Fate/strange Fake -Whispers of Dawn- is the first part of a much longer novel and is mainly based on Ryohgo Narita’s Fate/strange Fake series book one. It has more than a dozen key characters, alternating between them all the time as the backdrop for this special’s events and the forthcoming anime series are established.
What we get is a controlled chaos exercise: Neither the story’s protagonists nor we are aware of the real situation. Given the “fake” nature of the conflict in this series, even die-hard fans won’t be able to discern how much of the established legend surrounding the Holy Grail War can be trusted. Yes, there are the recurring themes, such as Masters and Servants, but there are also police officers equipped with weapons capable of killing servants and an enigmatic young woman who appears to be the mastermind behind it all. Together with a persistent sense of tension and impending danger, all of this gives the special a sense of mystery not found in many recent editions of the Fate franchise.
Ryohgo Narita (of Baccano!, Durarara!!, and Dead Mount Death Play renown) is a master of this style of fiction, and this animated version reflects that. Following the many characters and their loyalties is rather easy, and it helps since the story is essentially a continuation of The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of humanity’s earliest legends.
Despite being a recurring antagonist in the Fate series for a long time, Gilgamesh is shown in a far more sympathetic light in Whispers of Dawn. His vanity and ego are definitely on full display, but he also demonstrates his humanity in a way that is novel. He looks out for his young Master, a lady who bears all the obligations of her people; it is amazing to see the delight with which he greets (and engages in combat with) his long-lost comrade after four millennia.
The new characters are unexpectedly inventive. Rather than the typical mages found in the greater Fate franchise, the Masters here include a wolf, a vampire, a police chief, and a girl in a coma. The fact that many of these characters—both Masters and Servants—don’t appear to be seeking the grail in the first place sets them apart from previous Fate characters. Rather, they are fighting to put an end to it, to go through it, or just because they were called into it. This indicates that, for the majority of people, the conflict is meaningless and, in the truest sense, a false one.
Though -Whispers of Dawn- forges a fresh and imaginative route in many respects, it remains heavily dependent on earlier works. You’re expected to know, at the very least, the basics of a typical Holy Grail War, so if you’re interested in learning more about Fate as a whole, this isn’t the ideal place to start. That being said, the more invested you are in the brand, the more interesting this show becomes.
For example, Gilgamesh has appeared in every game from the original Fate/stay night to Fate/Grand Order. Lord El-Melloi II is one of the primary characters in both Fate/Zero and The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II, with Flat serving as a significant supporting character in the latter. However, even brief cameos—like Kischur Zelretch Schweinorg (Tsukihime) or Ayaka Sajou (Fate/Prototype)—have significant roles in later works. This program gets more entertaining the more you learn about these people, their lives, and how everything is intertwined.
The presentation makes up the remaining half of the product, though, not the story itself. The animation quality of -Whispers of Dawn- appears superb. Even though the artwork differs significantly from the most well-known Fate adaptations, recurring characters are still immediately recognized. The Snowfield, on the other hand, has the appearance of an American city rather than a Japanese or reconstructed version of New York City. Of course, the fights take center stage in an anime about a magical death game, rather than the scenery or the characters’ appearances.
In the end, -Whispers of Dawn- only features one significant battle, pitting Gilgamesh against Enkidu, and it’s the centerpiece of the program. Although Gilgamesh has used his legendary sword Ea numerous times in the Fate series, this use seems infinitely more epic in scope, particularly when facing up against the equally potent Enkidu. As if it weren’t spectacular enough, the two’s seemingly never-ending battle of flying swords is equally amazing.
Even so, the animation is nothing in comparison to the music. With this special, the consistently brilliant Hiroyuki Sawano (Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill, and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn) is at the top of his game. Along with some fantastic symphonic tunes, there are other lyric-heavy insert songs that punctuate key events and the characters. When you include the excellent theme song “FAKEit,” the soundtrack becomes an obvious must-have.
As a whole, Strange Fake: Whispers of Dawn is, in my opinion as a Fate enthusiast, the most intriguing Fate project in recent memory. This intriguing story, which takes the standard Fate framework and twists it in a number of ways, has a terrific opening chapter and is full of interesting new characters and mysterious unknowns. It’s also one of those anime that improves the more you immerse yourself in the lore, even though it’s not the greatest place to start with the series. To put it plainly, this anime succeeds in creating anticipation for the future TV anime.