Suggested by Sonic Bayonetta is incredibly fast and also has some solid regenerative abiliites. This will keep her in the mix against Saber for a longer period than she could otherwise, but Saber still has the absolute edge here. Her Excalibur attack would destroy Bayonetta without a trace. Her speed is also crazy enough where Bayonetta would not be able to regenerate quickly enough to match all of the blows. Ultimately that will end up with her defeat as a result. Saber wins.
It’s time to look at the legendary Fate Stay Night show. If you know anime then odds are that you have to have heard of this show at some point or another. The fate franchise has always been pretty massive and so it makes sense that when you take the best animation company and put them on this project, it’s going to be a big hit. I have a separate editorial talking more about animation soon, but for the sake of argument right now, Ufotable does have the best visuals. This show is definitely real solid and one of the things I like about it is how there are a lot of moral debates and philosophical discussions. I always like that kind of thing. The show’s first half is rock solid and while the second half stumbles a bit I would still say this is a very good show in the end.
The plot revolves around a kid named Shirou who lives a rather ordinary life at school. He is treated as a bit of a pushover due to his ideal of wanting to help everyone at all times. Still, he’s satisfied with where he’s at, but then he suddenly gets thrown in the middle of a big fight going on and is fortunately able to summon a servant in time to survive. He is now a participant in the Holy Grail War and must take out the other masters. Throughout all of this, he needs to keep his ideal of being a Hero of Justice. Ultimately that will be the toughest part of the journey.
Lets quickly talk about the Holy Grail War to really understand this. 7 Masters are chosen to be in this war. They are chosen by the Holy Grail and typically come out of prestigious magic families. Each master is then to summon a powerful servant who is a mythological hero of legend. The Holy Grail will only appear once a single servant remains so the idea is to destroy the other servants. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to take out the master since the servant can’t continue to exist without one. There are a lot of different methods to try of course and the only result that matters is victory.
The concept of the Grail War is definitely another gold mine. It’s basically the Hunger Games but with each player having an immensely powerful guard at their disposal. It makes for a great dynamic as well as trying to figure out who each Heroic Spirit is. Good luck though because a lot of them are pretty obscure. I dare say only two of them you would be able to figure out and even then it’s hard to say. The others I definitely would not have had a shot from the start. So from here the show really picks up. It’s got a very serious atmosphere throughout. Not to say that the show is without its happy moments of course. I’d say it’s definitely more upbeat than the original but there’s always a sense of foreboding.
The very episode (Episode 0) was the perfect pilot for the series. An easy 10/10 episode with a lot of replay value. It explains what is going on very smoothly while also giving us two fight scenes. I thought this was a clever way to also start the series off a bit differently by having Rin as the main character. While it might be a little hyperbolic to say that this is flatout the best episode in the series, it really might be. I’ve basically seen it 5 times (Twice normally, twice abridged, and once via reaction) and I can’t get over how well it is done. The characters are immediately interesting, the animation is out of this world, and the soundtrack is epic.
In general the first half of the series is pretty near perfect. I think the first 12-13 episodes (I forget what is exactly the halfway point but you’ll know it because the theme song from the original show plays) are basically 9/10 caliber. It has set all the pieces on the board and now you just need to see what happens next. I would consider this show to be an action mystery with some horror elements. At this point things are as dire as ever for the heroes. The villains really have all the cards and the problem is that there are different villain groups so you don’t know who to go after. I also thought the song here was perfect and suitably emotional.
Let’s continue with the strengths of the series. The animation is absolutely masterful. One Punch Man is still the best looking anime if you ask me, but this would probably take second. Ufotable really does not disappoint and all of the fight scenes here are excellent. There is no such thing as a poorly animated fight here. Everything’s just on point and it does a really good job of showing how powerful all of these characters are. You really feel the vast difference between the spirits and the humans. It also just makes a difference having great animation, really sucks you into what’s going on. The scenes just feel very powerful and you’re especially taken off guard in the beginning. Both the Archer vs Lancer (Round 1) and Saber & Archer vs Berserker fights happen within the first few episodes and quickly show you that you’re going to be in for an amazing ride.
The soundtrack is also top tier as I mentioned. The best theme in the show is probably the Archer theme. It was a really good theme to have show up whenever he pops in. Both of the openings are also excellent as well as the remixed version of the original theme song. Then you have Last Stardust which is a great emotional theme near the end of the series. Pretty much every theme in the show is really solid and you can keep on jamming to these tunes for a long time. It’s got a lot of replay value just like this show.
