Short and sweet.
My review, that is. Or, at least, that’s what I’m trying for, because I feel absolutely HEINOUS at the moment. Probably had something to do with eating an entire pizza for dinner and then running three miles. Bleargh.
So, Fate/Zero. Here’s my TL;DR review:
First Half: Surprisingly good
Second Half: Disappointing
Stating that it was ‘surprisingly good’ may sound odd, as pretty much everyone in animeland expected that it would be. I was not part of that everyone, though, and really had zero (ha ha) interest leading up to its premiere; in fact, I only ended up watching because nothing else had come out yet except for junk like Majikoi, and I was thirsty for some animu-loving. What a happy mistake! At least for that first half.
Yet… saying that doesn’t quite get it right, because although I enjoyed the first half, the second half demonstrated to me that the first half flubbed a few things, most prominently the matter of Kiritsugu. Put another way, the first half made me alternately dislike and feel intensely ambivalent toward him. He was boring, and when he did surface, it seemingly was only to be crappy. So when the second half was all, “Look at his tragic past!”, I barely made it through the first flashback episode, and skipped the second altogether. Why would I care about such a dull character with poorly-executed background this late in the game?
Now, I do understand that part of this stemmed from not wanting to lay all the cards on the table up front, but I can’t help but think there was some happy medium out there. I didn’t learn about Sunako’s tragic past in Shiki until about two-thirds of the way into the show, but she still managed to be an engaging character despite that. And that’s just one character; there are literally thousands of other cases like that out there. By the time the show did manage to convince me to care about Kiritsugu and not hate his guts, it was way too late; episode twenty-five!
So the bits of the second half which made it largely a drag to me were bits that were so because the first half didn’t do enough to make me feel anything other than distraction and irritation when finally presented with them.
Of course, I had a larger issue with Fate/Zero as a whole than that, though, and that was the way women were treated and portrayed within it. All those freaking scenes of women being strangled, blech. But I was more bothered by how Saber was set up as a powerful and strong woman whose legitimacy as a king was continuously undercut by other characters, and, by extension, the show itself. And I know this is why Fate/Zero is the end of the line for me with this franchise, because I know it only gets worse with Fate/stay night, culminating in Saber going from being the legendary and powerful King Arthur to a whiny teenager’s girlfriend. No thanks.
And its too bad, because I love the entire central concept of the Fateverse, this whole summoning of warriors of old in order to duke it out in pursuit of the Holy Grail, malicious object which grants wishes as only filtered through its cruelty. This is the sort of show I could watch endless iterations of, quite honestly – it reminds me of Jigoku Shoujo in that regard, which I would glady watch ten more seasons of. I want to see what Rin and Sakura are like when they are older – Rin because she’s such a competent and tough young girl, Sakura because she’s apparently already subsumed enough into the Matou family ethos that she is willing to kill her would-be savior. But I know better than to even try, because I’ll just end up frustrated with FSN.
There’s no denying that Fate/Zero had some really exciting moments, even in the second half. I don’t feel like I wasted my time in watching it, although I don’t think I’ll re-watch it ever. After the close-out of the first half, I felt excited for what was coming next, a pretty sharp contrast to how much I was looking forward to just getting the second half done with. Ultimately, while I would probably recommend it slightly, it is with strong reservations and noting that the show has some fairly stark flaws. At least it was pretty to look at.
Final things of note:
- I mentioned this back when it happened, but I want to re-emphasize how impressed I was in episode fifteen with the directing done for Caster’s final scene; I still think this is the best-directed scene I’ve seen in quite a while, in large part because of how the sound was handled – suddenly, the music cuts away completely as Caster reachers for Jeanne d’Arc, and all we can hear are his words… pretty powerful death scene, maybe even more so because it was granted to a character who didn’t seem to deserve it at all. Anime is so addicted to its own noise that having no background noise at all is much more powerful than anything they could have.
- Saber deserves a better show than FSN after this…
- reminder: the Grail reviving Kirei and making Gilgamesh fully corporeal and naked just demonstrates that the Grail did grant Kirei’s wish, it just wasn’t that he wished for hell lava… the Grail obviously just threw that in for shits and giggles and to kick some more sand in Kiritsugu’s face
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read some Strawberry Panic, because THAT is real quality.