The Fate franchise has always been one of the more intense series. Fate Stay Night is probably the only anime that I’ve seen that I would consider to be part horror. (Mostly action) Now, a case can be made that it doesn’t deserve to be called a horror and that I should count Serial Experiments Lain as a horror as well. Both are compelling arguments and they would be interesting to debate, but Fate Stay Night wasn’t your average tournament series. Fate/Zero is known as the superior prequel that shatters Fate Stay Night in every way. Fate/Zero did have some strong points, but I would say that they ended up getting a little too extreme in their quest to be the grittiest mainstream anime. Want a series that’s darker and more filled with despair than Attack on Titan? You’ve come to the right place!
I can confirm that this won’t exactly be the most positive anime review that I’ve done in a while so the fans who think of Fate/Zero as the greatest anime of all time (Or one of them) may want to brace themselves. Instead of dividing this review up into all of the goods and then all of the negatives, I’ll try to spread it around a bit so that the review doesn’t completely tilt to one side to soon. First off, let’s look at the plot.
Naturally, Fate/Zero is a pretty complex anime so this is just a summarization for the overall plot. I’ll get into the character motivations in their individual sections. There is an item by the name of the Holy Grail and once every 20 years it appears to grant the winner of the Fate tournament. 6 candidates are chosen and 6 servants are summoned. Everyone gets a partner and the matchup is based off of a person’s true feelings. The Saber class is supposed to be the strongest, but each of them have their own pros and cons. Will the Grail be used for good or for evil? Nothing is black and white in this show of course, but you will likely figure out who you aren’t supposed to root for. (Caster) Let the games begin!
Now, I could have talked about more of the rules and such, but there are a bunch of them. The important thing to know is that you must destroy the other servants to win and get the human masters to abandon their command seals. If they don’t want too, then you have to take them out as well. The winner gets to make his wish on the Holy Grail and that’s how the tournament works. A church is also there to make sure that everyone is following the rules and not allowing civilians to find out about this secret tournament. (Although the humans wouldn’t be able to do all that much about it) Since the human masters may be a little outmatched if they are bi themselves or something, you are allowed to use one of three command seals to command your servant to appear at your side or for any other order that you need to win the tournament. (Although, some of the masters can fight) This show has a huge cast so let’s discuss some of them.
Saber isn’t the main character, but she’s easily the most iconic figure in the franchise. It’s easy to see why since her design really stands out and her drawing Excalibur is probably the best poster for the show. She wants to win the Holy Grail for her own purposes, which aren’t really stated very clearly here because she has no real reason to trust the humans all that much. We really see her goals in the Fate Stay Night show where she finally begins to trust the humans. We can’t blame her though because every time she tries to trust someone..it backfires. Her master is Kiritsugu after all and he backstabs people for a living. Saber’s ideals clash with the other 2 great kings and it makes for some pretty interesting dialogues that I will mention later on. Saber’s a very good character and she’s easily the most heroic from all of the characters. (Most of the characters in this series don’t really possess that quality)
Unfortunately, I do have one big problem with Saber. She is of the Saber class so she is supposed to easily be the strongest servant in the entire tournament, but she never shows this. We saw how often she lost in the Fate Stay Night anime, but I somehow figured that she would look a lot better in this show. She loses more times than she wins and she’s always on the defensive. She easily crushes one Rider in their spar, but she doesn’t look good against Lancer, (X2-3) Caster, Archer, Berserker, etc. It’s okay if she isn’t the strongest, but she should definitely not be one of the weakest. Only Assassin appears to be weaker than her and that’s not really how this is supposed to work out. She’s almost a parody of the main fighter in that respect, but at least she keeps her ideals throughout the tournament. Her disdain for Kiritsugu is appreciated and it’s too bad that she needs to win the Grail so badly or she could have tried to betray him so that she could save more lives. In the end, Saber is easily the best hero in the show and she deserves to be remembered as the most popular character from the Fate franchise. I just wish that she could get some kind of power up.
