As someone who is a fan of Type-Moon‘s Fate Series, with having seen some of the anime series and plays Fate Grand Order, I was happy to discover this standalone OVA about one of the best boys from the franchise.
As a spin-off story originally written as a light novel series, Lord El-Melloi II-Sei No Jikan Jikenbo Rail Zeppelin Grace Note Hakamori to Neko to Majutsushi (Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files Rail Zeppelin Grace Note The Gravekeeper, a Cat and a Mage) doesn’t delve into discussions or lore about the Fate series’ Holy Grail War. Its story is contained as a one-shot taking place in England and follows the adventure of Lord El-Melloi II, head of the department of Modern Magecraft Theories (making him a professor teaching magic theories to young mages), and his students.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Fate series, the Holy Grail War is a competition between seven mages (called Masters) and their familiars (called Servants whose identities are that of famous heroes or villains) to claim the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is said to be a special artifact that can grant any wish to the individual who claims it.
If you’ve watched a bit of the Fate Series like me and want to learn a bit more information on its universe and lore, you should check out OtakuDaiKun’s videos on The Lore of Fate/Stay Night. OtakuDaiKun’s explanation is clear and straight to the point, making it easier for me to understand the series a bit better than I did before.
As a teaser to the TV anime to be released in Summer 2019, the OVA does its job of introducing the key players of this spin-off story. Giving each notable character besides Lord El-Melloi II and his protegé, Gray, a certain amount of screen-time to hint at their importance in the grand scheme of things.
I never delved into all the other stories of the Fate series, besides the main story line of Fate Stay Night (in particular, the 2006 version and Unlimited Blade Works) and Fate Zero. But in conjunction to the Fate series and other Type-Moon series placed in the same universe, I think this spin-off OVA is unique compared to those stories. The OVA gives us another taste of what mages in the Fate universe learn about and how magic exists and works in it. It also enlightened me to the politics of the Mage Association, who are in charge of the school where Lord El-Melloi II works, and renown mage families. In terms of his position as a lord, there is no doubt that the OVA is foreshadowing this issue for the upcoming TV anime.
However, the terminology behind the theory of correspondence explained at the beginning of the episode is a bit complex as it pertains to the lore of the universe this story is a part of. There is no explanation of what the “Root” or what “Shadows” really mean. It is all made clear toward the climax of the episode where the concepts are spoken about again to explain the curse that is dealt to Lord El-Melloi II.
The pacing of the OVA was not too slow nor too fast. I didn’t find that anything was rushed. I think the OVA did well in introducing who Lord El-Melloi II was and how he compares to his younger self. The individual elements of the story were done well, save for the comedy.
The comedic scene of having Lord El-Melloi II being affected by a counter-curse after he curses out his colleagues only felt strange to me because with the serious atmosphere setting the tone at the beginning of the episode. Lord-El Melloi II presents himself as a composed adult who does get aggravated by things he deems as annoying like the stray cat character or ongoing arguments about picking to support a magus faction. So, seeing him go ballistic was out-of-character to me somehow.
However, the moments where Lord El-Melloi II reveals his vulnerability are by far my favourite.
The ending of the OVA was somewhat satisfying but as a whole, the OVA obviously did well in tempting me to learn more about Gray and her backstory. I also wanted to learn about how Lord El-Melloi II became a lord in the first place, as it wasn’t explored in the OVA.
Animation studio TROYCA worked on the OVA and will be tackling the TV anime series in the summer. Usually the animation studio ufotable works on Type-Moon series, but TROYCA seems to be doing well. They did a nice job with creating beautiful backdrops with varying textures of the soil and great lighting. I didn’t mind their use of 3D CGI animation for the car chase action sequence that they couples with a 2D animated background.
The choreography of the car chase scene was well done, especially with one of the cars spinning outward out of control and the change in the camera angle to Lord El-Melloi II’s hands on the steering wheel as he dodges around a truck to avoid magic spells aimed at him, which I thought was a nice touch.
My favourite character in this OVA is hands down, best boy, Lord El-Melloi II who was originally Waver Velvet from Fate Zero. So far, in terms of his appearance and age, he is more somber compared to his younger self. He still struggles with self-confidence, especially when it comes to being unable to use his own ability to bring change on his own. Daisuke Namikawa’s performance as an older!Waver is a great choice. He brings a sense of weariness and calmness to the character after everything Lord El-Melloi II has experienced. I also liked the comedy he brought to Lord El-Melloi II by making him sound like a cranky old man, despite the character being, around 30 years old.
The character with the most interesting character design and the most intriguing character, as I mentioned previously, is Gray. Her entire outfit is meant to hide her features. There wasn’t a hint about her abilities throughout the OVA and the only details we know about this character are that:
- She’s Lord El-Melloi II’s apprentice.
- Lord El-Melloi II “rescued” her.
- From a brief flashback, we see that they met in a graveyard.
- Lord El-Melloi II noted that Gray is related to death (in some way), so it isn’t too off-the-mark to say that she’s the grave keeper in the OVA’s title.
- She carries around a companion in a cage by her side named Addo.
- She possesses a face that Lord El-Melloi II dislikes.
Her voice actress Reina Ueda did a nice job of emphasizing Gray’s loyal, professional disposition and poise.
The musical score of the OVA was a mix of strings, particularly viola or cello (I get them mixed up honestly), piano, harp, a bit of drums, flutes and ringing bells to represent the location of the OVA. The OSTs didn’t overpower the voice acting. It was subtle, supporting conversations or actions rather than setting the scene as the first sound you hear. It worked to further enhance the mood of a scene.
For example, in the opening scene of the school classroom, the music was lighter and calmer in mood. When Lord El-Melloi II was engaged in conversation with another professor about his position in the Melloi family, the music reflected the rise in tension as it became louder before dropping when the subject was changed.
For those who know and/or fans of the Fate series will enjoy the OVA, but this shouldn’t stop someone who is new to the series from enjoying it either. As it doesn’t heavily discuss the lore behind the main series, I think it’s refreshing to watch, especially if you liked Waver in Fate Zero.
I think Waver’s development into Lord El-Melloi II will definitely be touched upon in the upcoming TV anime, but with this OVA, he is still the same character with a complex that I am hopeful to see him overcome in the summer.
Lord El-Melloi II-Sei No Jikan (Lord El-Melloi’s Case Files) is an on-going light novel spin-off of the Type-Moon’s Fate Series that began in December 2014. It’s written by Makoto Sanda and illustrated by Mineji Sakamoto.
Are you a fan of the Fate Series? Who’s your favourite servant? Let me know down below!