Fate/Zero – 14

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Come on now, ufotable – that was just showing off.

OP: “to the beginning” by Kalafina

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I’m not really sure why that season break was necessary, because Fate/Zero – perhaps more than any show with such a pause – made no attempt to couch it in terms of a true season transition.  Episode 13 ended, ep 14 began – it’s basically one continuous airing with a 13-week hiatus.  Of course, now that I’ve seen the premiere maybe it was a chance for everyone on staff to eat cookies and drink a lot of juice, because I’m guessing they sold a lot of blood to pay for all the flash that went into this episode.  But then, with as many $498.98 (!!) Blu-ray box sets as they sold, maybe that wasn’t a problem.

If you add up all the elements that make up a superb series – writing, acting, production values, soundtrack – I think F/Z was probably the most impressive series of 2011 along with Steins;Gate.  And episodes tended to fall into two main buckets – either fascinating but somewhat esoteric gab-fests, or balls-to-the-wall action thrillers.  Well, this opener definitely falls into that second category.  We knew ufotable was superb at big and grand, but this was some of the most impressive animation I’ve seen since Seirei no Moribito.  The CGI was superb and superbly integrated, the shot composition by ace director Aoki Ei was spot-on, and the battle choreography, well – thrilling.

Of course the downside of all that is that sometimes those flash eps tended to lack the authenticity and emotional power of their quieter counterparts, and I think Urobuchi Gen (one of the very best writers in anime today, any genre) is on top of his game when dealing with the psychological dark side of the human animal.   Fortunately while the bulk of the episode was devoted to the Godzilla-style battle with Caster (with a full-on wink at the genre) there were a couple of strong dialogue-driven scenes that balanced it out.  As the honor-driven servants were doing battle with Caster as Ryuunosuke laughed hysterically from the shore, Gilgamesh/Archer was his usual haughty self, continually refusing Tokiomi’s entreaties to engage the beast and forcing his master to consider using his precious command seal, as two SDF jets ineffectually join the fray.

What was fascinating to me about this is Tokiomi’s reasoning – like everything else in his world, this is about propriety and appearances.  He doesn’t really care about the innocent lives at risk – he (and his co-conspirator Risei) only care that the rabble will see what they shouldn’t and put the Grail War at risk.  It’s no wonder Archer finds him so boring, and that’s coming from a guy who finds almost everything boring.  Archer does get some entertainment when Berserker shows up, however, and commandeers the surviving SDF jet (the other having been eaten by Caster) and turns it into an attack on Archer.  The aerial ballet between the berserker jet and Archer’s UFO throne was some of the best (mostly hand-drawn) action animation you’ll see this year, and I was as entertained as Gilgamesh was.

For me, though, the best part of the episode was what was taking place on the ground, where the two dogfighting servants’ masters had their long-awaited meeting.  Kariya was the mostly-missing piece of the first cour, and this moment has been a long time coming.  He’s a tragic figure, being driven by hate and a thirst for revenge – but compassion, too – to allow himself to be turned into a grotesque freak to try and spare Sakura.  His hatred for Tokiomi knows no bounds, and despite the links between them these two men truly seem to represent the polar opposites of the Grail masters – as indeed their servants do for their own fraternity.  It’s interesting to watch Urobuchi-sensei continue to subtly show us how the masters and servants are perfectly matched.

I confess I don’t quite understand why no one just offed Ryuunosuke in the first place, since Caster was simply regenerating himself after every attack, but for all that it was certainly a joy to watch him die – and his demise was a classic Urobuchi scene, complete with a little pathos and a bullet to the head.  Problem is that Caster can apparently keep his physical form for a while even after his master dies, and if he makes it to shore and starts feeding, do so permanently (which no one wants).  Since the only two servants who have a noble phantasm that can kill Caster in one blow (no regeneration) are Gil and Saber we have a problem – as Gil won’t dirty his hands, and Saber’s phantasm is still disabled by Lancer’s curse.  Kiritsugu (you know the Caster thing is serious if he actually gets involved) hints that Lancer’s chivalry is the key to releasing Saber’s power, but doesn’t tell us how (and please don’t using the comments, either – we’ll find out next week and that’s how I want it).

