Fate/Stay Night was good. It showed how Shirou, through the three routes, matured, changing from once idealistic save-everyone that was found in Fate, to ditching of what he once believed in and try to save this one person in expense of putting the whole city in jeopardy as found in Heaven’s Feel; showing Shiou’s internal ideological conflict of trying to live up to his ideals or to give up, knowing that it would be impossible to achieve. And there are also several more magicians that either support Shirou or go against him. Then I watched Fate/Zero.
There is nothing wrong to call the 5th Holy Grail War a war, just as we can call Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War or Anglo-Zanzibar War (lasted for less than 38 minutes a war. Those are all wars in that one side had declared war against the other side (which usually also involves the sending of troops against the other nation). But just as Anglo-Zanzibar War is nothing like World War I, 5th Holy Grail War is nothing like 4th Holy Grail War, in terms of the difference in what is at stake, the players in the War, and the outcome of the War.
First, let’s start of with the players in the War, the 7 masters. In 4th War, the crash of ideologies, personality, goals, and desires of the masters are stressed from the very beginning, which is evident from the anime extending the first episode to a hour so that it can cover the reasons that each master had entered into the War. The 4th War paints a more dynamic conflict between the masters, with some masters not going into the War to win, but just have a direct conflict with another master, and one trying to win just for academics curiosity, one trying to win for skill showing, one being forced to enter without a reason, and one trying to win to save the world. With all different personality and ways of battling, different goals etc..it shows that the 4th War was not only fought by two or three side, but each master was being an individual side, creating more messy battles. Compare that to 5th War, where everyone just either want to befriend Shirou, or has an evil agenda so that Shirou can go against it. Hence, compared to 5th War, the 4th War has a lot of weight to each master, who believing on their own beliefs or goals, was willing to risk their lives in order to try to prove that their beliefs is correct or attain their goal.
Then, there are also the ideologies that each servant holds. That was rarely touched upon in 5th War except for Saber and Archer. Yet for Fate/Zero, we have a whole episode where three of the servants came together and actually discussed about their way of living, an indication of the servant’s ideologies are also at being battled against in the 4th War. Wither it is Rider, Saber and Archer discussion of the ruling style of a king, or Caster’s and Ryunosuke’s chilling discussion at episode 13, or the past life conflict that was hinted for Lancer, all points to that the servants themselves have their past (living style, beliefs, hopes) at stake in this War also.
The result is that the 4th Holy Grail War is not just one’s personal struggle to mature, but a full blown out war that involves the crashing of ideologies, personality, and goals, with life-changing result for each master if they fail to win in the end.
Also, Fate/Zero anime ended their first season at the start of a massive battle is one of the biggest end-of-season cliffhangers I have ever seen. Now I have to wait impatiently for months before I can even see episode 14. (＃ﾟДﾟ)