Anime Pocket Reviews Ep. 20 – Fate/Zero, Wagnaria’!!

Time for episode 20. Twenty episodes! God, that’s a lot of shows.

This episode is relatively short, but still delivers two knockout shows. Later on, we see if Wagnaria!! – reviewed in Episode 19 – could deliver once more in season two, but before that…

Fate Zero Anime Review
Fate/Zero (2011-2012, S1&2, 25x24mins)
Fantasy, Action, Drama
“I suppose having your name recorded in the history books is a form of immortality. But if that just means your name gets passed down for two thousand years and nothing else, I’d have preferred to have even a hundredth of that added to my actual life.”

Set ten years prior to the events of previously-reviewed Fate/Stay Night: UBW, Zero follows the Fourth Holy Grail War, a battle royale held secretly between seven specially selected magic-wielding mages. The winner claims the Holy Grail, which is said to grant the champion’s wish. These Masters, the majority of which have been training and tactically preparing for this war for most of their lives, summon seven powerful and unique servants to fight on their behalf, each a reincarnation of a famous historical hero. The story primarily follows Kiritsugu Emiya (above centre), a ruthless mercenary who is fighting in the war with his servant Saber (centre) – a female reincarnation of British legend King Arthur – on behalf of his wife, Irisviel, and her famous Einzbern mage-family. Other masters include Waver, who joins the war to prove a point to his magic teacher Kayneth El-Melloi, who is also participating with his servant Lancer, and serial killer Ryunosuke, who in trying to summon a demon inadvertently summons Caster, a reincarnation of French army leader Gilles de Rais (who in real life confessed to being a serial killer of children).

Basically Plot: Seven mages and their super-powered warriors fight, team-up and deceive in a fantasy, life-or-death game of ‘last man standing’.

Fate is a hugely respected franchise. Originally a series of interactive videogames (also known as visual novels), this is a series with an incredibly passionate and vocal fan base, and depth that I think would take a group of scholars to completely decipher. It will not surprise you, therefore, that this is an incredibly well-produced series. While I think that the colours used in Fate/Zero are often too cold for their own good, this is still a very sharp and bright series. However, what stands out more with this series, and more than it did in UBW, is how smooth the animation is. Perhaps my view on the colours being too cold is because of the animation – the ultra-smooth style does at times lack a human touch, but really helps create an almost Hollywood-like feel to the show. Just by looking at it you can tell that an incredible amount of care and attention went in to producing the show, and while it wouldn’t work for many other shows, I think the sleek style of animation really helps this fantasy show come to life.

What really surprised me with this show, though, was how good the story was. What I expected was a franchise-esque rehash of the basic idea that I saw, and enjoyed, in UBW. However, Zero creates an engaging and individual story in its own right. While the watch-order for the extremely long Fate series (spanning around 30-odd pieces, including anime, novels, games, shorts etc.) is often debated, I can say that I am very glad that I watched UBW, then, a long time later, watched this series.

While it is its own story, what’s great about this, particularly for someone who watched UBW first, is that the majority of the characters involved in Zero are related to the characters form UBW. Lead character in Zero, Kiritsugu, is in fact the genetic father of Illya and adopted father of Shirou, who both participate in the Fifth Holy Grail War. Also, the main ‘villain’ of Fate/Zero, Tokiomi, is the father of Rin Tohsaka, two-time winner of ‘Best Female Lead Character’ in our Anime Awards for her performance in the Fifth War. Also, many of the servants participate in both wars; while some change slightly in appearance from Fourth to Fifth, the main servant, Saber, is the same in both anime series. Really, ignoring the many references in the last ten minutes of the final episode, this is little more than an interesting Easter-egg. However, it’s little things like this – I think towards the naming of characters in Bungou Stray Dogs as another example – that really make shows stand out for me.

A noticeable change from the characters in Zero, compared to UBW, is that most ‘participants’ in this series are adults. While UBW was led by the young-adult pair of Shirou and Rin, Zero is led primarily by Kiritsugu. The indecisive, awkward, YA-clichés that led UBW have been traded out for a ruthless mercenary who doesn’t feel for anyone, along with other evil men whose greed is obvious to all, and that is why I prefer this series to UBW. Overall, the whole story comes across as a lot more sophisticated in Fate/Zero. The show also makes great use of the multitude of personalities taking part, with seemingly unimportant pairings such as Waver/Rider and Uryu/Caster given enough screen time to flourish.

