Fate/Zero Part 2 (Episodes 12-25) (Cert 15)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 277 minutes approx.
Don’t expect a soft re-entry into the saga of the Holy Grail Wars, picking up the action as we do from the exact point we left it at the end of volume one. Unlike our Japanese friends we’ve only had a one month wait before resuming the story while they had to hang on for four months before beginning this second half.
So, we literally rejoin the action mid battle as the various Masters and Servants have formed a temporary coalition in order to eliminate Caster, the Servant of unhinged serial killer Ryūnosuke Uryū, an equally uncontrollable entity who has now mutated into the form of a self-regenerating quid like creature. Don’t laugh, it’s far more menacing than it sounds and is certainly proving to be an unstoppable foe for the united efforts of Saber, Lancer and Rider.
The whole point of stopping Caster was because his and Uryū’s murderous actions were drawing public attention to the Holy Grail Wars, and Caster turning into a giant squid doesn’t help matters either as it is soon attacked by a pair of F-15 fighter planes!
After opening with two episodes or solid action, the pace slows down to focus on the political machinations of the various masters, all of whom have their own agendas and motives in their quest for the Holy Grail. The key to success we learn is the Command Seal, the fancy design each master has on his hand.
Kayneth is awarded one from Risei, the moderator of the war, for having his servant Lancer participate in destroying Caster then kills Risei to prevent the others from getting one. He then formulates a grisly plan to seek out those who already do possess one and take it for himself.
This is just a small part of the shady dealings that take place between the Masters, most of whom have become intoxicated with the power bestowed upon them, turning them into conniving and duplicitous individuals. One character in particular undergoes a rather drastic personality change which appears shocking until we take a two episode trip into his past as a child.
We discover the germination of the devious and heartless man he grew up to be, aided by vampires created by his father called Dead Apostles and a Russian assassin named Natalia Kaminski. While this forms the basis for a damaged psyche for anybody who went through what this character did, it doesn’t fully justify how this plays out in the current time frame, arguably one of the more tragic and disturbing turn of events to occur in the series finale.
The servants too are caught up in their own problems aside from protecting and fighting on behalf of their Masters. Saber in particular not only has to contend with Archer suddenly deciding she would make a perfect female companion but there is some bothering her about Berserker, more specifically his true identity which, when finally revealed, is a bit of a shocker for the warrior woman.
Devoted followers of this series will know that Saber is no typical damsel in distress wallflower heroine and she provides much of the action outside of the numerous Holy Grail battles including an exciting chase sequence as Saber pursues Rider on her motorcycle which she soups up with her magic powers.
This is one of the visual highlights of the set which is a difficult accolade to award as the production values for this series are very high indeed, as anyone who has seen volume one will already know. One of the rare instances where the CG and 2D animation blends seamlessly, the magical auras and the neon lit landscapes of night time Tokyo are beautifully rendered which assuredly will delight the eyeballs of blu-ray viewers.
It’s rare to see the character designs stay on model too which, with such outlandish creations as the likes of Berserker and Rider, it would be easy to let the standards slip.
With a central theme of a Holy War it is automatically accepted that this is gong to be a violent outing as volume one has already demonstrated. This second set continues this trend with some similarly graphic and blood soaked content that isn’t for the squeamish, but it is violence of a different kind that probes to more upsetting.
For some reason writers Akira Hiyama and Akihiro Yoshida have a fetish for asphyxiation as we bear witness to three separate instances of fatal strangulation of female characters. Yes it is fiction and yes it is animated, but it does engender a palpable sense of unease watching these scenes, helped by the all too convincing sound effects and effective work of the voice actors.
Being a prequel the final episodes take an unusual route in setting up for the future events which make up the Fate/Stay Night series, at least in terms of the characters involved in this transitional development. Nothing will be given away in this review but the handling is subtle and teases what is to come, leaving plenty unanswered while teasing enough for anyone who has seen the ensuing story.
This second instalment of Fate/Zero follows closely the format of the preceding volume of intense and often violent action intertwined with prolix longueurs to drive the story forward. It does however conclude the story in a satisfactory fashion while paving the way neatly for the next stage.
It’s an often brutal affair that tinkers with history in a glossily presented yarn in the guise of a fantasy adventure, beneath which runs a unique exploration on the concepts of love, power and religion.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 Only:
Ratings – *** ½
Man In Black