The summoning circle glows as a man who’s waited his whole life for this moment calls forth a Servant. He’s high on anticipation as his entire purpose in life, to be a Master, finally comes to fruition. Only, it doesn’t. Because the Servant he calls is Gilgamesh and, well, Gil doesn’t really take to the arrogant sod. Cue a subservient, ultra-polite little girl who knows exactly what to say to get on the King of Heroes’ good side. And so it begins, the next Holy Grail War. Cut to a lengthy info dump by a character we’re meant to hate anyway (good strategy, giving him the tedious task of recapping the franchise’s core premises), but who proves to have a few tricks up his sleeve, and a few twists in mind for the next War: not only will it take place in the “young” nation of America (how scandalous for a conflict so deeply rooted in tradition!), but it will also be a Fake War, in that fundamental rules of the game have been sublimated. For instance, this iteration will have only six Servants and Masters rather than the usual seven, and there will be no Saber, who routinely serves as the moral cornerstone among the players. As the story unfolds, further bending and breaking of the rules promises new intrigues, including a rival worthy of Gilgamesh’s notice, the (near?) divine being, Enkidu, and their canine(!) Master. There are a couple of accidental Masters as well, which always livens things up, including the blissful idiot Flat, a student of El-Melloi’s who may just be more insane that his Berserker Servant, and a tiny sick girl who it seems somehow became paired with a great evil overshadowing all of existence that is poised to join the fray. There is also a shady government agency pulling the strings (or so they believe), and a well-informed Mage faction awaiting the perfect time to yank those strings back under their control and transform the Fake War into a real one. How they plan on doing this is not clear, but their schemes may be scuppered anyhow by the young woman who, in the after-credits scene, declares that she will not be who they want her to be—she will not be a Master.
Enkidu and a happy King of Heroes duking it out–or just hanging out?
Feast upon the artistry! Also, that boy is probably insane. Just a gut feeling. And yay for a broody villain!
It’s back! The Fate franchise is here again and wow, is it ever looking good! I mean that quite literally, in that the animation is stunning, demonstrating that A-1 Pictures is up to the task of filling ufotable’s sizable shoes and producing a near-cinematic quality television special. This hour-long episode is a teaser of sorts for the television series that has just been announced today and which will adapt the full Fate/strange Fake novel. And a somewhat cruel teaser at that, since we must now wait untold months before seeing the full realization of what promises to be a fresh, engaging storyline in a major franchise. But it may equally be described as a taster—a low-stakes entry point for the uninitiated into what can at times feel like an intimidating franchise. This single hour does a solid job of introducing all the core elements of any Fate series, and as such, is a good representative of what viewers are in for should they commit the time to taking the plunge (totally worth it, by the way!). In addition to the obvious theme of reality and illusion, fake and true, Fate/strange Fake is also set to dive deep into the question of madness: to what extent it is constructed by society (Jack the Ripper), how it may masquerade as something positive (Flat), and whether it is a requirement for greatness (the Assassin’s wannabe Master), or an unwanted consequence of it (Tsubaki, the sick girl). Can anyone survive the battle mentally intact? With the addition of a government agency (rather than the usual religious order) and the American setting, there is also the opportunity to explore the philosophy of state power—something I would fully expect from this franchise with its consistent philosophical engagement—as well as issues of race, particularly given that Tiné, Gil’s Master, is Native American or Métis. Finally, the cherry on the cake of this special is the addition of composer Hiroyuki Sawano (of Attack on Titan fame) to the roster. If this episode is a sign of things to come with the series, then we are in for a real treat! But in the meantime, there is plenty to feast on right here with this inaugural hour.
Fate/strange Fake is streaming on Crunchyroll.
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