Anime Corner: Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel 1. Presage Flower Review

Blog Heavens Feel 1 Review Title

Let’s do this, one last time.

What’s the Story?

Ten years after a disastrous fire erupted in Fuyuki City, the Holy Grail War has begun again. Seven Mages have been called to summon seven Servants, the spirits of heroes of legend, and now they will do battle for the all-powerful wish granting relic, the Holy Grail. Shirou Emiya has no interest in wishes, other than his own wish to become a Hero of Justice, but when he learns that the last Holy Grail War caused the fire he was lucky enough to survive as a child, he feels compelled to act. Trouble is Shirou is a pretty inept Mage and is in no way prepared for the bloodbath that is to follow, especially when an old childhood friend turns out to be a competing Master. Meanwhile something strange is making moves in the background, turning the war towards a dark outcome and what’s going on with Sakura, the girl who not so secretly loves Shirou?

The Review

The fate franchise, by this point, is a massive, complex beast, just asking someone where to start can get you several different answers (though for my money Fate/Zero is your best bet), and I’ve come to the conclusion that my favourite entries in the series are always going to be the offshoots, the prequel and the alternate universe stuff. The series that ufotable did before this film, Unlimited Blade Works, had an amazing start, before face planting in the second half. Having said all that though, Heaven’s Feel is the storyline I’ve been waiting for and, from what I know of it (I’ve done my best to avoid details of what actually happens over the years so I can appreciate this properly), this may be the one for me. This time we might get an exploration of the Rin and Sakura relationship, not to mention Shirou and Illya might have a proper conversation for once to talk about their family stuff. Heck, Shirou might even get an ending that doesn’t involve him carrying on being a self-sacrificing martyr with only the woman he loves to keep him sane (gods I hated that resolution to UBW).

Let’s talk about the film though, firstly, if you’re new to fate franchise, turn back around right now. Don’t watch this film until you’ve watched Unlimited Blade Works at least, and you’ll probably want to watch Fate/Zero if you want to get absolutely everything, but that plays into the unique nature of Fate/stay night. For those that don’t know, Fate/stay night was originally a visual novel with three distinct routes to play through the game, the routes use the same characters and locations across the same span of time, but the stories diverge at certain points to fill in new bits of back story and lore, so that while each route’s story is its own, they build on top of one another to form a complete whole. While I find that way of story telling fascinating, it does create problems in the adaptation department. Adapting one route is more than enough to fill an entire series, but adapting only one route is only giving you part of the story and if you then choose to go on and adapt another route, you’re going to be stuck rehashing several things at the beginning of the story before you hit the point were the story diverges.

That’s the problem this film faces and it never manages to quite overcome it. It does its best and, honestly, gets off to a really good start. The opening of this movie begins a year and a half before the typical events of Fate/stay night, we get to see the devolving friendship of Shirou and Shinji and how Shirou and Sakura came to know one another. It’s a good look into relationships that we know of, but haven’t really gotten the focus in past iterations of the story. Then we come to the problems, the film chooses to skip over a lot of the events from the beginning Fate/stay night (since they’ve already been animated in Unlimited Blade Works), only animating a few scenes that we need to see again or that lead into changes. Even then a lot of the early scenes cover ground we’ve seen before and the new scenes lack the emotional impact because unless you already know these characters you’re never really given a chance to invest in them.

It’s annoying because there’s a lot of stuff in this film that is really cool and interesting. The animation is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the action sequences are some of the best I’ve ever seen (the fate franchise has never looked this good before, ever). We get conversations I’ve been looking forward to for ages, but there’s no build up to them. There aren’t that many scenes of daily life and we skip over several big events and the characters reactions to them. Those have all been animated in Unlimited Blade Works, but for this story, as you watch it, it feels like your skipping steps and just bouncing from one random scene to the next. It becomes a patchwork narrative and it just doesn’t work because the story hasn’t had time to properly build up to those big moments to really make you feel, and while I enjoyed them, I didn’t enjoy them as much as I should have. The connective tissue of the story is missing. Hopefully the next film will feel more complete since by the time this film ends it’s well and truly separated from all the other versions so we won’t have to skip past anything next time.

