Review of Fate/Zero (Collection 1)


Fate/Zero is an anime adaptation of Gen Urobuchi’s book series, which tells the prequel story to the visual novel Fate/Stay Night. The anime is available to buy in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment, who are distributing the twenty-five-episode saga across two collector’s editions. The first DVD set, which I am reviewing here, contains the opening thirteen episodes and can be purchased from United Publications ( for a reasonable £22 (which is considerably cheaper than the £32 Amazon are presently demanding for it.)

Zero’s story chronicles the fourth Holy Grail War, which occurred ten years prior to the events featured in Stay Night. For those of you not familiar with the franchise, the Holy Grail War is a contest fought between rival mages who are vying to win a mystical artefact that can grant its owner whatever wish they desire (a bit like Aladdin’s lamp, minus the blue skinned comedy stylings of Robin Williams.) Aiding each spell caster, in their quest for the sacred chalice, are powerful servants who happen to be historical figures that have been summoned from the past to modern times via mystical means.

Anime fans that disliked Stay Night may still want to check out Zero, as the show is far more intelligent than its predecessor. For me, Stay Night was marred by the harem antics revolving around its drab protagonist. Rather than focusing on a main character, Zero instead is an ensemble piece and is all the better for it. I personally find stories more gripping when the motivations of its entire cast are explored. Yes there are some bad eggs to jeer at, but a good chunk of Zero’s characters have commendable reasons for coveting the Grail. Whilst watching the show I cannot help but root for multiple factions even though in the end there can be only one victor (just like in Highlander.)

For those of you who enjoyed Stay Night (and are still reading after I irked you in the last paragraph) you’ll be glad to know that Zero has some references tying the two shows together. Rin’s father (Tokiomi Tohsaka) for example features in the series. He’s a Lex Luthor like wealthy mastermind who plots on how to win the Grail, without dirtying his hands, whilst sipping upon wine. The female knight known as Saber also appears in Zero as a servant to both Kiritsugu Emiya (a despised mage who uses firearms in addition to magical techniques) and his silver haired homunculus bride named Irisviel. Irisviel is actually one of my favourite characters as she has a sweet personality and rarely ventures outside without wearing those adorably fluffy hats that are so popular in Russia.

Other characters of note are Waver Velvet and his servant Rider, who are responsible for injecting some chuckles into what is a mostly sombre show. The mismatched pair are always trading verbal barbs, as Waver is a snivelling coward whilst Rider is a boisterous gung-ho oath. Much less likable is the teenage serial killer named Ryunosuke Uryu and his deranged servant Caster. Instead of participating in the Holy Grail War, the unscrupulous duo spend the majority of their time abducting and butchering innocent children. Needless to say I hope they get their comeuppance soon.

I am giving the first part of Fate/Zero a four out of five. Aside from the slow paced forty-minute opening episode, I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have seen thus far. The plot is smart, doing a good job of focusing on how the combatants attempt to outsmart each other. I also liked how time is spent showing the strained relationships that surface between masters and servants who have very different ideologies. The action is great too, thanks to the gorgeous animation and good use of CG effects. How many of the duels end in a stalemate does however irritate me. After spending so much time developing the characters I suspect that the writers weren’t keen on eliminating anyone too early.

Needless to say Fate/Zero gets a thumbs up from me. I previously haven’t been enamoured by the Fate franchise, but after sampling Zero’s first thirteen episodes I have no hesitation in adding the second Collector’s Edition to my shopping list, once it becomes available.

6 thoughts on “Review of Fate/Zero (Collection 1)

  1. I agree completely with your review! I found Stay Night absolutely terrible to sit through, but Zero revived my interest in the franchise. It’s slow build into the real action was a tad annoying, but the series more than made up for it later. Great Review!

  2. I agree. Fate/Zero was really good; one of the best action series I’ve seen and a lot better than Fate/Stay Night (though the visual novel it’s based on is supposed to give you a much bigger picture of the story – but it’s also got the harem thing going on with Shirou and Saber/Rin/Sakura.) Fate/Zero on the other hand is just a good action series with a good story and interesting characters.

    Probably also helps that Gen Urobuchi wrote the novels. Nasu (the writer side of Type Moon) built the whole universe that Stay Night and Zero exist in and he’s pretty good at stuff like that, but he’s not really a good writer – the guy rambles on and on without much of an eye for pacing.

  3. Ooh Fate/Zero! Outside of Full Metal Brotherhood, this is my favorite action anime. It’s phenomenal, and coincidentally is the anime that has more of my favorite anime staff than any other. Gen Urobuchi is definitely my favorite anime writer, Yuki Kajiura is my favorite composer, Ufotable is my favorite animation studio, and Lisa sings the OP who is my favorite J Rock artist. XD

  4. Fate/Zero is quite a nice watch, and while the first half is largely introductions and setting the stage for everything that happens in the second half, it’s still quite a worthy watch itself. The Banquet of Kings in particular is quite a scene and clearly defines the philosophies of Saber, Rider, and Archer in an interesting way.

    I’d definitely say I found Fate/Zero more enjoyable than the Stay Night anime because of the depth it provides and the wide characterization it gives. That said though, if you get the chance, you should watch the F/SN anime coming out in fall or perhaps even play the VN, Shirou’s characterization is among the best in the series and the entire F/SN package as a whole is just as competent a story as F/Z if not more so. The TV anime only covers one route, making it a largely incomplete story that can only go so far in developing its characters.

  5. Pingback: Review of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya | The Otaku Judge
  6. Pingback: Review of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works | The Otaku Judge

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