Kiritsugu is the main character and he’s easily one of the worst ones that I’ve seen in a while. To start with, I don’t consider him to be a hero in the slightest. You know the kind of villains who believe that they are bringing harmony to the world and that they’re the true heroes? That’s the best way to describe Kiritsugu. All that he does is to “save the world” and he really believes in his conviction. Whether that makes him more sympathetic or even more despicable is up to you, but it didn’t do any wonders for me. I consider him to be one of the big villains and at least Fate/Zero doesn’t try too hard to convince us otherwise. Other shoes would really force us to see a heroic side of him, but Fate/Zero loves showing us the gray areas, which turned out to be good in this case. There wasn’t almost anything that would help me change my opinion of him. It’s a case of “The more information that you know, the more that you are responsible” Kiritsugu knows about all of the other competitors and you have to wonder just how much he knows. If he knows about what is happening to Sakura and the other people in the Matos then he is pretty guilty for not stepping in to help. When he finds out that Caster is a mass murdering child killer, he decides not to help since a few (dozens) of kids aren’t worth his time since he has the world to save. Sacrifice the few (Thousands) to save the many. (What’s left of the 6 billion) That’s his basic philosophy and it’s why I could never see him in a heroic light. Almost every other main character learns that this isn’t the case and they try to save everyone that they can. Ichigo showed this in one of the first episodes of the Bleach series after all!
It got worse for Kitisugu when we saw his sob story. We all know that I can’t stand zombies right? Well, his story involves zombies as the girl that he liked ate from the forbidden magical plant thing and infected the whole village. Kiritsugu found out that his father meant for this to happen to he murders him. (I forgot if “our hero” murdered the girl as well or not, but I mostly tried to forget about these flashbacks) Next up, Kiritsugu and his newfound mentor went around the world to destroy people for money and that sort of thing. After years of becoming close and finally developing a bond, Kiritsugu sucker killed his mentor (Who was 100X more likable than Kiritsugu) from behind. In one of the few scenes where the show tries to get us to sympathize with him, he pulls off a Superman (Man of Steel post Zod) yell to show us how much he didn’t want to do it, but he had to do it to save the people at the airport.
Don’t worry, it’s not over! Kiritsugu threatens one of the masters to force his servant to commit suicide or he will destroy the guy’s fiancé. The guy naturally orders his servant to do this since he wants his fiancé to stay alive, but Kiritsugu basically just grins as his minion murders both the wife and the master. So much for heroic honor and decency right? The fiancé wasn’t innocent, but Kiritsugu didn’t know that so he basically just murdered someone who was only mildly assisting in the battle. Anything to achieve his goals! The very end presents us with another scene that is very Kiritsuguish. The Grail reminds him that it’s been suckering the mere mortals for years and he shows Kiritsugu just how evil his wish is. Kiritsugu responds my murdering his wife and kid in the dream world to show the Grail that he was not going to use his wish anymore. There are dozens of other ways that Kiritsugu could have refused the Grail without doing something so extreme. A simple..”I wish for ___” would have used up his wish and everything would have been okay, but he decided to destroy them for no real reason.
I could go on and on about Kiritsugu for quite a while and you can tell that I really didn’t like his character. He does get a lot of hype about what a great strategist he is though and it’s true that he’s very formidable. He has spells that allow him to speed up his movements by 2-4 times as well as slow them down and he has a gun that disrupts magic. He’s tough to be sure, but he has absolutely no honor and he’s about as deluded as your average villain like Creed or anyone else who thinks that they are the true heroes. It’s safe to say that he also dragged the show down since he’s the main character and you are supposed to root for him. After all, if he’s the most heroic..what does that say about the others!?
Natalia is an assassin from Kiritsugu’s origin story. She’s pretty likable and she’s definitely not a hero, but she’s one of the few villains/anti heroes that you can possible root for. She’s basically a gun for hire so it’s safe to say that she’s more of a villain since she is likely taking people down on both sides. However, she does seem to have some morals about her so she hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. She had started to bond with Kiritsugu and she did a good job while aboard the plane. Unfortunately, you can’t last for too long when your partner is a Benedict Arnold. (She doesn’t really blame him for her untimely end since it helps to save some lives, but it’s definitely a stretch)
I really think that shooting down Natalia’s plane wasn’t the only way to save everyone. It’s sketchy since the cops would complicate things and the zombies would certainly move out very quickly, but the damage would likely be contained. Natalia would run out guns blazing and I’m sure that she could prevent people from entering the plane long enough for the heroes to blow it up. Kiritsugu’s solution just seemed rather drastic.
