Cover of Fate/Zero Volume 1
|Genre||Action, dark fantasy, tragedy|
|Written by||Gen Urobuchi|
|Illustrated by||Takashi Takeuchi|
|Original run||December 29, 2005 – December 29, 2007|
|Written by||Gen Urobuchi|
|Published by||Kadokawa Shoten|
|Original run||December 29, 2010 – June 2, 2017|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Ei Aoki|
|Produced by||Atsuhiro Iwakami|
|Written by||Akira Hiyama|
|Music by||Yuki Kajiura|
|Original network||Tokyo MX, GYT, GTV, TV Saitama, TV Aichi, MBS, CTC, tvk, TVh, TVQ, BS11, Kids Station|
|Original run||October 1, 2011 – June 23, 2012|
Fate/Zero (Japanese: フェイト/ゼロ, Hepburn: Feito/Zero) is a Japanese light novel written by Gen Urobuchi, illustrated by Takashi Takeuchi, and is a prequel to all routes in Type-Moon's visual novel, Fate/stay night. Fate/Zero is set ten years before the events of Fate/stay night, and tells the story of the Fourth Holy Grail War, a secret magical tournament held in Fuyuki City, Japan where seven mages known as Masters summon Servants, reincarnations of legendary souls and heroes from all across time, where they fight in a deadly battle royale where the winner obtains the Holy Grail, a magical legendary chalice capable of granting wishes. The main protagonist, Kiritsugu Emiya, the foster father of Fate/stay night's protagonist, Shirou Emiya, is known as a merciless mage killer who joins the tournament on behalf of his wife's family, the Einzberns.
An anime adaptation has been produced by Ufotable, the first season of which aired from October 1 to December 24, 2011 and the second season of which aired from April 7 to June 23, 2012. The music was composed by Yuki Kajiura, who also composed the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica. A manga adaptation was published by Kadokawa Shoten between 2011 and 2017. Dark Horse Comics licensed the manga and released it in English in North America.
Upon its release, Fate/Zero was acclaimed by many reviewers, with praise directed at the animation, themes, characters, soundtrack and story. The series has also been a commercial success, selling over 40,000 BD box-set and won several awards at the Newtype anime awards including "Title of the Year".
The story of Fate/Zero takes place ten years prior to the events of Fate/stay night, detailing the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City. The Holy Grail War is a contest, founded by the Einzbern, Matou, and Tohsaka families centuries ago, in which seven mages summon seven Heroic Spirits to compete to obtain the power of the "Holy Grail", which grants a wish to each member of the winning duo. After three inconclusive wars for the elusive Holy Grail, the Fourth War commences.
The Einzbern family is determined to achieve victory in the Fourth War after three consecutive failures, no matter the cost. As a result, they have elected to bring the notorious "mage killer", Kiritsugu Emiya, into their ranks, despite his methods and reputation as a skilled mercenary and a hitman who employs whatever he can use to accomplish his goals. Though Kiritsugu had once wanted to become a hero who could save everyone, he has long since abandoned this ideal upon realizing that saving one person often comes at the cost of another's life. Thus, this is the source of conflict, which he once sought to eliminate, due to finite resources/abilities. For the sake of humanity, he resolves to ruthlessly destroy anything and anyone who threatens the peace of others.
However, Kiritsugu finds himself deeply torn between the love he has found for his new family – his wife Irisviel and their daughter Illya – and what he must do to obtain the Holy Grail. Meanwhile, Kiritsugu's greatest opponent appears in the form of Kirei Kotomine, a priest who is trying to discover his true nature in his quest to find the Holy Grail, which is revealed to be monstrous and full of hate. He sets his sights on Kiritsugu as a kindred spirit and possible answer to the emptiness he feels.
Towards the conclusion, the limitations of the "Holy Grail" are found to be in the fact that, while omnipotent in its wish-granting abilities, it is not omniscient, and therefore depends on the victor's knowledge and methods to determine the way by which the wish is carried out. And, to make things worse, the last war fought over the Grail has left it corrupted, causing any wish granted by the Grail to be a Monkey's Paw.
