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Fate/Zero - "The Demon Spear" - Episode 4 Recap

The fourth episode of Fate/Zero, “The Demon Spear,” featured the first
(real) fight of the Holy Grail War between Saber and Lancer. The past
three episodes had a lot of setup regarding the rules of the game, the
masters and servants involved and the dynamics of the relationships
between them. This worked well in easing new
viewers in, and it offered a new perspective on the series for older
viewers. By the end of the third episode though I was craving a fight,
and when Saber confronted Lancer I couldn’t wait until this episode.

“The Demon Spear” takes place right where episode three left off – with
Lancer and Saber about to engage in battle. During the fight Kiritsugu
and his assistant are actively searching for Lancer’s master, so that
they can shoot him and take him out. Meanwhile Rider is watching in the
distance and Assassin is also spying on the fight. Saber and Lancer
seem evenly matched, but the tides turn against Saber when Lancer’s
master gives him permission to use his noble phantasm. Saber struggles to figure out its abilities and near the end, it seems as though Saber may not be able to win. The fight then
dramatically changes when Rider decides that he wants to enter the
battle, causing it to turn into a three-way brawl.

Studio ufotable
has really outdone itself with Fate/Zero because the animation here is
nothing short of stunning. I expected the quality to drop during the
fight sequences due to the fast pace, but luckily this wasn’t the case.
Instead ufotable rose to the occasion and showed that no series should
drop the quality of its animation because of action. Every swing of
Saber’s sword and every jab of Lancer’s spears was smooth and clean. The
remarkable animation really added to the intensity of the fight, and in
general made me look forward to the rest of the Holy Grail War. This
type of animation is what properly showcases the servants’ abilities and
sets Fate/Zero apart from every other series this fall. The music is also very impressive, escalating each scene to the next level. It stands out particularly when Rider enters the battle, and the opera-esque music completely channels the presence of a king.

I had
a few grievances with this episode. The first was that the fighting was
bogged down by too much talking and chivalry between Saber and Lancer.
Sure, it showcased what type of heroes they are, but in the end this produced
too much downtime and killed the excitement at certain points. A few
short exchanges would have worked better. The second was Kiritsugu’s
discovery of Assassin. Assassin is known for being stealthy, so to be
discovered so easily seemed careless on his and Kirei’s part. This could
perhaps be chalked up to Kiritsugu’s covert skills, but it cheapened
all of the work Kirei put into his plans in the last episode. The third
and last grievance is Saber easily falling into Lancer’s trap. Lancer has two
spears, one long and one short. When Lancer’s master gives him
permission to use his noble phantasm he throws the short spear to the
ground, and Saber immediately comes to the conclusion that only the long spear
is his noble phantasm when he really has two. In the heat of battle it may be easy to overlook
things, but Saber isn’t the type of servant to recklessly rush towards
an opponent. It felt very out of character for her to forget about the
short spear. She even admits moments after the attack that it is not
uncommon for a servant to have more than one noble phantasm.

I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying all of the smaller details
presented in each episode of Fate/Zero, such as when Kiritsugu tells his
assistant that they don’t have the means to take down a servant yet. Suddenly
I’m interested in what Kiritsugu has planned, because a human taking
down a servant is no small task. It was also revealed that Saber uses
the air to hide her sword, since Excalibur gives away her identity. The
notion that Irisviel may be a homunculus is curious, since it would
explain why her happiness makes Kiritsugu sad. He stated that he would
be the cause of her death, now I am starting to understand why. All of
these details add a layer of depth to the series and makes it important
to pay attention to every detail.

Fate/Zero would do well to
ease up on the chatter and let the servants do what they do best: fight.
I’m all for characterization, but there is a time and a place for it.
When Lancer and Saber weren’t standing around complimenting each other,
the fighting was as great as I expected from this series. For Fate/Stay Night fans it was a particular treat, because Saber isn’t held back by
an incompetent master. Instead she was able to fight with no
restrictions. Lancer proved formidable, wielding two different spears
and showing himself to be the quickest of the servants. Rider continues to be great; him
entering the fight because he wants to have the honor of fighting with
past heroes is so in-character. With Rider and Waver entering the fray, things have just gotten crazy. By the end of the fight Saber is at a
disadvantage, but there is no telling where things will go.
Will Saber
be able to overcome the fatal injury to her arm?

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