In this article we will talk about Fate Zero and Hollow Ataraxia, you have not yet read our article on Fate / Stay Night, you can find it at this link.

The extraordinary success of Fate / Stay Night

Considering Type-Moon's response to Tsukihime's modest success, enough for the company to generate a sequel and various spin-offs, it is not surprising if following the enormous traction gained by Fate / stay night, so Unanimously appreciated by the public and critics, the duo Nasu-Takeuchi has decided to continue and push on Fate for the future of their company.

And continuing the narration of Fate / stay night would not have required even too much effort: with practically an entire route and a half completely cut out from the drafting of the original Nasu had more than enough material to be able to develop a new Visual Novel with the intent of delve into all those characters and aspects of the stay night story that, due to their marginal role in the events Shirō Emiya was the protagonist of, had not been able to shine and had had little space to fully express their potential.

The sequel to Fate / Stay Night

The collective and thorough development of the Nasuverse and the introduction of Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg in his gears in Heaven's Feel also allowed Nasu to reuse the narrative expedient of the cycle originally proposed in Kagetsu Tohya in a more coherent and plausible way, creating a real sequel to what has already been achieved more than a fan disc.

And always referring to Kagetsu Tohya, Nasu had the clear idea of ​​bringing a more linear story, devoid of route, but with slightly different mechanisms from those proposed in the Tsukihime sequel, leaving the reader with ample freedom of interpretation regarding the temporal location of the title in relation to the routes of its predecessor.

Fate / Hollow Ataraxia

This is how, while several projects came to life parallel to it, Fate / hollow ataraxia comes to life: a Visual Novel in which the reader is invited to choose which scenes to view, some optional, others mandatory, others to unlock to continue with the main plot .

Unlike the constant and linear first-person narrative seen so far, the choice of scenes is made through an aerial view of Fuyuki and the main places of events, with the possibility of viewing a scene at any time of the four days (divided into morning, afternoon and night) during which the story unfolds.

Next to the main story there are also three minigames accessible once unlocked in the narration, offering a nice alternative pastime.

Hollow ataraxia was released in late 2005, almost two years after the stay night release, becoming one of the best selling Visual Novels of the year.

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History by Fate / Hollow Ataraxia

Six months after the end of the Fifth War of the Holy Grail Shirō Emiya spends a quiet life with his companions: the evil proponents of the tragedies that had given rise to the events of Fate / stay night have been defeated, and the Masters chosen during the conflict now abolished, they live their daily lives peacefully alongside their Servants.
One day, as a consequence of Rin's experiment on Zelretch's sword, a phenomenon comes to life that merges the known alternative realities plus some new ones never seen before, bringing the young woman to leave for England and contact the Wizard Association for find the solution.

Meanwhile, the Servants warn of a new threat: mysterious creatures make their appearance as well as an unknown eighth Master named Bazett Fraga McRemitz who seems to have restarted the Heaven's Feel, unaware that the Fifth War of the Holy Grail has ended six months earlier.

Flanked by her Avenger-class Servant, Bazett does not remember much of what happened previously, aware only of her role as Master and sorceress of the Association.

As the Servants prepare to defend the daily life to which they have become accustomed, uninterested in a new conflict for the Grail, Shirō tries to prevent someone from endangering himself until he realizes that the surrounding reality is stuck in a four-day cycle that repeats itself without any sign of continuity regardless of the events that occur.

The only ones who realize this cycle are Shirō and Bazett, who keep full awareness of the events that are taking place in each cycle.

Intended to put an end to this anomaly, therefore, it will be up to the wizard duo and Avenger to find out what is causing the four-day cycle.

An anomalous setting

The stage of the events of Hollow Ataraxia, as you can see, is not very clear: while Kagetsu Tohya had clearly made clear which route was the background, for this sequel the answer to this question is "all and none": the reality Hollow Ataraxia follows the endings of Fate, Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel simultaneously, and at the same time does not really follow any of them, only occasionally mentioning some events related to the three routes.

This is because the story itself considers a link to any stay night route irrelevant, letting the reader decide which events took place for a given scene.

The very premise of this new story is in fact rather generic compared to previous Type-Moon works, with a relatively smaller scope than the stories that preceded it.

An evolution in the construction of history

The choice to treat the story in this way is dictated by the concentration on the execution of the narration: the rhythm, the writing and the atmosphere are finely balanced between tension and mystery, especially in the segments dedicated to Bazett, masterfully integrating the theme of illusion suggested by the title of the work itself within the story.

In any case Fate / hollow ataraxia is a much lighter story in nature than the rest of the Nasuverse: the tone is a balanced mix of seriousness typical of Fate / Stay night and stupidity above the lines attributable to the future Carnival Phantasm, succeeding in some way to excel in both things without causing a dissonance within the narrative: tonal priority is given in a fair and appropriate, balanced way, making the scenes flow in a fluid and engaging way.

