The Seven Days of Summer are halfway through! And if you were worried there wouldn’t be any action-packed anime on the list, I’ve come to ease your fears with a show that is technically a prequel but works fantastically as a stand-alone, the epic (SO EPIC) and beautifully animated…
Based On: The light novels by Urobuchi “The Butcher” Gen (Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass)
Available On: Crunchyroll, Hulu (subs only)
Episode Count: 25
In a Sentence: Legendary heroes (and the magicians who summoned them) come together to battle for the right to obtain the Holy Grail – and all the power contained within it.
Here There Be: Urban fantasy, fast-paced fight sequences, gorgeous animation and music, psychological warfare, and some seriously fucked up bug magic.
…And the Pitch!
While I do think every series on this list is “binge watchable,” this is probably the easiest one in the bunch to marathon. Once you get past the first episode (which is a bit of an info-dump), this show grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the end credits roll. Filled to the brim with whiplash plot points, beautifully animated action sequences, and a long list of complex (if not always likable) characters, F/Z is epic (SO EPIC) in just about every sense of the word. Hell, it even features King Arthur and Gilgamesh as two of its main characters.
It’s also a fairly sophisticated work of pop philosophy. The series is as interested in its character’s competing belief systems (on what makes a hero, on what it means to rule, on whether ends can justify means) as it is their competing weapons, and seeing those debates play out in the show’s “quieter” moments gives F/Z more depth than you’d expect, and provides a thematic focal point around which all the intense duels and shootouts can revolve.
Make no mistake, though: This is not a lighthearted series. There are moments of humor, to be sure (particularly in the early episodes), but this is the darkest show on my list by far, heavy with a sense of impending sorrow. It grabs you by the throat but it also punches you in the gut, and the outcome of the Grail War may not be all you hoped and dreamed. It also comes with heavy Content Warnings for violence, child abuse, and assault.
Even so, if those aren’t automatic deal-breakers for you, then I urge you to give this one a try. Smart, gruesome, tense, beautiful, and tragic, the series stayed with me a lot longer than I thought it would, and my opinion of it has only grown over time (and after a second watch). It stumbles at times but it’s damned ambitious, and I’ll take that over perfect mediocrity any day of the week.
The Josei Recommends: This is going to sound strange, but you should watch Episodes 18-19 (Distant Memories/Where Justice Is Found) directly AFTER Episode 8 (The Magus Killer). Eps 18-19 are a spoiler-free prequel story, and where they’re located in the series as-is really slows down the momentum of the Second Act. I tested this out on my friend when we rewatched the series together, and moving Eps 18-19 up to Act One improves both character development and pacing significantly.
Why This Summer?
As I mentioned earlier, Fate/Zero is technically a prequel to Fate/stay night, an incredibly popular (and well-reviewed) visual novel. F/sn was made into an anime in the mid-2000s, but the anime is notoriously mediocre and/or terrible (depending on who you ask), so I wouldn’t recommend watching it.
Fortunately for us, ufotable is airing a Fate/stay night remake this fall, and expectations are high that they’ll get it right this time. Time to brush up on your Fate lore and prepare yourself for the next chapter in the epic (SO EPIC) tale.