It’s time for the next installment in the Fate franchise. While Zero may not have ended up hitting it out of the park for me, it set up a pretty solid framework with the Grail War and this title takes place after that. While you never really think that El-Melloi will be entering a Grail War since that would really end up being a completely different kind of series, it has enough connections to the main adventures to stay hype. Throw in some fun mysteries and this ended up being a great ride.
The series starts off with an episode 0 which is easily the weakest episode in the series so you may as well start with 1 tbh. It sets up the world to those unfamiliar with Fate. Magic is something that most people live with and manipulate nowadays. Those of the Clock Tower are especially familiar with magic as they tend to train the most skilled mages. The main character here is Waver although he has now taken on the title of El-Melloi II in part because he is being blackmailed by Reines but also in part to prove that he can handle the job as the previous El Melloi died during the Holy Grail War. With his loyal friend Gray at his side, Waver teaches classes of promising students in the ways of magic. Waver also hopes to enter the next Holy Grail War so that he can see Iskandar one more time and get some closure for being one of the only survivors of the whole event.
It’s hard to even call this the full premise of the show because there’s a lot to unpack but what you mainly need to focus on is that this is a case by case series. Waver will always be thrown into some kind of magical mystery and has to solve it fast before the various magical departments start to make a mess of things. There is always a whole lot of infighting among the different magical groups and in a world where any of them can curse you in an instant, you have to tread carefully. I wouldn’t say Waver is always super diplomatic but he tries to at least keep up the appearance of being calm and collected.
So in episode 0 a cat ends up dying and it turns out that this was to lay a lethal curse on Waver. He has to quickly team up with his two students Flat and Svin as well as Gray to track the culprit down before it’s too late. Unfortunately as in Fate/Zero Waver is still very weak and did not have enough ability to save the cat. The cat is able to help to an extent thanks to Gray being able to sense its presence so they track down the culprit but starting your show off with an animal dying like that’s a pretty bad idea. As I said, you should probably just skip episode 0. Fortunately the rest of the series was strong enough to get things back on track.
Right from the start it’s also fair to say that you can feel the high production values here. The animation is really great. There’s a lot of detail in every scene and the colors are always striking. It’s definitely got the same kind of style as the main Fate titles and we also do get some fight scenes which go all out. Now, I wouldn’t quite put them on par with the bigger fights that Fate has to offer but it’s makes for a satisfying watch all the same. The battles have a lot of weight to them even if there aren’t a lot of them.
The soundtrack is also master class here. You have a lot of great tunes which have the same level of drama as Fate/Zero. I also liked the opening here quite a bit. It’s not really an action packed one or anything but works well for the mysteries with how ominous it is. Usually the music will start playing after some kind of dramatic statement and the opening starts so this is styled well. There was no expense spared in this title’s production, that’s for sure.
As for the main cast, they’re solid. Waver is much better than he was in the Fate/Zero days so I was glad to see that. This is the kind of improvement that helps a character go a long way. It would be nice if he could fight more but he has helped to bridge this gap with the knowledge that he has acquired. He knows enough to be a teacher after all and his theories/knowledge allow him to crack the many cases here. He’s like a Sherlock Holmes of the magical world. I imagine that the magical setting here makes it a little easier for the writers since you can keep on adding new concepts though.
Waver rarely shows any fear or anything like that and is perceptive. He’s just a strong all around lead and also knows when to back off and just let Gray do the fighting. It would be nice to see him enter the Grail War but ultimately you can’t fault him if he wants to back out as well since there would be a lot to lose and not a whole lot to gain at this point. For the most part there are rarely casualties in the Grail War outside of the combatants so he should be safe in that case. Even if his title is temporary, Waver has also crafted a whole new life now so why throw it all away?
As for Gray, she’s still a bit of a mystery. We still don’t know the full story behind her. She looks like Saber and is said to always be close to death which came in handy during episode 0. She seems to be a type of Pseudo servant like Mash from Grand Order although she isn’t amped up with technology or anything like that. Instead she carries around a talking cube who seems to be a personality that she created to nerf her abilities. When she has to go all out a Sword Art Online type voice rings out saying that the false personality has been disengaged and then she is able to fight harder.
