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Fate/Zero Review

Fate/Zero Review: A Masterclass in Character Development and Lore

Our Fate/Zero review dives into its rich lore, stunning animation, and complex themes. Find out what sets it apart from other Fate series.

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Fate/Zero is easily one of the best in the Fate series and it’s not hard to see why it’s a top pick for many, including myself. Released in 2011 with animation by Ufotable (Demon Slayer, Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks), it’s climbed the ranks to become one of the all-time greats in action anime.

Two seasons of the series were released. You can currently watch the series on streaming platforms, like Crunchyroll, but Aniplex of America also released a Fate/Zero Complete Box Set that you may want to check out as well.

Diving into Fate/Zero can be a bit intimidating, especially with the whole Fate universe being as vast and complex as it is. With this in mind, before we jump into what makes Fate/Zero such an amazing series, I want to talk about when’s the best time to watch it.

When to Watch Fate/Zero

Although Fate/Zero was released in 2011, it is not the Fate series I recommend watching first. Fate/Zero spoils a lot of the events in Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks. If you watch Fate/Zero before Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks, it will ruin a lot of the mystery as well as twists and revelations that occur in Unlimited Bladeworks. Fate/Zero can also come across as confusing, and you may feel like a lot of the characters are rambling about things you don’t quite understand if you didn’t watch Unlimited Bladeworks first.

Unlimited Bladeworks is a proper entry point, but if you can, watch the Fate/stay night release from 2006 first. Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks adapts the second route of the source material, which is the visual novel, while the 2006 release adapts the first route. I go into more depth in my Complete Fate Guide if you’d like to check it out, but for now, just know that you should watch Fate/stay night from 2006—not required but recommended for added context—then Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks first.

The next in the watch order is often debated, because the next two series I’m going to mention spoil one another in various ways. Fate/Zero reveals some events in the Heaven’s Feel movie trilogy, while the movies reveal some aspects of Fate/Zero. But after seeing both, I recommend watching the three Heaven’s Feel movies before watching Fate/Zero.

After seeing all that happens, I personally would much rather have some things spoiled in Fate/Zero than I would like to have them spoiled in Heaven’s Feel. That said, I recommend watching Fate/stay night (2006), Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks, and the Heaven’s Feel movies—there are three of them and you watch them in order of release—before watching Fate/Zero.

What is Fate/Zero about?

In Fate/Zero, the fourth Holy Grail War unfolds as a brutal battle among seven Masters, each summoning a powerful Servant to fight on their behalf. Their ultimate goal is to claim the Holy Grail, a mystical relic capable of granting any wish. Set in the Japanese city of Fuyuki, the story follows these Masters, including Kirei Kotomine, a conflicted soul seeking purpose, and Kiritsugu Emiya, who desperately desires the Grail’s miracle. Their paths lead to an intense rivalry, setting the stage for an intense battle.

Fate/Zero Review

Exploring what makes Fate/Zero a good anime

Interesting backstories and character development

The Servant/Master relationships in Fate/Zero are amongst the best in Fate. You have Servants that mirror their Masters’s innermost desires, which further amplifies their behaviors and actions, whether they are right or wrong, and you have dynamics where the Masters and Servants are at odds, which creates an interesting predicament. Fate always explores this idea of differing ideals, and features characters that showcase all aspects of humanity from the heroic to the twisted, so there’s an array of characters with differing personalities that make this series an interesting watch.

Unlike other anime in the Fate series, which tend to focus on a few main Masters and Servants, it feels like each character is a main protagonist in Fate/Zero. Every duo is given a comprehensive backstory, and the series spends significant time exploring these relationships. The interactions between each Master and Servant are not just witnessed in the heat of battle in Fate/Zero; we also follow them in their day-to-day lives, which I found to be refreshing. You see the Servants, as well as the Masters, for who they are because of this.

I really enjoy that Fate/Zero allows you to learn more about the Servants, in particular. Because they are these larger-than-life tales and legends, it humanizes them to see them enjoying time outside of battle. It is in these times that the Masters and Servants take time to learn more about each other as well. Waver Velvet and Iskandar are two of my favorites in this regard.

We get a glimpse into the Servant’s pasts, what made them, their regrets, and their hopes and wishes for the future, etc. You have relationships that are mutually beneficial, helping one another grow, while others are toxic and are bound to self-destruct. This in-depth exploration of characters and their dynamics allowed me to connect more deeply with Fate/Zero than I did with other Fate adaptations.

What makes Fate/Zero stand out most for me, though, is how it digs into the characters’ lives outside of all the fighting. We get to see these characters in their everyday lives, with those that they love, whether it be friends or family, dealing with everyday things. This makes them feel real, like actual people with their own stories and not just mages who are fighting in the Holy Grail War. It’s this glimpse into their personal lives and relationships that hooked me the most. They’re dealing with life and trying to figure things out, just like the rest of us. And it is this relatability, for me, that makes Fate/Zero a truly special watch.

The backstories in Fate/Zero are absolutely incredible, especially Kiritsugu Emiya’s. Fate/Zero spends time showing you why certain characters are the way they are, and this in itself, makes it one of the best in the Fate universe. As far as characters go, Fate/Zero has one of my all-time favorite casts. No character feels irrelevant and they all have an important role in this series, and their stories are told in thoughtful, emotional ways, which allows you to connect deeply to their stories. All in all, Fate/Zero is a lesson in how to write well-developed and interesting characters. The series does many things right, but it’s worth watching for the characters alone.

Thought-provoking themes and messages

Just like we explored in our review of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, heroism is a main theme in Fate/Zero. But, with a different set of main characters taking center stage, Fate/Zero has a fresh perspective. The series dives into what it truly means to be a hero and the sacrifices that come with such a title. You have characters who are determined to save humanity at any cost, and then some rather watch the world burn. This clash of ideals sparks some really interesting discussions, particularly about the concept of good and evil in the series.