The script is also excellent. It’s a little harder to describe what an amazing script is without watching it but the show’s just super interesting. Just about any conversation with Archer and Shirou is one to watch. In general you could also say the same for any conversation Archer has. He just has a really good way with words and articulating what he’s thinking in a way that makes you really think about what’s going on. He’s certainly manipulative and uses this to great effect. Due to the nature of the show being a mystery, it’s also important that everyone acts cryptically without being too obvious. I thought it was all handled rather subtly. Due to how the show goes through 3 routes so you have to watch them all to understand everything, that spins perfectly here as not every plot line is actually explored, adding to the overall mystery of what’s going on here.
Now to the second half. First, I have to say that while it couldn’t execute nearly as well as the first half it is still pretty solid. We get quite a lot of top tier fights in the second half and they may even surpass the first half. Shirou vs Archer, Gilgamesh vs Berserker, and Rin vs Caster are all excellent fights. There’s a lot of variety in these action scenes so none appear to be identical. Since the tournament is getting closer to ending that means everyone is forced to start making moves so now the plot is at its most explosive. In particular I think that’s why Gilgamesh vs Berserker is a fight that particularly shines. I always like when villains attack each other because it’s harder to tell who will win. In this case you’ll have a really good idea just by context clues but it’s still great. Especially because Gilgamesh is a third party at this point so you really don’t know how he is going to affect things.
So what was weaker about this half? Well, it did start to creep a little more towards the Fate/Zero edge that I’d prefer to avoid. It never gets nearly as over the top gritty as that show but it goes farther than it needs too. One brutal scene is when Illya is blinded by Gilgamesh. It’s a pretty brutal scene and one that feels really unnecessary at that point in time. I don’t see how the scene really adds to anything. Then we get an origin story where a bunch of dogs get slaughters. That felt rather extra as well and there were much better ways to show a bond. Additionally I don’t see how the character got so injured by them when his durability should be so great.
The Caster and Saber stuff could also be a bit sketchy. It doesn’t go super far or anything, but why? Caster didn’t really seem like that kind of character. Especially from her origin where she is played as more of a sympathetic character. Why did we need kid sacrifices again? She did good in putting a stop to this even if it wasn’t in the best possible way. At the very least she was way better than her master. Finally there’s the Shinji and Rin stuff by the end. The show really wanted to do its best to make sure there was no way you could like Shinji. It succeeded of course and he’s definitely one of the worst in the series. These scenes together don’t negate all the good we get in this part of the series of course, but it’s also why it can’t come close to matching the first half. The first half of Stay Night is ideal and you could just watch it over and over again.
Shirou is the main character so naturally there’s a lot to say about him. He’s definitely a very solid character. Shirou does act a bit too much like a pushover during the start of the series but at least he has a better reason for it than most. He wants to be a Hero of Justice but is ashamed at how weak he is. As it stands, Shirou currently doesn’t have the ability needed to accomplish this goal. So in a way he punishes himself by doing all of these extra stuff. He’s still getting to help other people out which is ultimately his goal and that’ll just have to do. This war gives him a chance to really test his ideals and work to not let this game corrupt him. He does an excellent job of this and is definitely a very good main character. I already wrote an editorial about why his ideals are correct so it almost goes without saying that I think he’s great. He can also fight when needed and steps up when the chips are down. The other characters give him a hard time but would be in a tough spot without him. I’m not really on board with Shirou’s romance plot though. I think that could have been whittled down some.
Saber is the main servant here or at least she works with Shirou. In the first show she is definitely the main heroine with a ton of screentime but you could argue that her role is smaller than that of both Rin and Archer this time around. She’s still a solid fighter although I consider her to be over hyped in universe. When she is first being summoned there’s a huge deal about the Saber class being the most powerful and that everyone’s in trouble. Then she proceeds to lose almost every fight she gets thrown into or when she has the upper hand she is unable to close the deal. I’ll have more to say on that in another time. Power isn’t the only factor in how likable a character is though and so I still like Saber quite a lot. Her goals and motivations are pretty strong as well. She’s an excellent tactical fighter and is always ready to jump into the action. Her moves may be considered a bit more straight forward and basic next to what some of the other Servants can do but her physical stats are still high enough where she is able to get the job done this way.
Rin gets a huge role here so it’s important that she be a good character. Fortunately that is the case and part of why episode 0 is so good. She’s just a very interesting character and prepared well for this tournament. She may have messed up a bit with the time but that’s a pretty easy slip up. One of the reasons why she is really good is the fact that she can actually fight. Unlike most masters who don’t engage in combat she can actually charge the field along with her servant. She has a lot of good back and forth discussions with Archer. I think she tends to be a little too lenient on him given some of the actions later on though. She just figured out too many things which in effect made her sympathize with Archer even more but after a while it is a stretch. Either way Rin is definitely a highlight here though and has too many good scenes to name. I’d say her biggest highlight is probably the battle with Caster.
