Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note is an awfully long title for such a light romp in the Fate universe with one of its most beloved characters. This week, Nick and Steve get out their magnifying glasses for an adventure with Detective Waver Velvet.
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Well Nick, it took about 7 years, but we finally have a sequel to Fate/Zero
that smartly focuses on its greatest element: crying Waver Velvet.
That's our Waver!
Truth be told I am very
tired of Fate right now. Since the turn of the decade, we've had at least one new Fate anime every year like clockwork. When we look back on the 2010s, Fate is going to be the anime equivalent of the MCU in terms of sheer volume. But if there's one thing that could get me through this Fate-igue, it's the best character from Zero solving mysteries and stepping on magic legos.
I've unfortunately been deep in Fate hell ever since I started playing Fate GO, and I've begrudgingly come around to calling myself a fan of it, warts and all. But since it's become such a large franchise
, at least we're starting to get some spinoffs that take its core tenets in more interesting directions. That's where we're at with [takes a deep breath] Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace note
, which for the sake of all parties involved, I will only be calling Detective Waver from this point on.
The New Waver Doo Mysteries is a strange beast. It's a spinoff show, but not like any of the (counts fingers) three other Fate spinoffs that take place in alternate timelines. Instead, it's apparently canon with Zero and Stay Night, as Waver Velvet tries his best to Adult while surrounded by annoyingly talented teenagers.
If there's one thing Fate and mystery cartoons have in common, it's meddling kids. And while the gang doesn't have a talking dog, they do have a weird talking runestone thing they keep in a cage, so that's basically the same thing.
As far as Fate canon goes, I'd say it's necessary to watch Fate/Zero in order to understand and sympathize with Waver in this series, but any references to the other series have been more ancillary so far. That said, you absolutely still need a high tolerance for dialogue stuffed with what we affectionately call "Fate bullshit".
It's weird, because mystery stories typically hinge on encouraging their audience to try and solve things for themselves, so they can compare their answers to the author's. But all of these mysteries hinge on magic nonsense that I'd wager even the author doesn't fully understand. So you have Waver solving mysteries based on things like a guy's dismembered dick being found in a certain position in his mansion that corresponds to a particular celestial model.
Turns out the solar system revolves around DEEZ NUTS.
So basically there's zero chance of any sane audience member solving any of these crimes, but that's why we have Waver!
Yeah, the titular Case Files are the least engaging aspect of the actual show. They're mostly an excuse to put Waver in a room with a bunch of cameos from other Fate stuff, so he can act like Magic Sherlock Holmes with his own goth girl Watson.
This is extra weird because Sherlock Homes does in fact exist in Fate canon.
So does Frankenstein's Monster, but that didn't stop them from reimagining her as a magical girl.
It's also funny that the show's OP is transparently aping the style of the recent BBC series Sherlock's intro. Mercifully, Waver makes for a much more likable lead than Bramblepelt Cummerbund.
Steve, we have no room to make fun of anyone's name when talking about this show.
Don't you dare assume that I remember anybody's name in a Fate series anymore. Olga Marie Asmleit Animusphere was the last straw. There's nothing more Fate can do to hurt me. I just let the random collections of letters wash over my brain and flow out my ears and eyes as soon as they arrive.
This brings us to the secret third speedbump in
all Fate stories:
You can take the Fate out of the title, but you can't take the Saberface out of the Fate. The most hilariously stupid thing about this reveal is that her hairstyle—perhaps the single most mutable part of her appearance—is the key that's supposed to tip us off that she's tied to Artoria. I love it. I love Fate.
Whether it's a Roman emperor, an Indian queen, or a goth girl from the English countryside, this franchise
never met a woman it wouldn't turn into a Shiny Saber. I feel you, Waver.
But this time around she's named Gray, and she gets an oversized scythe, so that has to count for something. Maybe we can call her Scyther instead.
I will admit that if I were watching this show as a teenager, Gray fanart would absolutely be my wallpaper background on every electronic device I owned. But more importantly, Gray's ignorance is useful as an excuse for Waver to explain the greater world of mages in Fate. And as always, it turns out that mages suck ass.
