Fate/Zero – 01
「英霊召喚」 (Eirei Shoukan)
“Summoning Ancient Heroes”
This one-hour long first episode may have only been a lot of preamble for the prequel to Fate, but I just love how it established everything that I read about and showed the Holy Grail War in a very different light with willing participants. It also quickly revealed some relationships that weren’t apparent in Fate/stay night, starting with the birth of Emiya Kiritsugu (Koyama Rikiya) — a.k.a the Mage-Killer — and Irisviel von Einzbern’s (Oohara Sayaka) daughter, Illyasviel von Einzbern (Kadowaki Mai), eight years before the start of the Fourth War. This puts an interesting perspective on how Shirou would later fight against his foster father’s daughter unknowingly, and on the time they spend together. The other big revelation was the fact that Matou Sakura (Shitaya Noriko) is actually Tohsaka Sakura — the biological sister of Tohsaka Rin (Ueda Kana). She was forcibly adopted into the Matou family after Matou Kariya (Shingaki Tarusuke) wanted no part of his mage lineage.
As for the story itself, we essentially have a rivalry born between Kiritsugu and the young priest Kotomine Kirei (Nakata Jouji), whose father and judge of the Fourth War, Risei (Hirose Masashi), has instructed to work with Rin’s father, Tohsaka Tokiomi (Hayama Shou), to obtain the Holy Grail. As I mentioned in the season preview, Kirei lacks a sense of purpose in the war and finds one when he learns of the coldhearted and ruthless Kiritsugu, who ignores the mage’s unwritten code of conduct and employs underhanded assassination-type methods such as sniping, poisoning, and bombing. Their inability to see what the other is truly after serves as the core conflict, which is particularly interesting because Kiritsugu fears an enemy he doesn’t understand. In addition, the Holy Grail seems to have selected Kirei as a Master to pit him against Kiritsugu and provide him with the sense of fulfillment he’s after. (For those familiar with the visual novel, there was also mention of the third true magic, “Heaven’s Feel”, which is the final path of the game.)
However, what caught my attention the most was Sakura’s tragic subplot, where her mother Aoi (Itou Hasumi) had given up her up to the Matou family without knowing the horrible fate that would befall on her at the hands on Kariya’s father, Zouken (Tsukayama Masane). The sight of her naked and violated body in a cesspool of Zouken’s Seal Bugs was not only shocking, but also reiterated how Sakura’s been victimized her entire life. It was pretty touching to see Aoi’s childhood friend Kariya do everything in his power to try and save Sakura from such a fate — like a real father would have — even if it meant sacrificing himself in her place. Of the Masters shown far, Kariya is undoubtedly the most selfless participant in the Fourth War, which is why I can’t but feel compassionate about his situation. All it really took was the sight of his bug-infested body to realize the year of hell he went through to learn magic and become a Master, but knowing that he only has a month to live really emphasized just how big of a sacrifice he made.
Of lesser importance for the time being are Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald (Yamazakai Takumi), who sounds just like Archibald Grims from Super Robot Wars OG and has already made himself out to be just as big of an asshole with his spiel about how bloodline is everything with mages. That pretty much put him at odds with his student Waver Velvet (Namikawa Daisuke), soon to be Master of Rider after stealing Kayneth’s relic to perform a summoning. He yearns for recognition that sheer talent can exceed genetics, but the Kazehaya Shouta-like innocence heard in his voice evidently doesn’t rule out brainwashing some old folks just to have a place to hideout at. Regardless, the contention between these two should serve as another story within a story during the Holy Grail War.
For those who have seen Fate/stay night, one of the biggest contrasts between Kiritsugu and his future foster-son Shirou is what they view a Servant to be to their Master. In Kiritsugu’s case, he views them as nothing more than a magical tool and will refuse to acknowledge Saber (Kawasumi Ayako) as anything more, even when she’s the legendary King of Knights, Arthur Pendragon (i.e. King Arthur). In Shirou’s case, he cherishes Saber and doesn’t want to see her get harmed, which puts an interesting spin on what Kiritsugu said about how someone like that will never win the war. I imagine there will be plenty of statements where those familiar with Fate/stay night will be able to read into them more, just like when Rin told Kirei that she hates his guts. In terms of appreciating both Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night more, these type of statements are some of the things I had in mind. Another is seeing is how Saber’s knightly code of honor will clash with Kiritsugu’s assassin mentality — something the latter is already anticipating. The black suit he makes her wear suggests he’s get her to go about like a professional assassin, which I imagine will lead to some of Kiritsugu’s cutthroat methods rubbing off on Saber that Shirou had to deal with when he summoned her again for the Fifth War.
Production quality by ufotable in this one-hour special is top-notch, though it remains to be seen if this level will be carried over to the action sequences. However, even if it does take a dip, it’s reassuring to know that the bar’s been set relatively high to begin with. I don’t consider this a “slow start” whatsoever, as it was pretty exciting to see the rest of the Masters summon their Servants at the end, backed by an absolutely epic soundtrack by Kaijura Yuki. I got some goosebumps watching that play out, which rolled really well into the opening sequence featuring the solo debut of Angel Beats’ LiSA (shown as an ending). Suffice to say, I’m excited. :)
* Fate/Zero is being simulcasted with English subtitles by Niconico. You can watch the first episode here.
ED: 「oath sign」 by LiSA
Watch the ED!: Streaming ▼
Open Card, Preview, End Card