Sorry for the brief wait on First Impressions – I have SMASH this weekend and have been scrambling to finish some last minute stuff. I’ll have the other First Impressions up in a few more days. Anyway, as I already stated when I reviewed episode 0 about 6 months ago, Case Files is a spinoff sequel to Fate/Zero where a huge component is the effects of Fate/Zero on the character Waver Velvet, and therefore there are giant honking spoilers for Fate/Zero in it. If you don’t care, you can read on, but if you don’t want Fate/Zero spoiled for you, I recommend watching that series first. It’s still my favourite anime and I heartily recommend it even if you don’t give a damn about Fate, because neither did I before I watched it.
Waver Velvet, the young mage who miraculously survived the fourth Holy Grail War, is captured and brought before a young girl three years later, who asks him to explain his actions. Her name is Reines El-Melloi Archisorte – the niece of Kayneth and former teacher of Waver who also appeared – and died – during that war. After all, Waver had stolen the artifact Kayneth originally intended to use to summon a servant, so he did have at least some responsibility in his former teacher’s death. Following the war, Waver had returned to the Clock Tower – the mages academy – to take over Kayneth’s old classroom, and Reines had watched this happen for three whole years before acting.
Waver explains to her about what he had been doing between the end of the 4th War and returning to the clock tower, and we’re treated to a flashback to detail this. He visits the old city of Babylon, or at least what’s left of it, to pay respects to the what is believed to be Iskandar’s (aka Alexander the Great’s) final resting place. When he uses some basic magic to fix somebody’s busted bike, he gets discovered and captured by another mage – a man called Barzan – who wishes to exploit his magical energy as a sacrifice. By an odd coincidence, his cell-mate turns out to be Melvin Weins from the Clock Tower – who was the one who gave him money to fly to Japan originally. He seems to have been tricked by Barzan into giving him the funds to come to Babylon and set up a workshop, and may have also ended up being used for magical energy had Waver not appeared. Through Melvin, Waver learns about what happened to Kayneth – specifically of how his magic crest – the magic passed down through a mages bloodline – was completely destroyed.
Waver and Melvin manage to escape their cell and then find out that Barzan’s ‘workshop’ was actually a way of controlling people in order to excavate the ruins where Iskandar may be buried, with the specific goal of obtaining a relic of Iskandar’s to make himself stronger. Upset and enraged, Waver gets Melvin to help him create a magical disturbance by messing with the ley lines, resulting in an explosion and the release of evil spirits. After escaping the place, Waver decides to return to the Clock Tower to try to make ammends for what happened to Kayneth, and tells Melvin of his plans to take over Kayneth’s classroom. He again requests to borrow money so that he can buy it.
After hearing this story, Reines tells Waver of her own demands – he must repay the astronomical debt of the fallen El Melloi house, he must find a way to restore the obliterated El Meloi magic crest, and he must be the new stand in Lord El Melloi to take Kayneth’s place, filling in for Reines until she becomes of age. Waver has no choice to accept this…although is able to have his request to add a II to the name granted – the name is just too heavy for him otherwise.
It’s kinda difficult to articulate exactly how much the events in this episode means to Waver fans who have been speculating about his post-Zero pre-Case Files activities for years. There’s countless doujinshi, fanart and fanfiction that dwells on this, and yet here studio Troyca is giving it to us on a platter as anime-original content. This was not something I expected for an anime adaptation of Case Files, and the whole thing feels incredibly special. To clear a few things up first, this adaptation is – as per the title – for the Rail Zeppelin arc, which makes up the 4th and 5th novels in the series. It’s also allegedly going to feature a large amount of anime original content – some of which I can assume is to fill in any gaps for people who haven’t read the novels, and most of which I hope is flashbacks like we got here. However, the part about Reines interrogating Waver is taken from the prologue of the second book, minus the flashback part.