Rider is pretty unique since he’s the only servant who’s really having a good time during the tournament. He tries to end things diplomatically before going into battle, but this never works since it would be under the condition that the opponent ends up serving him. Rider seems to be a benevolent king, but the other servants are figures of notable skill and reputation so it is out of the question to serve another. I disagree with Rider’s condescending attitude towards Saber (especially since he is constantly outmatched) and he can be a little too casual at times. He should have had more of a sense of urgency during the whole Caster debacle. Nontheless, he is better than some of the other servants and he was not a bad character. His scenes with Waver were a nice distraction from the more serious plots at times. His goal upon acquiring the Holy Grail is certainly not as intense as the other fighters.
Gilgamesh was one of my favorite characters from Fate Stay Night. His character arc went down towards the end since he was way too obsessed with Saber, but he isn’t like that here. This is Gilgamesh at his finest and he was my second favorite character of the series! He has an air of arrogance about him and it is very befitting for a king. He is the King of Heroes and he is shown to be on a different league from the others. The only servant who seems to be a match for him is Berserker since Gilgamesh is able to take on Saber and Rider with no effort whatsoever. His Noble Phantasm is possibly the deadliest one in existence since he can summon an infinite amount of weapons to strike his opponents down. Gilgamesh also has a cool spaceship, which resulted in the best fight scene in the series.
Gilgamesh feels so superior to the other fighters that he doesn’t want them to even look at him without permission. He always treats the rest of the cast as if they are his slaves and they typically humor him. (Since they could die if they didn’t) Gilgamesh loves to toy with Kirei and he constantly goads the villain on for the entire series. Gilgamesh is definitely epic and the voice actor did a good job of expressing his smug demeanor. He is easily one of the highlights of the series and every action scene with him tends to be epic.
Lancer is one of the better servants and he was in the runnings for best hero during the show. Saber eventually increased the lead between them though and it was partially due to Lancer’s ending. It wasn’t quite as disheartening as Berserker’s, but it didn’t really help him a whole lot. Blaming Saber for the events that unfolded didn’t make a whole lot of sense and he should have noticed that she was pretty surprised as well. Aside from that, he was definitely pretty great. We finally have another character who believes in honor and chivalry. His twin staff style definitely gave Lancer the edge over Saber and he proves to be a very tough fighter throughout. I don’t think he would have really been able to match Gilgamesh or Berserker, but it would have been nice to see such a fight.
Kirei is the main villain of Fate/Zero. The anime makes sure to give most of the characters a lot of screentime, but I would say that he is the big villain since he is Kiritsugu’s rival. He wants to find out what his purpose in life is and Gilgamesh tries to help him find a negative answer. Kirei joins the tournament with the weakest servant of the group, (Assassin) but he gets a lot of them to help even the odds. The show tries to develop a contrast between him and Kiritsugu. They are similar in several aspects, but Kiritsugu is at least trying to go towards the heroic side of things while Kirei continues to seep into the darkness. He was intriguing in Fate Stay Night since he turned evil out of nowhere and he was actually pretty tough. In terms of combat ability, Kirei is a lot more impressive in this show. I don’t know how a human could be so powerful, but he really slices through his opponents. He never gets to fight one of the Servants, but that would have been one sided in the other direction. Kirei’s character development is really to show us the dark side of humanity and he’s completely evil by the end although it’s implied that he was always evil and didn’t know it. He was definitely a more interesting villain than the others and I didn’t really mind him for most of the first half. After that, I think he overdoes it in his attempt to understand Kiritsugu and he drops, but he is still an improvement over most of the other antagonists.
Assassin is one of the worst servants. He’s not a bad character, but there’s just no point to him. Even referring to Assassin as “he” is incorrect since there are dozens of them. Thing is..they’re so weak that it takes a large number of them to challenge a single servant. Rider takes out a bunch of them without effort, which wasn’t a great showing for those stealth warriors. Assassin’s role is also very small and you can refer to them as throwaway characters. If they even had a Noble Phantasm, I forgot what it was. (They have no real goal upon acquiring the Holy Grail either…or at least it was never mentioned)
Rin was one of the better characters in Fate Stay Night and she’s also pretty good in this series as well. She gets a whole episode to herself where she gets to save the day and put a dent in Ryonosuke’s plan. That in itself helps her character a lot, but she was already cool. It’s good to have another hero on board and she would have been a great main character. She jumps into the fray to save her friend and you must keep in mind that she’s still pretty young. True heroes start early and at least Rin doesn’t have to go through some of the hardships that the others try to survive. (Although, her ending is also pretty sad in a different way) Unfortunately, she never finds out the truth about what happened to her father so she gets tricked on that part for the rest of her life. (Although she may suspect at the end of Fate Stay Night…hopefully)
Irisviel is Kiritsugu’s partner and she publicly acts as Saber’s master to draw attention away from our fearless main character. She is in charge of meeting up with the enemies and being the target while Kiritsugu is away. Arguably, she could be in a safer position since she is with Saber, but I would argue that Kiritsugu’s job is easier at times. She is a pretty good character and she holds on to her convictions to the very end. It’s unfortunate that she was paired up with Kiritsugu since she really could have done some more good in the world. Since she is with Kiritsugu and Irisviel is such a nice person, she decides to believe in his ideals until the bitter end. She is pretty brave amidst the war and she was definitely a good character.