I don’t know exactly where that’s going but she makes for a very intriguing character. I’m also glad that there is at least one big fighter on the hero side since it inevitably means that we can have some strong villains as well. Her big fights against Faker are some of the highlights of the show after all. Gray’s a very earnest character as well who always feels out of time but takes everything in stride. It’s like seeing a What If for a servant who sticks around after the Grail War to help in everyday life. She could crush almost every character in the cast but doesn’t have to fight like that too often. In a way Waver has a top notch bodyguard at all times though.
Reines makes for a fun heroine and a good troll character throughout the show. As mentioned, she really forced Waver into this. While she claims that she wasn’t going to murder him, it certainly seemed like that at different points in the flashback so I can see why he was getting nervous. Now she mainly teases him while helping out from the background. She’s often a lot more helpful than she lets on. She has the ability to detect magic with her eyes which is handy at first glance but there are so many downsides that I would not want to have it.
One such downside is that she gets intense pain spasms if the magical energy is too high. Considering that this is the case for all strong fighters, it gets to her quite a few times. She always has a cheerful disposition though and has some solid banter with the other elites at the Clock Tower. Reines can hold her own and once she is of age and gets the title formally, I’m sure she will do a great job. The anime has a lot of solid banter between many characters and she is certainly consistent in this.
Flat is one of Waver’s students and while he isn’t bad, he can be a bit boring. He’s a very by the books kind of kid who does well in class and takes everything seriously. As a result he’s seen as more responsible and does well but just doesn’t have much in the way of personality. Meanwhile Svin’s the go getter who is always trying his best. I like how he keeps trying to positively “curse” Waver by calling him things like “The Powerful Waver” or “The All Knowing Waver” since we learn in the first episodes that merely using titles next to someone’s name can actually cause good or bad things to happen to them.
So it was a nice way for Svin to try and help his teacher even if there was no effect. On the other hand, he’s got a big crush on Gray that’s so intense he is usually not able to talk to her much and gives her the impression that he doesn’t like her. There’s also some kind of berserk mode within him that causes him to lash out against Gray for some reason. This isn’t something that is delved into at all so it will remain a mystery. I guess it ties into his abilities and her near death state but it’s hard to say why there’s a connection. Waver is aware of it as he forbids Svin from being near Gray. It speaks badly of Svin’s willpower though.
With the opening episode out of the way, the next adventure is more of a flashback to see how Waver became El Melloi. He ended up getting kidnapped by a mage and met his future best friend Melvin as they had to team up and take the mage down. It was tough since neither one of them really have any powers but they were able to use evil spirits to get the guy by taking advantage of the temple. There was good strategy involved and it was a fun enough episode. Not really a mystery like some of the others but it was a good one shot.
Melvin also makes for a good character. He’s someone who is always on Waver’s side and he’s rich which is always handy. At the same time, it does seem like he will prioritize “fun” over everything else so even if it means that Waver will be in danger, he’ll take the risk. So you can trust Melvin to an extent but you probably don’t want to be around him or you could be in danger. He also seems to have some kind of terminal illness which pops up now and again.
We then get another quick mystery where someone has been murdered and there are a bunch of suspects in the estate. From research partners to family members and the maid, El Melloi has to figure out the true culprit quickly or the government will probably pick someone off at random. This is the first big appearance of Hishiri who will always be a thorn in Waver’s side. See, she’s from the Department of Policies and they just want results at all times. She makes this quite clear to Waver and so “Justice” will be served whether it is just or not. Often times she is basically used as a timer so Waver has to hurry. It was an interesting case and of course it does involve a lot of spellcasting and plotting in order to get the situation just right.
Hishiri is a fun villain. While she may help the heroes at times, I would consider her to be an antagonist because she will do whatever policies says no matter what. At the same time, if Waver will save her some time then she’ll help him out. It’s not like she’s actively malicious but to me she may as well be if she’s that calm about just grabbing innocent people. There’s even one case where she intentionally hides evidence which could have gone badly. It’s very rare where she is actually very helpful.
