The Adaptation Consumption Mentality

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.

12 Responses to “The Adaptation Consumption Mentality”

  • TheBigN

    Still feel like that circle walk surrounding Kirei was a little SHAFT-esque in a way. As someone who hasn’t read the novels, but has had a taste of the Nasuverse, it’s fun seeing how things in this prequel to F/SN tie into both the world later, as well as in the general universe. I think that’s obvious without mentioning it. But regarding adaptations, it’s always the “how” that makes things fun (and you know this already as well). For a sillier example, the chance to see Seiji punch through a car to get to a yakuza animated rather than shown in manga form is enough of an impetus to make me want to check out the adaptation regardless.

  • omo

    I think the leap between manga to anime is reasonable, but when you approach a novel adaptation, there is a lot of freedom to do all kinds of stuff and yet still cater to the people who’ve seen it already. I think the famous Saber x motorcycle scene in the last part of the series will be one of those moments, that said.

    But that too is a framework in which someone who is familiar with the source material can enjoy an adaptation. That’s more the normal case, I suppose. I may have implied in my post but to be clear, that is not why I find Fate Zero compelling. Since they’re going to stick to the books as close as they are, there aren’t too many things it can set up that would really surpass my imagination of the thing when I first read it.

    In fact I’m already slightly let down by Alex’s ride and his summon. It was so cop-out in episode 2 when he did it. I don’t really have any hope that ufotable (or anyone for that matter) can really capture Alex’s reality marble, short of a real, 6+digit budget. I mean in my mind that thing is more badass than UBW ffs..

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the framework of having watched and loved Kara no Kyoukai. I haven’t read any of Nasu’s work, nor watched the anime adaptions except for Tsukihime which I can’t remember and which apparently doesn’t exist anyway. But I had more than enough reason to get excited as a diehard fan of UFOTable and Kara no Kyoukai. And as a fan of Urobuchi Gen by way of Saya no Uta and Madoka.

  • omo

    Well, now you mentioned it, yes, that is another angle. Maybe I’m just too tsundere about ufotable to admit it, but I do try to watch their shows; at least it’s enough to get me curious. So not so much “love Rakkyo” but “love the people who brought me Manabi Straight (and Rakkyo too)” I guess.

    But I’m beyond just curious about Fate Zero, and it’s not because I love the animation or the atmosphere or anything. I mean there’s nothing wrong with any of that, but I think part of the post is to explore why I still anticipate the thing. I kinda like Nasu’s works, and especially when he’s not the one writing it :D

  • ToastCrust

    It’s very interesting to see how things work out.

    I’m in a bit of an odd spot, where I am vaguely ambivalent towards ufotable (I generally like their work, yet I never find them to inspire a passionate like), I’m deeply embedded in the Nasuverse fandom, I enjoy UroGen, and I’ve had several major events spoiled for F/Z from back when having it ever be translated was at best a pipe dream.

    But save for the opening chapters fan translated, I never actually read it. So I simultaneously have the suspense/excitement of seeing how things develop in particular, while still being able to anticipate/be excited about certain key events being put into animation *SPOILER*(particularly the Gilgamesh vs. Berserker fight)*ENDSPOILER*.

    It’s a bit different from you, but also sort of similar.

  • Rockfest

    I get a weird disconnect when I watch anime like Fate/Zero. Since I’m watching the show fansubbed, I tend to focus more on reading than what is actually happening on screen. Stories like F/Z gives its priority to world building. Constructing the rules, constraints and limitations of what characters can and cannot do. Since that happens and that I’m reading subtitles, I expect a certain amount of talking heads, because its what I would expect from a novel.

    Having not read the source novels, the thing I’m more interested most is what happens next storywise. Meaning that for me, the anime adaptation doesn’t add or remove to the experience than say,if I was reading the novels. In the context of anime as a medium, the characters in F/Z are rather bland since they don’t appear to show signs of personality because it spend the majority of its time with talking heads.

  • omo

    I would say that Fate Zero novel is already operating on the premise that you are familiar with the characters in Fate Zero, to the degree that you will quickly find the context for them. This is particularly true for Saber, Emiya and Kotomine, and to a large extent also Kariya and Iri. That’s a good one third of the cast and the focus of the main plot in terms of the overall resolution. It is probably why F/Z has a lot of talking heads, because it is assuming that kind of a head start in terms of character development.

    So in a way, the answer to my question from the post is simply that Fate Zero is already a spin-off of some core material, and the adaptation is just once more removed from the same thing. It’s like a spin-off in a different dimension.

    I’m pretty much with ToastCrust I think, except I love ufotable more probably. But even so I’m not sure if I am looking foward to certain scenes as much as looking forward to what happens to certain scenes, like, how people react and how the anime handle them.

    So meta.

    ALSO: there are already some spoilers in my original post but let’s keep it down.

  • prototype27 (@prototype27)

    As someone who has read summaries of the Fate/Zero plot, but not the actual source (I’m actually reading through the corresponding light novel chapters as the episodes air), I still feel a lot of suspense waiting for each new episode. The events (in a broad sense) of Fate/Zero are referenced enough in Fate/Stay Night that the plot has a certain inevitability that I feel really drives the action forward; I see all of the action in Fate/Zero as falling action, aimed directly (and unstoppably) at the series’ finale.

    In that sense I really like the more contemplative approach ufotable has taken toward animating the opening moves of the Fourth Grail War; the pacing, I feel, mirrors the building tension in the characters as they try to anticipate their opponents’ actions and set the stage for their own victories. I’m really curious how the series looks to someone who hasn’t seen Fate/Stay NIght, and doesn’t know what must ultimately occur, since for me that knowledge is fundamental to my interpretation of the series.

  • omo

    That’s a pretty neat way to put it. Yeah, in a sense Urobuchi is a good fit as someone who has to write a grim prequel piece–it already is premised as something that will not end with everyone living through the end. What is left is seeing how the pieces fall into place…or out of place.

    The build up is very good; I think in that sense the DBZ formula is the way to go. I just don’t know if they have improved enough on it to bring enough dynamism to keep things fresh and interesting. Kara no Kyoukai, as an example, is a heavy and melancholy story but the anime version was notably more airy and is lighter than I thought it would have been, now that I’ve worked through the light novels. It feels like Fate Zero hasn’t really got that going for it.


    I watched episode one and thought it was OK, but it was very obvious that I was missing a lot by not having seen the proceding works. They did a good job explaining the set-up, but there was no attempt to get us newbies invested in what was happening. It looked interesting, so I decided to instead hunt down the first series and watch that instead.

  • omo

    Fate universe is very interesting. Essentially it’s a hybrid of urban fantasy (romance), historical fiction, high fantasy (with a D&D slant in a way) and there’s a huge dose of that dark newage crap when it comes to the philosophy, yet tempered with Japanese sensibility and humanism. The problem is, you really need to go to the games to get the most out of Fate Stay Night.

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