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Review

by Richard Eisenbeis,

Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note Special Episode SP – Waver, Reunion, and the Magic Lantern

Synopsis:
Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note Special
10 years ago, a young Waver Velvet left the Clocktower mage academy to partner with a hero from myth and legend in a fight to the death for the wish-granting Holy Grail. In the years since, despite his meager powers, he has become the Clocktower's most prestigious teacher and the acting heir to one of magecraft's most-renowned families. His unique position has thrown him into any number of dangerous magical situations. Yet, none have prepared him for his latest challenge: his 10-year high school reunion.
Review:

More than anything else, this double-length special episode of Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files is a look at the complex duality of Waver as a character. As a kid, he was quick to reject the prerequisites of pedigree or genius talent within magecraft, striving to prove to all those around him that anyone could become a great mage through hard work alone. This drive took him across the world to battle against not only his teacher but five other mages in a battle to the death—of which he was one of three survivors.

However, the Holy Grail war completely changed Waver as a person. No longer adhering to his previous way of thinking or reason for living, the man who would become El-Melloi II sees himself as drastically inferior not only to the long-dead man he has sworn his loyalty to, but to practically every mage in existence. Yet, he strives to stand at Alexander the Great's side once more—and to pay all debts needed to achieve that goal even if it takes up the remainder of his life.

Such a goal, however, is completely un-mage like. Every true mage devotes themselves to reaching the Swirl of the Root, hoping to discover new magic in the process. To have any other goal than this makes one a failure of a mage in the eyes of magical society. Yet, this break from tradition also allows Waver to develop an understanding of magecraft that is outside of the more specialized viewpoints of his contemporaries. This makes him a wonderful teacher—one who is able to train the next generation of mages to not only look beyond their rigid views but to see the value in cooperation between themselves and other students as well.

We see this very clearly in this episode. Despite being as arrogant and proud as any other mage, Waver's students are willing to trust in each other's abilities and even work in tandem, combining their magecraft to oppose the woman who is perhaps the greatest mage of the current generation, Touko Aozaki.

Including Touko in this episode is an inspired choice. It's hard to think of a bigger gun in mage society to pit Waver and company against—well, outside of the world's only two active users of true magic, Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg and Touko's own little sister, Aoko. Moreover, as an important recurring character across not only the Fate franchise but the greater Type-Moon multiverse (i.e., Kara no Kyoukai, Tsukihime, and Mahōtsukai no Yoru) as well, we don't need to spend much time establishing her character to understand the threat she embodies. And the fact that Waver's students are able to hijack part of her spell not once but twice just shows how effective his teaching has been.

The other interesting part of this episode is that, despite all that “Lord El-Melloi II” has achieved—the magical mysteries he has solved and the exceptional mages he has nurtured—there is one person out there who actually preferred the young “Waver Velvet” to his now famous alter ego. Waver's drive to become a great mage despite what he was lacking had become an inspiration to those who found themselves in similar situations—namely Camus. While she felt she could only stand in the background, Waver wasn't afraid to stand up and fight for what he believed in. And after one of her classmates used her to pursue their own goals—almost causing her to lose her magecraft entirely in the process—it's no wonder she wished to return to the days where hope for the future remained.

Of course, said “hope” was more than just her aspirations as a mage. Before Waver left for the Holy Grail War, Camus had hoped that he would see her as a romantic partner—that she would be able to overcome her own shyness and approach him more directly. Now, she thinks of nothing but “what ifs” and has decided to live the rest of her days within those memories of time gone by when there was still a chance for it all to turn out differently—even if she has to trap everyone in her class with her for all eternity.

Yet, this is where she and Waver differ. While Waver is defined by the past—namely, his time with Alexander the Great—he doesn't wish to return to that time. Oh sure, he regrets some of the choices he made, but he wants to prove to himself that he has learned from his mistakes in the next Grail War. And so he destroys her dream to pursue his own. Still, even though he cannot answer her feelings—and even though the boy she loved is long gone—he sends her off with a thanks long overdue. And in doing so shows her that she is more than just an observer in her own story—and that she had a noticeable effect on his own as well.

In the end, this special episode uses Camus as a mirror to explore Waver and his character arc—and does so to great success. Unfortunately, such an extreme focus on him means other aspects of the story are left by the wayside. Waver's students, though they save the day in the end, are little more than cameos. Unfortunately, the same could be said for Touko. For while she makes for an intimidating threat just by being present, there's really no need for her specifically in this story. A new, original character or even Camus herself could take Touko's role with only a few minor rewrites.

All that said, these are but minor gripes overall. While it's not exactly the pinnacle of the series, this Special Episode is an excellent character study full of Fate/Zero fanservice and little ties to the upcoming Mahōtsukai no Yoru film. Hopefully, it's a sign of more Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files to come and if not, well, it was a fun little adventure to end things on.

Grade:
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ A deep dive into who Waver was and who he has become.
Waver's students barely get a line or two a piece. For the threat she represents, Touko feels criminally underutilized.

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Production Info:
Director: Makoto Katō
Series Composition: Ukyō Kodachi
Storyboard: Makoto Katō
Episode Director: Makoto Katō
Music: Yuki Kajiura
Original creator: Makoto Sanda
Original Character Design: Mineji Sakamoto
Character Design: Jun Nakai
Art Director: Akira Itō
Chief Animation Director: Jun Nakai
Animation Director:
Masako Matsumoto
Jun Nakai
Michio Satō
Sound Director: Jin Aketagawa
Director of Photography: Tomoyoshi Katō
Producer: Shizuka Kurosaki

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Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note (special)

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