Production and publication
Urobuchi was pitched a prequel of Fate/stay night by Takashi Takeuchi. He believes that despite how tragic is the ending, the actual ending of the good ending of Fate/stay Night would not be affected thanks to the fact that Kiritsugu's life is a prequel. Already by writing the first volume, Urobuchi planned the series to end by its fourth volume. Nasu was amazed by Urobuchi and had already expected that, during 2002, he would write an interesting story. In 2002 when writing the first visual novel route of Fate/stay night, Nasu fell ill. During this illness, Nasu became impressed by Urobuchi's writing in the novel. Ideas like Saber being lectured by Gilgamesh and Alexander the Great gave him a bigger impact. When starting the project for Fate/Zero, Nasu decided to give Urobuchi complete freedom about Kiritsugu's characterization.
The idea of Fate/Zero was proposed by writer Gen Urobuchi who wanted to write a new series under Nasu's guide. Urobuchi explained that 90% of the proposals were accepted by Nasu. During the original visual novel, Fate/stay night, Saber explains she made brief interactions with Kiritsugu Emiya which lead to the creation of the character of Irisviel. As Kiritsugu's wife, Irisviel plays the role of facilitating communication between these two, who do not talk to each other. The distanced and ultimately dark relationship between Kiritsugu and Saber caused by the former's actions in the story led Urobuchi and Nasu to change some early drafts in the story. This was in order to create a more coherent relationship between Saber and Shiro Emiya in the original visual novel as during the finale Kiritsugu adopts the child. Nasu was in charge of the use of magic rather than attempting to use real occultism. The ending of the novels brought Urobuchi difficulties to write as he wanted to distance it from typical stories but in the end decided to follow his own type of writing. During the characterization of the main characters, Urobuchi had no issues writing their ideologies, to the point of finding them as their own individuals.
The first volume was released on December 29, 2006, and is a collaboration between Type-Moon and fellow developer Nitroplus. The second volume was released on March 31, 2007. The third volume was released on July 27, 2007. The fourth and final volume was released on December 29, 2007, along with the Fate/Zero Original Image Soundtrack "Return to Zero". Fate/Zero began as a light novel series written by Urobuchi with illustrations by Takashi Takeuchi. It is set as a prequel to Type-Moon's visual novel Fate/stay night. The first volume was released on December 12, 2006, and the fourth and final volume was released on December 29, 2007.
The 2011 issue of Type-Moon Ace magazine reported that an anime adaption of Fate/Zero was green-lit for production. It is produced by studio Ufotable and began airing in October 2011. This is the third anime production in the Fate series, following the 24-episode 2006 adaptation and the 2010 Unlimited Blade Works film. Nico Nico Douga and Aniplex simulcasted Fate/Zero worldwide with eight different language subtitles, including Korean, Chinese (traditional and simplified), English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
The anime was originally slated to run continuously for all episodes, but was later given a season break between 13 and 14 to allow for better animation. The first season ran from October 1 to December 24, 2011 and the second season ran from April 7 to June 23, 2012. For the first cour, the opening theme is "oath sign" by LiSA whilst the ending theme is Memoria by Aoi Eir. For the second cour, the opening theme is "to the beginning" by Kalafina whilst the ending theme is "Up On the Sky, The Wind Sings" (空は高く風は歌う, Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau) by Luna Haruna. The ending theme for episodes 18-19 is "Perfect Sky" (満天, Manten) by Kalafina. The series has been licensed in North America by Aniplex of America and features an English dub which ran on Viz Media's Neon Alley service.
Along with the anime production, a manga adaptation of Fate/Zero illustrated by Shinjirō was serialized in Young Ace magazine between December 29, 2010 and June 2, 2017 and compiled in fourteen volumes. On September 1, 2014, during their Kumoricon panel, Dark Horse Comics announced that they had licensed the manga. They released the first volume in 2016.