Then we have her servant Archer. He’s a very mysterious entity from the beginning as he claims not to know who he is which makes battle tactics quickly. Also, he’s an Archer but always uses a pair of short swords. Still, this guy is pretty powerful. He gives all of the other Servants quite a tough fight as the series goes on and his role is massive next to the original. The anime perfectly nails his confident attitude and the design is extremely crisp. He gets a lot of great dialogue with almost everything he says being memorable. Again, I already talked about him a lot in my editorial so I won’t go as far into this. Additionally I can’t talk about his appearances in the second half of the show as much without going into spoilers. Needless to say, his reasons for doing what he did was interesting but given his goal I feel like he could have made a move a whole lot sooner. I suppose maybe he wanted an even playing field so he could really have a battle of the minds. It’s a reasonable guess but he went really far in doing this to the point where he was basically willing to destroy everything. Not really a proper goal for a Heroic Spirit right? The guy’s definitely not very heroic compared to some of the others. He is quite jaded and even if he ends up doing the right thing at the end of the day in a lot of cases, it’s hard to call him a hero for the most part. Of course, there can be solid debates on that well. Regardless, Archer is a very interesting character and actually rose to being my favorite in the franchise. That was Gilgamesh for a while but I’d say that Archer surpassed him with this one. A mysterious enigma like Archer who manipulated everyone is just hard to top.
Rider doesn’t get much of a role here. She got a bigger one in the original show and even there she didn’t really do much at all. I think fans of her will be a little disappointed at just how quickly it’s all over. She was never one of my favorite servants thugh so I was okay with it. Illya was always one of my favorite masters though so it was too bad that her role was reduced. In particular I missed the scene of her kidnapping Shirou. I thought that was a really ominous moment in the series and one that definitely raised the stakes. She’s still really fun here too of course. She has a lot of great dialogue and was definitely showing Rin up during their fight. Her role may not be huge but she’s as confident and smug as ever so she’s definitely still a winner as far as I’m concerned.
Berserker is one of the big servants. I always thought it was interesting that his debut is that he’s basically the strongest servant. It seems to happen 3 times in the series, first for Saber, then for him, and finally for Gilgamesh. He is quite impressive though and his Noble Phantasm is very practical. I also like the fact that he is shown to be very agile despite being a Berserker. It makes him a complete nightmare to fight and he is consistently shown to be a very tough fighter. I liked the guy and despite his tough exterior, he does feel like a real hero unlike some of the other spirits.
Lancer really stood out in this version. He stole the show quite a bit and from all of the heroic spirits he is easily the most heroic. He has a very solid honor code and is willing to resist orders to do the right thing. I also liked his ultimate attack. It may not work a whole lot due to plot hax and all but otherwise reversing cause and effect is almost impossible to stop. How do you stop something like that? He’s just a very cool character and whenever he appears you know something cool is going to happen.
Gilgamesh is also a character that just radiates power and a cool personality. I like how smug he is and as you can tell, this show is filled with a lot of fascinating characters. I just wish we could have gotten more scenes with him and Archer. I think you have the potential for a lot of great character dynamics with them because if you think about it they’re very similar. Regardless he is one of the coolest villains in the series. He doesn’t fear anyone and you never get the feeling that he’s outmatched. If he would get serious a little sooner then I think he could have caused some real damage to the others here.
I already talked a bit about Shinji earlier so no need to go back into that. He’s a pretty terrible character. Kirei on the other hand is a lot more interesting. The fact that he’s more of a moderator is an interesting role in itself. He knows a whole lot more than most of the other characters and in a tournament like this that’s a huge advantage. He will be able to have a bird’s eye view of things. The voice chosen for him is perfect as well and I always did like the claw type weapons he uses. I’d have liked to see him do more in the series. Then you have the crew at Shirou’s home like Sakura and Taiga but they don’t really get to do anything here. Sakura has some interesting scenes with Gilgamesh but they’re completely off screen. I was surprised Shirou never tries to ask about that but I suppose at this point in time he was trying to keep her out of this. Taiga’s a reasonable comedy character. Her scenes don’t amount to much by themselves but it was good to show Shirou’s normal life before everything completely changed. She’s also good at fencing which is nice to note. At least it means she can fight a bit in self defense although it won’t help against a servant.
Caster gets a huge role in this series to the point where you could call her the main villain of the series. She may not be a close quarters fighter but her magic is so versatile that she can go head to head with just about any other servant. She tends to bend the rules quite a lot, making a mockery of the whole thing. That’s a solid way to approach things for a Caster though and I liked her plan. It was really just about perfect if you ask me and she just took too many risks by the end. She got way too greedy and it cost her.
