- Trailer: Fan-made AMV
- What it’s about: The Fourth Holy Grail War: A battle-royale between seven pairs of mages and heroic legends summoned from the past, fighting to the death. The winner is granted an artefact capable of fulfilling their greatest wish, no matter how large.
- Why you should watch it: Fate/Zero balances psychological and philosophical discussion against heart-pounding action, with little filler or fan-service to get in the way. The animation quality is simply one of the highest out there – the common joke is that ufotable could have bought a small country with what everyone presumes they’ve invested in this series. But the heart of the show is in the character interactions. This is not a “coming of age” story; every character arrives on the scene with a well-established identity and a coherent set of ethics and morals. The plot is an excuse to throw them up against one another and see what shakes out. The story is gripping and it does a decent job of contrasting different philosophies, with particular attention paid to the problems of Utilitarianism and confronting Nihilism.
- Caveats: This is an adaptation of a story set in a large existing body of work (the so-called “Nasuverse”). As such, the first episode is basically a gigantic infodump where it tries to set up enough context from the source material that the rest of the show can get right down to action without interrupting to explain the mechanics. You have to watch the first episode to understand what’s going on, but it doesn’t sell the series particularly well. Also, the ending, while spectacular, does leave a lot of things unfulfilled, a lot of questions that are only going to be answered in the follow-up Fate/Stay Night re-adaptation coming this Autumn. Everything between the first and last episodes, however, is solid gold.
- Themes: Conflict of ideologies, with particular focus in the second half given to Utilitarianism. The nature of leadership, the place of chivalry.
- Similar works: Anything else by Gen Urobuchi – Madoka Magica is a good place to start. Outside of anime, the Visual Novel of Fate/Stay Night is an obvious follow-up. It’s a *major* time-sink, but definitely worth the effort if you enjoyed Fate/Zero. Or you could just wait and see how the upcoming anime adaptation turns out.