Anime Review: Fate/Zero (2011)
Director: El Aoki
Distributor: Aniplex USA
Availability: On Blu-Ray
Released: October 29th, 2019
Streaming: English sub (Hulu, Crunchyroll, Netflix), English Dub (Hulu, Crunchyroll, Netflix, and VRV)
In 1994 in the city of Fuyuki, Japan, Seven Mages battle each other for the Holy Grail, a wish-granting cup. Each Master wants the Grail for their own reasons and must summon seven historical figures known as Servants so that the Servants can fight each other to the death, and the winner claims the Grail and has their wish granted.
Even though there are many Masters, the audience primarily follows Kiritsugu Emiya and his wife Irisviel Von Einzbern and their Servant Saber, known as King Arthur, who is actually a woman named Arturia Pendragon, but she hid her gender from her subjects. Kiritsugu wishes to use the grail to save the world.
There are many other Masters, such as Priest Kirei Kotomine, and his Servant Assassin. Kirei is a fascinating character as he's searching for his purpose and meaning in life, and he hopes that the Holy Grail will help him find it.
Tokiome Tohsaka wants the Grail to reclaim the Root of magic and his arrogant Servant Archer, Gilgamesh, just wants to rule everything and ease his boredom.
Waver Velvet wants to prove himself to the Mages Association, while Rider, Alexander the Great, Iskander, wants to conquer the world again.
Ryūnosuke Uryū is an insane child killer, who summons Bluebeard, Gilles de Rais, and all they want to do is kill everyone.
Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald and his fiancé Sola-Ui want the Grail for their family. Their Servant is Lancer, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. Diarmuid wants to live an honorable life as a Heroic Spirit.
Kariya Matou wants the Holy Grail to give to his Father Souken Matou to save his niece Sakura Tohsaka from being adopted into the Matou family
Each pair of Master and Servant are fascinating and have a different view of the same war they're participating in, and that' what makes Fate/Zero so interesting as a story.
Audio and Subtitles:
English (Reviewed) (Available on Netflix, Crunchyroll, VRV)
English (Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, VRV)
Spanish (Netflix and Crunchyroll)
Portugues (Brazil, on Crunchyroll)
An Amazing English Dub!
When I first watched the first episode in the original Japanese, I couldn't really get into it, I did like the idea of the story, but I just couldn't get into it because of how much reading there was, and the Japanese voice track wasn't bad at all. It's just that Fate/Zero is very exposition heavy, everywhere and the dub helps me keep track of what's going on, And in this anime, paying attention is extremely important.
But the Fate franchise has had a rocky history when it's been dubbed in English, mainly because many characters have been recast in English, but I love the dub for Fate/Zero in English.
Kari Wahlgren is absolutely fantastic as Saber. Now I haven't seen the original Fate/Stay Night (2006) dub to compare her with Saber's original voice actress, Kate Higgins, but I love her tone of voice and how dignified she sounds and her line delivery is perfect, and I've seen her in quite a few roles that I've really enjoyed her in, but Fate/Zero is one of my favorites for her voice acting.
Matthew Mercer is also excellent as Kiritsugu Emiya. He portrays Kiritsugu's cold demeanor with some hints of genuine emotion around his family, Irisiviel and Illyasviel von Einzbern perfectly. He did a fantastic job and he's my favorite human character in Fate/Zero.
Bridget Hoffman is also terrific as Irisviel von Einzbern. She portrays a homunculus that tries to behave like a human and she does a very good job, and I enjoyed her in this role a lot.
Grant George is fantastic as Lancer, also known as Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. I loved him in his role and he was utterly believable as a noble, chivalrous knight. His dynamic with Saber is fun to watch, and he gives a great performance in all his scenes. Also, I must add, his name is mispronounced,
There are way too many wonderful cast members, from Crispen Freeman as Kirei Kotomine to Johnny Yong Bosch as Ryunosuke Uryu. I could gush about this cast, but this review is long enough as it is! In short, the English dub is one of my favorites!
Stunning Animation, one of the best animated TV Series I've Ever Seen!
Ufotable's animation looks amazing, and I've seen a lot of anime that look really good and have fluid animation, but nothing quite as fluid and bright as Fate/Zero. The fight scenes are very fluid and look fantastic, even the CG looks pretty good, it didn't stand out to make me think, "Oh look, CGI" in the episodes of the anime where they used it. It has started to show its age, being six years old now, but only a little.
I love the coloring of this anime and it's very well done. I like the art style of Type-Moon and Ufotable makes it look fantastic, and as someone who is playing through Fate/Stay Night: Realta Nua, I will say, Ufotable did a great job with the character designs in the anime.
Ufotable's animation looks better than Studio Bones, and many of my favorite shows are from Studio Bones. The anime is worth watching just for the animation alone! And this was before they earned the fan nickname "Unlimited Budget Works" for their work on the second Fate/Stay Night adaptation of the second route in Fate/Stay Night, Unlimited Blade Works.
An Amazing Soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura!
The soundtrack is a wonderful feast for your ears! I just love all the music in Fate/Zero. Now if you've heard a lot of Yuki Kajiura's work, it all starts to sound very similar to each other, but it's still wonderful music to listen too, and I love all the songs in the soundtrack.
