“A Sword In My Hand” – Fate/Zero, Season 2 (anime) – 8/10 Desks

Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Drama

Review Status: Complete (12 Episodes/12 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed and available for free viwing on Crunchyroll.

Art/Animation: Just as fantastic as the first season.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: The Third Holy Grail War reaches its final conclusion.

Review: This started off right where Season 1 ended; a brutal battle between Castor and a few of the other servants. Covering from there to the end (and a little beyond) of the 3rd Holy Grail War, Season 2 was underwhelming and really showed TYPE-MOON’s propensity to tie properties in with each other in ways that really make it necessary to see them all in order to understand what’s going on. Let me say from the beginning: if you haven’t seen Fate/Stay Night or played the VN, then you will not understand the importance or meaning behind much of what happens and the relationships that are forged and broken within the final two episodes.

Flash-forwards give brief glimpses of important events that, for the casual viewer, will mean nothing or be outright confusing. Part of this is because it’s an origin story that’s airing after the main story. Part of this is because it’s an origin story that really does tie into the main one quite well. Or so I hear–I haven’t seen or read Fate/Stay Night myself, and that does affect how I took in the anime.

Don’t get me wrong–the first half is perfectly wonderful and understandable, full of tense moments, action, and interesting characters. Thankfully, I have more reason than this superficial issue to be less than impressed with the second half. The set-up for this was an epic battle, a daunting foe, a world in very real danger. I could recall that tension from the moment I saw the first episode of this season. Unfortunately, the ending to it was surprisingly anti-climactic. The creators realized they had to wrap things up and get to what this was all about: the decisions that shaped Kiritsugu into who he is in Fate/Stay Night.

That story is absolutely heartbreaking, bringing a lot of depth and sympathy that I really didn’t have for Kiritsugu in the first half. I had a lot of mixed emotions about him, because I certainly didn’t like him as a person but couldn’t reconcile how he came off with the strong, upright morals he had for wanting desperately to save people. The flashback episode really brought the world that they live in to life in many ways, how the magical community acts (and interacts) with those without magic, what people will do to protect themselves, and brought out a few very interesting factions within the magical community that play into the story at large. The exact events that changed him are shocking…but really work for him. He’s a very dynamic character, and seeing the seeds of his childhood catch up is interesting, and tragic in some of the most amazing ways. I really felt for him but at the same time, because he was so warped from his experiences, he remained a distant character until the end.

Fate/Zero weaves in these two episodes among the rest that go from overt action to covert double-dealing. Back-door alliances turn to betrayals as the competitors show their true colors and become even more desperate to win the Grail as the clock ticks down. Rider–my favorite character of them all–and his master are the only ones that are truly untouched by the deception, since they had no ties to any of the others to begin with, and go to meet the others on the field of battle on their own terms. Some candidates are killed off by the deaths of the Masters, others by the deaths of the Servants. Battles chip away at each other’s strength, and they then take advantage of those, and while those fights never reach the sheer intensity of the Castor fight of the first season, they are nonetheless wonderful to watch. However, halfway through this there was almost no question of who would actually be facing off against each other for the Grail when the time came.

Things don’t tie up entirely. The last two episodes were the most intense, action-wise, as the vast majority of characters were killed off, but small details–like what happened to the grail at the end, the meaning of the knife, etc–are clearly things that are important but it’s unclear why because, as mentioned earlier, they are Fate/Stay night references. It leaves off at a good point, though, and would be an easy jump to make to understand the sequel. Even though I myself am not able to really understand it, I’m sure that when I get around to being able to play the VN, it will all become clear.

Overall, for the most part this was very well-crafted, with great action, interesting characters, and a story that is fascinating. It does have its downside, but if you’re a fan of the series and are familiar with the other titles, then this will not disappoint.

Recommended: 16+. This doesn’t have the implications of absolutely brutal violence that the first season had, yet it still has the blood and death that are a hallmark of a dog-eats-dog competition. The worst is when one man’s veins bulge due to high blood pressure and he begins squirting blood from his veins. Most of it isn’t that graphic or disturbing.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Fate/Zero Season 1 (anime)

Fate/Stay Night (anime or visual novel)

Kara no Kyoukai (anime)

 

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