Fate/Zero makes you think about the line that exists between right and wrong. Making us ask questions, like it as clear-cut as we often think, or is it more blurred? Fate/Zero throws you into the thick of these questions, leading us to the realization that the world isn’t just black and white but rather a complex shade of gray. Many of the characters in Fate/Zero exist in this shade of gray, and they are the most interesting of them all. As far as the more evil characters go, we get conversations about nature vs. nurture that add a lot to the story. Are villains made or are they born? Fate/Zero tries to answer these conundrums and more.

In Fate/Zero, these questions and themes are explored not only through the actions and choices of the Masters but also through the lives of the Servants. Since the Servants are echoes from the past, their stories are rich with hopes and regrets as well as wins and losses. We watch these legendary heroes—as well as some notorious figures—battling for reasons that are deeply rooted in history. Many of them are celebrated heroes from different eras, while others are, villains.

Their diverse ideals and motivations add a lot of depth to the ongoing discussions about right versus wrong and heroism. With different perspectives, from both Masters and Servants, Fate/Zero‘s exploration of morality and legacy gives us an in-depth look at what it means to be a hero or a villain in an increasingly complex world.

It’s one of the most mature and dark series in Fate

If you’re looking to watch a darker, more mature Fate series, I recommend Fate/Zero alongside titles like the Heaven’s Feel movies. Heaven’s Feel maintains an overall dark tone throughout, but Fate/Zero also has its fair share of dark moments, which makes sense given its connection to some of the characters and events in Heaven’s Feel.

Fate/Zero explores mature themes as well, so it’s one of the most graphic series in the franchise. Explaining why would mean spoiling things, but trust me, it is one of the most intense Fate series you can watch.

Dives deep into history and has a rich lore

Fate/Zero has a complex history and rich lore. While intricate world-building is a hallmark of Fate, Fate/Zero particularly excels in this area. The series dives deeply into the world it’s set in, giving us much-needed insights that allow us to properly understand the Holy Grail War, its participants, and more.

As a prequel to Fate/stay night, it gives us a lot of insights into the Holy Grail War and its origins. We get a deep dive into the War, the mage families, and the whole mage world, which is interesting. The series doesn’t just give us an overall history either. It gets right into the nitty-gritty of the heroic figures and legends that are present in this series. We learn a lot about the Servants—where they come from, their heroic deeds, their hopes, and even their biggest downfalls and regrets. Characters like Waver try to understand their partners, and we, as viewers, in turn, learn a lot about them in the process.

From beginning to end, the lore in Fate/Zero is well-crafted. The series skillfully feeds us bits of information that continually add new insights to our understanding of the Holy Grail War and its participants. Watching Fate/Zero is like putting together a puzzle with each piece making the overall picture clearer. It’s truly exciting as you uncover more about the events and characters you’ve grown so invested in. Because of this, Fate/Zero ensures that your journey through its story is always rewarding and interesting.

Unique story and good pacing

Fate/Zero has a fantastic story overall, but the individual stories told within it are just as amazing. It’s the emotive scenes between the characters, which are interspersed with their struggles and hardships, that resonate the most. Each character brings their own unique story to the mix, and it’s these stories that truly connect with you.

These individual tales, complete with backstories, not only draw you closer to the characters but also deepen your connection to the overarching plot. Combined with the profound themes and messages we discussed earlier, Fate/Zero‘s story is not only full of depth but also emotion. It’s a story that makes you think and, more importantly, feel.

The pacing of Fate/Zero is another element that stands out. The series masterfully alternates between slower, strategic moments that strengthen character development, and fast-paced action sequences that keep us entertained. Lore and character dynamics are flawlessly woven into these moments to ensure that the story never feels rushed or dragged out. It strikes a perfect balance overall and maintains an engaging pace throughout.

Finally, Fate/Zero excels in its use of unexpected twists and turns, which constantly keeps you on your toes. The series rewards us with surprising reveals that are satisfying and genuinely shocking. Ultimately, Fate/Zero‘s knack for suspense and surprise is what keeps you deeply invested in the story, but it’s also successful thanks to its character development, seamless pacing, and mysterious allure.

Great music and battles

Fate/Zero nails it in the action department, which comes as no surprise given that it’s animated by Ufotable. It may not have the ultra-flashy battles of Unlimited Blade Works or Heaven’s Feel, but it’s incredible in its own right. The animation of the fight scenes is top-notch. They are clear, fluid, and engaging. There are a couple of unforgettable battles, which are easily some of the best in anime.

And then there’s the music, which perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere and mood of the series. Yuki Kajiura, the composer, really hit it out of the park with Fate/Zero. The music is a perfect mix, including everything from the hauntingly beautiful to the adrenaline-inducing. It’s not just background music either. The music brings the scenes to life, perfectly conveying both the high-octane and the quiet moments. With Fate/Zero‘s stunning animation and top-tier music, it is an incredible viewing experience that you won’t soon forget.

Final Thoughts

Fate/Zero excels in so many ways. The visuals are amazing. The music is spot on. But what hooks most you are the story and characters – they’re the kind you can’t help but be invested in and relate with. The pacing is just right, keeping you on the edge of your seat and slowing down when need be, and the world-building is amongst the best I’ve seen.

Plus, it tackles themes that really make you think and it stands apart as one of the more mature titles in the Fate series. To me, Fate/Zero is a near-perfect anime and it’s one of the best Fate experiences out there.

Where to Watch Fate/Zero

If you’re thinking about getting into Fate/Zero, it’s easy to find. You can stream it now on Crunchyroll or you can shop the Fate/Zero Box Set from Aniplex of America.

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