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!