The Verdict

In the end Fate/stay night Heaven’s Fell 1. Presage Flower is a film for fans, but it’s what it sets up that has me more excited than anything that happens in the film. The animation is beautiful, the fate franchise has never looked so good and the fights are electric, but when it comes to the characters there’s too much missing from the journey the characters go on. I understand why they did it, that stuff has been animated elsewhere, but without it the bigger moments in this film just don’t have the same impact. We’ll see how the next film turns out, when that eventually gets released in the UK.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

October Movie Madness!

31st October 2014, that was when I started this little blog o’mine with a review of Frozen.

Blog Frozen Review Title

Honestly it feels crazy that I’ve been writing for this blog for nearly five years now, especially when I only started this blog, in part, to build my confidence as a writer (the other reason I started this blog is because I desperately needed some place to talk about all the movies and shows I watch and as it turns out, once I start talking you can’t shut me up!)

Anyway, the anniversary of my blog is a month away and typically I use that anniversary post to look at a film which belongs to a franchise I adore. In the past I’ve done Madoka Magica Rebellion,

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Fullmetal Alchemist – Conqueror of Shamballa,

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How to Train your Dragon 2,

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And last year’s, Tangled the series: Queen for a Day,

Blog Tangled Queen for a Day Review Title

This year it’s going to be Digimon the Movie to tie in with all the other Digimon reviews I’ve been doing (and, yes, expect another oversized title card, I’m actually really proud of this one and I can’t wait for people to see it). However, this is a 5 year anniversary and that feels like a big deal, so I’m going to indulge myself a bit this coming month.

For this year only the movies are taking over October as I’m going to be reviewing a movie tied into a franchise I adore each week (some I’ve talked about before, some I haven’t), so here’s the schedule for October,

4th October – Batman Hush

11th October – Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel – 1. Presage Flower

18th October – My Hero Academia: Two Heroes

25th October – Digimon the Movie

I’m already a little bit giddy with excitement, and to anyone who’s read, liked or commented on any of my posts over the past five years, firstly, you’re amazing, secondly, thank you. I hope everyone’s going to enjoy this as much as I am right now, but enough waffling from me, meet me back here on friday when the party will really begin!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Fate/Apocrypha Review

Blog Fate Apocrypha Review Title

This is the story of a Holy Maiden and a Boy with the heart of a Hero, literally.

What’s the Story?

This is not the world as we know it. The Third Holy Grail War ended with the Holy Grail stolen, whisked away from Japan, not to be seen again for sixty years. Now, in Romania, a group of mages have declared themselves independent of the Mage’s Association and with the help of the Greater Grail, hope to make their wishes come true. Thus the Great Holy Grail War begins, no longer a battle between seven masters and their magically summoned servants, each one the spirit of a legendary hero, now the battle is between two teams of seven. The Red and Black teams shall clash, each one hoping to make their wish come true, but not everything is as it should be. Something is decidedly wrong with this grail war and its up to Jean D’Arc, summoned as the ruler of his war, and a homunculus boy still trying to figure out what he wants, to save the world from salvation.

The Review

What is it about the fate series that always draws me in? Maybe it’s just that I love the concept of all these great heroes summoned into the modern world to fight over their ideals and their dreams. I mean you can hardly call the depictions of the Heroic Spirits as accurate, but at least we learn a little of their legends and get to see the unique ways this franchise likes to depict its Heroic Spirits in. What matters most though is where I feel the fate franchise often shines the most, and that’s because each series (haven’t seen Extra yet and I’m a little worried, but holding out hope) is a melting pot of ideals and different perspectives. It’s people’s hopes and ambitions and dreams fighting it out in a death match and how can that not be an amazing story, frankly I’m dying with jealously that I didn’t come up with the concept. Now, while this latest instalment, Fate/Apocrypha may lack the raw emotion of Fate/Zero and the mind blowing animation (though this series isn’t exactly a slouch in that department) of Unlimited Blade Works, I still had a fantastic time watching this series.

