While I liked and could recognize one or two tracks from Fate/Zero, that was about the extent of my engagement with it until I came across this interview with composer Yuki Kajiura. There were a few interesting points in it, the first being that the anime’s main theme revolved around one frame-matched track: “the beginning of the end.”
Anime OST composers rarely have the luxury of composing frame-by-frame soundtracks due to tight production schedules. When I read that, I assumed this would have been for a scene from the previews, perhaps the epic summoning scene that introduces the series’ main players:
But no. Apparently, seeing said scene frame-by-frame caused Kajiura to scrap her original idea for a main theme and slow down the tempo significantly. Because it was in fact a dialogue scene, like much of Fate/Zero really is:
After reading the entire series, Kajiura called Fate/Zero “one of those stories that marches inexorably towards despair.” The sound director had asked for music that was heavy, epic, and interestingly, “more masculine” than Kajiura’s last collaboration with Ufotable on the Garden of Sinners movies. Personally, I’m partial to Kajiura’s work on Garden of Sinners, but they’re different compositions that serve different purposes. Indeed, the majority of Fate/Zero‘s tracks are austere and larger-than-life, but at the same time, they are intimate and personal.
Take that opening scene in the Einzbern Castle, frame-matched with “the beginning of the end.” Irisviel’s conversation with Kiritsugu about hope, ideals, and the birth of their daughter is mirrored by a dialogue between wind and strings in the OST.
The OST complements the anime’s use of space and colours here – the room is vast and grey when Kiritsugu enters, and the bed Irisviel and Illya are on is the only source of warm colour and focus. Then the flute comes in as Irisviel and Kiritsugu delve more deeply into conversation, thus lightening the tone of the piece.
The flute embodies Irisviel’s hope, and the strings Kiritsugu’s bitter resolve. This duality is central to this OST and to Fate/Zero. The event of Illya’s birth is itself somewhat of a similar contradiction: on one hand, Illya is a symbol of life and hope in the middle of a snowstorm, and on the other, her birth (yet another Einzbern female with white hair and red eyes) can be seen as the perpetuation of a cycle of sacrifice.
Then, from this bittersweet familial scene, the music comes to a crescendo and we pan out into a white blizzard. In a way, Fate/Zero establishes itself as Fate/Stay Night‘s antithesis from the start. After all, Fate/Stay Night‘s opening episode gives us a city on fire before introducing the protagonist, Shirou, amidst the ruins as the sole survivor, shifting the focus from grand destruction to individual experience. The ominously booming notes that “the beginning of the end” ends on certainly does as much foreshadowing as its title.
The second season of Fate/Zero gets some new tracks, and the motif of “the beginning of the end” appears again in “silver moon” – the track played at the end of the final episode. The final scene is, again, a wistful conversation: Kiritsugu’s discussion with Shirou about heroism. But Shirou isn’t fazed by Kiritsugu’s cynicism. As he declares his intention to inherit Kiritsugu’s dream, the scene fades to black, eventually to reveal a glimpse of Saber raising her head in a field of fallen corpses and swords. This is where the music changes, transitioning epically into the second season’s opening song “to the beginning” – the full version with its heavenly bridge!
Kajiura turns the main OST theme on its head to deliver a final message of optimism: the beginning of the end is, in fact, merely the end of the beginning. Or, perhaps, the beginning never actually ends.
An interesting note about “to the beginning” is that according to this other interview with Kajiura, “to the beginning” was originally a “tragic, fast, and scary” opening theme. It was the anime staff that asked for an opening that would clearly communicate a sense of “hope for tomorrow” instead. I do wish we got to hear the “tragic, fast, and scary” version, but I don’t think Fate/Zero could ask for a better opening for its second season.
And that concludes my brief musings on Fate/Zero OSTs. I also really enjoy the ED “Manten” (of course I enjoy the other Kalafina song, who do you think I am) and how its melody came from the romantically titled “let the stars fall down,” as well as the battle track “this day and never again.” This was a fun post to write. Hope you enjoyed, and I welcome any OST or Fate/Zero or Kalafina discussion.
3 thoughts on “OST Spotlight: “the beginning of the end” of Fate/Zero”
Apologies for the late reply (I was busy over Christmas and New Year, catching up with family and friends), but I really enjoyed this post. F/Z isn’t my favourite Kajiura soundtrack, although the show itself was outstanding. Sometimes, it’s the way that the music and visuals work together that causes the magic. While this OST isn’t my go-to when I’m looking for something to put on my headphones when I’m in the office, it works wonderfully in the context that it was originally written for. I’m gonna have to give the show a rewatch with this analysis in mind.
I hope that you’re able to do similar “deep dive”-style articles like this with other soundtracks in future!
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Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! I like doing these because it helps me appreciate musical choices more deeply myself.
I haven’t done too many, but definitely do plan continue. I did like the soundtracks for Promised Neverland (S1): https://wp.me/p94l1S-wf
Glad you enjoyed the holidays, and a belated happy new year!