Anime Review: Fate/Zero Season 2

Okay, I came to this show knowing it was written by Gen Urobuchi, and in season 1, I was surprised by the minimal amount of death…well…season 2 is…definitely more emotional.

Summary: As the Fourth Holy Grail War rages on with no clear victor in sight, the remaining Servants and their Masters are called upon by Church supervisor Risei Kotomine, in order to band together and confront an impending threat that could unravel the Grail War and bring about the destruction of Fuyuki City. The uneasy truce soon collapses as Masters demonstrate that they will do anything in their power, no matter how despicable, to win. Seeds of doubt are sown between Kiritsugu Emiya and Saber, his Servant, as their conflicting ideologies on heroism and chivalry clash. Meanwhile, an ominous bond forms between Kirei Kotomine, who still seeks to find his purpose in life, and one of the remaining Servants. As the countdown to the end of the war reaches zero, the cost of winning begins to blur the line between victory and defeat.

Story: 4/5: The story has improved over the first season in almost every way possible, with one exception: the ending. The ending felt so rushed to me, which is strange as up until that point, Fate/Zero liked to take a lot of time to work on the story and the character development. But there were some twists at the end that may have been better executed in the light novels. I dunno, I was thinking Season 2 was better up until that point, but now I’m split. I also feel like Kiritsugu’s backstory came too late; it should’ve been in season 1, and especially not after the episode where he…basically becomes a character you either love or hate.


Despite the last two episodes being a bit rushed, I have to say that the pacing of the rest of the story up until that point is really well done. The slow (and sometimes extremely fast) escalation of events was incredible. This story doesn’t have the strongest plot line, it’s more about the characters and their development, as well as the basic themes, which each character explores differently. The themes are beautifully written, whether it be about the pros and cons of chivalry, nihilism, and different points of view about war.

Characters: 4/5: The characters are amazing. Their motivations, psychology, and feelings are amazingly explored. However, with a cast as large as this,you don’t get to explore some of them as much as others, leaving some characters underdeveloped.

 

Kiritsugu’s character was even more fleshed out here, but suffered from the placement of his backstory episodes. They should’ve been in season 1, to help the viewers gain a better understanding of him before he does some pretty awful things in his battles for the Grail. In fact, the episode right before his backstory episodes, he commits horrific acts that make it difficult to support him. So he’s one of those characters I neither like or hate, but will defend his worth as an amazing, well written character. I just can’t like or hate him. Irisviel’s story is  filled with spoilers, so I can’t give much on that. But let’s say it’s sad, like the rest of the season 2.

And then there’s poor Saber. She has to go through so much in this series, you can tell how shaken her views on chivalry are by the end of the show. Although I didn’t agree with her desire to save Camelot and therefore retcon a big part of this world’s history, I understood where she came from. Like last season, some of my favorite interactions were with Saber and Irisviel; they have such a lovely friendship. 


Last season, I knew that Kirei would be the main antagonist. But in this season, he becomes the true villain, going from a cold and empty man to being emotional and extremely manipulative. Gilgamesh is a huge part in why, but the anime makes it obvious that this side of Kirei was always there; Gilgamesh didn’t cause it, he merely convinced that side to show itself. Both Kirei and Gilgamesh (especially the latter) prove to be much smarter than I gave them credit for, especially with manipulation. Kirei’s manipulation of Tokiomi’s trust in him and Kariya’s degrading mental state is creepy and incredibly well portrayed. 


Waver and Rider had to be my favorite Master and Servant combination. Rider is one of my favorite characters in the series: he’s funny, cares for Waver, and is also surprisingly smart, particularly with battle. He brought some comic relief to a dark series without being too much and while playing an important part in the story. I used to really dislike Waver; he seemed so bratty and cowardly, I kept mentally begging him to shut up. But his character development is beautiful; he becomes braver, more selfless, and more confident, due to his abilities keeping him alive so long and because of Rider’s influence. Heck, even Gilgamesh finds him worthy of respect! That says something. 

Other characters include:

Kayneth, his fiancé, Sola-Ui, and his Servant, Lancer. You may remember I really, really didn’t like Kayneth or Sola-Ui; that hasn’t changed, I still don’t like either of them. But that didn’t stop them from tugging at my heartstrings this season, especially Kayneth. What happens to them is so messed up. And Lancer…oh gosh. Lancer. That is a really sad part of the story. I felt terrible for him, and what happens to him. He, along with Saber, is one of the most honorable servants; he even sacrifices some things that could help his master take the lead in the war for the sake of chivalry. Not to mention, I really liked his and Saber’s amiable rivalry. What happens to him really ticked me off, and was disturbing.

