Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note
Episodes 0-3

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 0 of
Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note ?

How would you rate episode 1 of
Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note ?

The big question surrounding this new installment in the Fate/ franchise is how much you need to know about Fate in order to fully appreciate it. Based on what's aired so far, I recommend at least being familiar with Fate/Zero, as the relationship of Waver Velvet (aka Lord El-Melloi II) to Iskander has become a driving force in the older Waver's actions and motivations. Beyond that, a comment at the end of episode 3 suggests that Fate/stay night may eventually become relevant too, as that episode ends with a reference to two Masters already having been chosen – and while the Fifth Grail War itself is not mentioned, it's hard to imagine that this could be referring to anything else. There are also some other suggestions that more arcane knowledge of the franchise could offer more easter eggs to the most dedicated fans, but familiarity beyond Waver's prior adventures does not appear to be strictly necessary.

One treat for Fate fans arrives in the formal introduction of Luviagelita Edelfelt (Luvia for short), the blond ringlet-sporting heiress in episode 3. She has a prominent role in the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya spin-off as Rin's rival, but she's never had much presence in anime adaptations that take place in the core universe. (She did get a cameo in Carnival Phantasm and the very end of the Unlimited Blade Works TV series.) She originally comes from the game Fate/hollow ataraxia, and now aims to become one of Lord El-Melloi's students. Whether or not she'll foster the combative relationship with Rin seen in Prisma Illya remains unclear at this point, but at least some groundwork is being laid for that dynamic.

Otherwise, the content of these first four episodes has been essentially self-contained. Waver took advantage of Iskander's sacrifice and Gilgamesh's mercy to return to Watchtower, where the El-Melloi heiress ropes him into assuming the role of the family's leader until she is old enough to take over herself; there's no doubt that watching Waver twitch over his responsibilities and the debts he's assuming is part of the fun for her. As a teacher, this older and wiser Waver has more insight into the minute workings of magic than actual power on the field of battle. When push comes to shove (as it has at least once each episode), he usually relies on his apprentice Gray and two talented students for the heavy lifting. We get some spare hints as to why Gray is working for him, and we see her abilities beyond just an affinity for death illustrated spectacularly in episode 2. She's a scythe-wielding, mana-sucking terror against undead, yet she's self-conscious about showing her pretty face and hair, so there's still a lot of story to reveal there. On the other hand, we don't yet know how Flat and Svin fit into the picture; they just show up in episodes 0 and 3 to serve as colorful characters in contrast to Gray's shy solemnity. We also have no idea what's up with that talking cube.

So far the format of the series has been “mystery of the week,” although a vague storyline about greater intrigues in the background is also slowly being developed. Each of the mysteries have been presented well, with each one involving some aspect of the complexities of Fate's magic system; the first involves Waver himself getting cursed and others involve a former student's father apparently being murdered, an electrical outage at Waver's favorite tea house, and an attempt to dredge up another artifact relevant to Iskander. Each one also stresses how most Mages are amoral bastards with little subtlety.

While the cleverness of mixing mystery and action is one of the big draws of this series, its greatest asset might be its sense of humor. The series can be incredibly grim, with some of the visuals in the murder episode being quite graphic, but it never lets itself stay serious for too long. Some of Waver's expressions as he deals with various irritations are classic, and the way he occasionally embarrasses himself keeps him humble, while Svin and Flat regularly add doses of lighter spirit in the episodes where they appear. The series also loves ironic contrasts like seeing a prominent Mage of Waver's caliber get so badly disrupted by his favorite tea house shutting down.

Technical merits so far aren't spectacular but remain good enough for a series that isn't trying to sell itself mainly on spectacle. Waver's character design is interestingly different in a way that makes him look older than he actually is, and the design work is quite effective at portraying Gray's delicate beauty; the character designs in general may be the series' strongest visual asset. The music is a classic Yuki Kajiura effort; if you've liked her previous work in the franchise, you'll probably like it here as well.

Overall, Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note does not stand out as one of the season's best anime, but it has remained satisfyingly entertaining so far.

Rating:

Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.


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