Illyasviel is the daughter of Irisviel and she’s a pretty nice kid. Her fate isn’t quite as bad as Irisviel’s or Sakura’s, but she is forced to have some pretty bad nightmares since she is the next in line to be the vessel for the Holy Grail. I’m not sure if she will have to end up serving the same role as Irisviel, but I believe that her future may have been averted. I certainly hope so since that would make her ending a lot better. Otherwise, it’s another pretty sad ending since she won’t get to see her parents anymore.
Tohsaka is one of the big shots here since he is one of the favorites to win the tournament. His family has been a key player for generations and his family helped to start this whole competition in the first place. He has already prepared his daughter to win the next Grail War so he can focus on winning this one along with Gilgamesh. He’s a strategist so he never goes out to the front lines with the others. As a result, Tohsaka only gets one real action scene and it barely counts since he’s just blocking the whole time. As expected, he’s not a likable character. Trading away Sakura so that he could have two chances to win the tournament is pretty awful and his nice scenes with Rin just seem phoney. They’re real since he really believes that winning is everything so he treasures Rin as his successor, but it doesn’t make him any more likable. Rin was in trouble during her episode and Yohsaka never even found out about this. His minions also make a lot of plans and have suspicious meetings behind Tohsaka’s back. He needs to be a little more aware of what is happening to him. He talks a pretty good game, but he’s just another “elite” who believes that he is superior to everyone else.
Waver is the master of Rider and he is probably the only “normal” one in the group. He’s just a kid who loves to study, but he doesn’t like that nobody will take him seriously as a magician. It’s because his family line has only been around for a few hundred years and Waver enters the Grail War so that people can respect him. It’s not a very grand wish and he is mocked for it. He’s a pretty decent character for most of the series, but one of his first scenes involves him murdering some animals for the ceremony. It’s really hard to bounce back from something like that and I can’t say that he ever did. He gets a whole lot of development in the show though. Waver realizes what true courage is and he decides to start living a little more. He’ll continue to study and all, but Rider has shown him Earth in a whole new light. Why is Rider essentially the only character to get a happy ending in the show? Maybe it’s because he almost could have been The main character in almost any other show. Still, I can’t say that I really cared for him.
Maiya is a major supporting character in this show as she helps Kiritsugu take out their opponents. She is only a human who has some decent hand to hand skills and a gun, but she does give Kiritsugu a lot of help. It helps that most of the opponents aren’t really prepared to deal with someone else and they just don’t see her as a threat. Of course, it is safe to assume that it’ll be tough for her to live through the entire series. She wasn’t a bad character, although she ultimately didn’t seem to have much of a presence in the series. She gets a handful of action scenes, but that’s about it. She does help Kiritsugu take out two unarmed masters, but she never claimed to be a hero. She just follows his orders for better or worse. (They briefly hint at her origin, but it’s only a passing line or two)
Kariya is the master of Berserker and he’s another guy who gets a pretty tragic origin. To save Sakura from her cruel fate, he enters the Grail Wars. He allows himself to go with the worms in order to get some more power to win the tournament at the cost of his mind. The worms slowly deteriorate him and he has no chance of living past the month/months. His body just won’t last and his mind may go first. It’s really too bad since he was actually a very nice person at the start of the show. He really didn’t want to enter the tournament, but he did it to save Sakura. He should have just tried to break in with some weapons to save Sakura since it would have been a lot less painful, but the odds of success would likely have not been very high. He eventually becomes pretty insane and he deteriorates rapidly. He has a pretty bad scene where he really shows how evil he has become in a church. He tries to go back to how he was later on, but it’s really too late at that point.
