Fate/Zero – 02
OP: 「oath sign」 by LiSA
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「偽りの戦端」 (Itsuwari no Senten)
“False Start to the War”
Fate/Zero doesn’t miss a beat as the build-up and exposition continues on in this second episode. It maintained the same pacing as the hour-long premiere and was just as epic too. Compared to Fate/stay night, there’s been a lot less emphasis on Saber and it sometimes feels like there’s no “main” protagonist at all, which as unusual as it may sound, is actually one of the reasons why I’m enjoying this prequel as much as I am. The Holy Grail War is completely twisted to begin with, as seen by how the legendary relic whimsically picked serial killer Uryuu Ryuunosuke (Ishida Akira) as the seventh and last Master, and befittingly made Caster Bluebeard, a.k.a. the “fallen knight” child-killer Gilles de Rais (Tsuruoka Satoshi), as his Servant, so there really isn’t a concept of a “good guy” to begin with. The Grail itself could probably be perceived as the ultimate antagonist though, since a bloodbath ensues from everyone vying for it. Naturally I’ll still be rooting for Saber (and subsequently Kiritsugu), but the extra focus on the other Masters and Servants have been quite telling of both this war and the one that comes after.
Being a prequel, Fate/Zero has taken a fair amount of liberties by assuming the viewer’s familiar with the events of Fate/stay night (a lot more so than I thought it would anyway). In the original, the focus was primarily on the limited vantage point of Shirou, who served as our window into the Holy Grail War. In Fate/Zero, the focus is no longer on that form of suspenseful storytelling and instead on the conflicting interests of all the Masters. To that end, Fate/Zero isn’t shy about revealing the true identities of all the Servants right away, which those who have seen Fate/stay night will recall was always a secretive topic. Not only was it a way to keep viewers guessing on who the Servants truly are based on their mannerisms and abilities, it also served as a key plot device since finding out the true identities of the Servants was akin to discovering their weaknesses. Even Saber’s true identity wasn’t confirmed until the late stages of the Fifth War, leaving a lingering suspicion that she’s actually Joan of Arc (much like Bluebeard will mistaken her as later on). I guess one could perceive this as a lesson learned from this war, but it’s worth noting that a fair share of Servants already know who they’re up against (e.g. Assassin).
Most notable are the number of “Kings” summoned for the Fourth War. Saber is King Arthur, Archer is Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk (Seki Tomokazu), and Rider is Iskander, a.k.a. Alexander the Great (Ootsuka Akio), the last of whom is the only “new” addition, but is probably the most charismatic Servant ever seen. Thanks to the additional emphasis on the other Master/Servants, I’m quite intrigued about Iskander’s character, who’s shown more interest in conquering the world than helping Waver win the war. At the same time, he’s proven to be quite a formidable and reliable partner that I almost want to see him succeed. I honestly don’t know if I could say the same about the Masters in the Fifth War, save for Rin because well, she’s Tohsaka Rin, so Fate/Zero’s take on the Holy Grail War has already twisted my perspective a fair bit. If I had to put my finger on one aspect of these past two episodes that have made this series feel as epic as it has been, it would definitely be the balanced portrayal of all the parties involved. Just take Kariya for example.
As for actual developments, Kiritsugu’s fatherly affection toward Ilya makes me wonder if I’ve misjudged his character just like Saber. According to Iri, he’s even expressed disagreement over the burden placed on Saber after she pulled Excalibur from its stone simply because she’s a girl — something one wouldn’t expect from a (supposed) coldblooded assassin. It’s almost as if he’s able to flip a switch and become a ruthless killer when it comes to work, all in the name of professionalism. The end result is a protagonist that’s more agreeable yet not completely, making Kiritsugu somewhat complex and a lot more interesting to watch. The same could be said about Kirei, who decided to turn on Tokiomi for whatever reason. From the look of things, Tokiomi anticipated a betrayal, so in all likelihood, he intends to take Kirei back under his wing and continue to “use” him later on. The thing about this particular Assassin is that he’s actually more than one person and is collectively represented by the Persian Assassins, as seen in the ending sequence, so Kirei isn’t Servant-less just yet. However, this did go to show that alliances in this war are fragile at best and will make their distrust in one another exciting to watch.
* For those unfamiliar with Command Seals, they’re marks on a Master’s hand allow them to order their Servant to do something against their will. However, they can only be used three times, after which the mark completely disappears and the Servant is no longer contracted to the Master and can do whatever they want — such as killing their Master.
* Niconico’s simulcast of episode two can be watched here.
ED2: 「MEMORIA」 by 藍井エイル (Aoi Eir)
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