I tend to view Fate/Apocrypha as very much a popcorn action fantasy series. I get the feeling I’m going to be watching this series whenever I just want to have a blast. It’s not that it’s lacking for character or drama, despite the large cast all the characters get a chance to let their personalities shine, even if its only for a brief moment. There are some characters here that I truly have grown to love and enjoyed watching, whether that’s the heart-warming bond that develops between Saber of Red and her master (seriously that first fist bump scene had me melting), or the epic fist fight between Archer of Black and Rider of Red (on a plane suspended in midair and no I’m not going to give that scene context because it is awesome and you should go see it). There are so many epic battles in this series, but its not all action.

Thanks to one of our leads, Sieg the homunculus, we get plenty of questioning of humanity and morality and the importance of free will, seeing as how he’s new to the world and trying to figure all this stuff out. Sure these are all topics that are well trodden in fiction and the series doesn’t have all that much new to add to the topic, but they’re still important questions and ones that we should keep asking ourselves. That actually brings me to an interesting topic with the series and that’s how hopeful it is. When I look back at previous series, well, Fate/Zero is a tragedy through and through and so can be as twisted and traumatic as it likes. Fate/Stay Night on the other hand tries to do both, it has its happy, hopeful moments while at the same time having some real tragedies woven into its story. Fate/Apocrypha on the other other hand, while not afraid to have a high body count or look at some of the darker aspects of human nature, it always fights back with the assertion that humans can be better. It’s telling just how many of the servants pass away content with their lot, they may not have had their wishes granted in the way they first envisioned, but each of them finds something in this series (I’m not crying, I swear, damn it Saber why’d you have to make me care so much, you’re as bad as you’re father!)

On the animation front, while there is no way the animation can ever compare to the gods that are Ufotable, A-1 Pictures did an outstanding job with this series. This series looks great and even more so during the battles, though admittedly there are a few hiccups here and there. There are so many moments that feel epic throughout this series, whether it’s the previously mentioned fist fight on a plane, the knockout battle between Ruler and Archer of Red or any of the other great duels littered throughout this series. My only complaint is that the animation isn’t always consistent, there are occasions where it goes off model, or a few times in fights where the camera is just flinging itself around the scene and I honesty have no idea what’s going on. When it counts though, the animation for this series is spot on. Also a shout out to the soundtrack for this series, which is, again, is fantastic. I know I’ve probably used the word epic too many times already in this review, but the songs here really do make so many moments in this show feel as epic as they truly deserve to be.

The Verdict

Fate/Apocrypha, while it doesn’t have the likes of Ufotable backing it up for animation or the raw emotions and depth that previous entries in this franchise have had, it is still an incredibly fun ride. I’ve fallen in love with so many of its characters and I have enjoyed watching their battles and stories unfold (also it was nice to have so many people have happy endings for a change). I used the word one last time, this series has an epic feel to it, from the animation, to the music, to the characters and stories, this is a worthy addition to the fate series.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works Review

Blog Fate Stay Night UBW Review Title

I am the bone of my sword.

What’s the Story?

The Fifth Holy Grail War is about to take place in Fuyuki City, a magical death match between seven Masters and their Servants, who just so happen to be legendary heroes from across time summoned into the present day. One of these Masters is Shirou Emiya, a rather mediocre mage who can barely use magic. Still, Shirou has a dream, to become a hero of justice, but as events escalate that ideal is called into question more and more often. Can Shirou hold true to his desire to save everyone, or will he be crushed under the weight of realisation when he learns just where his chosen path will lead? And just who is the mysterious Archer, and why is he so determined to see Shirou dead?

The Review

I’m going to start off with the animation, because I think it’s the best part of this anime. The animation on display here is jaw-dropping. It is beautiful and cinematic, in fact I have seen films with a lower quality of animation that this series. The fights are utterly gorgeous, filled with dynamic action and an amazing soundtrack to back them up. It’s not just the action that’s great though, that quality is spread through everything, from the picturesque backdrops to the little things, like facial expressions and body language. After watching this series I don’t know if I can look at other series the same way, they all pale in comparison to this show.

