Fate/Zero – 02

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What an impressive production is Fate/Zero, with it’s grand scope and gorgeous animation.  It’s surely going to be one of the most discussed series of the year, and deservedly so, though I still find myself a bit overwhelmed trying to keep everyone and everything straight in my head.

I wonder, is the general trend of the series going to be to following two or three teams of Magi/Sprit per episode?  There are a lot of characters here, and it won’t be easy to do them all justice.  It looks as if this is going to be a series without a true main character, relying instead on a real ensemble cast to drive the action and development.  But that can be just fine, but it does present its own set of challenges to a writing team, not least of which are keeping things from getting too confusing for new viewers as well as ensuring that all those characters are fully fleshed-out despite reduced screen time.  Based on last week I would have guessed that Kiritsugu and Kirei to be the leads, but they were mostly absent this week.

Instead, the focus fell on a few of the other teams, starting with the righteously indignant student Waver (Namikawa Daisuke), who’s just summoned the spirit Rider (Ohtsuka Akio) who appears to be Iskandar, better known in the West as Alexander the great.  He and Waver certainly make the odd pair, both physically and psychologically.  One trend I see emerging clearly here is that this show is going to be a study of the motivations of the various teams to find the grail, contrasting between magi but also between magi and spirit.  Alexander wants conquest, and if the Grail can serve that, fine – whereas Waver simply wants his social superiors to stop treating him like dirt (a sentiment Alexander rightly disdains).  It’s pretty hard to tell who the master is in this arrangement.

While we’d briefly met these two last week, we might an entirely new pair that look like they might be the villains of the piece.  The human is Uryuu Ryunosuke (Ishida Akira) and his spirit – summoned seemingly at random – is Caster (Tsuruoka Satoshi).  Uryuu is a common serial killer with an interest in the occult who apparently has no intention of becoming one of the seven magi in the Grail War, merely to use his victims blood to try and summon a demon.  It’s only when Caster appears that the mark appears on Uryuu’s hand.  Caster calls himself Bluebeard, but I believe he’s supposed to be the notorious medieval pedophile murderer Gilles de Rais, who was known to have an interest in the occult (Caster speaks of Cthulhu Gods) and used that nickname, and was kind of an early Alestair Crowley with a special interest in torturing, raping and murdering children.  This one is a pretty vile pair, and the scene where Bluebeard murders the small boy whom Uryuu had captured and orgiastically revels in his terror and death throes is one of the most chilling you’ll see in anime.  Far more so, I might add, then if it had relied on fountains and blood and gruesome guro like a certain horrendous CLAMP show of recent note.

With Kiritsugu teamed up with Saber (Kawasumi Ayako) we have another famous historical figure in King Arthur – except Arthur was apparently a she.  This pair seems to be the “good guys”, or at least as close as this series is going to have to a real protagonist team.  But we also have Kariya, who subjected himself to terrible torture at the hands of his father to spare the child Sakura the same fate.  The partnership between Kotomine Kirei and Tohsaka Tokiomi appears to have been a sham, as Kotmine sent his spirit Assassin (Abe Sachie) to kill Tohsaka – with a complete lack of success, I might add, as Tohsaka’s spirit Archer (Seki Tomokazu) – who’s apparently Gilgamesh – made short work of him.  Is Assassin actually dead – if a spirit is ever alive at all?  I have no idea, but if so, that was amazingly quick work to die in the second episode.

This is fascinating stuff, though I’m still admiring it more than truly feeling it emotionally for now – there’s just so much to take in, and I’m having to think too hard to completely lose myself in the show.  That’s not a criticism – this is a big story and there’s no way it wouldn’t take a few eps for a new viewer to get it all straight.  I can’t knock anything about the series so far – production-wise it’s flawless, with great visuals and a terrific cast.  The sense is that Urobuchi has created a pretty powerful and epic story here, somewhat reminding me of a modern dark fantasy with a sort of “Game of Thrones” feel to it.  With GoT, it was also mostly admiration for me in the first few episodes – and then the emotional buy-in kicked in once all the facts were established, and the show became something great.  Hopefully Fate/Zero will follow that same path for me.