Assassin is a pretty interesting character as well. In part he doesn’t feel like an Assassin though because the guy fights with a sword at close combat and quite well. He was easily overwhelming Saber after all. He’s very honorable and really just got a bad hand here. His actions are quite limited but he will leave a solid impression on you. Definitely a really fun character. Then you have Kuzuki. He does give some power level issues here though. I am glad to see a master who can fight but he should not have been able to do anything against Saber. I can understand the magic amping up his attacks to deal damage but he should have been far too slow to land any hits. No matter how the show tried to explain it I couldn’t buy into that. He made for a solid antagonist though. His set of ideals are definitely quite different compared to the other characters and how dead inside he is was pretty interesting. He’s a villain who isn’t pretending to be anything else.
There are more characters of course but those are the big ones. So I think this is a pretty good recap of the series. Ultimately one last thing to say here is that Fate has a ton of themes. That’s part of what makes it so much fun is there’s a lot to discuss and think about here. Every character has quite a lot of motivations going on here and a full plot to themselves. When you add that to every character then you’ve got a large multi layered story. It’s hard to find a story with as much depth as Fate. Typically you see this kind of atmosphere the more you get into pretty intense territory like Attack on Titan so Fate was able to grab that atmosphere without getting mired with the usual negatives that come with it. That in itself is pretty impressive.
One quick thing to note here is that the power levels can be a bit iffy though. I already touched on the whole Kuzuki managing to take on Saber and even overwhelming her in close quarters combat. I don’t see how that’s possible. Then you have the fact that Saber is supposed to be the strongest Saber but gets beaten left and right by just about everyone. I have an editorial for that at some point as well. How is she losing to Archer near the end of the series when the guy’s been without a master for a while and is super weakened? This is sometimes an issue for various shows where all of the characters have a lot of hype so we get a lot of deadlocks. There are quite a few of those here. Still, in this show it’s not like everyone lives so things do come to an end. Some fights just aren’t as believable as others. Archer vs Shirou made sense with the realization that one character was holding back for legitimate reasons while Gilgamesh vs Shirou is more suspect.
Overall, Fate Stay Night is definitely a show I would recommend. It’s got a top tier production behind it and now I can finally understand for real why it’s titled Unlimited Budget Works by fans. The series has a ton of replay value. When you’ve got a story that already has a good plot and then throw excellent music and animation at it you know you’ve got a winner. Ultimately I still did prefer the original version ever so slightly. It does lack in animation and soundtrack compared to this one but I thought it really nailed the uncertainty and the scary atmosphere of Fate. Perhaps it is due to the animation being darker and more misty but that show’s pretty hard to top. I also thought no moment in this show was quite as powerful as the Archer vs Berserker fight from that series which I never forgot. It was a real highlight for me. Either way, whether you’re a Fate fan or not you should definitely check this out. Unlimited Blade Works definitely sets a pretty high bar and there’s a lot to talk about here.
Sophitia is a strong hand to hand fighter, but she is fighting someone who has a tremendous amount of experience. Saber also possesses the superior weapon and physically beats Sophitia in every possible way. One good hit from her Excalibur will mean the end for Sophitia. The latter is certainly a talented fighter, but it just goes to show that there is always someone stronger. Saber’s healing abilities also hurt Sophitia’s chances at making this a close battle. Saber wins.
Caster is back and before we continue the “Caster losing to randomly tough people” arc, let’s go with a quick classic that sees him on the losing side. Saber and Caster had a controversial fight in Fate/Zero that I didn’t agree with. Why was it controversial? Well, Saber was on the losing side and she was teaming up with several other fighters. I can’t say that I buy this for a second since Saber should easily be enough to Caster down. She has the edge in speed and one good hit from her Excalibur will obliterate him. Saber wins.
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.
Fate Stay Night is one of those anime that you will likely hear about during your anime adventures. Even if you have no idea what the plot is, it’s just hard not to hear about this title. I’m always up for an action anime and this one involves a tournament so that’s always a good sign. The DVD cover could have been a little more interesting, but we can’t always have an action cover I suppose.
The plot involves Shirou Emiya as he is still haunted by an event 10 years earlier, which burned away a large part of the area nearby. He lived through it and now he likes to help people out whenever he can. He thinks of himself as a hero of justice and he leads a rather ordinary life. He does have some magical abilities as he can reinforce an object to fix it or make it stronger, but that’s about it so he’s not much of a fighter. His life changes when he is selected to participate in the Grail Wars. He ends up summoning a servant by the name of Saber and together they must win or be crushed by their adversaries.
The Grail Wars consist of 7 teams. Each team gets one master and one servant. The master is the human who is selected and the servant is a legendary hero who has been brought into the present to help out. The winning team can have their greatest wish granted by the Grail once all of the other teams have been terminated. Naturally, Shirou wants to win the Grail Wars without destroying anyone. He doesn’t really have a need for the Grail, but he has to win so that a villain does not. A noble goal, but will Saber agree?
