OP2: 「to the beginning」 by Kalafina
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「未遠川血戦」 (Miongawa Kessen)
“The Bloody Battle in Mion River”
The long wait for the return of Fate/Zero was more than worth it. Despite the three month break, all the elements we grew to love in this series – the action, the dialogue, the characters – came back without skipping a single beat. And just when you think this series couldn’t get any better, it does.
What originally drew me to this series was its concept: a sword and sorcery fantasy with intelligent and complex dialogue featuring both famous historical characters and everyday folk. After going through the first half of the series, I didn’t think Fate/Zero could exceed my expectations more than it already did – but I guess my expectations weren’t either high or wild enough. Forget kings dueling with their rapier-sharp wits or Servants performing a deadly dance with their swords and spears – this time the act took to the skies with an aerial ballet that wouldn’t look out of place in Top Gun or Macross.
That’s not to say that the series has forgotten the superbly animated action sequences that were one of its strong suits during the first half of the series. Saber (Kawasumi Ayako) and Rider’s (Ooutsuka Aiko) fight against Caster’s (Tsurouka Satoshi) demon started off the episode in style, continuing almost right after the cliffhanger in the previous episode. The CG animation for the gargantuan beast was breathtakingly detailed, and it’s a shame that the violet fog and haze concealed much of its quality. I erroneously believed that because the King of Knights was able to easily deal with one of Caster’s demons before, she would again make short work of his currently summoned monster – especially with the King of Conquerors fighting by her side. However, the demon’s regenerative abilities were too much for them to overcome, and I was surprised that the King of Heroes, Archer (Seki Tomokazu), presumably sent by Father Risei (Hirose Masashi) to assist the other two kings, couldn’t even inflict any permanent damage to it.
It’s still a strange sight to see a manipulative Tohsaka Tokiomi (Hayami Shou) behave so utterly subservient to Archer and so visibly intimidated as well. That said, I can get used to seeing it more often if it means there will also be more moments when his plans backfire, like when Tokiomi attempts to make a “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” analogy to try and spur Archer into action, only to be told that it’s a job for a gardener, not a king. It does feels like Tokiomi’s complacency has robbed him of what was once an extremely calculating mind and replaced it with an increasingly desperate one: why even ask Archer to use his anti-world Noble Phantasm when he already regrets the permanent loss of four less-precious swords and spears? I can only surmise that Tokiomi has resolved to go through and do everything and anything to regain one of his command seals.
Throughout the action, there was nary a hint that this episode would contain anything more than usual swords and sorcery that we’ve come to expect. When Caster’s demon devoured a JDF F-15J that was surveying the situation – capturing it with tentacles that behaved like the missiles in a Macross Missile Massacre – I thought that it was the end of any aerial combat as it was too risky. However, I should have known that more action was in store after seeing the strange sight of Archer’s quasi-futuristic flying golden craft. When I saw it at first, the “aircraft” looked so out of place that I suspected its only purpose in the episode was to show how arrogant Archer was, floating high above everyone – that is, until Berserker (Okiayu Ryoutarou) appeared out of nowhere to hijack the remaining F-15J and then used it to attack Archer. I thought it was a little poetic that the “dog” who “dared to fly” gave Archer everything he could handle in their dogfight, even taking control of missiles and forcing them to behave in ways they were never designed to do. Equally impressive was Archer’s utilization of his Gate of Babylon as both offensive weaponry and defensive shields, and the fact that his craft was just as fast and maneuverable as a modern fighter jet was a testament to just how ridiculously overpowered Gilgamesh is.
Although it was possibly overshadowed a little by the jaw-dropping action sequences, the dialogue in this episode remained just as captivating as I had remembered from the first half of the series, and reminded me why I consider Fate/Zero to be so special. A small theme that immediately stood out to me was one of honor and ideals – more specifically, the honor and ideals that each character holds as important, and how far they would go in order to achieve or uphold them. Perhaps the one character who most exemplified this theme in this particular episode was Tokiomi. In his roof-top confrontation with Matou Kariya (Shingaki Tarusuke) where he revealed his dilemma of having to give up one of his daughters for adoption in order to increase his family’s chances of finding the Root, I came to realize that Tokiomi placed his honor as a mage higher than his honor as a father. I always knew that while he may never be on the level of Kotomine Kirei (Nakata Jouji), Tokiomi is quickly becoming nearly as despicable; he not only placed the blame for having two talented daughters squarely on his wife, he showed no qualms about the fact that the sisters would most likely eventually have to fight one another either.
Worst of all, does he even know how twisted the Matou family is? If Tokiomi did somehow know what their tradition was and still gave up Sakura despite the information – he deserves each and every bloodthirsty insect bearing down on him. Despite the fact that I don’t think Kariya will emerge triumphant in his quest to kill Tokiomi and Zouken, I am still rooting for this tragic hero, and it’ll be interesting to see their showdown, especially without Kirei’s interference.
I understand not every character can be as noble in their honor and ideals as Saber, Rider, or Lancer (Midorikawa Hikaru). For example, Uryuu Ryuunosuke’s (Ishida Akira) ideals centered around his almost inhuman obsession with death and dying, which was plainly engraved on his face as he watched with glee the destruction and dismemberment that his Servant’s demon was currently wreaking, all the while entertaining the multitude of murderous possibilities it was capable of. Neither he nor Caster have any limits on their actions in trying to realize their ideals, and I fear that with Ryuunosuke’s death, Gilles de Rais will become even more dangerous. Fortunately, one man has a plan to stop him – a man who I didn’t expect to have any honor, only ideals: Saber’s true master, Kiritsugu Emiya (Koyama Rikiya). I was surprised to see him not take advantage of the situation in order to go after his next target, and instead postpone the Holy Grail War to defeat Caster’s monster. However, stopping the beast requires the use of Saber’s anti-fortress Noble Phantasm, which she’s unable to use due to Lancer’s curse – so an appeal will eventually have to be made to another kind of honor: chivalry.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what the next episode has in store. It could merely be the delight that comes from seeing some of my favorite characters again after three months, but at this point I honestly don’t think this series can do anything wrong. In fact, I would even go as far as to recommend that all multi-cour shows take a short hiatus if it means maintaining a high level of quality. Production-wise, the animation again was at the very least on par with the finest of shows, but the CG is what truly sets this series apart from the others. I consider it to be one of the very best I’ve ever seen in anime, and I definitely believe it sets a new standard for animation in the fantasy genre. It even compares quite favorably to something like Macross or Gundam on the strength of this episode alone. Whether it’s more aerial dogfighting, sword and magic combat, or simply another philosophical roundtable, Fate/Zero’s return to the airwaves is like a bittersweet summer fling – something I fondly want to last awhile longer, but realize it is destined to end all too soon. And since we never know when the next fling, the next Fate/Zero, will come around… I hope you’ll follow my writings as I attempt to savor and enjoy the ride while it lasts.
TL;DR – @verdantRC: Everything awesome about F/Z + Top Gun = an epically great start to the 2nd season and the greatest COOL! #fatezero
- Random factoid: F-15Js do not have thrust vectoring capability – Berserker must have somehow added that feature!
- Full-length images: OP2 – 08, 18, ED3 – 03 (credit goes to BakaMochi for putting together this one)
ED3: 「空は高く風は歌う」 (Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau) by 春奈るな (Haruna Luna)
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