Fate/Stay night – Unlimited Blade Works – Season 1

Fate/Stay night – Unlimited Blade Works – Season 1

IMG_1418.PNGFuyuki City – a place surrounded by the ocean and the mountains has become the setting for an age-old ritual. To realise the mythical Holy Grail, which is said to grant any wish from its possessor, seven masters are given seven heroic spirits, each chosen by the Grail itself. Each master will enter into a contract with their assigned servants and battle the other masters and their own contracted servants to the death until only one pair remains to receive the coveted prize. This is the fifth Holy Grail War, sprung again into reality only ten years after the last one.

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.

IMG_1416.PNGUnlimited Blade Works is another route into the original Fate/Stay Night anime series. Its story-telling and origins are taken from the anime film of the same name as well as the visual novel. Directed by Takahiro Miura and voiced by the original Studio Deen voice actors from the first series, they reprise their roles with this popular story being told from Rin Tohsaka’s perspective.

IMG_1417.PNGThis is Fate/Stay night, and this is Ufotable, so you can expect the production to be absolutely top-notch. This grabbed me at the prequel, with its delivery of stunning visuals in every shot and with fast-paced outstanding animation. But I tried not to be bowled over to easily. I was very interested to see how the story would play out, and what elements may change, though it is said that the visual novel is faithfully adhered to – which means it will receive a larger audience and bring more people to the Fate franchise. Not that it really needs much introduction…

Having only recently watched the original Fate/Stay Night (as those of you who have read my earlier reviews – I watched this series entirely in the wrong order), I dove straight into Unlimited Blade Works eager to make a comparison. Having watched the high-octane, darker prequel Fate/Zero beforehand, I was interested where this newest admission would fall on that particular scale. I wasn’t disappointed. My main criticism of the original was that it was too light-hearted and lacked the intensity that I loved in Fate/Zero. In the original Fate/Stay night there were too many tangents, too much silliness and if Shirou Emiya went two episodes without a fountain of blood erupting from his body from someones magic, weapon or his own powers, it was almost a call for celebration.

IMG_1422.PNGUnlimited Blade Works has more of a sophisticated air about it reminiscent of Fate/Zero. It took itself a bit more seriously and therefore I felt that it had more to give. It was still lighthearted at times, but it was always contextual (and more amusing). That’s not to say it doesn’t feel like the same world, though; when Taiga and Sakura aren’t around, Shirou spends most of his time inside his own head, recalling the horrors he’s experienced and those still prevalent in the world around him. There are also some quite brutal, unflinching scenes that show how well Ufotable have handled this adaptation and given it the impact it deserves. It’s not like Fate/Zero didn’t have its fair share of lightheartedness with Waver and Rider; they just happened to not be the main characters, and indeed the execution of the lighter moments in this feels pretty similar, a good thing considering how much fun those scenes always were.

IMG_1420.PNGAfter 12 episodes, the first half of this adaptation comes to an end. Shirou is injured (as always, but at least this time around it’s not happening every 30 minutes), but wants to still fight despite everything that has happened to him. Rin administers tough love by telling him how useless he is in the war now, and the best thing is for him to go back to his normal life and leave things to her and she leaves the scene in spectacular fashion with her Servant – the mysterious Archer. Rather than ending in the middle of a fight, this cliffhanger is effective because of how much the audience wants Shirou to overcome what is arguably an impossible barricade to winning the Holy Grail. Sadly, everyone will have to wait another three months to see how everything pans out.

IMG_1425.PNGFortunately, it’s been a very strong start for Unlimited Blade Works and, considering how much better Fate/Zero’s second half was than its first, a similar pattern could result in the next season being the best we’ve seen of this franchise. At the very least, this adaptation has restored by faith in the Fate series and I am very much looking forward to the high-octane battles and mysterious revelations that I am sure will follow int he new year.