Lord El Melloi II Case Files: {Rail Zeppelin} Grace Note Episode 0

Oh boy oh boy what an exciting time this is. Although it never got the chance to be featured on this blog at all, my favourite anime of all time is Fate/Zero, and my favourite character of all time is Waver Velvet. On December 31st, this single-episode special based on Waver’s spinoff sequel novel aired, and a full series has been confirmed to air in the summer anime season this year. Naturally, the series itself will be blogged here once that happens…but I also want to do this early episode too. I’m just going to put this out here though – these reviews will have massive Fate/Zero spoilers because it’s impossible not to. This show is also not going to make a lick of sense if you haven’t seen /Zero. Both me and Junko will be doing the reviews because both Fate/Zero and Waver mean a lot to us.

montonous big Waver voice: ‘I’m ecstatic’.

Ten years after the traumatic events of the fourth holy grail war (detailed in Fate/Zero), Waver Velvet is back at the Clock Tower – the academy for mages in London – this time as a teacher. He has a complicated relationship with the El Melloi extended family – the original Lord el Melloi – Kayneth – met a grisly fate in the war, which could technically be Waver’s fault, but he also managed to save their family from ruin, and is hence given the title of Lord El Melloi II (somewhat begrudgingly) – even if his status of Lord is apparently only temporary until the real heir – a young girl named Reines – is old enough.  Waver has also taken on an apprentice – the mysterious Gray – who also looks after him, and two of his most eager students include two boys named Flat and Svin.

In this episode, Waver becomes aware (or perhaps more aware) of how hated he is by the El Melloi house and presumably the rest of the Mage Association, as well as the fact that he seems to have been cursed. While the curse seems relatively minor at first (and could easily be chalked up to him being clumsy) – it takes a darkly serious turn after the cat Gray had been caring for is mortally wounded. Waver tries to save it, though it ultimately dies. It turns out a certain man had killed the cat on purpose as a convoluted magical mechanism that would have also then killed Waver, being tied to the cat – however he manages to undo the curse and catch the perpetrator just in time with the help of Gray, Flat and Svin…and a CGI car chase.

Gray is really cute.
The backgrounds in this are just -chef finger kiss-
Waver’s ‘oh I may die today, that’s inconvenient.’ face

Moeronpan’s thoughts: There’s a small confession I have to make that would probably surprise anyone who knows exactly how much I love Waver – although it started a few years back, I had this weird kind of wariness about the El Melloi II Case Files novel that I couldn’t quite explain. I didn’t actively avoid it, but I did procrastinate on getting around to it. On one hand, it’s new canon Waver content! But on the other, it’s new canon Waver content written by somebody who isn’t Gen Urobuchi, and I couldn’t help being nervous about that fact – would another writer ‘get’ Waver? Or, worse, would that Gray character be some unnecessary love interest? Eventually the manga also came out, which was a little more accessible to me (although I still put off reading it mainly due to lack of time, and started reading the first book recently). I kinda wish I’d gotten in on this a lot sooner, because it does mean that aside from the background setup of Waver’s relation to the El Melloi house, I’m basically going in blind. I’ve got a whole 6 months to get caught up before the series proper starts though.

A lot of the episode was just establishing that El Melloi house don’t like Waver (and that he really doesn’t care much for them either)  In fact there are things that they say that seem more for the benefit of the audience than for each other – and to clearly establish the current time (ten years since the fourth grail war). I’m curious how the real episode 1 will go down, but I do personally think that an episode 0 that focused more on how Waver got to this point could have worked better. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work though, as I did enjoy this episode well enough. The main problem with it is that there are a hell of a lot of characters dumped on us at once – which works for some of the characters we should already know, but others like Svin not so much. (It doesn’t help that I am used to Flat having longer hair – he’s younger here than how he appears in /Strange Fake, and his cameo in /Apocrypha, so I kept thinking Svin was Flat) The focus is, of course, on Waver and Gray – with Gray still being a little mysterious. We don’t get to learn a lot about their relationship yet other than the fact that she looks after him (and seems to have to remind him to eat and change his clothes…), and that there was some reason behind Waver taking her in that was great enough for him to overlook the fact that her Saber-looking face gives him PTSD (hence why she needs to wear a hood at all times).

The central plot of the episode concerning the curses (as well as the greater story here that people in and related to the Clock Tower want Waver dead) is interesting but over-explained in that hokey kind of way a lot of Type Moon stuff is. I also really didn’t expect a CGI car chase in a show about Waver (or magic in general), and tbh it was a lower point. (Not terrible, I’m just getting really tired of all the clunky looking CGI cars in anime recently). I was sad that a cat had to die to propel the plot forward (its a really hated tragedy-porn plot trope of mine, although having Waver show genuine remorse at the cat’s fate and stay up all night caring for it did help here, as well as show how kind he is underneath his prickly exterior).

The show also looks great – the characters look crisp and the backgrounds are incredible – from the Clock Tower office interiors to the London streets . I also liked the music used, and if its an indication of how the main series is going to look and sound, I’m really glad.

In all,  while I still think its an odd adaptation choice for episode 0 (apparently its from a flashback a little later in the series as its nowhere in the first book of the manga), it’s still a decent teaser for what’s to come, even if it’s mostly just to say ‘hey, remember Waver? Here’s what he’s doing now, also he’s really depressed.’ Waver is a really fascinating character, and Case Files is definitely keen to portray his adult self, and the effect the events of /Zero had on him, in all its depression. It does make me sad to see that being Waver is still suffering – so I really hope that in the actual series he at least has nice things happen to him now and then. Episode 0 did contain small glances back to his younger self (which is neat to see, as younger-Waver has actually had less appearances in anime than older Waver has), so I’m eager to see more of that as well.

Flat and Svin posing like they’re on an album cover.
wearing Rider’s old shirt 8′)

Junko’s thoughts: 

I feel like I can’t be unbiased about this….I mean , I ADORE Waver Velvet , he’s been one of my top faves for years and seeing him star in his own show is just ….unreal! Like I’m still not sure I’m not dreaming !

Waver himself aside, I’m excited for Case Files because it represents one of the first major looks into the Fate universe NOT centered around a Grail War. Just in this episode , I think we learned more about how the Clock Tower and Mages Association function than we did in the entirety of /stay night! The lore and world building of this show is on point

I would say the only negative point was that a LOT of new characters were introduced all at once , even some who would not be familiar to longtime Fate fans unless they had read the light novels. However , I did feel that this “character barrage” was nicely counteracted by a short, simple plot and conflict which could easily be resolved over the course of a single episode . I also think that when the full show comes out later this year they’ll do a lot better at giving the new characters focus.

Overall though, a half heartwarming , half heartbreaking adventure starring one of my best guys – a promising start to a new year of anime!

It’s kinda darkly funny to me that Waver is the only one refusing to look at the camera in this photo, but it was presumably the best shot they got, or couldn’t redo it for whatever reason, so they were stuck using it.

Moeronpan out of 5:


Junko out of 5:

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