Fate/Zero has a completely different angle on the old quest for the Holy Grail. Every so often mages of talent are selected by the Holy Grail to battle for the right to use it. Each mage is granted a Servant: a hero from history. Each hero has a class much like in a video game. You have the archer, swordsman, berserker, caster, lancer, rider, and assassin. The classical idea of the Holy Grail felt odd with the video game-style ideas.
Fate/Zero has some cool things going for it, but it fails to focus on some of the more interesting storylines. It is an action anime at its core. So I guess that explains why it drops the ball here and there with story. Some of the heroes were strange as well. Alexander the Great has the most screen time of all the heroes. His happy-go-lucky attitude doesn’t strike me as Alexandrian, but he has an insatiable desire to know about the modern world he found himself in. This is within the character of the actual historical figure. Alexander was taught by Aristotle, after all.
King Arthur is the most interesting and tormented hero. She (yes she) has a surprisingly low amount of screen time compared to Alexander. Her master, the tormented protagonist, doesn’t make much in the way of appearances until a flashback about his childhood. Well, I guess his lack of screen time makes sense because the guy is a mage assassin. Assassins are not exactly the type to be seen. The series makes a fuss about how Arturia is a poor match as a servant, but at their cores both her master and Arturia are similar. Arturia is tormented by her failure as a king. We all know the story: Camelot falls apart because of Lancelot and Guinevere’s love affair. Only King Arthur married Guinevere to keep her male disguise from being discovered. This makes the tragedy all the more tragic. Unfortunately, Fate/Zero does not develop Arthur as much as I would have liked. Alexander was likable, but Arthur’s history and conflict resonated with me more. It also fit the feel the anime established.
What I liked most about this series was the maturity. This is not a high school anime. It did feel uneven at times. One of the characters, Caster, is a nut that liked to crucify children. Yep, it got that dark. But whiplash that with Alexander wanting to play video games. The comedy feels a little over extended considering the dark themes the anime plays around with. It would be better if the comedy was dropped.
One irritation I had was the whole chivalry idea. It was overdone, to the point where the enemy heroes all sat down with each other and enjoyed wine together. They were civilized, which makes sense to a certain degree, but it become too much of a focus. Alexander, for example, was a military mind. He wasn’t one to fight duels or want to fight people at their full strength. He worked to take out the enemy at the least risk to his troops. In other words, attack when the enemy is weak and disadvantaged. Now, he did have a battle lust the anime captured well. Generally, the shonen style fights felt odd with the exception of Arturia and the knights like Lancer. In that regard, it made sense.
But it is an anime.
The animation stays consistent throughout. Battles are well done. There is some CG that stands out against the rest of the show, but that is pretty normal. I found the music forgettable.
Fate/Zero is not bad. It is also not great. It isn’t a high school anime, which is a plus in my book. High school is a tired trope. I enjoyed the show enough to watch all 25 episodes. If you enjoy interesting fights and dark themes gives this one a try. It is an different take on historical and legendary figures.