The most awaited show of the season (maybe tied with Guilty Crown or Shakugan no Shana 3 in terms of hype) Fate/zero is upon us. Despite my previous claim to be done posting for the year, I've decided to go ahead and rescind. Fate is worth a full length post, especially for someone who likes TYPE-MOON as much as I do.
A few words before I delve into the details: if you here reading and you haven't watched Fate/zero yet, you should go do so; it's a great use of forty-seven minutes (all forty-seven of which are needed in order to give a proper introduction). Second, while Fate/zero is the prequel to Fate/stay night, you don't need much knowledge about it. It does help to be familiar with the series (preferably the visual novel), though. Let it be said, though, that Fate/zero is completely watchable without previous knowledge of F/SN (especially when the DEEN adaptation does little justice).
The biggest difference, and the reason why nobody is moaning about another Fate adaptation (aside from those who've been hoping for a Heaven's Feel adaptation, damn it) is that this time, ufotable is in charge. With an illustrious background (albeit mostly in the movie world, most notably Kara no Kyoukai, also by TYPE-MOON), there's much to expect from material of this caliber and a studio of this quality. Add in Urobuchi Gen (Madoka) and Kaijura Yuki (Madoka, Kara no Kyoukai) behind the music and you've got yourself a pretty good cast. Making the first episode an hour spectacle was a good choice, too, especially since they managed to get through all the introductions and exposition quickly, leaving twenty-four more episodes to do...well, the good stuff. (According to UTW, this covers approximately a twelfth of the story so far, since I haven't read the novels myself.)
While we only have glimpses of the Fourth Holy Grail War from Fate/stay night, Fate/zero explains all. For those who have watched FSN, we see that Ilysaviel is something of Shirou's sister (not exactly, but close enough), Sakura is Rin's biological sister, and we meet a bunch of new characters, some of whom are hinted at: Tohsaka Tokiomi (Rin's father), Keyneth Archibald, Waver Velvet, Irisviel von Einzberg (Ilyasviel's mother, and presumably Kiritsugu's lover), and Matou Kariya among others. There's a bunch of old characters for us fans to oogle at, from young Sakura to loli Rin (whose hate for Kotomine Kirei is shown to be from a young age), which pretty much killed me from cuteness. And I suppose there's Kirei himself, too, along with Gilgamesh.
The biggest thing I noticed was the difference between the Fourth and the Fifth wars. We see that for years, the participants of the Fourth war prepared for the event - gathering intelligence about each other, preparing strategies, and looking for relics, while the Fifth (which happens relatively shortly after the end of the 4th) is much more spontaneous (unsurprising given the rule-defying nature of the contest) - indeed, the identities of the Masters themselves are shrouded until they meet and clash. Again, since I haven't read the novels yet, I'm interested in seeing how things turn out differently from the 5th war - especially with so many new characters that as of right now I could care less about. Even with the inevitable end that F/SN players are given knowledge about, the paths seem infinite.
The relationship to watch is clearly between Kirei and Emiya Kiritsugu, early rivals both intrigued by each other's seemingly cold personalities. Most striking is Kiritsugu's assassin-like qualities, which, even after having somewhat reformed after meeting the von Einzbergs, are still at odds with his adopted son's in Fate/stay night. Something to watch: how the 4th war affects the 5th, especially with Saber playing a large role in both. (A funny thing worth mentioning: looks like Kiritsugu and Irisviel have been trolled by King Arthur, much unlike Shirou, who didn't even know who the hell Saber was.)
Taking a break from the F/SN analysis, there's no better time to say it: the soundtrack is great. Seeing as ufotable has mostly mastered the art of great music at great times, I was getting chills at the end as the summoners found out who their heroes were going to be. Saber's appearance was the last dagger, especially with the nostalgia just crashing down on me. The story of the Matous is perhaps the most important side story, especially with the way that Sakura is treated by the head - Matou Zoken. If that isn't illegal in Japan, I don't know what is. The selflessness that Kariya shows in entering the war to save Sakura (almost depressing to see him go from a young charismatic man to a crippled, deformed magi) makes him a compelling story, even if most of us know his fate. While it's fun to see Waver (aside from having a funny name) go all gung-ho about a war that will probably kill him in the end, he seems to be, along with Archibald, to be the least substantial characters. As those two characters are mostly contained in their own little fight, we'll have to see how it gets integrated during the rest of the story.
Lastly, we've got LiSA (of Angel Beats fame) working the opening (which was extended and used as an ending this episode to allow for extra credits), and "MEMORIA" by Aoi Eir on-deck next week. The animation is of top quality, and while it's the first episode, I've got to hope that the budget sticks around and the animation stays relatively consistent throughout - especially for the inevitable fight scenes that the ending sequence hints towards. Seeing as they've left off at a nice point in the story (as far as "nice" goes in the beginning), a week will be hard to wait.
Well, an hour less to wait after writing this, I suppose.
While the real ending sequence hasn't been released, below is the aforementioned "MEMORIA".