DVD Review: Fate/Zero – Part 1

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The prequel series to Fate/Stay Night has finally arrived onto UK Shore, but what exactly do we think of MVM Entertainment’s DVD release of the first instalment? Find out in our DVD Review of Fate/Zero – Part 1.

Synopsis:

The Holy Grail War – in this ultimate battle field, in order to obtain the power of the “Holy Grail” that grants any unattainable wish, seven “masters” summon “servants” and fight against each other until the last one survives.

After three inconclusive Holy Grail Wars, the fourth battle has finally started. Hoping to win the battle, each master is heading to the new battlefield, Fuyuki. However, there is a man who is confused and struggling, unable to find meaning in the war. His name is Kirei Kotomine. He wonders why he has been appointed to this task, but without any answers, he encounters his archrival – Kiritsugu Emiya, a master who craves the miracle Holy Grail most of all.

The untold truth of the Fourth Holy Grail War that occurred 10 years before Fate/Stay Night – the truth of the battle fought by Shiro’s adopted father, Rin’s father, and young Kirei Kotomine – is about to be revealed!

Our View:

Fate/Zero is basically what it says on the tin, an ‘introduction’ to the world of Fate, with even the first episode extended to forty five minutes to explain the origins of the Holy Grail war and showcase the masters. From there it’s all about summoning the servants, building the relationships and preparing for the battles that lie ahead within the city limits of Fuyuki. Interestingly initial impressions of this series suggest that there isn’t a distinctive main protagonist, as each member of the Holy Grail war gets a fair amount of screen time, however upon closer inspection it’s shown that the rivalary between Kiritsugu Emiya and the mysterious Kirei Kotomine is the main talking point, and that everyone else is mainly along for the ride.

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Both Kiritsugu Emiya and Kirei Kotomine, along with their respective servants and friends, get the main screentime with Emiya being a Mage Killer and Kotomine being allied with Tokiomi Tohsaka (Rin’s farther) and the church in hopes of winning the Holy Grail War. Each side wants the grail for their own ‘justified’ reasons, but in the shadows a more sadistic storyline awaits the viewer. Ryūnosuke Uryū is a serial killer and upon receiving caster as his servant he goes around the city kidnapping children and killing them in sadistic ways, this is only one of Fate/Zero’s darker tones, a tone which gets a constant reminder in each episode, although no-one seems to do anything about it until the later stages of this first instalment. To counter balance this ‘dark side’ Waver Velvet and his servant Rider are introduced to offer a ‘lighter’ side, with both characters often getting into comical debates and discussions, all of which never really have any valid points but offer a few laughs.

It seems that each character within this first instalment tends to have a distinctive role, such as Waver as the comedy and Ryunosuke as the dark side, with the main storyline focused on Emiya, Kotomine and Tohsaka developing rivalary. Everyone else on the other hand, such Kariya Matou and Kayneth are just background characters that do not really engage or interact with anyone unless they really need to, such as during the fighting scenes, but even then their appearance is scarce. Those hoping for intense fight scenes need not worry, as there are few entertaining fights within these included episodes, but those hoping for variety in character usage may be disappointed to find that only Lancer, Saber and Caster enter battles with the remaining servants only making brief appearances in the background.

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Within the thirteen included episodes of this first instalment of Fate/Zero there is lots of variety to be had. Of course there is the detailed introduction and summoning of each servant, but following that the series tends to go in a non-linear direction with the storyline jumping between each characters personal agenda. It seems the story hasn’t worked out where to go just yet, which is slightly disappointing as I expected to go full steam ahead into intense battles between the servents. There are some positive notes to be had though, as the inclusion of a whole episode featuring Rin (one of the protagonists from Fate/Stay Night) was highly entertaining as it sees Rin learning how to use Mana as well as engaging in her own fight against Ryunosuke in order to save her friend from the sadistic killer, but even this episode just acts as a reminder that other characters outside Emiya, Kotomine and Tohsaka do exist within Fate/Zero.

Extras:

Those hoping to see a variety of extra features included with this DVD release of Fate/Zero will no doubtedly be disappointed, as the only included content are the text less opening and closing songs, both of which are located on the second DVD disc.

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There is nothing to really brag about these extras, but the opening sequence in textless form does give a wider look at the characters within the series. What is interesting is that according to the packaging the Blu-ray version will contain a selection of trailers, so not only will the Blu-ray release by ‘visually’ better than the DVD edition but it also contains more extra content, which suggests that the Blu-ray release of Fate/Zero is the one to go for if you are looking for a more ‘complete’ experience.

Specs:

Media: DVD 9 x2
Region: 2
Running Time: 2:42:24 (Disc 1), 2:55:32 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Fate/Zero is one of those series that can be watched without any knowledge of the original series, in this case Fate/Stay Night, whereby viewers are introduced to the world of celestial servants, magical powers and the on-going war with the victors awarded the spoils, this is the Holy Grail War and it’s one hell of a brutal journey, even if it is slightly boring with all its extensive old-age heroics styled dialogue and prolonged discussions of the Holy Grail War.

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In all honesty I dropped Fate/Stay Night around the half-way mark and even the movie adaptation of that series (Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade works) I found to be mediocre and awkwardly paced. So I was hoping Fate/Zero would be something different and fortunately it is, but for all of the wrong reasons, namely the inclusion of sadistic killings balanced out with comical banter between Waver and Rider which tend to overshadow the main evolving storyline which sees Saber and Lancer attempting to kill each other for the Holy Grail.

Storyline aside this DVD release by MVM Entertainment can also be considered mediocre, as while the visual presentation is ‘as expected’ the DVD menu layout and lack of extra content feels a tad basic. Of course MVM can’t be blamed, as the discs were authored by another company, but seeing as the Fate franchise is a high profile series you’d expect a higher quality product and the same can be said for the English Dub. The English Dub features voice actors that don’t seem suited to the characters that they are representing, it’s not as bad as Sentai Filmworks produced dubs but at times I found myself difficult to be engaged with the characters conversations. The Japanese audio track on the other hand provided a more fluent, natural presentation but I still found myself reverting back to the English Dub due to it being slightly easier to follow and understand.

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Overall Fate/Zero – Part 1 is what most people will expect it to be, it’s an introduction to the world of Fate and explains the origins of the fourth Holy Grail War and the masters that took part in it, however along the way it introduces some sadistic story elements with the introductions of a child killer and prolongs the intense battle between Servants. Those who enjoyed Fate/Stay Night will most likely enjoy Fate/Zero, but to everyone else who have yet to experience the franchise then be prepared for a variety of different characters in different scenarios in a rather drawn out instalment. It seems the best has yet to come, and this part 1 instalment of Fate/Zero is just the beginning.

Score: review-stars-3

Fate/Zero – Part 1 will be available on DVD from the 28th April 2014 and on Blu-ray from the 12th May 2014.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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