Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fate/Zero and the art of Prequels

This isn't the first time I've talked about Fate/Zero and the Star Wars Prequels together.  I mentioned Fate/Zero briefly in my Recommended viewing order post, where I expressed my view that Fate/Zero is the best entry point to the Fate/ franchise.  This is also a follow up to my posts advocating for Prequels in general.  

I very firmly disagree with Glass Reflection's recent video on many levels.  Fate/Zero and the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy can stand on their own regardless of how much they were written as Prequels.  That Fate/Zero is counting down to a predetermined outcome simply fits why this franchise is named Fate.

If however you insist on watching an incarnation of Fate/Stay Night first, I recommend you start with the first 4 or 5 episodes of UFOtable's Unlimited Blade Works series (not the Unlimited Blade Works movie), plus the Prologue Episode 0.  Deen's Fate/Stay Night adaptations can be tolerable to someone like me who's already into Fate/ and has a high tolerance for the weaknesses of lower budget 00s Anime (in fact I even enjoyed it's easy to mock dub).  But it's weak presentation makes it the worst foot forward to introduce someone to Fate/ with.

The first 4 or 5 episodes of Unlimited Blade Works cover what should happen the same regardless of route.  (I'm unsure where the exact point of diverge is since I haven't played the Visual Novel).  The Prologue Episode 0 is the same, though I think much of that information was originally only revealed in the UBW route.  If you want to watch Deen/Stay Night for no other reason then to see the Fate/Route first, at least watch the beginning of the UBW Anime to get the best presentation.  Then you could theoretically start the Deen series at episode 5, 6 or even 7.

However all things considered, I feel the Fate Route is ultimately useless.  And the way Deen preemptively spoils the key twist of UBW simply isn't wroth it.   However I don't mind what Fate/Zero spoils about Heaven's Feel anymore then I mind Star Wars Prequels spoiling the "I Am your Father" moment.  There is an equally valid advantage to knowing why Sakura is important going in.  In a way Deen/Stay Night spoils Heaven's Feel far more then Fate/Zero does.

I personally started with Unlimited Blade Works, then Fate/Zero, then watched the Deen anime.

Fate/Zero however is especially the better entry point for someone who's not super into Anime yet, there are a lot of reasons Fate/ could appeal to people who aren't normally into Anime, the way it incorporates different mythologies, and Deconstructs the Superhero genre even better then Watchmen.  And Deconstructs Chivalry better then Game of Thrones.  But to those potential fans the High School Harem aspects of Fate/Stay Night are a potential turn off.  Fate/Zero almost doesn't even seem like an Anime.

And don't watch any of the Spin Offs till you've gotten a handle on the main story.

Spoiler Warning.  This post will from here on contain spoilers for Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night (well I won't be able to say much on Heaven's Feel besides what's obvious going in), and the Six George Lucas Star Wars films.

I want to compare Fate/Zero and Star Wars Episodes I-III as Prequels.  One is nearly universally praised by all who've seen it, the other is more divisive.  However they both follow the same basic principles of Prequel making.  If I like Fate/Zero more it's only because I like Fate/ more then Star Wars in general.  The Prequels are to me Star Wars at it's best, while Fate/Zero as the best entry point is still inferior to the depth and complexity of the original story.

Fate/Zero like the Star Wars prequels is mainly about us watching the Father fail where the Son will succeed.  And Saber is perhaps the closest thing to someone in Obi-Wan's role in terms of how he connects the two trilogies.

Also there are often villains who are very important to the original story, but due to their behind the scenes nature are far from the most prominent characters in terms of screen-time.  But become much more main characters in prequels since we now get to see how they got their hands on the strings in the first place.  In Star Wars this is The Emperor, known in the Prequels as Palpatine and Darth Sidious.  For Fate/ we have three characters who fit this bill to some degree, Kirei Kotomine, Gilgamesh, and Zouken Matou, though Matou doesn't get an origin story.  The relationship between Kotomine and Gilgamesh is comparable to Anakin and Palpatine, Gilgamesh is very much the Serpent in the Garden.  Kotomine however was a Sadist all along, he'd just been suppressing it.

The main thing a Prequel has in common with a Sequel is attempting to also parallel the events of the original story.  But while still being different enough that it doesn't feel pointless.  Fate/Zero's unique challenge is needing to in one timeline foreshadow a story told across three different timelines.

Saber's role in Fate/Zero most foreshadows her story in the Fate Route.  Like in Unlimited Blade Works the Tosaka mage in inevitably betrayed by their Archer Class servant.  And Karia like Shirou in Heaven's Feel is motivated by his desire to save Sakura.  And Irisveil is in one of the roles her daughter Illya is destined to play.

In both the Caster is the one most targeting innocent civilians, and so at first the most conventional antagonist, in the UFOtable Anime adaptations Caster is both times the villain of the cliffhanger that bridges seasons 1 and 2.

At first I couldn't think of any way that Iskandar and Waver paralleled Fate/Stay Night.  But then I noticed that they could be compared to Ilya and Herakles.  In both cases the youngest master has the physically largest servant, and they develop a Boy and his Dog sort of bond.  And both these servants are the only two Gilgamesh uses the Chains of Heaven on.

I also like when a Prequel does something that creates a sort of bookend for chronological viewing.  There are a few superficial things that The Phantom Menace and Return of The Jedi have in common with each other but no other SW films.  Sith Lord falling into a Bottomless Pit, Jedi Funeral Pyre, a primitive army fighting a more technologically advanced one.

In Fate/Zero we see the Mage Academy only in the first episode, while in Unlimited Blade Works we see it only in the last episode.  The Unlimited Blade Works epilogue is almost like a backdoor pilot for a Magical School Anime.

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