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This review is from: Fate Zero Pt 1 - Collector's Edition [DVD] (DVD)
Ten years before the events of 'Fate/stay night', Fuyuki City played host to the Fourth Holy Grail War that sees seven mages fight each other with the summoned spirits of famous heroes from history. The mercenary mage assassin Kiritsugu Emiya is taking part on behalf the Einzbern family, alongside his wife Iri in the battle for the Holy Grail, an item that can grant any wish. To win the battle they must defeat the six other mages and their Heroic Servants but all of them have their own wishes and reasons to fight.
Based on a light novel, 'Fate/Zero' is the prequel series to the 'Fate/stay night' and tells the story of the previous Grail War that involved the parents of the Fate/stay night characters. Despite being a prequel, you don't have to have any knowledge of the original story but as with all prequels it does contain some spoilers for revelations in its parent story. This first collection includes the first thirteen episodes of the series taking the action from the beginning of the Holy Grail War to the very beginning of the fight on the river.
The plot of the series is very good with some very nice elements and some very good characters. The characters in particular are one of the strengths of the series with both the Servants and Masters all being very interesting people (the relationship between Rider and his master Waver in particular being brilliantly done). The series is mostly an ensemble with all the characters being important and having some development but the main characters can be seen to be Kiritsugu Emiya, Kirei Kotomine and of course Saber. As a prequel we also get to see how some of the characters from the original were like as children with Rin, Sakura and Illya all making appearances. Sakura's troubled past is shown and we get to see Illya's birth and is a cute as ever. Rin gets an episode to herself as she tries to find a missing friend.
The animation of the series is simply spectacular with only a few issues here and there (mostly with some of the faces in episode eleven) with the mix of CGI and traditional animation being done very well throughout. The CGI animation of Caster's Lovecraftian monsters, as well as Berserker in particular are very good, as is the animation for the brilliant opening sequence. The battles in the series are all done very nicely as well with one of the highlights of this part of the series being the three simultaneous battles at the Einzbern Estate.
The collection includes both the Japanese and English dubs of the series and I feel that both versions are just as good as each other. Unfortunately while the Japanese cast reprised their roles for those characters who return from 'Fate/stay night', this isn't the case with the English cast. Strangely though some of the English cast do return for 'Fate/Zero' but they play different characters. Grant George, who played Gilgamesh in 'Fate/stay night' voices Lancer (Diarmuid Ua Duibhne) here while Gilgamesh himself is voiced by David Earnest voiced Assassin in the original. Rider (Alexander the Great) is voiced here by Jamieson Price who voiced Kirei Kotomine in the previous series while Kirei is voiced here by the excellent Crispin Freeman. Despite these changes, all the voice actors do very well in their respective roles with all of them suiting their roles very well.
Special features in this set are a little thin on the ground with the only ones being clean versions of the, admittedly brilliant, opening and closing credits, in fact the soundtrack for the series is very good in general. The Collector's Edition also includes a two case box to keep the series in.
While some people dislike the amount of exposition and talking that happens in the series (especially in the first episode), but there are still some very nice action scenes throughout the series, as well as some gore, humour and emotional moments. There are other people, including myself, who think the series ranks amongst the best anime ever made.
I feel that 'Fate/Zero' is easily the best part of the 'Fate' franchise to be released so far and is easily worth a full five stars.