So we have a nice cliffhanger there – does Lancer have to die for Saber’s noble phantasm to be freed of the curse?  Can he do so voluntarily if he chooses, or if his master does?  Even so, that’s a mess in and of itself, with Kayneth apparently out and Sola having usurped his place in the Grail War, and her nowhere to be found at the moment.  If you were a fan of S1 (I really should say the first cour) I can’t imagine you were dissatisfied with this episode, as it had pretty much everything that made Fate/Zero the monster hit it was.  I hope the ratio of bombast to character drama is a little more balanced in the remaining 13 episodes, but if they were trying to get out attention after this little break, ufotable, Urobuchi and Aoki-sensei certainly succeeded.

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ED: “Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau” (空は高く風は歌う; “Up on the Sky, the Wind Sings”) by Haruna Luna

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  1. d

    Felt this episode was slightly toned down. The couple of months might have dispersed the adrenaline.

    This is like LotR only without the buildup at the start of the second movie.

    As to Lancer, my opinion is that since the monster is gonna start killing civilians, his chivalry would force him to release Arthur from the curse. The preview has lancer say "i leave it to you saber."…. Whether he dies? A bit too early in the season… unless you count this as a direct continuation and not a new season, than ya,he could die

  2. x

    Kiritsugu: "I've shot the boy we believed to be Caster's Master. It appears we were right".

    WTF dude. Emiya is fucking insane.

  3. d

    Alright, you ARE right, he's a bit crazy, but c'mon… it was at the least a 60% chance to hit the right target. People might not know it, but if you activate magic circuits, your body heat heavily increases. And since Uryu was the only one at the ground Kiritsugu found with his heat sensor and not Waver/Iri…

    Btw, he didn't find Kariya and Tokiomi, since they were on a blind spot.

    Anyway, I can't wait to hear EX- KAIBA- ah crap…- CALIBUR and Kajiura's arrangement of "The Sword of Promised Victory".

  4. b

    Got beaten to it 🙁
    To repeat it, Kiritsugu trained himself to see the change in body heat of a magus using his Magic Circuits. It's a slight change in temperature and really hard to see but he managed to train himself.
    And even though Ryuunosuke isn't a full fledged magus, his body is still pumping out prana to support Caster so he's using his Circuits and has a different heat signature in the scope. It was a 60% chance that it was the Master according to Kiritsugu because any person using his Circuits and within the vicinity could be a Master. So BAM! Headshot.

    And Gil's flying UFO is called Vimana. Google it for the history details.
    That aerial battle was so much win. Really wonder why Gil doesn't fall off his throne. He has too much swag I guess.

    And next episode should be even more awesome. The only anti-fortress NP in the war is about to be unleashed.
    Can't wait for it.

    OP is pretty win with Kalafina's song and lots of Kiritsugu. And ED makes me so sad to see the couple together in those moments.

  5. T

    That's because you are viewing it with hindsight and three months' worth of distance from Season I.

    For me, it's not toned down, if anything, studio ufotable's animation and audio made it a bit better than the novel, especially the dogfight between the BF-15 (Berserker's F-15) and the Vimana of Gilgamesh, and Kariya's confrontatation with Tokiomi.

    And there was no need for buildup, since we already knew what was happening at the end of episode 13. Episode 14 was meant to put the viewer back into the thick of the action by resuming the fight against Caster's Eldritch Abomination in full swing. If ufotable resorted to build-up the tension, a good portion of the episode might have been wasted.

  6. A

    There was a small added scene in the extended version of episode 13 that explained Sola's absence. Basically Lancer told her not to come to the battle with him because she has no means of protecting herself.

