Part 1 left the series on a cliff-hanger, with Caster’s cthulhu-like creature growing in the centre of the city and ready to devour it. The other servants and masters have gathered to destroy him, but can they do so before the creature grows too strong and reveals the existence of magic to the general public? And if it’s destroyed, who will eventually win the Holy Grail they originally sought out?
As exciting as the first half of the series was, there was a distinct lack of deaths in it. I’m not talking about the child victims of Caster and his master, but about the other masters and servants participating in the Holy Grail war. At the end of part one, all contestants were still in the game with varying chances of winning. Part 2 quickly rectifies that which one fantastical battle after another; starting with the opening two-part battle that finally sees the end of Caster and Uryu’s bloody crusade with giant flying machines and Excalibur coming into play. This is quickly followed by Saber and Lancer’s final battle, and a long run of backstabbing, elaborate plans coming together with many shocking moments that I won’t dare spoil for you. Every episode is more gob-smacking than the last because with every episode that passes the stakes dramatically increase and the battles become more potent. Fate/Stay Night fans will already know what happens at the end, but as the old saying goes, it’s the journey not the final destination that matters – and it’s one heck of a journey filled with epic action, emotional turmoil and one bloody death after another.
The first 13 episodes also excelled at character development. A lot of the hard work put into that pays off during the second half, but not all in equal measure as some characters meet an abrupt end sooner than others. One such instance is Berserker’s true identity which was meant to be quite shocking and emotional from the music and writing but as it’s revealed in an abrupt fight and swiftly handled before the final episode, the sentiment is lost on us. Even a mini scene added in the final episode doesn’t add much to the emotional punch, which is a genuine shame.
Kariya Matou’s dark descent is fascinating to watch. We know his horrifying methods to win the grail will eventually end him but as his intentions are selfless you can’t help but want to see him somehow succeed. There’s a scene he has with Aoi that could have done with more foreshadowing or a backdrop to their relationship to give a bit more depth to it, but his end is still overall saddening, given that he’s given the least screen time among the masters.
Kiritsugu Emiya comes to the forefront more so than others with two episodes dedicated to his back-story about how he became an assassin. Happening about a third of the way into Part 2, it interrupts the Holy Grail war and also comes right after a major character death, leaving a big, almost torturous gap to see what happens next. These two episodes also feel quite different to the rest of the series, lacking an opening theme song and playing a completely different ending theme over black and white credits, almost like a mini-series or OVA. But they do great justice in fleshing out his character whilst breaking up the pace before the final stride towards the end of the war. It’s a shame that there wasn’t any additional room to expand his relationship with his wife Irisviel, relegating that to the montage running on the end credits, but what we do get is harrowing and gripping.
I praised Waver and Rider enough in my review for Part 1 so I’ll kept it brief here. It’s nice to see that two characters who, to put it bluntly, have little to no involvement in the final outcome of this Holy Grail war (and no place in the sequel series Fate/Stay Night) still have a relationship that is lovingly developed and given a tearful ending. Well done to the writers for making such an unlikely duo work so well together and in the series.
The animation and music continue to be extremely high quality throughout; as the series starts off with battle after the battle, the animation never falters for a second. Even when we have talk-heavy scenes mid-way through, the production still tries to keep the quality consistent. I only watched it on DVD, but if it looks this gorgeous in standard definition, high definition must be breath taking. Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack is stunning, keeping up with the emotional highs and lows as the series leaps to its conclusion. The new opening theme by Kalafina (‘to the beginning’) has a great build up, and is a more sombre track that reflects the changes in the series rather nicely. The ending theme (‘Sora wa Takaku Kaze wa Utau’ by Luna Haruna) is a little twee for my liking but the already referenced montage of Kiritsugu and Iri that plays with it sells the song more than the singer herself.
Like the previous box set, the only DVD extras given are the textless opening and closing. It also re-uses the opening theme for the first half of the series for the menu music, even though the opening theme has changed in this very set. That’s not enough to ruin a series but the laziness just bugs me.
It’s such a shame that Fate/Zero has such a high barrier of knowledge required before diving into it, because it’s an extraordinary series throughout. From the visuals to the writing, everything about this series is high calibre, and it’s rare to find a series that’s both exceptionally entertaining and satisfying to watch all the way till the end. Do not hesitate to check this out if you’re already a Fate fan. There’s a lot of information to stomach but if you have the appetite, this series will satisfy you immensely.