There are quite a few references to the previous Grail War throughout the show and it’s basically a subplot since it heavily involves Shirou’s past as well as Saber’s. As expected, the average humans don’t really know about the Grail Wars and are likely convinced that random fires just occur. The police don’t really appear at all and I suppose that they would ultimately be powerless, but you would think that they would make some kind of move after a big event happens at the school. Well, Shirou is the hero anyway to it’s up to him to save the day.
Shirou is the main hero of this story and he’s a decently good main character. He makes his share of mistakes, but his intentions are usually sound. He does want to be a hero so he typically tries to save as many people as possible. He’s at odds with Saber most of the time because of how their battle strategies differ. He would rather fight the enemies on his own so that Saber doesn’t have to get hurt. That’s usually not a viable option so things don’t always turn out well for him. He can be pretty selfish at times since he wants Saber to stay on Earth instead of fulfilling her wish. He ultimately makes the hero move and he doesn’t attempt to force her with a command seal so that’s good. He’s hardly what you’d consider to be a perfect main character, but he gets the job done and he’s pretty determined. He also learns how to fight, which is a major plus.
One thing about Shirou is that he’s not very smart. Usually, the main hero might be unsmart during normal situations and then become a fighting genius like Naruto, Luffy, and Goku. Shirou is like that to an extent, but one can argue that it’s more on Luffy’s level. He knows that he should never go outside without his servant because everyone wants to destroy him, but he loves taking a stroll around town and staying out until after dark. Nobody can attack him if their are witnesses (in theory) so he takes the time to go to school. The problem is that he waits until everyone else leaves because he was walking around in a daze. This leads into trouble of course. Next, Shirou goes to the park during the afternoon, but it’s in a secluded part of the city and nobody’s around….not his best move. Shirou makes these kinds of mistakes often and it can be a little tough to watch since you have to wonder why he would make these mistakes. Once or twice is acceptable, but it constantly happens to him and he definitely doesn’t seem to take the tournament seriously until the second half of the show.
Saber is another one of the main characters and she gets a lot of hype. She’s known as the strongest servant and most of the enemies are supposed to fear her. I have to say that this is one of the problems with her portrayal. She acts as if she’s a very tough fighter and the others acknowledge her to be very powerful. Despite this, she spends a good portion of the series getting knocked out or fainting from fatigue. Her worst battle was when she was losing to a human. He was amped up with magic, but it should be physically impossible for him to defeat Saber.
Now, the main reason that the show gives us for how underpowered she is…is because Shirou isn’t a great master. He doesn’t know how to give Saber any of his mana (energy) and he constantly takes hers away when he gets destroyed and his essence steals her energy to heal himself. That’s fine…..but it’s not great if you’re a Saber fan. Because of this, she’s constantly losing and we can’t even blame Shirou for wanting to keep her out of the fight. He does have a point that she is almost always injured and she can’t even use her ultimate attack without running the risk of dying from the energy drain.
Aside from this, Saber is still a good character. She’s more no nonsense than Shirou and she doesn’t mind slaying her opponents as long as it is done honorably. She wants to win the Grail to fulfill an obligation, which Shirou disapproves of. I also think that the goal isn’t that great. Saber’s invisible sword makes for a good weapon and it reminds me of Creed’s blade. Saber prefers to stay detatched from the situation so that she doesn’t get emotionally invested, but that’s pretty hard to do when you’re responsible for keeping your partner alive through a long tournament. She gets a lot of character development as the series goes on. Luckily, she stays as a good character throughout the show.
Rin is another one of the contestants in the Grail Wars and she’s allied with Archer. Unlike Shirou, Rin has always been aware of the Grail Wars and she’s been preparing for this for a long time. Evidently, she was not preparing for long enough because she ends up getting Archer instead of Saber. She’s disappointed, but she’ll devise a way to make Archer a threat. She uses more strategic means to attack her enemies and she’s willing to destroy anyone in her way.
Rin is also a solid character and without her, Shirou would have been doomed from the start. She can actually fight on her own to an extent since she can fire energy blasts and use her gems to cause powerful explosions. She does make some controversial moves like trying to destroy Shirou to put an end to his misery, but she mostly makes the heroic calls when necessary. Most of what she did at the time was to help Shirou get more ruthless and to take the tournament more seriously, but he wouldn’t have any of that.