It’s time for one of the candidates for worst character of the series! Ryunosuke gets an elite voice actor in the english dub, but that can’t even come close to saving such a terrible character. He’s a mass murderer who typically aims at kids and he really just loves pain and anything that is sadistic. He’s basically a sadist in every meaning of the term and there’s nothing good about him. He totally lives for evil and he’s the kind of guy who would look up to Hitler. He’s fully embraced every sin of the world and he has the gall to talk about how God enjoys his actions. It’s rather painful to listen to this guy speak and he gets way too much screentime as it is. I can’t believe he lasted so long and it’s frustrating to see the heroes just let him be. (At least Saber tries to stop him as soon as possible, while Kiritsugu plays the villain and decides that it’s not worth it) Ryunosuke is another character who lives to drive this anime down the ranks.
Kayneth is the master of Lancer and he doesn’t get a whole lot of character development compared to the others. He wants the Holy Grail, but his goal seems to be rather petty and he’s not a great strategist. He’s proud of his magical upbringing and he’s confident about his chances in the tournament. Unfortunately for him, he’s not a great judge of character and his partner isn’t someone who should really be trusted. He is forced to make a tough choice at the end and both answers led to a negative outcome anyway so it’s rough to be him. He was really unlikable anyway so he’s just a character who was doomed from the start. He’s nowhere near as bad as the characters above and below him, (In the review) but he’s still not a solid addition to the show. It’s too bad since Lancer was actually pretty good.
If you thought Ryunosuke was bad, it’s time for another evil being. Zoken Mato is one of the big players in the magic world and he’s in charge of the worms that exist to destroy this series. He wants to win the Grail during his lifetime so he trains the next successor (Sakura) from very young as he makes a deal to adopt her. Then, he basically throws her to the worms and permanently wrecks her life. He never even gets to die in this series although I’ll assume that someone destroyed him off screen. He’s just terrible and every scene with him is a very bad one.
Sola (Really long name so I’m just abbreviating it here) was Kayneth’s partner and she’s a pretty despicable character as well. She loves to hit people when they’re down and she’ll betray anyone at the drop of a hat. She has no real reason to get the Holy Grail and she’s likely just doing it for status and wealth. She’s just another unlikable character to add to the pile and she doesn’t get any good moments. The only interesting mystery involving her is why Kayneth would ever pick her as a partner. Whatever he saw in her must have been seen when he was barely conscious since she was a bad apple from the start.
Sakura easily has the worst fate from all of the characters in the series and it’s one of those fates that is so tragic that it drags the whole show score down. The instant that this occurred (in the first episode of the series) I knew that the series wasn’t going to be as good as Fate Stay Night. It was really the beginning of its ultimate demise and I’ll get into the “worms” negative a little as the review goes on. Sakura’s story is one of hopelessness where she is powerless to alter her fate. It’s the worst kind of fate because nobody can save her since they don’t know her plight and she can’t do anything about it. It’s one of the ways that Fate/Zero can achieve the dark tone that it was aiming for. Sakura is just a little girl so there’s nothing bad with her character and it’s pretty tough to watch. Fans of her definitely won’t appreciate this turn of events.
Now, it’s time for my favorite character in the franchise! Berserker is way better than his Fate Stay Night version and it’s enough for me to overlook the CGI in his design. Picture Dark Samus or Bass EXE. Berserker is basically an embodiment of darkness and rage as his fury has consumed him. He only lives to fight and destroy at this point, which also results in his fearless nature. He takes on several of the servants at once and he looks very impressive in the process. He is the only character who is actually able to not only damage Gilgamesh, but score a “win.” (It’s highly debatable, but he essentially claimed victory in one of their rounds) That’s a feat in itself and Berserker is just awesome. He doesn’t need to talk and he shows that a cool design mixed in with great action scenes can really help a character.
Now, his ending could have potentially dropped him a whole lot, but I tend to block it out. His final appearance really nerfed his character so that Saber could have one more victory before the series was over and we got an unnecessary plot twist about Berserker. It came out of left field and it didn’t help his character. Luckily, it’s a small scene and I can’t let it wreck such an intense villain! This guy’s still a highlight and he continues to gain strength in all of his appearances until the final one. This guy is great!