Tokiomi never stood out to me, except for my being irritated with his incredibly poor judge of character, which also worsened this season. I sadly have to agree with Gilgamesh on this one (sigh): He was dull. Out of  all the masters, he was the one who left the weakest impression on me. 

Okay, Kariya’s story was just pure depressing. He started off as the master with the smallest goal: get the Grail so he can trade it with his family, so he can save Sakura (one of the daughters of the woman he loves). The sad thing is, a lot of the things that happen to him are due to his lack of training and poor emotional decisions, as well as bad communication. A lot of it is self-inflicted. So while he did aggravate me on occasion, that was overruled by sympathy. He started off as the kindest of the masters, and slowly went insane due to the training he underwent and the losses he suffered. The identity of his servant, Berserker, is also finally revealed, as his fixation on Saber…

Animation: 5/5: 

This animation is amazing, no doubt about it. It’s just jaw dropping and beautiful, and oh my gosh… it’s not just the fight scenes, although those are amazing too, with the fight between Kiritsugu and Kirei being one of the best fight scenes I may have ever seen. It’s stunning and amazingly choreographed.

But the more quiet, subtle scenes are just as impactful as the awesome fight scenes. These are the parts that are more emotional and even more chilling.


Sound: 5/5: The sound only got better this season, let me tell you.


Both the OP and the ED were composed by Yuki Kajiura. Kalafina’s performance of To The Beginning for the OP was amazing. It’s one of my favorite OPs now, with a beautiful song and gorgeous animation. It has symbolism, foreshadowing, and is just a treat for the eyes and the ears. 

The ED is beautifully performed by Haruna Luna. It’s a love song about Kiritsugu and Irisviel, yet doesn’t feel out of place. While their relationship isn’t focused on much in the anime, the novels may have more insight. It’s got a beautiful voice, amazing lyrics, and will bring on the feels. 

And what can I say about the OST that I haven’t said before? It’s total ear candy, with an amazing orchestra and choir, bringing so much impact and wonder to this series. Wow.

The performances have only improved since last season. My highlights from my first review are still the same, but I have to say that Matthew Mercer, Crispin Freeman, and Kari Wahlgren are the standouts. Matthew Mercer has even more emotional range this season, balancing out Kititsugu’s character perfectly. Crispin Freeman did a great cold voice last season, but portrays Kirei’s cruelty and insanity so well this season; he sounds plenty terrifying. Kari Wahlgren also has a lot more range this season, and her portrayal of Saber only got better, making her more impactful.  Jamieson Price is still wonderful as Rider, he simply sounds perfect for the role. Liam O’Brien also has more of an impact, especially as Kariya’s mental and emotional state get worse and worse.

World Building: 4/5: Most of the world building took place last season. This season doesn’t really give much more info about the world, and when it does, it’s during Kiritsugu’s backstory. Of course, the Grail is elaborated on, but ultimately left me confused. Some rules of the Holy Grail War were also explained more in depth.

Pros:

  • Ramps up the stakes: From the first episode on, you know that season 2 will be more intense than season 1. The stakes will be higher, the body count will rise, and your feels will  also increase. While season 1 was more about the psychology of the characters and their motivations, season 2’s plot gets really going, really fast.
  • More emotional involvement: Even though I said that the plot of this season is what truly gets going, that’s not to say that the character development takes a backseat. In fact, the plot development helps the character development, and it helped make me get more emotionally impacted by this season than the last. 
  • Still has psychological elements: I love it when stories outside the horror and mystery genre include a psychological element. Due to stronger emotions, the character’s mental states worsening, and the intensity of the series becomin higher, the psychology actually becomes more pronounced.

Cons:

  • Poorly paced last episodes: This doesn’t mean that the last episodes were bad, or just not good. They were good. They just needed more explanation, as some twists didn’t make much sense or used plot elements that weren’t explained enough. Maybe they’re discussed in depth in the books. It does end on a good note though, which I liked.
  • Bad placement of backstory: Kiritsugu’s backstory needed to be in season 1. By the time those episodes came around, he had done such horrible things that it’s hard to forgive him for. But placing the backstory episodes earlier could’ve shed some light on the main character, and added a new perspective throughout the series.
  • Some underdeveloped characters: In a cast as big as this, don’t expect everyone to get equal screentime and development. There were some characters who I felt nothing towards, and who I felt could’ve had more development.

Grade: 4/5: This could’ve gotten a 4.5 easily, but I feel as though the poor placement of the backstory episodes and somewhat rushed ending knocked off a bit of quality. However, I highly recommend this series: it’s got a fascinating premise, well developed characters, beautiful animation and music, and is incredibly unique. 

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