What They Say:
“The Seven Stars and the Eternal Cage”
The difficult issue Reines and Melvin brought up with Lord El-Melloi II was a case involving a former student of his, Mary Lil Fargo. Mary is the only daughter of the Fargo family, a branch of the Animusphere family that rules over the Astromancy division. Responding to Mary who felt she needed her former mentor’s assistance, Lord El-Melloi II and Gray visit the Fargo estate to witness the dismantled corpse of Mary’s father, Ernest Fargo. Disjoined from traditions of Astromancy, the crime scene is representative of Modern Magecraft. Lord El-Melloi II dives in to elucidate the matter.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With episode 1 out of the way, this series can begin proper. Now that we’ve seen how Waver transitions from the lovable kid who faces unbearable loss in the Holy Grail War to the suave, cigar-smoking, venerable mage detective whose chiseled face never cracks a smile or shows an iota of embarrassment, there’s no sign of the character we once knew, or really of Fate in general, left. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call it a bait and switch – this is the series as advertised, after all – but it does seem like that first episode was designed to give fans of the franchise and Waver a sense of familiarity before making a sharp turn into very different territory. It’s now abundantly appropriate that the series lacks “Fate” in the title, and that the character has yet to be referred to by his actual name since becoming Lord El-Melloi II.
This also brings the full OP and ED sequences. With the former, the bold choice is made to use an entirely instrumental track, though it’s such a distinctly Kajiura piece that her signature touches tie it to previous Fate works more than the protagonist himself. The accompanying animation offers a look at just how cool and serious our little Waver has become, as well as a delightfully stylistic sequence that culminates with a look at the boy we once knew and the images burned into his eyes. The latter also features music by Kajiura, with ASCA handling the vocals, but it’ll probably take a few more episodes for either the music or the animation to have much of an impact on me.
Those familiar with Kajiura knows how much she likes to use vocalists for high-intensity background pieces, often in a choral presentation but occasionally to the point of sounding like the music could be taken from a Kalafina (formerly) or FictionJunction song. Ironically, this means that the background music actually features more vocals than the opening theme, but it doesn’t feel out of place. The opening represents the general tone of this series, an analytical mystery, while key action pieces to drive a more exciting climax offer appropriate usage of more dramatic choirs and orchestral swells.
Although this is only relevant as the series is airing, I do have to acknowledge that writing this immediately after Kimetsu no Yaiba on Saturday afternoons on Crunchyroll is a surprisingly consistent experience. Both feature similar Kajiura compositions paired with a general ufotable aesthetic. One of the series is animated at the studio itself, while the other is connected to the legacy of ufotable through its founder Aoki, and clearly borrows from its aesthetic, now more than ever as this series is meant to follow a past ufotable production.
Most of the content of the episode, though, is a detective mystery so conventional that it’s a little shocking. Lord El-Melloi II is fully invested in this role, and seems more concerned with being a detective than being a Mage, despite being so accomplished as the latter that half the characters in the episode look up to him as their flawless mentor. Hearing Namikawa (whose range has fortunately always been very wide) use such a deeper part of his register to drop a “howdunit” and “whydunit” with no sense of irony is perhaps the most endearing quality of Waver in this episode, but the fact that he goes as far as to use the “I’ll explain everything from the beginning trope” is so on the nose it kind of hurts. It’s fortunate that, so far, Nasu’s Mage lore is so relevant to the mysteries, because otherwise it would feel like a very generic mystery with a Fate skin thrown over it to draw a wider audience than deserved. As mentioned previously, though, there is a bit of action that, while not on the level of Heroic Spirit battles for the Holy Grail, do set it apart and make it feel more like it at least belongs in the franchise it originated from. In fact, the most striking sense of that comes when deuteragonist Gray’s head is uncovered and she looks more or less like – dare I say it in this age of Fate/Grand Order – a Saberface. Whether or not this has any actual significance remains to be seen, but her insistence on keeping her face hidden seems like clear foreshadowing that her appearance is at least somewhat important.
The first episode of the series gave us a more solid link to the Fate of past than may have been expected, but this follow-up lands up firmly in detective mystery territory, with seldom reminders that this is supposed to be the Waver Velvet we followed through Fate/Zero. While it’s a tad more generic than would be preferred, it does refer back to Mage lore we’re used to enough to feel like a part of the larger universe.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
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