Oh no….it’s now time for one of the worst characters in the series! In most anime, this character would be the very worst by a clear margin and the fact that he competes with some of the others is pretty scary. I’m talking about Caster and he has no redeemable qualities. He is another character who is pure evil and he lives to destroy as many kids and people as he can. He lives for fear and the opportunity to deliver pain. He is also completely insane and he seems to be living in a delusion as he mistakes Saber for someone that he probably never even knew. Every scene with Caster is cringe worthy and he’s the kind of character who can wreck an entire episode with his presence. It’s hard to even talk about this guy without being saddened at the prospect of the show without him and some of the other cheap characters. This guy is as third rate as you can get and you can expect him to fight on this site at some point. Needless to say, I haven’t met many characters who are quite as despicable as Caster.
Okay, we’ve gone through all of the major characters. Some of them were negative influences on the show, others were positive ones, and others were so bad that I can barely believe that any writers/producers would want to add them in. (It goes back to the novels first I suppose) One of them is bad enough, but having up to 5 characters who are some of the worst in existence? Now that’s definitely excessive! For a change of pace, let’s talk about an area that was completely positive. I’m referring to the animation! I like googling searches along the lines of “Best animation in an anime” to see what pops up. Fate/Zero is a show that pops up on just about every list along with other big titles like Evangelion. Typically, there are always a few that I don’t recognize and I’ve never seen Megaman or DBZ make the cut. That’s too bad, but they can’t all make it. Is this the best animation in a show? Well, that’s always extremely tough to say since there are many great anime, but I will say that the animation was excellent. This is the kind of show that will still look great 20 years from now and it’ll likely still pick apart other shows from the future eras. The character designs are all streamlined and it would be tough to find an episode where the quality really deteriorated. I would argue that the first half of the show had a higher budget than the second, but it’s tough since it really depends on the episode. Everything about the animation is great and it really shines during night scenes. (Not coincidentally, all of the best animated moments take place at night.)
While I’m not sure about the best animation of all time, I do think the show has the best animated fight of all time. That would be Gilgamesh vs Berserker when they fought in the hi tech planes. It was awesome for many reasons and one of which is the fact that it was totally unexpected. It transformed from a very grounded (No aliens anyway) show about planet busting servants to one where spaceships could actually be used in the fight. The fight was really great and it helps that Gilgamesh and Berserker are my two favorite characters in the series. It’s one of those fights that you can’t really appreciate until you watch it in its entirety and it was the high point of the series. This was also the point where the government got involved to fight and show the world just how tough they could be. The music really complimented this scene as well since the opera theme came up and it’s my favorite theme in this show. It was a battle of titans!
The show had some other pretty great fights as well. Berserker vs Saber and Gilgamesh in round one was pretty great. It was epic for other reasons that I will go into in a second, but the actual fight was fun. Berserker was really the underdog throughout the whole series so it was always good to see him show everyone up. Finally, Saber’s battles against Lancer were great since they were the only really intense blade battles that we got. (Berserker had a brief scuffle as well) Those battles likely had the biggest budget in the series. Every swing was powerful and the colors that emanated from their blows looked very nice as they clashed. Blue and red are colors that naturally compliment each other and the fights did a good job of showing this. The choreography was great as well and the fight felt very real. They were easily some of the best fights out there.
I mentioned that the best fight in the series was the aerial battle, but what was the best moment? I did mention that the fight was the highlight of the series and I stick by that, but this moment was even more influential and it’s the type of scene that really gives you the chills. Remember when the main 3 Avengers first met or any other big group scene like Naruto facing off with everyone at the Chunin Exams? This is that kind of scene as everyone meets up at the docks for the first time. It was the first time that we got to see all of the servants (Minus Assassin since he was busy hiding and getting destroyed and minus Caster since he’s a cheap character) converge at one location. It was really the only time as well that they all got to talk and discuss matters. It was a very interesting moment and it played to the strengths of Fate/Zero. Fate/Zero spent a huge amount of time developing the characters so this is the kind of scene that really benefits from that. It’s definitely a moment that I won’t forget and it was awesome. We’ve never really seen a scene quite like that one or at least not on this scale. It’ll be nice to see if another show can ever top such a gathering of intriguing individuals in such an explosive setting.
