Fate/Stay Night

Fate/Stay Night

2The Holy Grail War is an on-going battle between master mages and their servants in order to attain, of course, the Holy Grail. Each master can call up one servant each, and their task is to eradicate the other servants, either by defeating them or killing their master. When there is only one master or servant left, he or she is granted the Holy Grail, and any wish they desire will come true.

After being attacked by one of these servants, Shirou Emiya is revived by one of his classmates, Rin Tohsaka, who is also a participant of the Holy Grail war. When the attacker learns that Shirou is still alive, they pay him another visit in order to ginish the job. It is then that Shirou accidentally summons his own servant, a girl named Saber. Thus begins the story about how Shirou Emiya, son or Kiritsugu Emiya (from Fate/Zero) becomes involved in the Holy Grail war.

On first impression, the art style and animation is of the usual Type-Moon quality, and is quite impressive. The show is somewhat battle-intensive at times, but this only makes it all the better. The only hiccup in the visual quality department is a 3D CG scene in the middle of the show that just looks really out of place and awkward. It’s a short scene, though, so even if it stuck out like a sore thumb, the shortness of it can and will make it easier to just forget it ever happened. The music is generally quite adept at setting the mood, even if it might be somewhat forgettable.

At its plot roots, Fate/Stay Night is a story about teenagers and the magical war they get involved in, but the anime is really more about the war itself and the servants who take part in it. Even the masters take part in the battles, depending on their capabilities as a mage. In order to become a master, you have to possess a certain skill and be able to use magic. Added to that is the fact that each of the servants are the spirits of heroes, each of which come with a certain special attack, known as ‘Noble Phantasms’. And while the wars are generally fought on behalf of the masters, the servants themselves also fight for their own causes, which only makes things more interesting.

In the middle of all this stands Shirou Emiya, the guy who eventually (and accidentally) summons the most coveted of servants: Saber. Unlike the other masters, he seems to have no clue what he’s actually doing. His own minor magic-related skill is based around the ability called ‘Reinforcement’, which allows him to create power lines and repair electronic devices. We know (if you have seen Fate/Zero) that his father had taken part in the last guild war, which lead to an entire town being completely destroyed. This has instilled a huge pacifistic streak in Shirou, which will eventually develop into a problem once it’s clear that he will have to part in the very same war years later.

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And while all this might be a reason not to hold his actions too much against him, it nevertheless needs to be said: Shirou Emiya is a complete idiot. In most of the first half of the show, he shows a remarkable ability to get himself into trouble whilst knowing his actions aren’t exactly the smartest courses to take. He also spends most of the show refusing to let Saber fight, citing that girls shouldn’t fight, even if it’s just a badly veiled excuse for the fact that he’s aware that he can’t supply her with extra magic ability like most masters can. Mostly, he tries to talk sense into the other masters, even when they’ve basically made it very clear that they’ve chosen to kill him just to make it easier for themselves. It takes an enormous amount of anger, head-slaps and derisive words from the others before he learns – from both Rin and Saber.

One of the winning characters here is Rin. She’s a very likeable, intelligent and capable young woman. She’s direct, blunt and generally takes a no-nonsense attitude to the whole Holy Grail War and, unlike most of the other masters, she’s an able-bodied sorceress. She might be an intimidating presence to face even for casual conversation, but she’s not really dismissive or emotionally cold. She does come from a well-to-do family, though, which may or may not account for her schoolmates’ views of the girl herself. I was expecting great things from her after seeing her actions as a child in Fate/Zero, and also her counterpart in Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya.

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There’re also numerous other, more minor characters in the show. There’s Taiga, Shirou’s homeroom teacher, who constantly drops by Shirou’s home to mooch food and generally boss Shirou around. Then we have Sakura Matou, who drops by the Emiya estate to do the cleaning and cooking on Shirou’s behest and has a mysterious link with Rin. Sakura also has a brother – the exploitative and scheming Shinji, who generally sticks around to take advantage of Shirou’s kindness and act obnoxious. And last, but by no means least, we have the precocious young aristocrat Illyasviel von Einzbern. She’s the second of the two masters who are capable of doing actual magic, and her first appearance is done in the company of her servant: Berserker, a huge lumbering giant.

The story of Fate/Stay Night is deceptively simple, but it’s the varying action and events that make the show a little bit more complex. The crux of everything is generally related to the battles the players will have to engage in during the war, but Fate/Stay Night also seems to relish keeping and (slowly) revealing secrets. The viewer needs to expect a lot of ‘the truth isn’t quite what it seems’, especially as the show draws to a close. The many mage/servant battles are generally nice to look at. Most of them are actual physical combat, and since we are talking about characters that generally adhere to their given summoning names – Saber, Archer, Lancer, Assassin – battles do take on different flairs from time to time.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve watched my Fate franchise in completely the wrong order, so I watched Fate/Zero (the prequel) before watching this. I knew of the characters that were revealed towards the end, but this did give me the satisfaction of seeing that characters were consistent between anime story lines, and everything was wrapped up neatly and every mystery aptly addressed. It’s the centre of the Fate franchise, and so it’s not to be missed.