Eight years prior to the Fourth Holy Grail War, Emiya Kiritsugu receives news of his daughter’s birth and while he’s reluctant to hold her, his wife Irisviel consoles him by reminding him of everything he’s done for her and that in eight years he’ll be able to achieve his dream, of a world where no one will have to cry, ending his battle once and for all.
And five years after this Tohsaka Tokiomi travels to Italy to meet a man who has a command seal on his hand, the mediator of the grail war from the Church, Kotomine Risei’s son, Kotomine Kirei, explaining both what it means and what it entails, to summon heroic spirits as servants and participate in a battle royale. As well as an agreement made in which he will aid Tokiomi in acquiring the Grail, and that while it’s not the true fabled Grail, as an omnipotent wish granting device preparations should still be made to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. And as a Magus, Tokiomi’s goal of finding the root of all knowledge, Akasha, is deemed acceptable should it be attained. In short, he’s to participate in a secret pact to ensure that Tokiomi wins and at such short notice Kirei accepts. Wondering why he would be chosen if he doesn’t have a wish.
In Fuyuki City, Japan two years after this Matou Kariya returns home to meet his old childhood friend and Tokiomi’s wife, Aoi but while he’s able to find her eldest daughter Rin her youngest Sakura is nowhere to be seen, and only now does he learn that she had been given up to his family as a way of pulling them out of their current state, having no suitable heirs to pass their knowledge to. Something he himself had refused to do despite being suitable. And so he barges through the doors to confront his father, Zouken about this despite being banished to make a deal, that if he attains the Grail for him she will go free. However with only a year left drastic measures must be taken, but upon seeing the ordeal Sakura goes through every day he accepts.
Back in Germany, Kiritsugu receives some new information on the Masters he’ll have to go up against, representing the Magus Association will be Lord Kayneath El-Melloi Archibald of the Clock Tower. Who at this point is addressing a paper one of his students wrote about blood having little to do with a Magus’ potential and humiliates him for it, and as the student Waver Velvet is pissed off about this he bumps into someone with an important package for his teacher, a rare artifact from Macedonia. Which upon looking into, he finds out about the Holy Grail War and the seven Servant classes before deciding to participate in order to show him up, taking the artifact, a shred from a hero‘s cloak for himself and heading to Fuyuki City. And as it would so happen Tokiomi and Kirei are also learning about the opposing Master’s while Kirei’s Assassin keeps watch, learning that the Einzberns have for the first time allowed an outsider into their family to champion them, the infamous Magus Killer Emiya Kiritsugu.
Who at this point receives the artifact that will serve as the catalyst to summon his servant, the sheath from the legendary sword Excalibur. After which he looks into Tokiomi, Kariya, Kayneath, and Kirei, four Masters beside himself confirmed. Yet it’s the latter he dreads the most, recognising him as a man without passion, he accels in everything but abandons it before achieving a full mastery of it, not only that as an Executor he’s quite similar to himself. And at this point Kirei is looking through the information on him, finding that he’s gone from battlefield to battlefield but stopped when the Einzberns took him in, wondering just what answer he found.
Kariya has also made it through his training by now, though barely as he struggles to move the left side of his body, and as for Waver, the Grail has also acknowledged him as he stays with an old Canadian couple who think he’s their grandson visiting. By now Kiritsugu is also making the preparations to summon Arthur Pendragon as his Servant, seeing Servants as nothing more than tools, wondering how their individual philosophies will conflict and coming up with the best plan to use him. Aside from that, with the Holy Grail War soon approaching Rin has to leave her family home, telling Kirei to protect her father no matter what while he manipulates her for the most amusing result. After which he meets Tokiomi who happens to have received his catalyst as well, what’s believed to be the fossilised skin of the first snake to shred it.