Overall, this is a strong action series. While it certainly lacks emotion in a serious way, and the action scenes are not as well-made as in UBW, overall this is a very sophisticated and intelligent tale. Mature, multi-dimensional characters lead a story that, like the show as a whole, lacks flair but certainly delivers a depth that can rival the best action shows out there.

If you liked this you’ll love: Tokyo Ghoul – This was a hard show to find a recommendation for, as there’s not really anything in anime that does what Fate does but better, which is why it has been such a success. However, what I think works so well with Fate/Zero – and Fate generally – is how it places gritty and exciting fantasy action into a normal life setting with ordinary emotions, an area where Tokyo Ghoul has made its name. Both these shows blend exciting action with character and emotion-led storylines, set in a dull, real-world setting. They are also two of the biggest fantasy franchises in Japanese anime, so I would highly recommend you watch these shows.

Wagnaria'!! 2 Season Two Anime Review
Waganria’!! (2011, S2, 13x24mins)
Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance
“Katanashi-kun, pet me, pet me!”

Following on from season one, Wagnaria’!! continues to follow the workers of the small, family-owned restaurant Wagnaria. Inami (bottom right) continues to struggle to get over her fear of men, Satou (middle right) still struggles to open up about liking Todoroki (middle left), and Kyouko’s (centre) dangerous past brings some ‘helpful’ extra hands to the restaurant.

Basically Plot: Continuation of the restaurant-based comedy, following the lives of its quirky employees.

Wait! Check out our season one review first right here!

Following on from season one of Wagnaria was never going to be an easy task. In fact, I think seeing this season has given me a renewed sense of appreciation when it comes to making solid comedy follow ups. The story for Wagnaria’ – the comma apparently being enough to differentiate between series one and two – was solid enough, but lacked the sense of plot that made Wagnaria really stick out for me at the beginning. There was some times in this season where the show threatened to drift into sit-com territory, but I don’t think it ever got that far.

The laughs in this season, thankfully, are as big and plentiful as in season one. With simple but exaggerated punchlines told by defined and funny characters, Wagnaria is still one of very few anime shows I’ve seen that delivers real laugh-out-loud moments.

Another thing I noticed with Wagnaria’ was that some of the characters that were almost guaranteed laughs in the last series have almost worn off a little here. Characters like Takanashi and Inami – the centre-pieces in season one – lost much of their comic appeal by season two. However, the show seemed to notice that, instead shifting the focus to other, less utilised characters. People like Souma and Todoroki stood out in this season and were very funny, while Yamada, who joined only halfway through last season, was always a guaranteed laugh here. Wagnaria’ did at one point appear to flirt with the idea of introducing new characters, but instead the three/four new faces only remained side characters. I noted in my review of season one how Wagnaria found success by only using a handful of main characters – it would have been easy in season two, noting that other characters had lost their edge, to fill it with new and exciting faces. Thankfully, they steered away from that, and I think they should be applauded for that.

Overall I think that Wagnaria’ did a really good job at just about keeping up with the standards set by season one. While it might lack slightly in plot compared to season one, it manages to keep that joyful and childish comedic style going seamlessly from season one to season two. It was never going to be easy keeping such a small character set exciting over what is now 26 episodes, but with a few tweaks it has managed to do so. It will be interesting to see what happens in season three, because I struggle to see how it can keep itself from either completely reinventing itself and losing the original magic, or turning into a sit-com with little emotion meaning or grounding.

If you liked this you’ll love: Konosuba Since I recommended Nisekoi last time I thought I would try and switch it up a little, however the same rule still applies. Both of these series are seriously funny, following a small pack of co-workers as they struggle through. Masters in childish comedy and using stereotypical characters to produce great entertainment, if you want some funny anime, you won’t find many better than these two!

Well, how about that? As it so happens, here we have two sequels*, both of which have been a success! See, it’s not impossible – I think that you just have to go into it being well aware that you’re doing a sequel. The more you try and spice up the original, the more people feel like you’re just trying to sell it all over again. Just keep it nice and simple!
As I mentioned earlier, this is only a small episode, and there’s plenty bigger shows coming very soon! After what was a quiet November at The Culture Cove, we now have a backlog of anime reviews to get you through the Christmas period, so why don’t you subscribe to The Culture Cove, so you can receive our Anime Pocket Reviews before anybody else!

Mob Psycho 100 Anime Poster Make sure you follow The Culture Cove to see the best anime reviews before anybody else! Look out for episode 21 of Anime Pocket Reviews, featuring 2016 smash-hit Mob Psycho 100!

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