There’s also an episode about Waver finding out what happened to his favorite tea shop which closed down due to suspicious circumstances. It’s more of a low key episode although it is one of the few times we see his students fighting. Gray also gets an action scene of her own and I’m always up for that. They rarely let her go all out but when she powers up that’s really game over for these guys.
Now we get to the first big case. So there was this mage who created a bunch of lightning but was super sloppy and died. Now the strikes are getting more and more frequent which is putting the whole estate in. Waver is called in to help and find a way to dispel this while the holy grail is dangled in front of him like a carrot. If he helps out here then it will help his chances of being in the next Grail War. This one plays out like a classic mystery with the lightning slowly taking its victims and we have to see who is really responsible. Is someone actually causing these strikes to occur or is it just an accident? Hishiri certainly doesn’t think so and already believes she knows who is causing this but Waver has to be sure.
There are a lot of suspects as always and I think it’s fair to say that nobody really believes this is just random coincidence right from the start. That would have been really hard to buy. We get some action in the second half of this and the ending is definitely an interesting one. A character makes a very dicey decision involving a portal although….I don’t necessarily disagree with it. Honestly in that situation I would say it might even be the right move. There is also a bit of a cliffhanger leading into the Zeppelin arc.
Right before that arc though we get a
filler slice of life episode with Gray, Reines, and Luvia hanging out. The three of them have fun at the mall until they are warped inside of a reality marble and have to get out. The thing is, who is targeting them and how do they get out of this? Luvia is a strong fighter but Reines can’t really fight and it’s risky on if Gray should show her true powers here. It’s a fun episode though, certainly a lighthearted one with low stakes but the dialogue is strong as always. The reveal on who the culprit was is also very unexpected and works as a solid twist.
Luvia doesn’t get a huge role in the show but at least she got one big episode here. Her hand to hand skills is refreshing to see as most humans in the series don’t seem to know how to fight all that well. Personally if I lived in a magical world like this I’d want to be able to defend myself but it doesn’t seem to be the highest priority for a lot of the mages.
Finally we have the 6 part Rail Zeppelin arc. Basically the Zeppelin is a train and on it is a big auction for magical eyes. You can buy and sell them at will here. Why does Waver care? Well, his piece of Iskandar’s cloak has been stolen and it will be impossible to summon him in the upcoming grail war if he does not have that. It’s imperative that he grabs this at all costs. Meanwhile someone is naturally murdered on the train so everyone is alert. Was it infighting between Spiritual Evocation and Policies? Was it the member of the Anti-Clock Tower faction who is on the train? One of the many sorcerers here? Waver will have to find out and quickly as the murderer may also be the thief that he is looking for.
We get quite a few new characters here of course although maybe not as many as you would think. It can be a little hard to choose who you think the suspect is at times because not all of the sorcerers really get a big role here. You have Leandra who is effectively the top member of the train. She makes sure things are going smoothly but perhaps wanted to shake things up a bit. She doesn’t do a lot in this but is around the whole time. There’s even a JoJo’s type summon which is part of the train itself and helps with transactions.
There is the ticketmaster Rodin who is always very ominous. As someone who’s always been around the train you can see how it would be easy for him to make a move. I liked his design for sure, you have to take him seriously after seeing the guy. Then you have Yvette who is one of Waver’s students but also likes teasing him to no end. She’s super rich and has many resources at her disposal. Naturally it wouldn’t be hard for her to have stolen his artifact if she really wanted too. I can’t say that she was one of the better characters though. Her teasing is more excessive and not quite as fun as Reines. Additionally there’s also not much more to her character than that.
Then there’s Olga and it’s fun to see her since her role in Grand Order was so small. At the same time because of that it’s hard to say that she’s ever truly a suspect since we know her future state. She isn’t quite as powerful now of course but she has a memorable role and helps out quite a bit. Things don’t go quite as well for her butler/assistant Trisha who doesn’t last very long here. Every train murder mystery needs its victim after all and this was her role.
