentum in later parts to know what the characters are aiming for without having them long monologues to explain themselves. The dialogues reflect quite subtly how each of the shown characters wants the grail for a specific reason.
But when I say subtle, I don’t mean it in a purely positive sense, some of the moments in this first episode did make me wonder how one should understand the significance of those moments without having read the Light Novel. Especially Kirei may seem somewhat shallow without hearing his thoughts and it’s somewhat simplified how Kiritsugu and Kirei are marked out as ‘rivals’ for the solely reason of seemingly being the uninvited guests at the wedding party that stayed for dinner. Both of these characters have an inner conflict and for now it does make me wanna recommend the Light Novel over the anime story-wise. Gen Urobuchi does have a tendency to use the narrator as a “wikipedia” for his setting, the creators of the series are luckily never forced to convert Umberto-Eco-like infodumps to screen but the Light Novels do have an alarming tendency to explain much of what’s going on and that’s one of the strong points of the series: that it does try to be plausible. But in a fantasy-setting like this one that means a lot of explanations thrown around to make everything known to the reader/audience. But aside from that it’s also with characters like Kiritsugu and Kirei lacking the context of their inner conflict for most of their actions and dialogues that makes the first episode a rather limited experience for those who didn’t read the Light Novel. But the essential part of the story was captured really well by the first episode, I think: The foreboding sense of tragedy.
The novels throw the word around quite a lot and each part starts with a countdown (here seen at the end of the episode with the episode-title), therefore it’s easy to pick up on the notion of where this conflict is going but the anime shows her in a much subtler way how dark and gloomy the world is this characters live in. Backstabbing, hopelessness, deceit, cruelty – all these things are daily life in this plot and it does already imply naturally which kind of role Saber will play in such a dark world and that Waver’s dreams won’t just become reality because he’s naive enough to get a power-up from the idealistic story. Madoka was also dark but surprisingly so and it’ll be interesting to see how in this case the reception for the dark atmosphere looks like when it’s expected and made pretty obvious.

You do have to admit that they all look like sociopaths when they have a discussion standing like that…

As for bad moments I would say the scene between Kirei, his father and Tokiomi was strange. I get it that the dialogue in this scene was really goddamn long (yeah, that’s what pretty much will define the series for now as long as the series adapts the first volume) but this “walking in circles” around Kirei was just unnerving because it felt unnatural. They interrogate him and probe his value as a pawn but the dialogue is enough for me to notice that, I don’t need them circling him like it’s an brutish interrogation. But it’s strange that while I read the Light Novels I never quite noticed the length of the dialogues due to their purposeful nature and how they reflected much of what happened without showing the ‘how’ of it. But having seen it on screen it does become obvious that it is a rather long dialogue where nothing much happens besides what the characters say to each other which is enough entertainment for a book and a suitable way of presentation but in an anime it does seem kinda weird.
To close off with an observation as much about the future of the series as much as what the first episode did: This series is one of the few animes that actually does seem “epic” with which I mean not in the way that the whole universe is at stake but the way how a multitude of characters are part of the story without relying on only one point of view for the storytelling. Too many animes rely on a hero-plot that puts one character on the stage to have the spotlight and this “epic” way of storytelling gives the series a way to see things from multiple perspectives which helps the series to differ from a simple “good vs. evil”-structure and become something far more personal where the story becomes fare more character-driven than message-driven (when the good guy HAS to win).

“Now I know how Micheal Jackson must have felt after his last surgical operation…”

Despite all my gushing praise for it, the series does make it difficult for people who didn’t read the Light Novels to have the same joy watching this episode. It’s also apparent that some moments of the book probably should’ve stayed on the book page and should’ve been changed to adjust to the anime-version but overall, I think, the episode was a nice-enough experience for every fan of the series while also being an interesting addition to the genre in general.

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 2, 2011, in Anime, Fate/Zero, Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I agree that this first episode was heavy on dialogue, but you can be sure that from this point on it will be much more focused on the action. This episode was based on the first third of the first book of the light novel series, and is deemed the most boring part of the whole series. I have to disagree on the part about the animation though, cause in my opinion it was absolutely gorgeous. Wish to see your opinions on the future episodes, cause it will only keep getting better 🙂

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  2. The animation is near movie-like, the studio of this series is Ufotable after all. I don’t get how you can could be disappointed by the animation. Compare it to other TV series, Fate/Zero’s animation is by far much greater and detailed.

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  3. @anon

    “but you can be sure that from this point on it will be much more focused on the action”

    Well, I am definitely looking forward to that.

    @anon and avengerx105

    I think that you are misunderstanding what I am saying. The animation on a whole was good but it was the animations of certain characters and scenes that were felt poorly done, like with the scene where Tokiomi was talking to Kerei about the war. The movements and expressions were really stiff and just felt off.

    Please keep in mind that I am not talking about character designs, the character designs were perfectly fine, also the rest of the animation is fine and nice. But like I had said, the show was really heavy on the dialogue and the stiff character animations got to me.

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  4. Of course they are stiff. They are not the type of people who would swing his leg around, scratch his cheek or head, steal a glance left or right.
    Animation wise, this anime is fine. And since they have taken their time in explaining just what the hell Holy Grail is, I don’t think there will be a lot of monotone dialogue next time.

    Like

    • “Of course they are stiff. They are not the type of people who would swing his leg around, scratch his cheek or head, steal a glance left or right.”

      Lol, i know that they are not. It is more towards the facial expressions. I mean, how often do you talk and your eyes remain the same size and your eye brows dont move nor does any other part of your face apart from your mouth. That was what I meant by stiff. I mean, honestly, I am not saying the animation is terrible or anything. It is above average but simply due to how character focused this episode was, I just could not help but notice these kind of things.

      As for the whole dialogue part, I don’t expect to see as much of it in the next episode since like you had said, they had gone through a great length to introduce the characters.

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  5. I was somewhat disappointed with openings and endings for the last couple of seasons. But already fall ’11 openings like Shana’s and Fate/Zero’s are making up for it ^_^

    I too love the background chorus in “Light my fire.” So awesome!

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    Like

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