Many visual novel adaptations either fail to live up to the promise of the source material or end up make sacrifices for the sake of maintaining some sense of the visual novel experience. Many in the former camp, of which the first Fate/Stay night adaptation was apparently part of, are swiftly forgotten unless they turn out to be catastrophic wrecks. Several in the later camp divide the plot into multiple segments, particularly evident in harem or pseudo-harem visual novels, and end up lessening the impact for the sake of pleasing the fans of the original work.
While there are examples that break the mold, or fit into it so snugly that they end up strong enough to stand on their own, it’s a safe bet that pretty much any adaptation you’ll watch will end up in one of those two camps, and just not be much good as a result. Lo and behold, here comes the Fate/zero anime. A prequel to the three Fate/Stay night arcs, Fate/zero perfectly encompasses the feel of a Type-Moon visual novel. Many of you know what this means: Minutes upon minutes of dreary exposition, with subtitles adding an extra touch in translating the entire experience to an anime format, and a lot of psychobabble rattled off like the audience wants to know every single detail that goes on.
So for those who vocalized their displeasure with how sloppily the first anime was adapted, I think this is what you asked for… a perfect way to experience visual novels in an animated format. It’s just a shame that transcribing text to a script while having characters slowly walk around a dimly lit room is a shitty way of actually adapting.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly an adaptation of a visual novel, so you nitpickers can stop frothing at the mouth now, but you get my point. It’s like this looked at its imaginary twin, a visual novel consisting of the exact same story, and copied from its invisible notes on how to have the most physically stilted conversations ever. It would be the perfect way to experience a visual novel without it actually being one… if it were actually adapted from one.
Actually, this should be used as a test for those who aren’t sure if they can handle the snail-like pacing of most visual novels. If they can sit through one conversation in this thing without feeling lost, bored, or suicidal, then they’d get quite the experience out of a Type-Moon product.
So right, with that roundabout series of explanations and sarcastic ramblings lashing out at nobody in particular out of the way, it’s time to get to the meat of this post: What I thought about Fate/zero. The general consensus that I’ve seen in the aniblogosphere (The seven people or so who are watching this that I follow on Twitter) is that it takes awhile to get the plot going, far too long, but at least it looks nice.
Keep in mind that, at least to my knowledge, none of these people have gone through the Fate/Stay night visual novel. They’ve all essentially gone into this blind, unaware as to the sheer head-crushing volume of dialogue that awaited their scrutinizing gazes and… ear-gazes. I’m tired, so good words are eluding me right now. It appears that Fate/zero is aware of this, because it tries to cram every single detail about the Holy Grail War into 40 minutes, explaining the intricacies in an entirely forgettable manner.
I mean hell, I made it through the first arc of the visual novel and some of this bored me to tears. That’s not to say it didn’t look nice while it was in the process of boring me, of course, or that it didn’t have a few particularly eye catching scenes to break up the monotony, but those moments were few and far between, and I don’t think any but the most patient of individuals will stick around for the hopeful excitement to come in the next 24 episodes.
I think the big question that needs answering is whether prior experience with the franchise in some form would be important to getting the most out of this. Unfortunately, despite what I might have said on Twitter, I think some previous experience and acceptance of the numerous inconsistencies and contrivances in this universe should be had before viewing. Since this is a prequel though, it’s not like anybody who watches this will automatically be lost… they just likely will unless they have some idea of what to expect.
As a service to everyone who hasn’t seen the episode, or those who skipped ahead to the end, here’s a quick summary of everything that isn’t superfluous bullshit: A group of mages use historical and mythological figures to fight a Battle Royale in order to obtain the Holy Grail, which will grant any wish. In order to summon the servants, they must have a relic that they left behind (A cloak, a scabbard, toenail clippings, etc.) and perform a specific ritual for what servant they desire. There are seven different servants: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin, with Saber and Archer often being the most powerful.
Thankfully, if each of the plot elements are used in the plot in some form, Fate/zero will undoubtedly deliver. There’s just something captivating and primal about seeing a Battle Royale between key historical and mythological figures that’s hard not to enjoy on some level, and I have confidence that this series will deliver. Given the sudden spike in the tension in the last ten minutes or so of this episode, with each of the mages summoning their servants, I think those of us who will be watching this have quite the show ahead of us. And, if nothing else, the production values are pretty damn good.
And once again, Waver Velvet is the stupidest fucking name ever.