  7. S

    Thanks for the speedy review, Enzo 😉
    It's been 10 hours since I saw F/Z 14 and I must say I'm still awestruck. This episode completely blew me away and as you said, it's not just the action scenes that were impressive, the provocative conversation between Tokiomi/Kariya and Kiritsugu/Maiya kept me eyes glued to the screen. As flawed as Tokiomi's argument was from a muggle's pov, it sort of make sense from his elitist standpoint. Also, I believe no one really knows who Caster's master is in the first place which is why it took them quite some time to off that crazy bastard. You gotta remember Kiritsugu's always planning two steps ahead so we're not even sure what he's up to. Maiya hinted there's a secondary target they intend to eliminate and for all we know, it could be anyone. Next episode couldn't come sonner!

  8. What really sets Urobuchi apart is that he can go big and he can go small, almost equally well (he's a little better at small, but great at both). Very few writers can do that.

  9. A

    Some beautiful moments still tome come. Can't wait!

  10. J

    You just gotta love Gilgamesh's toys, well can't be a real BAMF w/o any shinny ride that shoot lazor.
    Love the powerful scene between Kariya vs Tokiomi. Lol Kariya calls Tokiomi a monster, I know dude you want to kill him but, calm down , don't crawl and stop puking worms. XD
    My Epic Sunday is back I guess.

  11. H

    Speculating here, I doubt Lancer is going to die next episode because the power struggle between Kayneth and Sola happened just too recently (erm, in-series time) for that not to get played up a bit more before Lancer is (presumably) offed before the end. Maybe if Lancer gives up his noble phanantasm for Saber's sake that will do it, that sounds a bit like chivalry for me, but I bet the solution won't be as simple as a bullet to the head.

  12. Z

    What I find most impressive in a way is how true they are to the FSN art style. Not only does it look awesome, but you could watch this episode and recognise it as part of the FSN just from the style and colouring if things.

  13. The formula for this is really absurdly simple. Great scenario and dialogue from Gen, great production values from ufotable. What's so hard about this anime thing, again?

  14. F

    $498.98 (!!)

    Oh come on Enzo. You've been in this long enough to know that that is pretty much exactly what 7 volumes would have cost anyway. Yes, its a big number, but its also the same MSRP as basically any other 1 cour anime.

  15. H

    Actually, seven volumes would almost definitely have been more expensive.

    The Fate/Zero set is the exact same price as AnoNatsu and 50 yen more than Symphogear, which is as cheap as one cour shows get, except Fate/Zero has an additional episode or two of content.

    It is on the high end for a two cour show, but that's the whole point of making it split-cour. And its cheaper than other split-cour shows too. Horizon is 8,000 yen more, and that's just for the first season.

  16. A

    wait, what did you mean by you didn't understand why the 3 month break was necessary? It's not monetary problems, it was to up the production quality wasn't it? especially if they're drawing like 24786574643 frames per second…

    was hoping you would blog this on RC but didnt realize you had your own site, so I shall come here to check out your summaries and your other posts 😀

  17. Welcome. I never thought (or suggested) that it was money problems, but I think there's plenty of examples of two-cour series with fantastic animation (Seirei no Moiribito, Ghost Hound, TTGL, ad nauseum) so i don't necessarily think a season break is necessary for top animation quality.

  18. B

    I can't believe how much Japanese people are willing to pay for Blu-Rays. I wouldn't pay half that for 1 season of my favorite show of all time, yet they happily gobble it up. Holy shit it must be nice to have so much disposable income that you can just blow 500 bucks on a few Blu-Rays.

    Oh yeah great episode. Right from the beginning I was yelling at my screen "WOULD SOMEBODY JUST KILL THE MASTER ALREADY?!" Pretty obvious that's where they were going with it, it's the obvious tactical choice in that situation.

  19. Z

    Anime costs quite a lot in Japan, by contrast so is Manga much cheaper then comics in the US. In the end so do they ask the prices that people are willing to pay.

  20. A

    FYI That's not a picture of Sakura, that's a picture of Rin.

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