Shinji used to be Shirou’s friend although we never really find out how this could have happened. From the beginning, Shinji is portrayed as a bully who is very insecure. He gets rejected two times by the same person, once for more than friends and once to be teammates. He was already corrupted, but this helps him accelerate into madness as he decides to destroy everyone at his school so that he can power up his servant and win the Grail Wars. He has Rider at his side and she’s the weakest servant in the tournament so it’s a little rough for him. That being said, it’s no excuse to turn into the villain and he’s forced to go up against Shirou. Shinji doesn’t have any redeemable qualities even though Shirou acts as if he’s merely made a few mistakes. Shinji started out as an unlikable character and that’s how he ended as well.
Sakura doesn’t get a huge role in the anime and she mostly represents Shirou’s normal life. She helps him out around the house and it seems like they’ve been friends for a while. She’s a nice person, but she’s also a bit of a liability for Shirou since she’ll always be in danger as long as she hangs around him. Naturally, the villains know this as well and Shirou has to go to rescue her. It’s not really her fault that she can’t fight so it’s not a negative of course and she does stand up to Rin when the latter tries to stop her from going to Shirou’s home. (It was for her own good and all….) Sakura’s role is fairly small, but she’s a good supporting character. She doesn’t have any annoying traits like the friends in the average Marvel show….meaning the current Marvel shows of course.
Kirei is the guy who’s in charge of the current Grail War. He’s there to make sure that everyone follows the rules and he seems like a decent person deep down…right? Well, it’s hard not to go any further without obvious spoilers, but he’s definitely not a great character. He believes that the end justifies the means and he basically loses it. He’s certainly not a likable character by the end and he definitely did seem shady from the start. He can put up a decent fight when necessary, but he typically relies on the element of surprise or abilities that happen to be around for him to use.
Taiga is another one of Shirou’s friends and she doesn’t really add much to the show. She’s mainly there to keep the show light and to bring in some comedy once in a while so that the show won’t be too dark. If that’s the reason for her character…then it doesn’t really do a great job. It adds some light scenes, but they aren’t very interesting and Taiga isn’t the greatest character out there. She only has one emotional moment where she tries to get Shinji to sound the alarms….but this is Shinji that we’re talking about. Taiga means well, but she’s a little overdone for comic relief. Also, eating a lot is supposed to be the main character’s job…but his friend’s!
Issei is Shiro’s most minor ally. He only appears when Shiro needs some practical data or to stop Shiro from making the wrong calls. Issei does a decent job on the latter part, but he’s not very subtle about it. He’s a moral person who tries his best to stay to the straight path of being nice, but it’s tough since a villain infiltrates his main group’s building. He’s naturally oblivious to this and he never gets to do anything that is relevant to the plot. I would say that he is my favorite character from Shirou’s friends though. We needed a guy like him to keep Shirou alert.
Illyasviel is another one of the masters and she’s pretty good as well. Her character change is one of the more drastic ones and yet…her personality isn’t really affected. She’s one of the more dangerous opponents because she definitely has no qualms about destroying all of the other combatants. She also doesn’t mind using a sneak attack to put her in a better position to win the Grail. That being said, I was still pretty shocked when she used the paralysis spell in the park. It really came out of nowhere and I had thought that there would be a truce since she had been acting like a friend. Ah well…that’s why you shouldn’t underestimate her! From the humans, I dare say that she’s the best master in the show with Shirou and Rin not being far behind.
Soichiro is the final master and he’s pretty good as well. He’s portrayed as one of those guys who will do anything if it will please his partner. His servant is Caster, but only in technical terms since they fight as if it were the opposite. He doesn’t seem like he was actually a bad guy, but he still is. Essentially, he’ll do whatever Caster tells him to do even if it means sacrificing an innocent person or destroying a student. He’s far more likable than most of the other enemies, but he’s still not someone that you can really root for in the end. I just loved his fight scenes, which helps him rise up in my books. He ended up being a little too overpowered so some help from the plot was in order for his ultimate end.
Lancer really gets the shaft in the show. He appears at the beginning of the series and he’s hinted to be one of the strongest fighters. He gets a hit on Saber and his Noble Phantasm seems to be very lethal. Unfortunately, he manages to vanish until the final pair of episodes where he pops up out of nowhere. Unfortunately, we don’t even get to see him fight as his action scene is off screen. Well…..so much for that. I still do like him and he was one of the best servants in the show. He was an antagonist, but he still had honor and he believes in fighting the right way. It’s too bad that he couldn’t appear more, but his opening fight scene was still fun to watch and I suppose that I’ll just have to make do with it. I have to say that the writers must have forgotten about him during the show.
Archer is easily one of the best characters in the show. His banter with Shirou is always fun to watch and he’s pretty rebellious. He disobeys Rin’s command to help Shirou and he never wants to help out. He only does so to protect Rin and the whole tournament seems beneath him. There was one really out of character scene where Saber defeats him in a single blow, but I think that was really to help the Saber hype. The problem is that he’s out of commission for quite a few episodes and then he just gets one more fight in the series. Ah well, he’s still an epic character to root for and I believe that the voice really helped. It definitely matched his character and the voice actor delivered the lines well. Archer’s Noble Phantasm attack is pretty good since he has a lot of weapons and he can keep on replenishing them. He easily had one of the best fights in the show.
