First Impressions – Fate/Zero

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A disclaimer: I don’t have much background with Fate/Zero.  I have no familiarity with the source material and apart from a brief flirtation with the anime adaptation of Fate/stay night – long enough to know it didn’t make much of an impression – I have no foreknowledge of the material whatsoever.

So, given, that, I might be offering a little different perspective on the anime than some.  I won’t be able to say how it compares to its predecessor, or how good a job it’s doing capturing the essence of the source material.  I might not even be able to fully understand elements of the plot that will be obvious to others.  But I think that’s a good acid test – can this series work for someone with no experience with the material?  I’m watching for several reasons, one of which being that this was sold to me as a series that could be enjoyed without watching the prior one (as a prequel, that would make sense).  It’s Urobuchi Gen, which merits respect, and it comes to us from respected studio ufotable.  It also doesn’t hurt as a blogger that it was probably the most anticipated series of the Fall season.  So how does it stack up after one double-episode?

Pretty darn good, I’d have to say.  My initial impression is the visual one – this is a damn fine series to look at.  ufotable is certainly a good studio, but it’s clear they’ve spent a lot on this premiere.  The backgrounds – mansions in the snow, British classrooms, cathedral interiors – are gorgeous, and the animation is smooth and lifelike.  There’s a sense of style to Aoki Ei’s direction, too – I especially enjoyed the scene where Kirei (Nakata Jouji) met with his father Risei (Hirose Masashi) and Tohsaka Tokiomi (Hayami Sho) and the two of them circled him during the entire conversation.  I don’t know if there was a deeper meaning to that, but it was certainly striking.  Aoki has already directed one of my favorites of 2010, Hourou Musuko, so it would seen Fate/Zero is in good hands.

My concern, quite frankly, was that the premiere was going to be lost in an avalanche of names and faces it would take me weeks to get straight.  And make no mistake, it was a very dialogue-heavy episode full of exposition – but then, I don’t suppose it could be otherwise if the hope was to give noobs like me any long-term chance.  But because the editing was tight and the dialogue sharp, most of what I saw made sense and most of the characters were distinct enough to stand out in my memory (at least until I wade through a dozen more premières this week).  It’s not a hugely original premise – seven magi summoned every 60 years to do battle over what sounds like a very good and still powerful copy of the Holy Grail.  Frankly, there’s been enough Grail fiction to satisfy ten lifetimes between movies, anime and the History Channel – but this is an interesting presentation, especially as it seems that the focus will be on the character stories.

In some ways, the series reminded me of Darker Than Black.  it has the same feeling of substance and solidity, the same rock-solid production values, even similar-looking character designs.  In fact even the story has a bit of a similar feel to me, and there’s the same sense of emotional disconnect running through most of the major cast.  Emiya Kiritsugu (Koyama Rikiya) the “Magus Killer” has a bit of a Hei quality to him, but that’s just a first impression.  I’ll be very interested to see what happens now that the familiars are being summoned – will this take on the air of a combat game, or will it continue to be a character-driven drama that seems to be on the depressing side?  With Urobuchi writing that seems to be a pretty good bet.  Based on one episode, I’m certainly more than interested enough to stick around for a while at least.  This was  a high-quality production in all respects and that counts for a lot.

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OP: “”oath sign” by LiSA

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12 comments

  1. F

    Just as a note, the ED this episode was actually the OP, oath sign by LiSA

    Anyway, it will be interesting to hear your perspective on the show, with minimal knowledge of the source material. Especially considering how many things that were major revelations in the game being laid out plainly from the very beginning.

  2. Z

    Well, you can always rewatch the first episode if you are forgetful of people. But other then being a lot to take in perhaps so do I see no problem with seeing the series without any foreknowledge. The main strength of the original is the internal consistency, so there is not much problem to jump into it in the middle even.

  3. S

    Leave it to Urobuchi Gen to make an interesting spin on things. It took me a very long time before I had the appetiate to stomach Fate/Stay Night so I'm pleasantly surprise at how good the premiere of Fate/Zero is. It's not just the superb production valus that stands out, I thought the characters were very much more engaging this time too. It's probably still too early to judge, but I'm expecting great things from Fate/Zero.

  4. A

    I will watch this one, not because of the hype, but because of you, Enzo. (Well, kind of.. I mean if someone who has no in depth prior knowledge of the franchise could enjoy the first episode of Fate Zero like this, why could I not?) 🙂

    Izumi

  5. LOl @ Izumi…

    It was very engaging, no question – just a well-produced and well-written episode. If they're all like this, I'll stay the course.

  6. N

    I have 0 doubt that next 23 Sundays will be freaking awesome B-)

  7. d

    I'm still lost with the names. I thought the first 3 people were the same guys. They're blank faces, dark eyes, black wavy hair, and low voices AND all their names starting with a K made me utterly confused. I had to rematch many times. And the Kirei and Tokimoki scene was weird as their voices sounded alike.
    Thought the first snake skin shed would mean the Devil. Apparently not.
    Don't really like the first episode, fluid animation not withstanding, not a single sword was swung. For a 2 episode premier I am disappointed with the lack of action.

  8. K

    @deafvader
    This Episode is like that to "set the rules of the game" We'll have some real action probabliy in ep 3, but it is worth the wait.
    The names are important because they link you to FSN right from the start, since you and Enzo didn't started with FSN it will be only the inconvenience that you'll have to start with asumptions untill the characters time to shine comes.

  9. All the deep voices did throw me a bit, TBH, but for "K" names, after KamiDolls I'm ready for anything.

    I really wasn't confused by the end – all of the characters were distinct and layered enough that I could separate them in my mind.

  10. d

    Agreed, at the end I was not confused. Cause I replayed the K people's intro at least 3 times each.
    Seriously what is with all the people wearing black???!

  11. b

    You found the circling around Kirei interesting, I found it to be a bit tedious and unnecessary 😛
    I guess what I could make out of it is that those two were circling around their very special pawn like birds of prey. Or something like that.

    Looking forward to your input in this as someone watching this without knowledge of the previous works. I'm watching this as one who has knowledge of the source materials in Type-Moon(LN, VN, anime, manga). All I can say is that you're in for an excellent ride based on the quality of this first episode, which did not disappoint me.
    I've been waiting for this for a year now and my body is so ready for this. Like never before 😀

    Oh and Irisviel is <3.
    And I approve very much of the OP song especially the animation.

  12. I did like it, yeah – I like interesting and unusual staging (as long as the director doesn't fall in love with it) and sending messages non-verbally. Now, if they did it every week, I'm sure I'd get sick of it pretty quickly!

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