My run-in with the Fate series: A Brief Introspective

How a well-known series’ experience can go sour.

Well…here we go! To be perfectly honest, this isn’t the type of post I tend to make. With such a strong focus on analysis, reviews and criticism, it’s unusual to take a personal aside about something, but this “something” is my run-in with the Fate series and at least some small part of its rabid fandom.

(Minor spoilers may appear.)

Ah, Fate. I wanted to be excited about a popular franchise that is apparently quite popular and quite renowned not just in anime circles, but also from its source material- video novels, or VNs. Listening however to the endless parade of praise on what had become an enormously complicated series wound up souring the experience for yours truly though. Now it’s just a pit of bitter annoyance at something in theory I really should have loved (Action! Historical figures! Character interactions!) and on paper, it has it all. I even think I modestly liked the series’ structure from what I’ve seen, but it simply wasn’t jiving with me. There’s a few major reasons for this dissonance, which I’ll do my best to break down.

One of the major problems was the vocal opinions of VN fans who insisted on one order to watch the many installations of the series, and then the anime watchers’ opinion about starting with Fate/Zero, the well-regarded 2011 series. I didn’t like how complicated figuring out an order to watch something would be to someone unfamiliar with the series at all, and it seemed like something was wrong regardless of who you talked to. Then there was the exposition. Yes, Fate has a tremendously thought out system featuring “Masters” and “Servants”, but having to figure it out in an exposition dump wasn’t exactly ideal…it’s not terrible once you figure out the nuances of it, but the initial time it’s a lot to swallow, especially when you just want to enjoy a show.

Personally, I think one of the things Fate diehards don’t realize is that from the outside looking in, they don’t make it feel like something you’d want to be part of. They’ll tell you how amazing it is, but if you bring up some counterpoint about character design, or that multiverse theory doesn’t necessarily make everything better, the brigade is out in full force to say “you didn’t give it a chance.” I’m not here to fault people for liking a series they may be very passionate about, but from a point of entry it can be a difficult experience, particularly as one is just in the discovery phase of a series. No matter the series, it’s critically important to be able to form your own thoughts on something through experience, and too often it felt like I wasn’t finding excitement in the same things people around me might have been emphasizing. For instance, the meeting of the “kings” in Fate/Zero was rather emphasized as something I ought to geek out over, and the episode was really neat, but it wasn’t some sort of other-worldly anime experience to me, at least.

There’s also the weird feeling that you’re doing something wrong by not loving something so many folks seem to, not just within people you might know. I don’t think this is an uncommon experience for anyone with any series that might fit this billing, but here it was with Fate- a series in a vacuum that isn’t bad and perhaps even very good- and nothing was getting me excited about it. The professional part of me, who writes the reviews and assigns grades all the time knew something like Fate/Zero wasn’t a bad show at all, but the personal enjoyment part of me found something lacking. What that “something” is remains difficult to define, but I think the variety of points I’ve been making is the “something” collectively.

So, what did I actually enjoy about my brief sojourn into this expansive franchise? As mentioned, the intricate master-servant system is a selling point for many, though the learning curve is a bit more than I would have liked. There are certain character designs that work really nicely, though servants can be hit or miss, between depicting something about their historical origin or just looking overdone or over-stylized. Since I used it for examples, Fate/Zero is a solid show, though I’d hardly count it among my favorites, and it featured two openings that are quite popular and acclaimed. And I suppose the amount of material that exists is a double-edged sword in that anyone wishing to dig deeper into the franchise is likely to find a lot more to explore, quenching a thirst for new stories.

I don’t doubt the idea that I may still yet revisit Fate and all it has to offer, but it might be after a lengthy period of time and with a refreshed vigor to go after it. Of course there’s plenty of potential here and making premature judgements is not something I’d wish to do, especially in light of my other work with animation and its countless wonderful stories and characters to delve into, but this was something I wanted to unpack and just write about, since I’m unsure how common this sort of experience might be with Fate as a series, or if people had other series they shared similar experiences with like I was describing in relationship to this one. I’m curious to hear what people have to say, and I sincerely believe this might not be the end of the line with the ongoing train of thought I’ve got on this franchise. But for now, it’s a general catharsis and a need to move on to other projects I’m excited about to bring along on AniB Productions!

Like what you see? Have an experience to share on a series that didn’t work for you, or on Fate? Leave a comment!


Author: anibproductions

I am the founder and writer of AniB Productions, currently a blog with a focus on animated shows from both the East and the West. Love Buffalo sports, good political discussion, and an interesting conversation wherever I go.

6 thoughts on “My run-in with the Fate series: A Brief Introspective”

  1. I started with Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks and liked it but found the lengthy monologues to get fairly annoying. After that I watch Fate/Zero which I thought was excellent. I also think it helped watching in that order even thought Zero is a prequel. Fate/Stay Night does a better job of explaining the structure.

    After that it was Fate/Apocrypha which was a hot mess. There was some good parts and some terrible parts and the fact that no one seemed to say it was alternate timeline until way into the series left me baffled for most of it.

    Finally, I watched Fate/Last Encore which was an absolute disaster! It made no sense which was a shame because it had some cool characters. Ironically Zero is the high point for me…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the detailed feedback, and welcome to AniB Productions! I think finding an order that works and makes sense is definitely the first thing I’d want to pin down in doing Fate.

      Furthermore, your experience also gives me an idea that the collective is definitely varied depending on the iteration you’re going through. I’m going to keep your experience in mind, so I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it also depends on what you want from the anime. If it’s just cool fights and awesome character Apocrypha is just as good, but for me the story was overly complicated just for the sake of it. Same with Last Encore, except the story made even less sense.

        I think the reason I liked Zero so much was because Stay Night had set the world and rules. Then knowing the eventual outcomes before going into Zero enhanced the darker elements of the series.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t realize Fate fans were so opinionated; sorry for their domineering. I wouldn’t count myself as a fan, but I’m a casual appreciater, so to speak. After seeing the series all over the place, I tackled the anime where it started, with the original Fate/Stay Night, and then moved on to Fate/Zero. (I think I saw the Unlimited Blade Works movie too, but not the series.)
    They’re solid shows as far as I’m concerned, but yeah, I don’t consider them hallowed classics. Fate/Zero definitely had some amazing production values, but was somewhat undercut by the more extreme content as well. Once I found out the other series featured different timelines and versions of characters, it all just seemed too confusing to me, so I don’t know if I’ll get back to it either.
    I sort of know what you mean about the sheer size of a show’s footprint making you hesitant to tackle it. It’s not due to the fans, but I’m loath to see any of the long-lasting shows, just because I don’t have time for 100+ episodes. (Still waiting for the right time to tackle Hunter x Hunter. I’ll get to it eventually.) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fate fans can be very opinionated, though I was fortunate enough to restart the series since I wrote this piece on my own terms, and I’m enjoying it a lot better. Unlike yourself, I started with Zero, so I’m doing it a bit “backwards” as VN fans might point out, but I am enjoying it this go-round. Still not classics, but Zero was good and from the bit of UBW I’ve dug into currently, it’s also enjoyable.

      The most important thing is just having a clear sense of direction with this sort of huge franchise. And I understand about a reluctance to pick up big series, believe me! (Don’t worry, HxH will deliver when you get the chance 😉 )


  3. you shouldn’t let the fandom affect you. you can watch it in any order you want.
    i, too, felt fatigued with the series, but i do enjoy each adaptation on their own. i have yet to try the illya magical girl one though.

    Liked by 1 person

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