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The opportunity to deepen all the characters

Each scene is also built to develop the characters, propose new interactions and, sometimes, simply to satisfy the reader, going from simple and mundane events like a banal meal to epic battles almost completely animated by Takeuchi's art.

Even the new characters manage to have an almost complete in-depth analysis despite having had much less time available than the remaining protagonists to make themselves known and recognized.

However, Visual Novel, to date, suffers from the lack of an adaptation that makes the title available to a wider audience, which limits the work to an exclusively Japanese audience and linked to stay night.

Despite this, there is a manga adaptation illustrated by Medori in 2013 and, as for its predecessor, a version of Réalta Nua, with practically the same type of additional content (dubbing primarily), released for PS Vita in November 2014, with two new opening sequences animated by Ufotable and set to music by pop rock star Aimer with the two songs “broKen Night” and “hollow WORLD” plus a new minigame titled Capsule Servant and a new card game.

A complementary project

As mentioned previously, while the Fate / Hollow Ataraxia project was revived, the production machine linked to this promising new franchise did not remain idle.

Following the release of Saya no Uta, a horror genre Visual Novel inspired by the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft published in 2003, the writer Gen Urobuchi, today known as a screenwriter of animation works such as Psycho Pass, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Aldnoah.Zero and nicknamed "Urobutcher" because of the tragic, gloomy approach and the merciless and cold twists that distinguish his works from the nihilistic and resigned themes, he faced a strong creative block that risked irreparably compromising his position as a writer for the Nitroplus software house.

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A writer stuck in pessimism

Specifically, Urobuchi was facing a crisis that prevented him from properly ending his works and a conflict with the idea that true creativity could only be exposed through his own thoughts, preventing him from adapting a story that had not been created by himself in first person.

Afflicted by a profound repulsion for optimism, Urobuchi found himself somehow condemned by the idea of ​​not being able to end a story on a positive note, unable to give courage or hope to its readers, something that, albeit spontaneous, brought to the writer a deep unease about their profession.

This crisis had its climax during the vision of Spider-man 2 where, inspired by the example of Peter Parker eager not to have his own powers, he began to contemplate the idea of ​​abandoning writing.

The unexpected solution

Urobuchi therefore decided to communicate his intentions to his colleague and friend Nasu but was immediately intercepted by Takeuchi who, with the proposal of a new idea, managed to inspire Urobuchi and reinvigorate his creativity.

Nasu and Takeuchi had in fact wanted to propose to their colleague a collaboration between Type-Moon and Nitroplus in order to publish the background of Fate / stay night in paper form, a short story that should have told the duel between Kiritsugu Emiya and Kotomine Kirei.

Impetuously seized by the passion to weave a story and aware of being able to build a story that could end freely in a tragic and pessimistic way due to the fact that, regardless of how nihilistic and dramatic the background of stay night was, the end of the story of Shiro was already marked, Urobuchi expanded the idea spontaneously letting his imagination wander on the loose, restoring vigor and desire to write to the author.

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The birth of Fate / Zero

The result of this fortuitous encounter is a series of four Light Novels entitled Fate / Zero.

By the publication of Fate / hollow ataraxia the first volume was ready for publication and so a promotional poster was included in the Visual Novel and starting from December 2006 the gradual publication of the four books began, which ended in December of the following year.

An announced tragedy

Located in a timeline not necessarily linked to the routes of Fate / stay night but of which it is plausible the background, Fate / Zero takes place in 1994, 10 years before the events of Fate / stay night and narrates the known but never detailed events of the Fourth Holy Grail War at Fuyuki.

The war, founded by the three noble families of Fuyuki, brings into play seven Masters flanked by their seven Servants, divided by class, in a deadly conflict.

After three consecutive defeats, the Einzbern family is determined to win the conflict at any cost and to this end decides to hire the notorious Assassin of Wizards, Kiritsugu Emiya, as represented, so as to make him assume the role of Master for the family despite his reputation as ruthless assassin.

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Kiritsugo's family

Kiritsugu spends the next eight years preparing for the conflict until unexpectedly forming a family with Irisviel von Einzbern and their daughter, Illyasviel. Moved by the desire to save the world and become a champion of justice, Kiritsugu will face six terrible opponents, equally motivated by their own reasons.

The participation of the Tohsaka

One of these is the noble wizard of the Tohsaka family, Tokiomi, eager to reach Akasha through the Holy Grail supported by the priest Risei Kotomine and his son, also Master, Kirei Kotomine who, unlike Tokiomi, finds no stimulus in his lives and sees in Kiritsugu and in his determination a chance to have a response to the frustrating lack of meaning in his life.

The pact of the Matou

After learning that Tokiomi's youngest daughter Sakura will be adopted by the Matou family, the young Kariya Matou decides to become a Master in an attempt to save her from the inevitable sufferings that Patriarch Zouken has in store for her, exchanging her freedom for victory of the Holy Grail.

The Elité of the Association

At the Association of Magicians, however, the noble and superb teacher Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald decides to take part in the conflict so as to raise his status within the Association.

