SPOILERS FOR FATE/STAY NIGHT AND FATE/ZERO
While there is a good deal of Sayre’s law styled controversy surrounding the Aniblog Tourney, I do find that it can a show you a previously unseen segment of the anime and manga blogosphere if you let it. While perusing sites that are participating in the tournament, I came upon a curious phenomenon surrounding Fate/Zero. There were several blogs that were reviewing Fate/Zero without ever experiencing the original material that Fate/Zero is a prequel to. That sort of blew my mind. But then again, it is not that hard to imagine. The Fate/Stay Night anime came out in 2006 so there is the distinct possibility that a good number of current anime fans have neither watched the original anime or played the visual novel but at the same time are interested in watching Fate/Zero cold. Like many things that fascinate me it is not that the phenomenon is that hard to imagine. What caught my attention was how it changed the way the bloggers looked at the show.
Imagine someone watching the Star Wars prequels without any knowledge of the original Star Wars trilogy (also let is not bring up the quality of the Star Wars prequels because they are irrelevant to this discussion.) This person could be theoretically shocked by events that seem run of the mill to someone who is a Star Wars veteran and conversely moments that have amazing gravitas to an old school fan might be rather run of the mill to someone who does not know what is going to come later on. Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side might be a shocking twist to this fresh-faced viewer while the experienced fan considers this a forgone conclusion. At the same time, the introduction of R2-D2 and C-3PO is nothing more than arrival of two new characters to someone how has never seen them before. And these people exist despite the ubiquitous culture saturation of Star Wars in our culture. They tend to be very young fans when you see them at all but they do exist.
While Type-Moon hardly has the cultural presence that Star Wars does it is hardly an unknown title in the anime community. The fact that Saber is in fact King Arthur is hardly considered a grand reveal to anyone but the most die-hard spoiler guardians. That said I remember one blogger speculating on an alliance between Kirei and Gilgamesh while this is just an inevitability to anyone who has seen all of Fate/Stay Night. This alliance is now a surprise as opposed to a mere piece of back story. In fact the overall victor of the Holy Grail War might be in question to a new viewer giving this series a very different form of excitement. There is a certain amount of tension present when you think that all the horses have an equal chance to winning the race. At the same time seeing Illyasviel make the magical circle in the shed at her temporary hideout has a tremendous weight that would be completely lost as they have no knowledge of Shiro’s adventures. Likewise there is no cognitive dissonance between Shiro description of Kiritsugu and who he is in Fate/Zero. While two people may enjoy Fate/Zero with foreknowledge or lack thereof of the orignal work it still changes the way you experience the series.
I would quickly like to state that I am not some horrible elitist about this. I don’t feel you have obliged to read the original visual novel before you are deemed worth of watching Fate/Zero. In fact this whole incident has only made me more curious about how new fans feel about the series when this in their entry point. I would love to see someone watch all of Fate/Zero and then follow through to play the visual novel and see how they react to that in turn. Their reaction to Sakura and Rin’s storylines alone would be fascinating. A whole conversation about that would make a great podcast. That said if anyone is watching Fate/Zero cold I am curious what your reactions are when the season is over.