The universal constant in Fate stories is that mages are assholes. So it really shouldn't surprise anyone that when you gather a bunch of them together in a university, it turns into a hotbed for wanton murder.
There's honestly a sense of black humor to the whole thing. Waver routinely has to solve murders and assassinations, but it's all within the framework of tedium like auditing the tenured professor who keeps using university funding to go on vacations.
Seriously. Pretty much every culprit so far has been a respected mage, and while the university couldn't give two shits about the piles of dead bodies, they do care about keeping magecraft a secret. So more often than not, their crime isn't the murder itself, it's not doing it quietly enough. The show is spectacularly glib about their evildoing, especially when contrasted with poor Waver just trying his best as an adjunct professor.
This series really hammers home how much Iskandar changed Waver's trajectory in Zero. With rare exception, he's the only adult mage in this show who isn't a total monster, and yet he's the one constantly beating himself up for his faults.
This is the emotional core and strongest part of the show. Every time it does a match cut from old Waver to tiny Waver, a little part of me dies.
What got me was Waver still
having that t-shirt.
This precious child. He's still trapped in that Grail War.
Waver is seriously one of Fate's best characters, if only by virtue of having the clear and sympathetic motive of wanting to smooch Alexander the Great.
It's both heartwarming and heartbreaking that he's still set on joining the Grail War again. He's still trying to become somebody worthy of fighting alongside Iskandar, while clinging to his own failures. But at the very least, that pursuit's led him toward a worthy cause.
At the same time, it's that childishness that endears him to his students. We don't know much about Flat so far, but he seems to appreciate being able to goof on a teacher and still have a genial relationship.
Plus I'd be remiss not to mention how much I appreciate the fount of Waver-bullying we get courtesy of Reines.
Reines' job is two-fold: 1) Saddle Waver with a mountain of debt to force him into taking all these odd job mysteries and 2) make this face a lot
It's a good face.
Also shoutout to 5-year-old Reines stacking three high chairs on top of each other so she can bully him from the proper vantage point.
That's the kind of commitment to Waver-bullying that I like to see from my Fate anime.
Otherwise, there's not much to Reines yet. She's fun to have around though! Well, except for the Sharingan.
Yeah, most of the side characters aren't too developed, but honestly Waver is so rich in personality that he makes up for everything else. Look at him here, casually quoting his old friend. He can be cool sometimes.
Of course, it's worth noting that this concludes the same arc where he almost lost his will to live because his favorite tea shop was going to close down. Waver contains multitudes.
He's a complicated mess of a man, growing into his 30s while drowning in debt, flagged with doubt over his life choices, and simultaneously trying to become his own person while clinging to memories of the past. So you know, he's #Relatable. But I suspect we're going to get more into the supporting cast as we go. Like there's obviously a story behind Gray beyond going to the same stylist as Altria.
And we finally just learned that the titular Rail Zeppelin is actually something that exists and not just two words Fate stuck together for the hell of it.
I'm sure it'll be something interesting and not just more Proper Noun jambalaya.
That's the thing. I like this show a lot, and I commend Detective Waver for being different from other Fate spinoffs. I think it could even appeal to audiences who have been largely frustrated by Fate stories! But at the same time, it's bogged down by enough of that classic Fate Bullshit that I can't imagine anyone going into this as their introduction to the franchise. Fate is just So Much.
I appreciate the show for what it is and for how it's developing Waver. If nothing else, it's the first Fate thing since Zero where I actually like the main character. But it also feels bogged down by the franchise
that birthed it. I'm still on board, but I'm hoping whatever comes next is able to buck its own historical baggage. If your one-off characters can do it, so can you Fate!
That would be nice, but I'll be happy as long as I get more screencaps on par with "Waver in an old-timey nightcap." Bless this absolute dork.
If nothing else, I'm confident we'll get the answer to one mystery: Does Waver Velvet Fuck?