As I anticipate Fate Zero the anime on a week to week basis, I’m forced to recognize that this show is actually made more for fans and less for people who may not have had that baptism of Nasu-ism. But more importantly, let’s take Fate Zero’s meticulous adaptation of the first battle royale for example.
One of the initial reactionary threads from Fate Zero’s first episode is how there’s all these talking heads and talking points. We see a lot of little things that are nods to fans of Nasuverse, but it’s mostly a premeditative piece, giving us the ground work.
Maiya wasn’t introduced until episode 3. Saber and Lancer didn’t cross blades until episode 4. That’s close to how the novel panned out pacing-wise. The bulk of the first novel (out of four) sets the up the events from the first episode, cumulating to the scene where the masters summon their servants and ending with the first real battle. That probably means we will not see it wrap up until episode 6, or about one quarter of the 25(?)-episode run. That also means this battle that started at the end of episode 3 would not conclude until probably the end of episode 5 at the earliest, more likely until episode 6. If I recall correctly there’s a nice built-in gap that transitions between the end of the fight and the start of the next scene. It is also probably the first time I’ve watched an anime with a 3 or 4-ep fight scene that is not at the climax, in years.
The interesting thing is, I’ve already read the fan translations; I know what will happen in Fate Zero. There are little reasons to doubt that ufotable’s adaptation will stray much, if at all, from Urobuchi’s novels. If Kara no Kyoukai is any indication, they won’t stray unless they absolutely have to out of constraints of the medium. As such, there are no mystery for me left to discover besides the adaptation itself; the craft of the animation, breathing in an essence of life into what used to just be words. And as an aside, yea, those things are enjoyable thanks to ufotable’s Kyoani-esqe take on the source material, largely with a straight face. But that isn’t what is driving my desire to follow the show religiously; it merely keeps the flame going in the face of seeing all those talking heads, even in the heat of the battle (complete with DBZ-esqe narration).
And still, why do I anticipate Fate Zero so? Why do I pine from each subsequent episode when I already know what will happen next? More curiously, is this the case for someone who hasn’t read the novels? What would drive them to follow the story with eager anticipation? Unknowingly, I was building a set of expectations and a framework in order to view and to appreciate Fate Zero, in a diverging way than someone (that I imagine) who may like Fate/Nasuverse, but who did not read Fate Zero before. And it’s probably safe to say that is yet different than the reactions of people who don’t know anything about Nasuverse or don’t care much about it.
I suppose after putting it to words, none of these realizations are surprising. In a way I have already externalized these things–adaptations can cater to new folks and old friends alike, but they are distinct groups of viewers with some of the same and some diverging needs in order to be immersed and be able to contextualize with the work. I just think when it comes to Fate Zero, there is a pretty gaping hole between these two groups. Or just me and everyone else. Or at least something in between the two extremes.
I think there must be works in which the very opposite happens; that when adopted, there is just one primary framework in which we engage the work, fans or not. And given how so many anime are adaptations, it’s probably common. To go another step, I suspect this is a very big deal when it comes to stuff like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Game of Thrones. In the Game of Thrones case, I’ve already seen exactly that dynamics come into play; and the same kind of pitfalls anime adaptations fall into, you can see it in those too–namely, when things tries to cater too much at the expense of the straight-face take.
Still, none of that explains the circle-walk between Kotomine Sr. and Tohsaka Sr. That is totally not from anything.