That brings us round to the rest of the components of the series, and unfortunately that’s where a couple of problems crop up. For one, this series can be really slow and long-winded sometimes. Now this wasn’t much a problem for me (during the first 13 episodes anyway) as I just enjoyed looking at all the pretty images, and I do enjoy spending time with these characters (except for Shinji, who can go be devoured by some hideous monster blob thing and never come out again. Too good for him I say!). The show often feels very mellow, letting its characters just talk and be themselves. I know this won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I honestly never got bored even when the characters were just sat around talking about meaningless things.

Let’s talk about the characters for a moment. There are a lot, and I do really like them all (except for Shinji as I mentioned. Is it so wrong that I daydream that Sakura has poisoned those apples in the epilogue episode?) Each character has their own motivation for why they want the grail, as well as fully fleshed out back stories. It helps them all to be relatable and understandable (I won’t call them realistic as some of their back stories, and sometimes even the long-winded way they talk, is far beyond anything ‘real’).

Our main character though is Shirou. Honestly before I started watching this show I was terrified of how I’d react to Shirou. I’d heard some real terrible things about him from the 2006 anime, and I feared that might carry over to here, but much to my surprise, I really like this guy. His idealism about being a hero of justice could so easily have been annoying, but what keeps him in the likeable camp is that the world doesn’t coddle him. The world is constantly telling Shirou that he’s naive and that “to save one person, you have to sacrifice another”. I like the struggle that gives him, though I’ll get into my issues with his resolution to this problem in a few paragraphs. I also adore this relationship with Rin, they have great chemistry together and the way their relationship grows feels very natural. It’s just great to watch the two of them interact.

The first major problem for the series comes in when you realise one fact, this story belongs solely to Shirou. Every other cast member, including Saber and Rin, are practically inconsequential compared to the Plot God that is Shirou. It’s a real shame when you consider that you have such great characters as Illya and Rin, and they’re stories barely get explored. Some characters don’t even get an episode of exploration, and it is especially painful when you realise that you clearly have to watch Fate/Zero to understand several of the back stories and plot elements, such as Rin’s connection to Sakura and I really don’t like the fact that Gilgamesh’s identity is just dropped in without any warning or drama (the show just expects you to know who he is and only gives the briefest of explanations for those not in the know).

The series starts to really fall apart in its second half. For one, that long-windedness and the slow pace finally started to grate on me. It takes three whole episodes to take down Archer, don’t get me wrong the fight looks cool, but when they stop every five minutes to repeat the same damn speech it does tend to spoil the tension somewhat. Also I’m not that keen on the solution. Yes, now Shirou can see the faults in his philosophy, yet he shall continue to walk down the path he believes is right. I’m perfectly fine with that, it’s just that the anime makes no attempts to show us how Shirou will avoid the same fate as Archer. Is knowingly walking into a painful future any less bad than ignorantly doing so? It makes Shirou sound like an idiot, or that he just hasn’t fully learnt his lesson yet. All I’m asking for is a couple of examples as to how Shirou comes out of this situation any better than Archer, does his new determination stop his loss of faith, or allow him to focus more on the people it helps? Will it change his path and lead to less killing, and more saving? The answer needs to be more specific.

That’s before we even get into what happens to Saber and Rin during the second half. I love both of these characters, they’re strong-willed, have their own values and methodologies, they’re really great characters, and yet the second half of this anime treats them like damsels in distress (in the worst way possible), which I find really demeaning and disrespectful. Saber spends most of the second half practically useless, either stood on the sidelines, or tied up in that stupid fanservice dress (well I can’t actually call that fanservice as that implies it serves the fans, which I don’t believe it does). Then there’s Rin, who gets tied to a chair while Shinji threatens to rape her. Ugh. Rape is a really heavy subject matter, and if you’re going to bring it up you can least deal with it properly. You have to deal with the psychological terror it inflicts and how horrible an act it really is, and not just throw it around as a threat because rape is something that happens to women, right? (the feminist in me is really struggling to not punch my laptop right now, and the general human being in me is struggling not to track down the writer and punch him). These scenes are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, but they leave such a bad taste in my mouth that it sours several episodes to the point where I struggle to watch them.