The flashback features a new character design for Waver – aesthetically a midway point between his 19 year old self in /Zero and his much taller/lankier self as Lord el Melloi II – although the caption says the events take place only a few months after /Zero. He’s a slightly more confident Waver, not yet as obviously depressed as LEM2 but still definitely showing signs of trauma, namely from losing Iskandar. (Iskandar himself shows up quite a few times in flashback, although his face is never clearly shown – which is a shame, because I really want to know how he looks in Troyca’s style) To be honest, I at first thought Waver’s behaviour was almost too happy in places for someone whose trauma is still that raw, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. PTSD, which Waver seems to canonically suffer from in his later years, is not something that can develop instantly, and individual grieving processes can be complicated. This gives a slightly more upsetting note to the fact that…yeah Waver kinda kills a guy in this episode? Not directly, but his deliberate actions led to Barzan and his workers dying, which he and Melvin laugh about. Waver is also a pacifist (and this is a very important part of his character later in his life), so I can assume his attitude about Barzan is the result of grief, his attempts at forging a new way of life, his fury at Iskandar’s possible grave being disturbed and perhaps also his belief that it’s what Iskandar himself would do. So, I’m not saying that Waver deliberately causing some guy to die is out of character given the circumstances, as that actually makes it a lot more interesting as character development. However, I do hope this issue and any potential aftermath of it gets revisited in future episodes – there’s a lot more anime original content to go, after all. Otherwise, as much as I enjoyed it, the whole segment does seem kind of pointless other than serving as an easy way to introduce Melvin. (also, uh…evil spirits? They kinda glossed over that, can we learn more about those…?)
As I’m currently only slogging through the 3rd book, I don’t know Melvin yet – although he seems to be a key supporting character in this arc. I’m actually really glad he’s here – not only because he’s a pretty necessary comic relief character (he has some kind of illness that causes him to vomit blood every now and then) but because poor Waver really did need some kind of friend of a similar age. I’m not altogether sure why Waver doesn’t seem particularly fond of him (although it could just be because he’s annoying, or more likely that Waver doesn’t know how to friends), but they make an unexpectedly good pair and I look forward to seeing how they relate to eachother in their adulthood.
What excites me the most about this show is how very obvious it is that at least someone on the team (and most likely multiple people), really, really love Waver. I’m not sure if you could call it ‘fanservice’, but he definitely makes a bunch of cute faces, blushes a lot, and even gets the status of his virginity questioned for seemingly no reason other than a nudge and a wink to the fans who know all about what mana exchange entails in the Fate universe. His devotion to Iskandar is also presented really nicely – the way he gently touches the scrap of his cloak, the numerous flashbacks, even the way his hands shake when Iskandar is mentioned, the part at the end where he reaches out to the horizon – it really does feel like a love letter to fans of these two characters, and that I can really appreciate. That aside, it looks really lovely – the backgrounds and colours and lighting are all top notch and they even got Yuki Kajiura on the OST again. (It’s an awesome OST so far, by the way) Curiously, this episode featured neither an OP nor an ED, so I assume we’ll see those in episode 2.
I can only hope that the other arcs of the novel will also get animated, and given how much troyca have been hyping up this anime and the response to the first episode it seems like there’s a pretty good chance of that happening. For now, this will probably be the thing I look forward to the most every week until October.
Anyway, me and Junko – who originally became friends because we both love Waver – will be taking turns reviewing this starting from episode 2, but here are Junko’s quick thoughts on episode 1:
“I was initially concerned that this was just going to be a recap of episode 0 from December – luckily, that’s not at all what we got! I loved finally getting to see a period in Wavers life we knew nothing about, the years just after the Grail War. I also liked the emphasis on how Waver has grown as a character since his Fate/zero days. We’re clearly gearing up for an epic journey alongside Waver, and I can’t wait to be there every step of the way….although I WILL cry every time they recap Iskanders final scene from Zero.
Also, I was amused they brought up Wavers sex life in japan. Every Fate fan knows the answer to that question Melvin asked ….search your heart, you know it to be true. “