Gilgamesh, Rider, and Saber have their own beliefs on what a true king should be like. Gilgamesh believes that he ruler over everything on the planet and his vassals should be happy just to serve him. He seems to actually be a very benevolent ruler and he treats the servants well as long as they remember who is on top. Crossing him would mean your demise. Rider believes in ruling over the servants, but letting them share in the pleasures of life. His dream becomes theirs and they don’t fear him. His underlings actually look up to him and they are glad to die during the journey if it will help him. Saber believes that a King’s path is a solitary one and it’s up to her to destroy all of the enemies in her path so that the Kingdom will be saved. She never developed a bond with any of her underlings so they were safe, but they didn’t really know their King. Which version is correct? Well, I wouldn’t say that any of them are downright bad, but I did find myself on Saber’s side the most while agreeing with Gilgamesh a little. Rider’s ideal isn’t bad, but not terribly realistic. When it works, it ends up being great for everyone since it’s good to be enthusiastic. Ultimately, I would be on Saber’s side since I agree with her that the King should be the one eliminating all of the opponents in the way of the Kingdom. She didn’t develop any bonds with her kingdom’s inhabitants, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. She didn’t seem distant in the flashbacks and it’s more that she just didn’t understand what they were thinking. I wouldn’t say that it was her fault and she was easily the most just of the three Kings. Everything she did, she did for the Kingdom and they just couldn’t accept it in the end. I don’t place any of the blame on her and her ideals are sound.
One of the biggest negatives in the show is the mere existence of the worms. They are mentioned in the first episode and it’s where we find out Sakura’s tragic history. They also come into play for Kariya’s subplot and they last throughout the whole series. They aren’t a big factor in the show, but once we know why they are there and what they are doing to Kariya and Sakura, it’s just a huge negative. You can’t help but be reminded of it whenever those characters appear as well as Zoken. It really crosses the line of how dark a show should be, but Fate/Zero does that a whole lot.
Fate/Zero’s soundtrack is pretty good. It’s nowhere near as memorable as Fate Stay Night’s, but it tends to fit the scene. Unfortunately, it’s pretty forgettable in retrospect, but I won’t be forgetting the main opera battle theme anytime soon. That was perfect for the fight scenes and it made each moment even more epic than it would have been without the music. The openings are decent I suppose, but I can’t say that I cared for them all that much. At least, they really couldn’t stand up to Fate Stay Night’s second opening and both of Fate/Zero’s focused too much on showing all of the characters so we didn’t get as much action as we could have gotten. The second opening is also surprisingly soft considering that this is where most of the action should be. (Although it is actually fitting in that regard)
A noticeable weakness for Fate/Zero is that there is a significant lack of action in the final half of the show. After the fight against Caster, there is a short bout between Saber and Lancer. We don’t really get a real fight again until one of the final episodes where Saber challenges Berserker and Kiritsugu fights Kirei. That’s pretty unacceptable since this is a span of 13 episodes. There are other action scenes, but they’re all just very short. Gilgamesh’s hyped battle against Rider is supremely underwhelming since no hand to hand blows are struck at all. It can barely be called a fight since Gilgamesh doesn’t even need to move and the fight barely lasts for 2-3 minutes. It really can’t be called a fight since it was such a blowout. Gilgamesh vs Saber? That fight lasts for about 5 seconds and I also wouldn’t call it a fight. It’s just surprising that the action died down as it ended.
From those two fights, only Kiritsugu’s match was actually a lot of fun. Saber’s battle against Berserker was much worse than the first round and it’s because Berserker decides to use a gun this time. Bullets/Energy Pellets don’t work on any decent fighter and it’s not quite as exciting to see Saber just running around to dodge the attacks. Berserker does take out his sword, but then he looks very weak while using it. I still cannot forget how weak the writers made him look in that battle so that Saber could take the win. I forgot to mention it earlier in the fights section so I will say that Kiritsugu’s action scenes were pretty good. His fight against Kirei is definitely interesting since it’s pretty strategic.
Now, I do have to wonder how Kirei put up such a good fight. He’s still a human right so how is he moving so fast? Kiritsugu speeds up his movements by 4X and Kirei is still a lot faster than him. I’m assuming that Kirei must be using some kind of spell, but it’s never stated. Nevertheless, the fight was pretty great and the animation was really good as well. I guess you can say that this battle was the true series finale clash and it was a solid way to end things. Kirei’s short battle against Kayneth was also good for most of the same reasons as the Kirei fight. I may not like Kiritsugu at all, but his action scenes were very interesting.