Assassin is the main reason why Archer isn’t my favorite servant. He’s easily the best character in the series and it’s regrettable that he didn’t get a whole lot of screentime. He’s just interested in having a good fight and he gets to pit his skills against Saber’s twice. Those two fights are his only battles in the show, but they’re pretty good and show how powerful he is. He doesn’t have any big attacks and his Noble Phantasm is actually pretty straight forward compared to the others. He really relies on pure swordsmanship and that just shows how skilled he is. Many of the others others would not have been able to manage without some kind of edge. Assassin’s plot twist at the end is pretty sad so you also feel bad for the guy. At least he got to have a little fun before the end.
Gilgamesh appears during the final phase of the anime so he appears very suddenly. He easily has the best entrance in the series. No other character got to appear in such an epic fashion and he instantly proved why he was a cut above the rest. I was actually a decently big fan of him for a while, but his goals start to get more and more iffy as the show goes on. By the end, he’s basically not likable anymore, but he is definitely a powerful villain. He knows how to put up a good fight and his design instantly reminds me of Saint Seiya. This guy definitely has the appearance of a Gold Saint and he has the power to back it up as well. He is one of those characters who is still a little too powerful, but luckily the show manages to find a (semi) believable way of handling him. It was still a little dicey, but definitely more believable than some of the other fights.
Rider seems to be the weakest servant and I can definitely see why. She is not impressive in the slightest and I would definitely say that she’s my least favorite servant. She uses a chain to attack and once she stabs you with it, then it’s hard to break free. She’s very quick, but that basically rounds out her array of abilities so she’s hardly a threat to the other fighters. She actually has multiple battles with Shirou, which is something that could not happen with most of the others. Shirou and Lancer’s battle had an abrupt end and likewise with Shirou’s one second battle against Gilgamesh. Real servants should be able to take down a human in an instant and that didn’t happen with Rider. I definitely couldn’t wait until she was defeated so that we could move on to a more interesting fighter. To her defense, Rider does have an ultimate attack, but it’s more like she’s just using someone who actually has power so it’s barely worth mentioning.
Caster uses magic to fight her battles since she’s not much of a physical fighter. This is pretty unique for a servant so she makes sure to have others do her bidding. She amps up their abilities so I wonder why she cannot do the same thing to herself. Either way, she’s still more than a match for Rider, which is also a little embarrassing for the latter. She had an interesting backstory and one would almost think that she was not completely evil until you remember her present actions. She was much better than Rider, but not nearly as cool as some of the other servants. There just doesn’t seem to be any way to sympathize with her and I have a feeling that getting the grail using a cheap trick like the one that she attempted would backfire in some way.
Berserker is….the strongest servant! Yes, I already said that Saber got all of the hype, but Berserker got all of the feats. Personally, I would choose Assassin to defeat Berserker in a fair fight, but everyone basically starts to admit that he was the best one. (Of course, that’s before Gilgamesh stepped in) He relies on brute strength, but his special ability is formidable since defeating him once is not enough. What makes me skeptical is that he never appears to be very fast. It should be a simple matter for some of the fighters to just keep on outspeeding him until they finally take him down for the count. Berserker has absolutely no character so I can’t say that I’m a fan of him. He’s not really interesting and he’s really just there as an obstacle for the heroes. He’s a legitimate threat as a villain, but he could have been a much better character. (Talking would be a good start)
I have to say that Fate Stay Night is a great anime to watch at night. There’s always some tension in the show and most of the episodes conveniently take place during the night time. Even if it’s day time, it’s always cloudy so the sun never really comes out. You can never let your guard down because everyone is out to destroy Shirou. The series just has a scary vibe to it and it can feel like a horror show at times. Only in the atmosphere luckily as horror doesn’t have the greatest track record in any form of media. It’s definitely a change of pace from the average anime and the darkness isn’t too overblown.
Now, one part of the show that I really didn’t like was when Shirou had to give Saber some of his power. To do this, it involved a CGI dragon which was all right, but the real world things that were happening were pretty awful. It makes Rin and Shirou look terrible as well and I can safely say that it was a sad moment to be a fan of either of them. It’s just one scene and it’s luckily never really mentioned again, but it’s still hard to forget. It’s also hard to call Shirou a hero after that since he was told not to do it by Saber. Shirou just kind of ignored that. I mostly just block the scene out, which is why the sections for Shirou and Rin are still positive. It’s just one of those moments that comes out of nowhere and the writers must have just panicked. It was probably the only really big wince worthy scene in the show.