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ED: “MEMORIA” (メモリア) by Aoi Eir

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21 comments

  1. T

    You know, me and some friends were speculating about the whole ordeal with Assassin this episode, and maybe the attempted assasination was done on purpose.

    Back in the first episode, Kirei and Tokiomi did mention how they need to keep up the facade of being enemies, while actually being allies. A confrontation like the one in this episode sounds like a good way to "pretend" to fight each other.

    If that's the case, the reason why Kirei said that "archer is not to be feared" is because it's been arranged so that Archer does NOT kill Assassin. Or at least, that's our theory as of now. I doubt they killed him off that quickly… >.>;

  2. It's an interesting notion that hadn't occurred to me. It's hard enough to keep up with the text of all that's going on here, never mind the subtext!

  3. S

    Wow, Fate/Zero is really good. Guilty Crown would need to be exceptional to top this one.
    I find it hard to believe this is a prequel to FSN. Not only that the characters have much bigger stakes in the game, the entire setting feels very much more intense and darker as well. It seems more like a re-imgining of the whole Holy Grail War of the Fate franchise than a simple prequel.

  4. b

    The switching of the focus to each of the masters is one thing I like of the novels. Even though the ones who've seen FSN first before F/Z know how this will end and who survives, you can't help but root for certain masters to win this with the amount of development they got.

    About Caster, this is just the start and there's more where that came from so be prepared. They're very 'creative' in their art.

    And Divine's post on RC is a little spot-on and spoilerish about things to come. I suggest to avoid it if you fear spoilers.

  5. Too late for me on the RC post, but yeah, it's a bit more than some new viewers (like me) may want to know this early.

  6. b

    Something to add.
    The Tohsaka mansion is already under watch by the other Masters using familiars. The war is a battle of information so surveillance by familiars is used. And Tohsaka's base is built openly so it's natural to send familiars there. In the novels Assassin said that he felt like being watched by four pairs of eyes while infiltrating. It was left out here.

  7. A

    I agree with your GoT comment. Whenever a show exhibits a serious effort to tell stories the right way.. it's just exciting.

  8. N

    @Seishun Otoko: Are you speaking about the Anime or VN? The Visual Novel itself tended to be quite dark, especially in the third Haven's Feel route.

  9. M

    Ahhh Games of Thrones. The HBO Series made me read the books, and it was quite better (less porn at least). It`s a shame that the series went bad after the 5 year time skip was removed, and book 4 and 5 are quite weak without Assasin!Arya, Caster!Bran, and Berserker!Rick.

    About F/Z, it is delivering well, and taking shortcuts here and there, but it doesn`t feel as they are saving money.

    Love the Caster and Rider teams, since they look like the weakest teams (don`t have an important house supporting them) but I can feel the master/servant relation is way better than the other teams. XD

  10. @Maverick – careful with the GoT spoilers. Some of us are reading the books, so don't spoil anything beyond what's been covered on the website – the first novel. 😉

    @Belatkuro – I'm kind of not thrilled to hear that about Caster TBH. While the scene in this ep was wickedly effective, I'm not sure I'd enjoy seeing a psychotic terrorize and murder little boys every episode. I mean – I know John Wayne Gacy existed and he was a terrible man, but I wouldn't want to watch a 25-episode TV series detailing his crimes. Bluebeard was a demon, but if he shows off his handiwork every episode that might get a little soul-deflating.

  11. b

    Not saying that we'll get a slaughter of the week ala Blood C. Just saying that Caster will do these things of this caliber more later so prepare your minds for it. It's not pretty.
    Then again, the ones on Blood C werent pretty too.

  12. d

    Illya VS Rin
    Who is cuter??