His radical visions push one of his students, Waver Velvet, to steal one of the artifacts in the teacher's possession and participate as a Master to demonstrate that the value of a magician is not established by his blood heritage and force the Association to recognize his talent.

The lack of the seventh master

Following a seventh magician's failure to respond to the Grail call, serial killer Ryuunosuke Uryuu takes on the role of the latest Master, looking for new rewarding ways to kill along with his ruthless Servant, evoked by an occult book, which helps him commit as many murders as possible.

These seven individuals, driven by their firm beliefs and goals, are ready for anything to walk the path of their success, but the Holy Grail demands their blood and at the end of the war only one of them will emerge victorious.

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From Zero to Shirō

Although it is a literary work, therefore a linear narrative, Fate / Zero has the great advantage of not being less than Fate / stay night as regards the numerous interpretations that give weight to history and characters, a weight often accentuated by the raw, dark and blunt style that Urobuchi uses to outline the elements of the ideological illusion and the tragic despair that form the central theme of the story.

This is possible also and above all for the very nature of the series: to bridge the two Grail Wars reaching the junction point, the event that starts the wheel of the entire Fate series and everything that surrounds its protagonists : the great fire of Fuyuki and the rescue of Shirō Emiya by a Kiritsugu lost in despair of the tragic catastrophe that came to life before his eyes.

The end is the beginning

This event is the focal point of everything that distinguishes Shirō and that has made him the person who is known in Fate / stay night, and it is for this reason that Urobuchi builds the whole of Zero to lead to that fire.

The narrative is therefore set to be completely devoid of narrative tension: the reader knows well that the ending of this story is already written, he already knows the tragic fate that will involve most of the characters presented in his pages, he knows perfectly well what the road will be to which the ending will bring.

For this reason the title itself is integrated into the narrative representing the fire of Fuyuki, the "zero point" of Fate, and this is why the eleven days of the Fourth War of the Holy Grail are narrated narratively with a periodic countdown that starts from 269 hours and reaches 0 just when Shirō is saved.
This continuous temporal scan and the emphasis given to it is not only symbolic, but increases the feeling returned to the reader that he is living an inexorable path towards tragedy and despair.

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The failure of ideals and ambitions

A path that even the characters live more directly in the course of the narration: whether their ultimate goals are noble or not, all their ideals are large and well-rooted yet, at the expense of this, all the protagonists are destined to end up being dominated as victims by their own desires, ending up to face the crisis first, then the deeper refusal and disgust towards the initial ideology.

Fate / Zero therefore represents the journey between a hope, an initial desire and the despair that makes it the point of arrival, a despair that will lead to the fire that, appropriately to what typically such a catastrophe accomplishes, "clears" the situation by doing Tabula Rasa.

And it is precisely in this zeroing, in this "zero point", that the most dramatic and tragic event in history finally takes place: Kiritsugu saving Shirō has in fact unconsciously condemned the boy, giving him a life marked by the burden of his ideals and that same catastrophe from which he saved him.

The success by Fate / Zero

Fate / Zero was received in an extremely positive way by the whole public, to the point that it is included in one of the flagship works of Nasuverse despite being a prequel deliberately accessory to the title to which it refers.

Together with the last volume released in 2007, the work saw the publication of the Image Soundtrack entitled "Return to Zero", while from 2008 until 2010 the Light Novels were adapted into four audio drama sets, also written by Urobuchi , which saw the return of several voice actors from the series and the introduction of the voices of the new characters.

Fate / Zero is credited with the first introduction to Nasuverse of a large slice of non-Japanese audiences thanks above all to the animated adaptation broadcast between 2011 and 2012.

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An award-winning adaptation

In this adaptation, in fact, the dramatic and meticulous writing of Urobuchi works in combination with the majestic scenes and the masterful and evocative animations of the Ufotable studio and the strongly atmospheric and skillfully composed soundtrack by Yuki Kaijura. All to create an animated work that excels in practically every possible point despite the downsizing of the violence and cruelty that permeates some of the darkest scenes of the work to make them suitable for transmission to a television audience, earning awards for best series, best screenplay, best animation studio, best theme song (with To the Beginning, second opening theme sung by the Kalafina group) and best soundtrack.

The Blu-ray edition also includes the Einzbern Counseling Room, by Kinoko Nasu, which acts as a prequel to the Tiger Dojo performing essentially the same function as the latter with regards to Fate / Zero and which sees a young Taiga Fujimura who alongside Irisviel von Einzbern in elaborating details of the story that could not be included in the story and conversations with the defeated Servants and their regrets following their fall.

The common mistake

This animated adaptation is the reason why Fate / Zero is often mistakenly approached as the first entry point to Fate because of its chronological location although this type of approach makes some fundamental aspects of the work related to its construction around the knowledge of original story.

Fate / Zero was also the last narrative publication linked to Fate / stay night, since in parallel with it Fate began to expand outside the Visual Novel and to propose new alternative realities unrelated to Fuyuki's events.