That being said, the show does unfortunately have some fanservice. Not a whole lot of it luckily, but there are two major scenes with Saber that come to mind. The generic hotsprings/bath scene is in just about everything nowadays and these two are used to show how Saber’s personality has changed from the beginning to the end. There are many better ways that they could have done this. Compared to other shows like Index and Sword Art Online, it’s definitely not bad, but it could be better. If nothing else, Attack on Titan did get one thing right and that was the fact that it basically had no fanservice in the entire show.
Despite the dark tone of the show, Fate Stay Night isn’t really that violent. The only big scene that you would want to be on the lookout for is when Rider first uses her final attack. Using it involves stabbing herself in the neck for whatever reason and we get a big Bleach spray. A few characters basically lose their arm or get critically injured, which looks a little more violent thanks to the really high budget for those scenes (Like Index) but it’s not that bad. If you’ve seen Bleach, then this should be okay and the Rider scene is the only one that you may watch out for. The Church’s underground is one scene that’s pretty disturbing since we see a lot of parts so many people didn’t quite make it. Luckily, they don’t go into detail so I like to think that they met their end quickly.
Luckily, those are only a handful of scenes and they don’t really derail the show. Some parts may be unnecessary, but no show can be truly perfect. (Not even Yugioh GX) I would have liked some more city battles because anime in general seem to avoid them. There is only one of them in the show and that’s when Saber fights Rider on top of a sky scraper. I don’t care for Rider and her battles aren’t the most entertaining, but I did enjoy the setting for the battle and I’ll never get tired of city fights.
The animation for the show was only all right at first. It actually looked a lot older than I had been expecting and the fights with Saber were very stiff. The way that they drew her attire made it look like more of a dress made out of steel than something made for combat. Because of this, she could barely move in the fights. Luckily, the animation got way better for the second half of the show. It’s hard to say when it got better, but definitely after the first fight with Berserker. I’d say that the Archer vs Berserker fight was when the animation began to shine and it didn’t really look back from there. All of the final fights are pretty great and the animation quickly rose to be top tier in quality.
The fights are nice and varied throughout the show. Technically, most of them use swords or similar weapons to fight, but their personalities and Noble Phantasms are different enough to make them all exciting. At it’s best, the show definitely contains some of the best fights that you’ll see in anime and the speed is comparable to Bleach and Sword Art Online with how fast they’re swinging their swords. My favorite fight is actually Soichiro against the heroes (Round 1) since it was fun to see how a hand to hand fighter would fare against them. Let’s just say that I have my answer!
Fate Stay Night doesn’t disappoint with the soundtrack either. Most of the themes used in the episodes are opera themed and they fit the dark atmosphere perfectly. The battles all have an epic feeling to them and even the to be continued music is pretty catchy as well as the preview music. I didn’t care for the first theme song at all and it likely helped the first half to not be quite as exciting as the latter episodes. Luckily, the second theme song is pretty great and I would say that it’s easily one of the best anime openings. The music is definitely 5 star material and there aren’t many anime that can match it in the end.
Overall, Fate Stay Night is a pretty solid anime and it can hold up against the current mainstream titles like Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan. (Slaying Titan and Completing its victory against SAO) The cast of characters is pretty large and while some of them may be bland or unlikable, there are quite a few of good characters in the mix. The soundtrack and animation are pretty good and help to make the show that much more enjoyable. I highly recommend this show to action fans. The plot is also pretty deep and the dialogue is interesting so you should also enjoy it for the story if you don’t care for action. My only regret is that Archer didn’t get to fight Gilgamesh.
Senor Pink may act tough, but he would be quickly overwhelmed by Saber’s incredible sword skills. It wouldn’t take her very long to defeat such an opponent so this is basically the end of the road for him. Pink just doesn’t have any attacks at his disposal that would be quick enough to hit Saber. Saber wins.
Superman is very powerful so this will likely be a controversial match, but it’s been a while since I had one of those. Saber’s noble phantasm has enough power to deal major damage to the Man of Steel and her speed is enough so that she will be able to keep up with him. Superman may be able to eradicate solar systems and he is faster than light, but Saber has her sword skills and I believe that Excalibur could definitely pierce through Superman’s defenses. Saber’s short range movement speed is incredible and she would be able to dodge Superman as his combat speed isn’t quite up to par. After a few solid hits, Saber would claim victory. Saber wins.
Saber is technically a power swordswoman, but I can’t say that she looked too good in the original Fate Stay Night anime. Bass is definitely faster and her attack power isn’t high enough to get through his shields. Bass essentially has unlimited power and it would only take a few moments for it to completely overwhelm Saber. Bass wins.