At least the series ends on a suitably epic note. Shirou’s final battle against the Big Bad of this route is exhilarating and a real moment to cheer for, just suspend your disbelief for about ten minutes when you see Shirou jumping around like Mario (and where exactly is he getting all the mana to pull off all this stuff?) And yes, it is a little disappointing that they just throw the same generic looking swords and axes at one another (you’re meant to have the template for every hero’s Noble Phantasm Gil, get creative!). In all honesty though, I just don’t care about that, the action is so fast (and beautifully animated) that I get lost in a swell of adrenaline. And they don’t stop every five minutes to talk about Shirou’s issues!

The Verdict

For crying out loud, I’ve being talking for forever about this show. What is it about the Fate series that has me talking ad infinitum? Anyway, I do recommend this series, despite its flaws whether they be some criminally underused secondary characters, mistreatment of its female characters or a lack of proper resolution to the story’s central issue, this is still an enjoyable ride for the most part. This is a blockbuster anime that is that is both gorgeous and thrilling, just be prepared for the letdown in the second half.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: Fate/stay night (2006) Review

Blog Fate stay night Review Title

Fun fact: People die when they are killed.

What’s the Story?

Shirou Emiya wants to be a hero. He will help anyone, any time, no matter the cost to himself, but he finally gets a chance to be a real hero when he stumbles across the Holy Grail War, a battle to the death between seven masters and the heroic spirits (warriors of legend brought back to life in the modern age) they summon as their servants. These masters are vying for the Holy Grail, and the wish it will grant the victor of this contest. Shirou has no interest in the Holy Grail, but after learning about its connection to a tragedy 10 years ago, Shirou decides to enter to make sure a similar disaster doesn’t happen again. Can Shirou become an actual hero? And can he win a battle to the death when his ethics won’t permit him to kill anyone?

The Review

The first adaptation of the visual novel Fate/stay night, and it tends to get a lot of hate. But does it deserve it? Let’s find out!

Now to be fair, you have to concede that the visual novel this anime is based on is incredibly hard to adapt. There are three different routes, each one with its own distinct story, but they also have interconnecting plot points. You have to play all three routes to get the complete story for all the characters. There are two ways you can try to adapt this. Number one, just adapt one route, maybe throw in a couple of hints to the other routes, but otherwise stay true to the source material (the Ufotable route), or you could try to adapt all the routes at once (you could also try juggling five plates piled up with pasta, while also learning Japanese and playing the accordion with your feet). This anime takes the latter option, which is one of its many problems. Yet the narrative manages to come across as a cohesive whole, even if there are a few rather large holes that could do with filling in, so I do have to give this series points for that (though I think this could do with the anime’s decision to give more focus to one route more than the others).

We’ll start off with the characters. The characters of the Fate series are all really great. Each one has their own identity, back story and reasons for the way they act and think (the mark of great characters). Unfortunately, while the characters are still great, there are still a couple hundred things that need explaining. Like I said a paragraph ago, there’s a lot of story here, and a lot of character back story. It’s near impossible to fit all of that information into 24 episodes. This series does try, but there’s a lot of detail missing and that makes actions and motivations confusing most of the time. There are a few flashbacks that try to tell the story with pictures as opposed to words, but it’s just not enough to cover all of the detail. I fear anyone going into this without any prior knowledge of the story will just come away scratching their heads. Saying that, these are still really good characters (even if they’re not explained properly), and there are moments where that shines through.

The only character that is weakened by this adaptation is our lead, Shirou. Now I like Shirou, a lot (I admit this is mostly down to my introduction to him coming from Ufotable’s Unlimited Blade Works adaptation). Yeah, he’s soft-hearted, he’s reckless, totally naive and completely in over his head, yet you still route for him and hope that he begins to see the flaw is his own logic. The Shirou as depicted in this anime though? Well he’s all of those things, but he’s also incredibly stupid. There’s naive and reckless, and then there’s complete idiocy. He makes one completely indefensible decision after the other, outright refusing to let Saber fight for him because he doesn’t want her to get hurt, when she’s there to fight and is completely ok with risking her own life. He does get better as the anime goes on, but for a time I was willing for one of the other masters to do him in.