An art book entitled Fate/Zero material was released on August 8, 2008. Published by Type-Moon, the book contains a compilation of the published and promotional art from the novel, detailed character profiles and memo sections, and an overview of the novel's plot. Two videogame adaptations for smartphones, Fate/Zero The Adventure and Fate/Zero Next Encounter, were released in Japan. In 2016, A special event entitled Fate/Accel Zero Order was held from 27 April to 11 May. The scenario was written by Gen Urobuchi and the animation was produced by ufotable.
Fate/Zero received critical acclaim. Jacob Chapman of Anime News Network highly praised the series, describing it as "a treasure worth unearthing to its end" and concluded by writing: "Ambitious, brilliant, heartbreaking and masterfully crafted narrative, complex characters with powerful ideals, visually stunning, gorgeous score and strong cast in both languages." Elliot Gay of Japanator was impressed by its pilot episode despite serving as an exposition for the masters, who he felt were more appealing than the ones from the original series thanks to Ufotable's work.
UK Anime Network's Martin gave the first part a score 9 out of 10, and the second part a perfect score of 10 out of 10. Martin characterized the story as very dark and demanding and "a dramatic and satisfying conclusion to a solidly entertaining series." T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews gave the entire series a score of 4 out of 5 stars, with reviewer Aiden Foote believing Fate/Zero as "one of the most visually impressive TV series to date" and praised the "smooth animation and consistent artwork coming together to make crisp, evocative action scenes to get the heart racing." Aiden also stated "the main reason why I really like the show is the time and effort that Urobuchi puts into the majority of the characters." However, Aiden also criticizes the pacing stating that series' biggest problem was the "plot pacing".
Richard Eisenbeis of Kotaku praised the animation, themes and the characters backstories especially Kiritsugu's. Richard started the review by writing "Gen Urobuchi has written some of the most psychologically dark anime in recent memory. He is a master at subverting anime tropes to breathe new life into stale genres." His final thoughts being "Fate/Zero is an excellent anime. It has dynamic, multifaceted characters, explores great philosophies and themes, and tops it off with large helpings of action. It also has the will to go deep into dark, psychological territory to improve both its characters and story."
Sales and accolades
The first season's BD box set sold 43,000 copies in its first week, making it the highest-selling anime television Blu-ray box in first week-sales, breaking the record previously held by Haruhi Suzumiya. The second season's BD box set also topped Oricon's weekly sales, selling over 40,000 copies.
Fate/Zero won multiple top prizes during the 2nd Newtype Anime Awards, including Title of the Year, Best Studio (for ufotable), Best Soundtrack, and Best CM. It placed second for Best Theme Song ("to the beginning"), Best Director, Best Character Design and Script. In the Best Male Character category, Rider placed first, Kiritsugu placed third and Gilgamesh placed eight. In Best Character for Female, Saber placed second. It received 2 nomination at the 2014 UK Anime Network Awards in Best action category and best dramatic anime category. It was also the runner-up for "UK Anime Awards - The Reader's Choice 2014". The light novel took sixth place in its respective category in the 2015 Sugoi Japan Awards.
In 2019, Polygon named Fate/Zero as one of the best anime of the 2010s. Crunchyroll included the series among "Top 25 anime of the decade" list, with writer Azaly Zeldin calling it "one of the best anime series of the past decade". Zeldin wrote that the series is an "expensive, beautiful and smart action thriller that consolidated the glory of ufotable, Gen Urobuchi and Yuki Kajiura, and has become for the modern anime industry something similar to what The Dark Knight means for the current wave of comic book movies." Writing for Comic Book Resources, Sage Ashford ranked it #8 on his list, stating that the "series is so important it revitalized the [Fate] franchise in the world of anime, resulting in multiple series and films that have continued even into 2019. IGN also listed Fate/Zero among the best anime of the decade, praising the series for its "dark, mature tale that doesn’t shy away from sensitive material" and for "having some of the best animation that lauded studio Ufotable has ever produced. It perfectly sets the stage for Fate/Stay Night, but beyond that, it also stands on its own as the perfect entry point into the series." Thrillist named the series one of the best anime of the 2010s, with LB writing it's "tense and unforgiving; plus, there's some freaky bug magic that will surely get your skin crawling."
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- Type-Moon's Official Homepage for the Fate/stay night Game (in Japanese)
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