Fate / Zero — on the fly

Another of those silly posts wherein I speak my mind as the show goes on. Of course, I’m a fan of the original Fate/Stay Night, and the Unlimited Blade Works movie, yadda, yadda, yadda. And I knew coming in that this is going to be a one-hour episode, heavy on the talking, light on the action, with the servants being summoned at the end.

So, without further ado, lets do.

2:50 First thought — nothing I read mentioned the score. OMG, the score. Classical strings, very dark and foreboding. Later they break out the percussion, and I have to say the BGM is outstanding all the way through this episode. Studio Deen, you just got your ass whooped. Oh and then there’s the animation…

The birth of Illyasviel von Eizenberg, to Kiritsugu Emiya and Iri Eizenberg

Obviously, I have finally solved the problem with my inability to take screencaps. I uninstalled every single codec pack I had, and then picked up the latest versions of every player and related codec pack, which solved the problem. Finally, the months-long drought of boring articles without screencaps is over…they’ll just be boring articles with screencaps now, and that’s 37% better!

6:25 Circling people while talking…I’d be on the lookout for a knife in the back. That was just creepy — but dumb. No reason for it except to keep it from being three people standing around talking.

9:08 Damn, young Rin is just too kawaii! I expect they’re going to take every excuse to use her in episodes that they can. And I’m OK with that.

Repeat after me: I am not a lolicon, I am not a lolicon, I am not a.. kawaiiiiiiiiii!!!

11:22 Yeah, he looks like the kind of rat bastard that would sell his grandchild to another family. But instead he’s the one that adopted her. And worse. Way worse. After reading about what he does to Sakura, I wanted to kill him, slowly. After watching it, I now want to torture him for a thousand years, then kill him. Slowly.

The feeling's mutual.

16:19 So magic is so secret, they have humongous lecture halls to talk about it? And who knew “humongous” was listed in spell check? Oh, and here’s a hint — never make fun of your genius student, or he might be crazy enough to steal your artifact and join a deathmatch.

It's all about the breeding, eh?

19:10 And they have HUGE libraries! I’m really starting to hope we don’t see a major drop in animation quality after the first episode, but I’m not sure how they’re going to avoid it. There’s a lot of budget here and it shows. For instance, I looked at all the shelves, and can only find two that might be the same, and another two that might be the same with the colors/brightness tweaked. And this is for a throwaway scene? Wow. The last time I saw first-episode animation this good, we got “potato-faces” by mid series.

24:30 Ok, I’m confused, I thought Kotomine had Gilgamesh as his servant, but he seems to have an Assassin class following him around here? Plus it’s not clear whether that’s a real servant or some kind of familiar.

29:35 They’re doing a good job of playing up the tension between Kotomine and Emyia. Both of them are worried about the other, and with good reason. And yes, that’s Iri, Illyasviell’s mother (and Emiya’s wife) in the background.

She's pretty kawaii herself.

32:45 The plot begins to thicken.. Waver (the aforementioned thieving student) has arrived in Japan, and is using magic to convince an old couple that he is their grandson, back from overseas study….

Sleepy... so sleepy... don't have any eyes... so sleepy...

34:45 …and Emiya has obtained the scabbard for Excalibur, which will allow him to summon Saber. Wonder what his reaction is going to be when King Arthur Pendragon turns out to be a girl?

She's still too damn cute.

Good lord, the detail in the background and the lighting, not to mention (once again) the background music. I think UFOtable is bidding to join the ranks of the elite animation studios like KyoAni or Production I.G. A major property like the Fate/Stay Night franchise is the obvious vehicle to do it — but we’re going to have to see how much they can keep this up during the series. This is pushing feature film quality, and that’s not cheap.

Yeah, ok, I'm in love, I admit it... total MILF.

36:57 Rin. Is. Still. Too. Damn. Cute.

If you'd just knifed her here, she wouldn't have given Shirou that damn dagger in ten years....

40:08 Sakura is also cute. But it’s chilling as hell to listen to her discussing going to “the bug room.” Voluntarily. One (more) thing the author and animators/directors have done very well is keep the behavior and mannerisms of the people we know consistent with a series made by a different studio five years ago. Rin is Rin. Sakura is Sakura. Emiya and Kotone are who they are… or were then. And it’s believable.

Not for the weak of will or stomach -- this is one tough girl

44:44 And oh hell yes. The summoning is freaking awesome.

I ask of you... are you my master?

Final thoughts: Some other reviewers criticized how much time the show took to set up the preliminaries, with little or no action, but I think it was worth it. Without the double-length episode to start, it might be 3 weeks before any action happens; this way things will start happening in the second week. Another positive is that you don’t need to have any knowledge of the F/SN universe to watch this show because of the time taken to introduce the characters, plus it also gives us a chance to get invested in the characters. They all have motivations, but Kotomine’s and Emiya’s are somewhat opaque. Of course, we aren’t introduced to all the Masters and Servants — as in the first series, some are going to be mysteries for a while. Only five were covered here: Emiya Kiritsugi, Tohsaka Tokiomi (Rin and Sakura’s father), Matou Kariya (the one that gives a damn about Sakura), and Waver (the student), and of course, Kotomine Kirei. Kotomine and Tosaka are secretly allied, and no one has figured out that Waver has stolen his teacher’s place. Except, I’m sure, the aforesaid teacher, Kayneth Archibald, who shows up in the ED with another servant.

In short, this series is starting off as a step up from the original in several ways. Not just the animation and music, but direction and pacing look good so far. They needed a lot of time to set the stage, and they took it. Not only that, but the caliber of the mages is much higher, which raises the stakes and tension. Last time we saw a bunch of kids floundering around, and it was faintly ridiculous that they’d all be fighting for such high stakes — literally, there were only two adult masters. This time, there’s only one student-age master. The professionals have come to play hardball, and it shows. So far, this show is delivering more than I expected. I figured I’d follow it, but it’s really looking like I won’t have to hold my nose to do so. I can’t unreservedly recommend it — if you like fanservice, there isn’t much (except the occasional shot of Iri bending over), and if you like warm fuzzies, stay very far away. The death toll among characters is going to be brutal. It is, after all, a deathmatch. (That three masters survived the fifth grail war might be exceptional). But if neither of those points matter to you, then it looks like we may have a winner. Now we need to see if UFOtable can pull it off over 26 episodes.

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