Like I said, I'll probably try and organize a screening with friends for it. It'll take a bit due to schedule issues (and likely will get split into two parts, we frequently do one cour in a day but that's 5.5 hours and not 8.5), but I tend to prefer to watch completed series that way.
Hmmm... I guess I do defend C3, but personally I found both episodes good enough and nothing more. There just isn't the requisite level of emotional involvement in it for me yet. It needs a "click" moment where I just connect with the characters and their story. A good example of a click moment in an action anime for me would be Utao controlling Kukuri for the first time in Kamisama Dolls episode 2 - really brought a human dimension to the whole thing. Really, I think C3 needed to give us a few episodes to get to know the characters (possibly via a "tool of the week" (*snicker*) format) before introducing the hunter. As awesome as the finale of this episode was, that human connection isn't something that can be glossed over with bombast.
This may be part of the reason I liked episode one more than many - while I never connected with Fear like I did with Utao in the aforementioned "click moment", her antics in episode one gave the sense of someone trying to compensate for loneliness, making her a bit sympathetic. The episode was hardly impressive (it holds up terribly if I compare it to, say, episode one of Otome Youkai Zakuro, which is also mainly a character introduction piece) but that was a notable redeeming quality for me.
(I also have to admit that I find Fear being clueless a lot funnier than most harem antics, including many of those from this show, so that's another win. She's one of the better Shana clones I've seen - most of the time, I prefer to use the term "knockoff" to imply a notable inferiority to the original.)
On C3... The 2nd episode was way better than I thought it would be. I can understand why you defended it a lot. I agree with those that said that the transition was pretty rough, but taken in a vacuum, Episode 2 wasn't bad at all (far better than Episode 1, imo). I fear that a lot of people just don't like the approach C3 took with its tonal transition here (I admit that I don't), and it's understandably biased people against it. It's a shame because there really is some nice potential here, from what I can tell.
Aahhh... now I get why others had a stronger emotional reaction to Saber's appearance in Episode 1 than I had. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was cool, but I didn't get into it as much as some.
But now I see how a "Finally, somebody who's genuinely worth cheering for has shown up!" effect took over much of the audience there. Yeah, I get that. Thanks for making that clear to me.
I devoted so much time to simply keeping facts straight in my mind that I never became that emotionally invested in the episode (a couple Sakura scenes notwithstanding). But if I knew more of the facts going in, I might have had a bit more emotional buildup from the episode, leading into a great cathartic moment when Saber arrives.
I see what you're saying about Gen's goals thematically, and I really like your "Miharu instead of Waver" idea. Yeah, someone like Miharu would work marvelously here, I think.
I’m more defending the thematic elements he’s using than the lack of female characters. If I were to write a story with similar themes I would likely include more female characters (in fact, I kind of want to write a story with some F/Z like themes after seeing that episode), and I think that he also had a few opportunities to include more female characters. In particular, I think that Waver’s role could have been filled by a female master (for some reason I keep thinking his replacement could be similar to Miharu from Kamisama Dolls), and I think that Irisviel could have been a much less passive character while still getting across her devotion to Emiya’s cause. I just happen to think Urobuchi’s portrayal of the Magi is interesting and that their corruption really gave Saber’s first appearance a “hell yes” quality.
My biggest disappointment with the show itself was actually the lack of animation, which I think you also mentioned. The artwork itself is great, but the lack of movement made many scenes feel really cheap.
As to Saber herself I actually did find her moe in the original… she definitely is a badass, but from what I remember she also fit the “so serious she ends up being cute” archetype pretty well.
Also, it just occurred to me that Saber in a suit bares a strong resemblance to Charlotte wearing a boy’s school uniform early in Infinite Stratos – even the hairstyles are fairly similar. And for some reason I really dig both outfits.
(I think Charlotte would probably have been my favourite IS character even if it turned out she actually was a guy – which I actually thought she was for a bit since, well, writes do sometimes throw in a male moe character these days.)
Agreed that not having Rin and Sakura around is going to be a bit disappointing… the biggest Type Moon fan among my friends and I were basically cheering every time Rin appeared in this episode.
You know, you're probably the absolute last person who I expected to defend Gen Urobuchi's choice to have all adult male masters in Fate/Zero. Since this is Visitor Messages, where contentious taste-base debates are less likely to arise, I'll be a bit more open here than I was on the Fate/Zero Episode 1 thread itself. So here's the thing: Given how moe much of the cast of Fate/Stay Night was, I was genuinely disappointed in the overwhelming lack of moe in Fate/Zero.
As basically a gender-bended King Arthur, I view Saber as badass (in a valiant way) and cool, but not particularly moe (I often vote for her in ISML not because I see her as moe, but because I like her character in general). I doubt that little Rin and little Sakura are going to play much of a role in Fate/Zero after the first episode. So we're left with, to be blunt, a "sausage fest".
I'm actually a bit stunned that a fan community known for loving moe is so very cool with (if not outright supportive of) this. I mean, if this was a prequel for something like Gurren Lagann, I could understand it. But it's a prequel to, again, a very moe show. I honestly found Fate/Zero a little jarring in just how different it is from Fate/Stay Night (and here I don't mean in a quality sense, but different in the overall atmosphere and feel of the show).
Now, I do think Fate/Zero had a very good opening episode, with a lot of strengths, but it also had a couple very questionable elements that it seems to be getting an almost total pass on.
But ah well, I'll probably like it more going forward.
Edit: All of the above being said, you're probably right about the "in-canon" reason for the masters being all male.
Had my "season kick off party" with my girlfriend, brother, and a couple other good friends today, so I can now start commenting.
I'm not sure if Gen was locked into using these particular characters based on established Fate/Stay Night lore, but if not, I have to really question why he'd go with such a seemingly non-diverse cast on the Master side.
While I understand your perspective, I never really questioned the reason behind the lack of diversity. He's trying to portray the Magi as hyper-conservative, plutocratic, and in some cases morally bankrupt. That the major mage families we've seen are strongly patriarchal is also intended to give this message.
Given that, I'm not surprised that the one female character we know is going to play a major role - Saber (who looks freaking great in a suit, I have to say) also carries (IMO) a bit of a messianic quality. If the scene with Sakura (one of the few anime moments in recent memory that actually creeped me out) proved anything, its that the old boys club badly needs to get cleaned out.
I've actually seen Miyuki-chan in Wonderland. That was certainly an imaginative and unusual anime. As you say, not many modern-day equivalents to it.
I didn't dislike Steins;Gate's ending, I just thought it was a bit too happy. In fairness, I can see why a VN ending might be like this though. A VN is partially a game, and games should reward players for getting to the end. I guess that's the case with Ever-17.
Interesting note on Ringo, and thanks for sharing. Well, maybe that supports my Himari/Ringo theory a bit, as we see a lot of apple imagery surrounding Himari, lol. Both in the ED and in the most recent episode of Mawaru Penguindrum.
I don't know if Ringo is a common Japanese name, I do know its the Japanese word for apple, which may have some symbolic significance. Considering that the Japanese words for snow and cherry are common girls names, it doesn't sound too far fetched.
Also, if you think Steins;Gate's ending is happy, you should see the Ever 17's best ending.
Finally, your mentioning of Kamisama Dolls feeling like a 90s show (something I don't really have an opinion on) reminds me that one of the older guys I'm friends with in my anime club screened Dragon Half back to back with Clamp's Miyuki-chan in Wonderland for a few friends and I last weekend. I'm thinking those would be hard to find modern equivalents to.