  13. A

    Really glad this anime seems to know what its doing. They did Casters intro perfectly. I can tell, because that scene was horrible, just as disturbing as when i read it in the novels. With those two in this war there will only be a lot more death, blood and horror. I really love to hate those two (though they do have a strange entertainment value at the same time) and i really hope someone kills them soon. Poor Assassin really got bad luck with Gil there, and he looked so cool sneaking into the mansion. Reminded me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtK2qyQJcOc&feature=related

    Now that ive talked about all the other minor stuff this episode, allow me to take a moment to say HELL YEAH RIDER!!! ALL HAIL THE KING OF CONQUERORS! XD 🙂 Alexander is so much fun, badass, and all around cool. I love how he is such a bro. Out of all the groups in Fate Zero, him and Waver are definitely my favorite. Naturally i still wont say anything spoiley, but i really cannot wait to see more of them. Their interactions are great, battles are great, everything about them really works for me. Thats all i can say with us only at episode two.

  14. E

    I love in depth series like this one! Though like you Enzo I had trouble getting everything straight. I think I rewound Ep.1 a good fifteen times before I got all the characters/names/timelines in order.

    I can honestly say though, that in Ep.2 that scene with the little boy was THE most disturbing thing I've ever seen in an anime. I've watched plenty of overdone gore and horror, but this was just ATROCIOUS. That's not a critical comment either mind you, it was just that intense for me. I think because it was less shock factor and so much more cerebral … the way he so calmly coaxed a terrified child into false security, the fact that the other guy (can't recall his name) had murdered his parents and kept the boy alive just to torture him … It was pure unapologetic evil. Chilled to the bone fails to even describe how I felt watching that pair/scene … which makes me feel like this anime is going to really bring the intensity once it gets into its stride.

    It's strange to not have the obvious "good guy" around, but it makes the story more interesting. Even though Kiritsugu seems to have the purest motive for the grail, he's got some duplicity going on in the fact that he's killed countless innocent ppl while assassinating his targets in the past. But that contradiction is intriguing, makes me want to know more about his circumstances … I'm not really understanding or enjoying the fact that King Arthur is randomly a chick, -sighs- but that's just me. I suppose they needed some female presence among the heroes.

    All in all I can't WAIT for next week! And PS, was there a series that preceded this, or just novels?

  15. S

    @ Nayrael
    I've only seen the anime so that's interesting to know 🙂

  16. yw, ELX, and thanks for commenting.

    It was a beautifully done scene – such a contrast to the clumsy gore in Blood-C. But I hope scenes that disturbing are a rare occurrence and not a common one – they'll be more effective that way in any case.

  17. K

    @ELX

    She is a girl because the main character's servant of FSN had to be a girl strong in order to "get her".

    And many people originaly guessed she was Joan D' Arc, but no, she is the King Arthur Him/herself.

  18. K

    Enzo, this caster was summoned because when a master summons an heroic spirit and there is no relic or memento, the grial choses the most compatible spirit to the person that is summoning; someone with similar goals, ideas and dreams. It is explained in the FSN VN (not that important).
    In short it was not a random encounter

    The main character in Fate / Zero is the war itself, thats why we see all the perspectives instead of following an specific group. And it will be like that if they remain fatefull to the source, the most likely scenario.

  19. Kob, I never thought it was random – but it is interesting to see seeming opposites like Rider and Waver paired up.

  20. d

    @kob: you sure about that? it could be there insane man comes from a line of magic users (demonic magic or otherwise). For all you know the book he was carrying around was the Blue Beard's magic book; thus being the catalyst.
    The question is that even though, he has the artifact and a circle of magic, he did not do any summing chant. did he? his chant was not the standard Servant summon spell.

  21. K

    @deafvader
    I am, I have also reed the LN, the book is indeed from his family, but it has nothing to do with caster.
    Caster has a spell book but it has nothing to do with the other.
    It is explained in greatrher deteil in the LN, but it isnt an important point in the story, because they didn't animated that.
    All this means that he indeed has magic circuits, in other words, the book shows that he had potencial to become a mage but never knew or used that power.
    In Fate / Zero most masters had a relic of the specific Spirit they wanted, in fact all but caster's. The thing is more relevant in FSN because in that war there were more people that got in the war not knowing what it was about beforehand and ended up summoning the heroic spirits by accident or without care of who the Spirit would be. The main character (Shiro)for example, when he summoned Saber.

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