Another problem this anime has is with its story. I’ve already mentioned the difficulties of trying to adapt this from its source material. Yet this anime managed to throw another wrench into its works, with a heavy focus on fanservice and harem hijinks. It keeps being mentioned that this is a war, yet it never feels like that. Some of the jokes are funny and all (though I could do without some of my favourite female characters being reduced to demeaning fanservice), but they suck the drama right out of the story. This series doesn’t have the grand or epic feel that it should do. Instead it just feels like your typical shonen anime. Also the way the story is paced makes it feel like the villains are just sitting around waiting for their turn at fighting Shirou, instead of, you know, fighting each other! (As I would imagine is supposed to happen in a war).

I also have to mention the animation. Now Ufotable have so far done two gorgeous adaptations of the Fate series (Fate Zero and Unlimited Blade Works), yet comparing them to this anime is like comparing a seed to a mighty oak. On animation alone, this series gets blown out of the water. It’s not that this animation is bad. It’s serviceable, that’s the best describe I can give for it. It won’t blow your mind, but it’s better than stick figures dancing around on the screen, it gets the job done. Though be warned for a frankly hideous CG dragon that crops up (though considering where that scene was going, I will take a thousand CG dragons over that frankly horrible plot point. I will not have my dear Saber reduced to such gross and pointless fanservice in that way).

The Verdict

Is this a good adaptation of Fate/stay night? Not really, no. Does it deserve it the hate it gets? Not really, no. Look, this anime has flaws, many many many flaws, but it could have been a lot worse. Yes it can be confusing, full of bad fanservice and lacks the epic feel worthy of its characters. Yet there are moments, brief glimpses, where the characters and the story shine. There were plenty of moments where I laughed, and plenty where I sat thrilled. In all honesty I’d recommend the Ufotable adaptations over this one any day of the week, though if you’re curious feel free to check it out. This does have elements that I doubt will end up in other versions of the story, such as a lot of Saber’s arc.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: Fate/Zero Review

Blog Fate Zero Review Title

“The light comes from her having taken all her people’s hopes upon herself. Its brightness is what makes it tragic. Especially when you consider that one bearing that burden is just a dreaming little girl. The girl never had a happy childhood, never fell in love, but was cursed by her ideals and ended up this way. It is too painful to look upon.” – Rider

What’s the Story?

The fourth Holy Grail War is beginning. Seven wizards have been called from across the global to take part in this magical death match. The prize? The chance to have their heart’s dearest wish made reality. At their sides stand Heroic Spirits, warriors of legend made manifest in the modern world. Yet as the wheels of fate turn, and desires clash, there is one inescapable truth present, this will not end well.

The Review

Fate/Zero is a tragedy, you need to go into this anime prepared for that, though anyone familiar with Fate/stay night (which this anime is the prequel to) will already know that. Still, even if you know where this anime is headed, the journey is more than worth it.

Fate/Zero is an epic worthy of the legendary heroes in its cast. It’s a clash of desires and ideals by a large cast of complex characters. In fact it’s the characters that make this anime. Each one has their wish they want fulfilled, their own code by which they live. It’s a sign of a well developed and thought out character when you can see so deep into their heads with only an outside perspective, and this applies to most of the cast. It’s great to watch all of these differing personalities and beliefs contrasting against one another, but also influencing one another. I actually enjoy the character’s philosophical debates more than the battles (and there are some fantastic battles). It also helps that there’s a large variety of characters as well, I’m sure everyone who watches this anime will at least find a couple of characters they adore, and want to follow through to the end.

When all that goodness is paired up with some very pretty animation, some superb action sequences and an engaging and intricate plot, then yes, you can safely say this is a great anime. Is it perfect though? Nope, not by a long shot.

