MVM Entertainment’s second collection of the Fate/Zero anime brings us the epic conclusion to the fourth Holy Grail War. The final twelve episodes contain the continuing battles between seven powerful mages and their summoned servants, in a contest to decide who should attain the mystical relic that can grant any wish (if I won it I’d ask for a pony.) The first of the set’s two DVDs follows on directly from the last collection, featuring Saber in a battle against Caster’s giant tentacle monster. My what a brave knight she is. Isn’t she aware how perilous it is for animated girls to approach such a creature?
Call me bloodthirsty perhaps, but after complaining in my last review that Fate/Zero’s combatants were unusually merciful against their rivals, I am pleased to report that the kid gloves are now finally off. From the offset the cast of characters, we have previously grown to love and despise, begin to drop like flies. This second half of the series really ramps up the visceral action and if you are a female character you may want to vacate the premises, given how more than one of the show’s heroines ends up being subjected to strangulation. If you are a sadist those violent scenes are sure to take your breath away (no pun intended.)
The increased action doesn’t however come at the expense of the exemplary character development found in the show’s last instalment. Zero’s script continues to explore the strained allegiances between the mages and their servants. Two prime examples are the chivalrous Lancer and Saber who wish to settle the Holy Grail War through honourable combat. Unfortunately for them they are forced to serve less than noble masters, who will employ any underhanded method at their disposal to secure victory (if they were cyclists they would be Lance Armstrong.)
On the character development front it is the gun toting spell caster known as Kiritsugu Emiya who ends up getting the most screen time, courtesy of flashback episodes that reveal his backstory. After witnessing the traumatic adolescence he went through I cannot help but feel sympathy for the guy, although I can’t condone how ruthless he is in the pursuit of his dreams. He perfectively embodies the tone of the show that deals with morals in shades of grey. There are a couple of downright evil characters in Fate/Zero, but for the most part the majority of the cast have just motivations for coveting the grail. Unfortunately for the participants it is impossible to succeed without getting your hands dirty… just like taking part in The Apprentice.
My final rating for Fate/Zero is five stars. It’s an exceptional series with a script that is smarter than your typical anime release. The animation and CG effects are consistently stellar throughout the show’s twenty-five episode duration. Although some of the battles end too abruptly for my liking, for the most part they are exciting to watch. I especially liked Saber’s final duel versus Berserker and Kiritsugu’s bullet time showdown with Kotomine (which puts Neo to shame.) The bittersweet finale may not go down well with viewers that like happily ever after endings, but I personally found it to be both powerful and satisfying. As a prequel the show succeeds in adding depth to the Fate franchise in addition to setting up its follow-up. What a shame then that Fate Stay/Night fails to meet Zero’s high standards.