But just before he can summon his Servant, Kariya bumps into Sakura briefly telling her what he has to do and promising that he’ll take her, Aoi, and Rin far away soon to have some fun. And so he heads to the basement for the summoning, where Zouken insists that he adds two lines to his chant to make up for his own lack of ability, intentionally summoning a Berserker class Servant. As if by fate, summoning almost in parallel to Waver, Tokiomi, and Kiritsugu, the latter unexpectedly finding himself before a young girl instead who asks him if he’s her Master.
Opening Theme (used as Ending):
Oath Sign by LiSA.
Admittedly I must say that I was blown away by this, the only question I really have is why they didn’t pry this franchise out of Studio Deen‘s hands and pass it to Ufotable sooner, even if Zero isn’t technically under the Fate Project. Regardless, it has my hopes up for a Heaven’s Feel adaptation if they somehow end up doing one.
Everything was just near perfect, well if you’re unfamiliar with the series all the exposition and various terms relating to the Holy Grail War and character relationships definitely would have been confusing to say the least, let alone seeing them talk about them for 45 or so minutes. But what we’ve seen so far looks great, undeniably the art style used surpasses the stiff gleaming one used for the Stay Night anime (TV series and movie). Even the way they’ve shown Saber using Excalibur looks better. Not to mention the pacing was great as well, sure it jumped around a bit but it was everything I expected to see, all the build up regarding the character’s motivations until the summonings, ending right on Sabers “are you my Master” quote. And with two cours I’m interested to see just how they’ll make use of all this time.
But anyway, so far how this episode chose to go about developing the character’s goals and reasons for entering the Holy Grail War was one of the things that I liked about this episode, already we’ve got quite a few conflicts being built up. Firstly and mainly that of Kiritsugu and Kirei, two similar on the surface yet ultimately polar opposites who’ve already recognised the other as their most dangerous enemy. With Kiritsugu, voiced by Rikiya Koyama, essentially emptying himself to achieve his goal, in a ends justify the means manner, while Kirei, voiced by Jouji Nakata, could be seen as empty, he possesses neither a goal nor passion in anything, yet at least. Aside from that something that makes Kiritsugu interesting in this is that we’re not seeing him through the eyes of the certain boy he saved with a saviour complex, Heaven’s Feel may have suggested what Kiritsugu was really like but now we’re seeing it for ourselves.
Secondly to that we also have the one between Kariya and Tokiomi, the former’s story being the one that will probably be the most compelling in this show, right from the start you know he’s going to fail to save Sakura but you’ll still end up rooting for him. Even as Zouken intentionally does everything to screw him over as some form of bitter revenge, and his very body starts to fall apart you still keep a small amount of hope he can do it. Not to mention the amazing job that Tarusuke Shingaki does with him. Intentionally going up against Tokiomi just to know why he would put his own daughter through everything. Aside from that, being Rin‘s father and Gil/Archer‘s original Master I’m interested to see how Tokiomi, voiced by Sho Hayama will be handled, he has an air of mystery about him from that scene of him bidding goodbye and even already he seems pretty strong as a Magus.
Finally we also have the one that Waver, voiced by Daisuke Namikawa, has with Kayneth, simply being one of a student pissed off with his teacher and wanting to show him up. Admittedly his and his Rider/Broskander’s story is also the one I liked the most, I don’t want to spoil much but amongst all the dark and tragic paths that the other characters head down, his is fairly light in a way and fairly touching as well. Not to mention all the time he and Rider will just spend hanging out and being bros, which with the amount of time they’ve got to use and it already confirmed that they’re adding stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing the inevitable episode for it, same with Saber and Irisviel going shopping as well.
May as well add another paragraph on the summoning process as well, which to put it simply was great, we had little details like how catalysts can be used to get a specific heroic spirit for a servant and when it happened there was just something majestic about it all. Something magical. Each of the character’s chants were slightly different or done in a way aimed at the specific heroic spirit they were after, yet each of them sounded like something you would expect to hear in a magical chant. Not to mention that we never really got to see an intentional summoning in Stay Night, Rin tried but she messed it up and Shirou’s was completely unintentional. The reactions were also great as well, ranging from Saber’s iconic line to Archer’s apathetic look.