We’ll stay on the characters for a moment, because my biggest problem with the anime is the closest thing we have to a main character, and that’s Kiritsugu Emiya. I have to admit that when I started watching this anime, I just didn’t get this guy. (I came into this anime after watching the first half of Unlimited Blade Works and he just wasn’t what I was expecting at all). I didn’t understand him, the way he switched between a cold-hearted mercenary and a loving father confused me. Not to mention that the anime never bothered to explain how he could love his wife so much, yet still have a mistress (that one had my head spinning for hours). My biggest problem with the guy though comes from his ideology. He believes that the end justifies the means and will sacrifice any number of people if it saves a greater number of people, and I’m sorry I just don’t agree with him. I’m an idealist, I know that, and I know this is a very grey area, but I could never let someone die without trying my hardest to save them. So, yeah, me and Kiritsugu, we got off on the wrong foot to say the least. It wasn’t until the anime got a good chunk through its second half (about the point where Saber lambasts the way Kiritsugu takes out another servant and his master) that I began to understand the guy. After that point I could see that Kiritsugu was more of a tragic character that I had first realised, though it’s still probably a little harsh of me to think that the Grail gives Kiritsugu exactly what he deserves.

Still, while I wasn’t onboard with Kiritsugu, there were plenty of other characters that I fell in love with. Saber has to be my favourite (heck I’d go so far as to say she’s one of the best female characters, strike that, one of the best characters in all of anime). She’s noble and pure without being cold. She’s idealistic and honourable, yet bound to a tragic path. She’s much more than just a stoic badass (which is how so many female warriors are written). I love her so much. Then there’s Waver and Rider, easily the show-stealing double-act of the anime, across their journey they’ve had me laughing, warmed my heart and had me wiping away proud tears. It is a just a joy to watch these two, and they’ve always brightened the darkest of episodes. That’s the good guys though, this series also has some great villains, my favourites being the arrogant Gilgamesh and the apathetic Kirei Kotomine. Watching these two, both separately and together, is just fascinating. Learning how they view the world and how they think, it’s endlessly captivating.

Sorry, I’m gushing again aren’t I? Back to the griping. The world of the Fate series can be impenetrable at first, what with all of the mythology and lore behind (demonstrated by the fact that pretty much the entire first episode is just exposition), but once you get past that it’s a great story. Still there are a couple of scenes throughout the anime that feel just a little too long-winded and talky (I may love these debates, but I do have my limits when it comes to listening to talking heads).

Also, though I have no disagreement with this anime going dark, there are several cases where it gets too violent, and in such an unnecessary way. The most glaring examples of this being scenes where women are strangled to death pretty much one episode after another towards the end of the anime (what, were you not satisfied with doing it the once?).

And while I do love the story, it does seem to have a problem with its pacing, moving about fairly languidly at first, before having to rush towards the finish line at the end. It gets particularly bad towards the middle of the anime where the plot just meanders about to kill some time. Some notable examples of this are where we spend an entire episode hanging out with little Rin (who has no bearing on this plot whatsoever), or the episode where Saber, Rider and Archer all sit down for a drink and a chat about their differing views on how to rule (I do actually love this episode, and it has some of favourite lines in it, but come on guys I’m sure there’s meant to be some plot around here somewhere, can’t we find it?). I also feel it was unnecessary to give so much spotlight to the children characters (see the above mentioned Rin episode), when the only purpose of including them is because they are all in Fate/stay night. Their stories are told elsewhere and they have very little impact on this story. It just makes certain threads of the anime feel unfinished, which they are, as those plots are concluded in Fate/stay night. It robs Fate/Zero of some of its ability to stand by itself.

Finally I want to talk about the animation (damn it I’m already over 1,200 words. I suppose I can’t complain with this anime giving me so much to talk about). The animation is great, and miles above most other shows (well, before Unlimited Blade Works came along anyway). The only real glaring flaw is the way some of the 3D models clash against the 2D animation. Now the 3D integration is fine, but it’s when solid 3D models are put next to that gorgeous 2D animation, then we have a problem. Caster’s tentacle monsters are disgusting in more ways than one, and I’m not even going to talk about that horrible sludge from the Holy Grail (just remembering it hurts my eyes).

The Verdict

This isn’t a perfect anime, so don’t buy into all the hype, but this is a truly wonderful anime. With a cast worthy of their legends, exciting battles and a complex, yet enthralling story, this anime has earned most (if not all) of its acclaim. I’ll certainly be watching it again and again, so let the Holy Grail War begin.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.