Finally you have Karabo who is one of the Anti Clock Tower guys. The show doesn’t get into the whole factions part much but it’s probably self explanatory. The Cloc Tower is an elite group of sorcerers and training them for the Grail War. I’m sure many oppose the group on principle. Karabo wants to get rid of his eyes for reasons which are explained later on but the whole time you wonder if it’s worth it. Aside from the fact that losing your eyes is pretty bad, it seems like they won’t even give him normal ones in exchange so he’ll be blind.
It’s a magical world though so I’m sure he can buy new ones somewhere. The downside is he’ll lose his powers. His ability is that with his future eyes he is able to see events from the past by making contact with someone and of course can see his own past. The best part of the ability is that he can bring past attacks to the present. So for example if he throws a punch and misses, he can try to get you back to that spot later and then instantly resummon his old punch at any time. It means that the longer a fight goes on, the more he will be at an advantage.
The downside though is that he can’t control the eyes really well. Imagine having a painful experience or a sad memory and it will suddenly appear in front of you at any time. That’s not very easy to deal with, especially if it happens very often. The bad experiences will keep on piling up. It’s a unique downside to an ability as you don’t often see things like that. Karabo’s a fairly nuanced character as well and I liked him.
Then you have Faker who shows up as one of Iskandar’s allies from the distant past. Having a real servant here is a blast and she immediately leaves a big impact on the series. I can say that she single handily elevated the show up a star because along with her presence meant that we got some big fights between her and Gray. The show may not be a big action most of the time but having big fights for the climax is always a very good idea and the show made the most of it. I also liked Faker as a character quite a bit. She’s serious and knows how to fight but also has an honor code and won’t just be destroying people for no reason. She gives Gray a breather at one point when the heroine is clearly not doing so well and that does a lot for a character.
An honor code is huge for a villain because it separates the ones with no vision or who just won’t work for me from the big all stars. Faker’s also clearly stronger than Gray which makes sense since a servant should always beat a pseudo one. If she went all out from the beginning then the encounter would have been brief. Since she held back we got to have several fights which were all a blast. Then you have her summoner but as the arc is a mystery I won’t say who that is. He looks good though and clearly has a lot of plans at the ready. I see him being a big threat in the adventures to come, whenever we get the big continuation. Since I liked him here I’m definitely cool with that, it’ll be nice to see what he’s got up his sleeve.
Well, that brings us to the end of the adventure. It was definitely a great ride. It’s a title where you feel like they probably skipped some stories and adventures though. It’s hard to describe but it’s the little things like a supporting character appearing in back to back cases but it seems to be a big deal that he or she has returned. Things like that, but if it means getting to the big parts sooner then I can’t turn that down.
A big part of what makes the show fun aside from the big action scenes and top notch animation/soundtrack is that the mysteries are handled well. I do like a solid mystery any day and these cases are all very sound. It’s also unique because they all use many different magical concepts within them. Half of it may be things that are made up just for Fate but the concepts are always explained so you can follow along. It means that you may rarely ever get ahead of Waver since you don’t even know the rules of engagement but the explanations are always satisfying.
A good mystery should keep you engaged throughout and the show pulls that off. The cast is also solid enough to the point where you can enjoy even just the talking scenes or the more low key moments in between cases. There are also a lot of cameos from other Fateverse characters so they’re always fun to point out. Of course I’d love to see Shirou and the gang show up at some point but I suppose they may end up stealing the show as a result if that were to happen.
Overall, I would definitely recommend checking this show out. The name may be a bit of a mouthful but I just think of it as the EL Melloi show and that works just as well. Really the only weak episode here is episode 0 so feel free to duck out of that one and you’re still good. Naturally if you’re a fan of Fate/Zero then you’ll have a lot of fun with this one but it also works well as a stand alone adventure. Of course there will be a lot of flashbacks to events that you didn’t get to see first hand but there’s a bunch of context thrown in as well as little clues you can figure out since Waver keeps having the same dreams and visions. Fate has certainly been able to branch out in many different ways and has done a pretty good job of this. We’ll see what the next adventure has in store for the team!