It’s time for a comparison paragraph for Fate Stay Night and Fate/Zero. It’s a bit of a blowout overall, but it looks a little more even on paper even though Fate Stay Night wins many of the big battles. Fate/Zero has the better animation and it makes the universe a little more interesting than Fate Stay Night. Berserker, Gilgamesh, Rider, and Saber (The way that she speaks is just so much more eloquent in this version and I love the polite pretenses that she and Lancer put up when they are bantering) were improvements over their FSN counterparts as well. However, Fate Stay Night’s Assassin, Caster, Rin, and main character (Shirou) beat the FZ versions. FSN had a better soundtrack and it managed to avoid most of the negatives of FZ. FSN had a little more fanservice than FZ, but it was still very minimal. FSN did a better job of making the ending exciting, but FZ did have the edge for animation. FSN did a good job of achieving a dark tone atmosphereically through the backgrounds and how it was animated without having to resort to dark content to make it dark like FZ. There are definitely points that could be darker if they were totally shown, but FSN knew when it was time to make those moments appear off screen. That’s something that could have benefited FZ a lot. It may sound pretty equal from here, but the lack of negatives is the critical part. I have already touched on some of FZ’s negatives and FSN didn’t really have a problem with them. Of course, you can check out my review for it to really get the full story.
One of the major negatives is that I wasn’t able to really enjoy almost any of the episodes because just about every one of them would have a big downer. A scene or multiple scenes that would really just wreck the episode because of how sadistic or unnecessarily violent they were. It’s because we had so many terrible characters like Caster and Zoken. They are characters that are so bad that they guaranteed that the show would get a 5 or less and they could spoil an episode. Likewise with the Worms, who just added onto the pile. Fate/Zero did everything in the darkest/most violent way that it could in just about every situation. The show had very few happy moments and that’s never a good thing. Having a serious tone can be a nice change of pace and it can make some scenes more exciting, but you still need to be enjoyable. Ultimately, shows are supposed to be pretty fun/enjoyable and while the fights were great, they aren’t enough to save a show where so many negative events happen. Also, if you thought Attack on Titan was intensely violent, I dare say that Fate/Zero matches it if not exceeding AOT.
For the death scenes, it would always happen in very unpleasant ways. When Kirei takes out Irisviel, he does it in a very painful way that is rather unnecessary. Her first defeat isn’t any better. The fact that we have to watch Caster perform so many sinister acts is another strike against the show and the list goes on and on. Fate/Zero seemed to really want to be the darkest/most violent series that it could be while still being mainstream enough to also have a lot of shonen action scenes. I have seen it labeled as one of the greatest anime of all time so it appears that this approach worked, (It did for Attack on Titan I suppose) but it’s also what doomed it for me. We are used to having many characters experience traumatic origins and upbringings, but Fate/Zero loves to take it a step further. It just goes way too far on all accounts.
Overall, Fate/Zero is definitely nowhere near Fate Stay Night in quality. It barely scores a 3 to be honest. The animation is undoubtedly some of the greatest that I’ve seen and the soundtrack was solid. The fight scenes were good and the show did a good job of fleshing out the characters and giving us a lot of interesting plot points. The problem is that these positives are completely overwhelmed by the onslaught of negatives. You could really make a case for a 2 or a 1 here. I still find the Fate franchise very interesting and I do like Fate Stay Night a lot, but this was just a really poor way to make a prequel. All of the reasons above are why I would never recommend it to anyone and I would strongly recommend staying away from it. The sheer amount of content and violence make it unsuitable for any audience. It’s really regrettable because this is a show that really could have been good. Take away Caster, Ryunosuke, Zoken, The Worms/Sakura’s plight, Kariya’s meltdown, Waver’s unnecessary animal violence, and get rid of some of the excessive violence, and this could have been a 7-8/10 show. The show’s positive elements would have really been able to shine and it definitely had the elements needed to challenge the big guns in the anime world. Alas, this is a ship that has sailed and I can only hope that the new remake of Fate Stay Night doesn’t lean towards Fate/Zero’s style or that it only captures its positive attributes. The Fate franchise still has a lot of potential and it’s a great universe that can continue to expand. Even if they only stick to the two Grail Wars, there are a lot of different ways that they can handle the event. As long as they don’t resort to such extremes like in this series, the Fate franchise can definitely have a worthy successor that is just as good as the original FSN. In the end, if you want a compelling action series with some horror, just skip this prequel and watch Fate Stay Night.