IHAO on ... Fate/Zero

Normally, I try to make sure I have watched everything I review completely at least once, many times twice, to get a strong critical opinion, as well as personal opinion of the subject.  But television shows become difficult to review because of that.  I can put three or four hours into watching a film twice, or six hours for a wrestling PPV, but even the smallest of television shows take almost twice that long for me to watch and review.  So I thought for this review I would instead give my impressions on the first five episodes, and a lengthy and personal backstory to the franchise it belongs to.  Plus, the next collection of One Piece is coming to my home the day you all can read this because Amazon pre-orders are great, and I'm just in a crazy excited anime mood.

Fate is the ... prefix? category? ... think like "Dragonball" - it is a set of entertainment stories that all take place in a shared universe.  That universe is a modern fantasy world, where mages and arcane pedigrees and ancient relics exist.  Where the Holy Grail is summoned into being every somethingorother years and is fought over by seven Masters, all who have summoned Servants, each connected to a particular class of Servant: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Assassin, Rider, Caster, and Berserker.  It is a crazy imaginative world, and Fate/Zero is a pre-sequel to the main story, Fate/Stay Night.

In college, a friend took a chance and thought I may enjoy Fate/Stay Night, a visual novel video game semi-adult entertainment ... thing.  It is like a voice-acted, slightly animated choose-your-own-adventure novel.  It was amazing.  It was mindboggling, and kept me up many evenings as I went through its massive story.  The story is so massive it requires time travel-y, alternate future shenanigans to hear it all to completion.  It got an anime I cannot wait to own and watch of its own.  The plot of Fate/Stay Night is the events of the Fifth Holy Grail War.

Fate/Zero is the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War.  And it is realized completely in one story, which is the anime I just started.  So let's talk about that anime.

The first thing to know is it is a dense show.  The entire first episode introduces you to so many characters and concepts, you almost have to know what Fate is before you start watching.  I knew bits and pieces of the story that was told to me during the events of Fate/Stay Night, and I still got lost a little first time through.  The second thing to know is that it is a beautiful animated anime.  It reminds me of Attack on Titan and DeathNote, both of which are shows with amazing animation (and a whole lot of ridiculously overblown terrible plot ... man, I need to write my thoughts on DeathNote I guess ... or just point out I have the same opinion of it as I do on Attack on Titan ... yup, I did that.  Mini-review, DeathNote gets a C+-).  It is almost on par with a Studio Ghibli production of sheer artistic skill, though it is achieved in a different way.  I ALSO really need to get more Ghibli films a chance, considering how much I love My Neighbor Totoro ... here we go, another mini-review: My Neighbor Totoro is an amazing film.  Completely amazing.  Grade: A+++

I can go on and on about the technicals of Fate/Zero.  The voice actors all do a GREAT job, with some recognizable voice talents in there like Crispin Freeman, Kari Wahlgren, Jamieson Price ... really, go look at the imdb page and just check out these actor's workloads. The animation is smooth and beautiful in all its magic and all its fantastical details and even beautiful in its mundane elements.  They do an awesome job of using 3D animation represent a lot of the magic and the backgrounds, so that every move and cut and slash and fight and stab and magical attack and effect all have actual effects on the background.  You ever notice how in cartoons, if a character was going to interact with something in the background, it would be a different color?  Yeah, that is completely mitigated here and looks really great.  Oh man, and the music!  The score is absolutely gorgeous, and I've really come to love the opening theme.

The first episode should absolutely hook most anime watchers, though it is dense.  The second episode should do even more.  And if you aren't hooked by the third, I just don't know what is wrong with you, but I suppose there is no point in pushing on, to be quite honest.  There is absolutely a barrier to the enjoyment of this anime, but by episode three Fate/Zero has established everything you need in a good way that has you invested in the story, hopefully.  But, there is a huge problem ... this is absolutely a sequel.  Yes, it takes place chronologically before Fate/Stay Night, but it assumes you understand the premise, it introduces elements that you are supposed to understand how they work quickly so it can move to new stories.  It is not an easy anime.  I like that, personally.  It was the thing that got me interested in Attack on Titan and DeathNote, and while my opinion on both of those shows soured, that comes from them lasting much too long, in my opinion (obviously).

Fate/Zero has two seasons.  Both on Netflix.  Both no more than 13 episodes.  And it finishes its story then and there.  I think it is absolutely worth any one who found anything I said interesting so far a chance to give this show.  That sentence was very poorly worded, but I'm not gonna change it.  Watch Fate/Zero.  I recommend, as a fan, and as a critic.  I cannot wait to dive in even farther to the show.

Grade: A++

Edit: I try to write these reviews ahead of time so that I can have a nice bank and keep myself up to date, just in case I get sick or busy and am unable to find time to watch things like I need to.  Well, I did get sick, with a sore throat, so I spent this entire morning before my review got posted tearing through the first season of the show.  I can say, without a single doubt, that this show is phenomenal.  I would still recommend that if you are at all interested in the Visual Novel of Fate/Stay Night to not watch Fate/Zero yet, but if you aren't interested in the enormous amount of hours to put into Stay Night then I cannot recommend Fate/Zero enough.  The fights are amazing, the animation is immaculate, and the story is intense and thrilling, all in one of the coolest anime worlds I've seen.  This is probably the second best anime I've ever watched.  It is intense, thrilling, and awesome.  I have gone ahead and added a grading because I feel much more confidant in that grade now.

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