The openings "Oath Sign" by LiSA and "To The Beginning" by Kalafina. They're both wonderful opening songs, but I love Oath Sign more and bought it from Amazon so I could listen to it whenever I want.
The Endings are "MEMORIA" (メモリア) by Aoi Eir (episodes 1-13), "Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau" (空は高く風は歌う; "Up on the Sky, the Wind Sings") by Luna Haruna (episodes 13-17, 20-24), "Manten (満天; The Whole Sky)" by Kalafina (episodes 18-19) and "To The Beginning" by Kalafina.
The music is amazing and you will definitely enjoy it!
Will You Watch Fate/Zero?
It's Very Detailed and a lot of Information Dumping:
Now that I've gushed at how amazing this is, I'll talk about what holds the anime back. The first four episodes are very exposition heavy with lots of "info dumping" because they are based on a light novel that lets you read at your own pace, an anime doesn't, so they must verbally explain everything to you the viewer. That can make it very hard for people to get into Fate/Zero, but it is totally worth it for the story, it's just a very slow start.
I showed Fate/Zero to my cousin and I helped her get through the first episode of exposition and she's really enjoying it, but it's hard for a first-time watcher to slog through all the dialogue and exposition.
This is Expensive to Buy!
When I say this is expensive to buy, I'm comparing it to anime releases by other companies, and yes, it's much more expensive than Funimation Entertainment, Viz Media, Sentai Filmworks, Section 23 and many other companies that usually $60.00 sets, then re-release a full series for $60.00. Fate/Zero costs $69.99 for each half of Fate/Zero, as much as I would love to buy this series, I have imported the DVDs from the UK because I made my old Windows XP computer region free to play Region 2 discs. it's very expensive to collect unless you import discs and have a region free blu-ray player for the best quality, luckily there are many legal streaming options such as Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix.
It's a Grim, Dark Tale, not for the Faint of Heart!
The Nasuverse is a very dark, grim place, tragedy is a staple of this universe, and good intentions are often subverted in the story. The characters that you'd think you'd root for turn out to be utterly different than what you'd think they would be. Even though I love this universe immensely, the dark tone and setting of the story can be a lot for newcomers, but if you stick with it to the end, you'll see an amazing story that will make you want to see more of this universe in its sequel, the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel, or the Fate/Stay Night (2006) adaptation or the adaptation of the second visual novel route adapted in the movie Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (2010) and the Ufotable adaptation, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (2014).
The dark story may not be worth it for some, but you should decide that for yourself.
I Imported the DVDs from the UK and it was Worth It!
I imported the DVDs from the UK, purchasing the Fate/Zero Collector's Edition with the Chipbox set and it arrived, it looks very nice and the discs work on my Region Free Windows XP computer.
I like how it comes with an extra space for Collection 2 and the chip box is very high quality. It was also very inexpensive as it was only $27 with shipping instead of $69.98 for the U.S. DVD. It was worth it for me to buy it to own because I never know when it might be removed from streaming from various sites.
A Dark Urban Fantasy Worth Your Time, but Expensive on the Wallet!
Fate/Zero is an amazing show with excellent animation, an intriguing, mature storyline. Great writing and characterization. It sets up the original story that came before it and makes you want to see what will happen in this universe.
It's bogged down by info dumping and it's dark tone and themes can weigh on the viewer sometimes too much. It's also expensive for the collectors and priced much higher than anime of the same length.
It's very well done and worth watching, but the price tag may keep it off anime fans' shelves unless you import from the UK, but there are plenty of legal streaming sites to view it first to see if you want to add it to your anime collection.
What Doesn't Work:
Compelling story and setting
Too much info dumping in early episodes
Excellent characters and intriguing motivations
Dark themes and settings may be too much for some viewers
Terrfiic voice actors in both languages
Final Grade: A:
I love this series to pieces, it gave me one of my favorite female characters and has a compelling story and got me interested in Arthurian lore and I enjoyed everything about it. I love that it deconstructs anti-heroes, and I love anti-heroes in fiction. So to see them deconstructed is very interesting and intriguing to me.
It may not be for everyone, but it is certainly one of my favorite animes and if you've never watched it before, you definitely should.
It was very hard for me to get into Fate/Stay Night (2006) at first, but seeing the Prequel first definitely helped a lot, I love this universe and I hope you will too. Not to miss for the action fan, and definitely worth your time and money, even as expensive as those DVDs are. imported the DVDs to add to my collection, and getting a region free blu-ray player means less expensive blu-rays from the U.K for fans who want to import the blu-ray discs.
For the sequels, there are two adaptations of the visual novels first two routes, Fate/Stay Night (2006) and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade works (2014).
Part 1 of the Fate/Stay Night Heaven's Feel trilogy, Fate/Stay Night: Heaven's Feel I: Pressage Flower is available on DVD and blu-ray in Japanese with English subtitles and the spin-off Fate/Apocrypha which takes place instead of Fate/Zero is streaming exclusively on Netflix. Fate/Extra: Last Encore (2018) is also streaming on Netflix.
You can also read my guide, "How Do You get into Fate/Stay Night?" for watch order recommendations.
A manga adaptation by Shinjiro is available from Darkhorse Manga.
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