So far, Fate/Zero has been a pretty well received show by the majority of its viewers, and for good reason. The animation is nearly perfect, the plot’s developing at a healthy pace while indulging those who enjoy a good all out brawl from time to time, and the direction’s been surprisingly sharp and crisp considering the scatterbrained nature of the source material. While it’s not the best of the season, it’s certainly one of my favorites, and it never fails to entertain. If it’s lacking majorly in anything, it’s with something pretty big: The characters.
Make no mistake, it’s still a step up from Fate/Stay Night, even from the visual novel. In FSN, the characters were easily the weakest link, coupled with the severe lack of real focus. Most of the servants were either cookie cutter personality archetypes, or were left without much of a backstory to weave into the narrative. The most interesting characters, at least to me, were Shiro and his sexist worldviews that grew gradually less sexist over time, and Archer. Even then, Archer doesn’t win many points in that regard once his identity is revealed.
Fate/Zero has many of the same problems, just not to such a degree. Yes, Saber’s still suffering from a guilt complex, but they don’t take the forefront like they did in FSN. Yes, Gilgamesh is back, but he’s less crazy and more sheer arrogance. Honestly, if it were just Saber, Archer, Lancer, Berserker, and Assassin, Fate/Zero would still be a good watch. For the blogosphere as a whole, and me, the real draw in terms of character is Rider. And really, it’s not difficult to see why.
Almost every other character is a common archetype in anime, which is what makes them so unremarkable past a few superficial details. Saber’s a stoic heroine that still has a strong feminine streak, but she gets hardly any time to really develop. Even then, as a king who’s had to suppress her emotions for the good of her country, it’s not like she’s one of the deepest characters to draw a story from. Archer’s a conceited prick who has the means to back up his douchy appearance with sheer firepower, but that’s the breadth of his dimension. Lancer’s a former knight who yearns for a fair fight despite being the servant to a wholly selfish master, and that’s about all that we’ve seen so far. Finally, you have Berserker and Assassin, both of which are about as mysterious as they are simple killing machines with their own kinds of immense power.
If you haven’t seen each of these characters in at least three different anime series, and many more times in other media, you aren’t looking hard enough. The same goes for each one of their masters and Irisviel, with Kirei and Kiritsugu being the only ones with any modicum of mystery to them. All of their dynamics with the servants are functional and believable to a large extent, but there’s not enough to really set them apart from a slew of similar characters in other media.
You may have noticed that I left out Rider and Caster in my descriptions earlier, as well as their masters. Everyone would probably say their favorite character personality-wise in Fate/Zero is Rider. There would most likely be a monument erected in Rider’s honor, were the anime blogging community to pool their funds together. This is all for good reason, considering he’s a rarity in anime.
In an otherwise shallow pool filled with androgynous teenage boys and buxom girls in their twenties, Rider makes quite the splash by being a warrior with absolutely no sense of subterfuge. While everyone else scurries around attempting to hide their identity from everyone else in essentially the most indirect iteration of Battle Royale ever, Rider bucks all conventions, rides in on a chariot made of lightning, and loudly declares that he’s here to chew bubblegum and ride down everybody with his lightning chariot.
You just don’t see that in many anime series these days, and I think it’s refreshing when compared to other, safer personality types. And apparently so does everyone else watching, considering how popular he is in the blogosphere.
As for Waver, he gets a pass into memorable territory for being such an effective foil. While Rider is all bravado with no drive other than conquering for the sake of conquering, Waver has a desire for the Grail, or at least a desire to participate and survive the Holy Grail War, in order to prove that experience can make up for any lack of ingrained magical lineage. However, as far as bravery goes, Waver is severely lacking, often preferring to skulk in the shadows and cower despite Rider’s protests. Together, the two make a great duo despite their polar opposite personalities, both covering for the other’s shortcomings. If being an electric character duo were an award, these two would place alongside the likes of Holo and Lawrence.
But what about Caster? Why did I not fit him on the list with the other, less memorable servants? Well, like Rider and Waver, he gels very well with his master. The two have no care for the Holy Grail, they just want to cause as much chaos as possible. I can say without a doubt that Caster having absolutely no definitive goal for entering the war and just wanting to kill as many people in as many gruesome ways as possible, coupled with his campy sensibilities, makes it no wonder that he’s my favorite character.
I guess the lesson that can be gained from this is that, in a medium oversaturated with characters, hero or villain, that often have very human motivations for their actions (Not a bad thing, inherently), having one or two that just want to flex their strength for no real purpose is quite refreshing. So I suppose if there needs to be more discussion value, tell me what you think of rider, or the characters as a whole.