「時計塔と日常と未来への第一歩」 (Tokeitou to Nichijou to Mirai he no Daiipou)
“The Clock Tower, Usual Days, and the First Step Forward to the Future”
Criticising the Finale
I had mixed feelings about the finale. It was had a bizarrely inconsistent mix of good and bad. First off, they can’t just end last episode on an epic cliffhanger, before cutting to the present without showing us what actually happened. I don’t care if this was a 1:1 adaptation of the novel. Telling us it all happened off-screen is extremely cheap. Anime exists to elucidate and bring to life a source material in a way the original content cannot. So it really disappointed me that we didn’t get to see Rhongomyniad vs Hecatic Wheel fully play out on the screen, or Karabo Frampton’s noble sacrifice to save both Waver and Gray. This was my biggest gripe for the episode, and it was big enough to put a damper on my general impressions of the series.
My other reservations come from the overall construction of the mystery premise. Dr Heartless is finally dropped as the biggest and most exciting villain of the franchise. Then they swiftly vanish him off the screen at the very end. The fact that the last episode is an opportunity to lay things bare, only for Case Files to dispel any pretense of mystery really annoyed me. Which begs the question: the whydunnit. Why go through all the hoops, painstakingly crafting the foundation, when there is no attempt at a satisfactory resolution? If I had to guess, my intuition tell me that there’s possible ulterior motives pulling the strings behind the scene: 1) They’re leaving room for a potential follow-up season where they can satisfactorily answer these questions. 2) This was literally advertisement for the novels and an inconclusive ending forces viewers to check out the novels to gain any semblance of closure. Unfortunately, these reasons are commonplace across the anime industry. My only hope is that we either get a new season, because despite my complaints, I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience and would love to see more. Or we get a sequence of OVAs to grant deserved closure.
Praising Themes that were Realised
Now that I’ve vented my gripes, we can move onto the praise this series has earned. There’s no denying that the series as a whole did an excellent job showcasing the internal politics of the Clock Tower. Because we see that Magus Association rankings aren’t based on a system of potential proficiency or moral codes, but on magical and academic accomplishments – in other words, how close an individual is in attaining the Root. And there’s a lot of colluding involved between the great magic families. Even at the end, we have Reines and Olga Marie wrangling a deal together as the respective future of their clans. Which brings me onto the politics of the Clock Tower’s Holy Grail War candidates. Interestingly, though I disliked him as a character, I felt that the Case Files allowed me to view Kayneth in a much more sympathetic light. Most people who’ve seen Fate/Zero might have had the impression that Kayneth was an arrogant bastard who overestimated his own abilities. However, Case Files highlights just how unlucky he was to have crossed paths with Kiritsugu, let alone be considered as a primary threat that urgently needed to be eliminated by the Magus Slaying mercenary. Even Tokiomi, who did extensive research about Kiritsugu, did not know about his Origin Bullet. So now, we can appreciate just how capable and ingenious Kayneth was, to have attracted Kiritsugu’s attention as well as having his original artifact stolen – which caused him to summon Diarmuid, a heroic spirit who proved to be his absolute undoing in spite of its best intentions.
Waver’s character progression was absolutely substantial, and it was worth seeing every bit of it. He’s grappled with the ghost of the Holy Grail War for the entirety of his adult life, single-mindedly craving to see his King at least one more time, while being haunted by endless guilt and regrets. His dream sequence of meeting Iskandar at the end was heavily fitting. The piano version of ‘You are my King’ the played during the scene hit me right in the feels, and it was an amazing place to wrap up the series. As always, Rider strikes the heart as a charismatic character who dominates the screen. It’s easy to remember why Waver respected this man, and sought to follow him till the very end. This dream encounter also allows us to witness the culmination of Waver’s character development, after pursuing the shadow of Iskandar for his entire lifetime. And now he’s come to an emphatic decision. Instead of seeking the Holy Grail to fulfill his own desires through its wish-giving capabilities, his calling will be to foil Dr Heartless and his machinations from seeking to misuse Iskandar’s powers for nefarious purposes. When Waver’s voice cracked, reverting to his teenage years, that moment really hit home the emotional gravity of it all like a megaton truck. And this is why you had to watch Fate/Zero to get full mileage out of this series. Going in blind, there’s no way you can properly comprehend the depth of Waver’s characterisation or motives without having first seen his journey of a lifetime alongside Iskandar.
To wrap things off, Troyca’s animation remained exquisite for the entire run – a rarity for shows these days. Yuki Kajiura did amazingly as usual with her widely recognisable musical style, and the source material – although iffy towards the end if this is indeed how everything played out in the novel – set out a fascinating premise for the most part which had me spell-bound for the majority of this ride. Mystic eyes, murders and a gruff detective on the job make for excellent entertainment. Would I recommend this show to other people? Definitely. Anyone with an itch for fantasy, mystery and action will find something here. But with a caveat: you have to watch Fate/Zero first, or else you’ll only be getting half of the experience. Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. I sure wouldn’t mind a second season or a bunch of OVAs, and I would be interested to hear what other people think – especially people with knowledge about the novels who can weigh in with a broader perspective. As always, thank you for reading my posts till the end and see you next time!