Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Part 1) Review
Fate/Stay Night is a story about a war between seven mages in Japan fighting to obtain the Holy Grail, an omnipotent magical prize that will grant whoever manages to obtain it any wish that the winner desires. In order to get the Holy Grail, each mage summons an incredibly powerful familiar called a Servant, which is the spirit of a hero from any point in history. That Servant willed be summoned into one of seven classes that they are most suited for; Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Assassin and Berserker. The war begins after all seven mages (or Masters as they’re known later) and Servants are chosen and the last Master and Servant team surviving gets to claim the Holy Grail.
The original story of Fate/Stay Night is actually over ten years old, originally told through a visual novel with the same name. There was even an anime that was already produced back in 2004, which also came to the states late 2006. The popularity of Fate/Stay Night (more so from the visual novel and not as much from the anime) spawned many, many spin-offs, games and light novels. One of the things that came from that was the original light novel, Fate/Zero written by Gen Urobuchi (Madoka Magica and Psycho-Pass) which became the canon prequel about Emiya Kiritsugu and his participation in the Holy Grail War after summoning Saber as a servant, ten years before Fate/Stay Night. Fate/Zero also had an anime recently in 2012 by the studio Ufotable and was widely received for its superior animation style and how closely it stuck to the story compared to the liberties that the Fate/Stay Night anime took with story and art after being animated by Studio DEEN.
The story of Fate/Stay Night follows Kiritsugu’s adopted son, Emiya Shirou who ends up getting accidently drafted into the war and summoning Saber as well. Throughout the anime, Shirou learns about how to become a better mage and a fighter after teaming up with Tohsaka Rin (who’s the daughter or one of the antagonists from Fate/Zero) and her servant Archer. His goal is to fight and try to obtain the grail with Saber so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
As far as the pacing this story goes, it’s great and consistent. The first two episodes were hour long specials so as to properly set up the events that eventually transpire throughout the story and it’s pretty easy to follow. However, there seems to be a few characters that are given attention but then are never re-visited. This is because this is a two-part anime where the rest of the season will be completed starting on April of 2015, from that point, why the characters are there and what happens will be all explained, so until then it is easy to wonder whatever happened to them, especially after the last closing moments of this half of the show they show everyone they’ve introduced so far in their respective locations and away from the action of the main story arc.
Many of the characters, if not every single one of them, reprise their roles from the original anime/visual novel and they haven’t missed a beat. However, this is probably because they have had steady work voicing the same characters for the last several years. The original Fate/Stay Night visual novel was voiceless and only had music and sound effects but, ever since the launch of the Playstation Vita, they have been re-releasing the visual novel with added voice acting in a series of games (Fate/Stay Night: Realta Nua). The actors of the original anime are their respective characters. The voice actors have played their roles for almost an entire decade at this point thus making them familiar to play their characters. In the U.S., many of the characters who played in Fate/Zero were the usual voice actors that you hear in almost any anime or video game one way or another. In fact, the bulk of the voice actors in the English release of Fate/Zero are also characters in the game series Blazblue, but they did a good job, which is good because when the U.S. release comes around for Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works finally comes around, many of those actors are probably going to reprise their roles as certain characters.
Ufotable’s work is almost always on point with their animation quality. Fans have wanted them to make Fate/Stay Night after they worked on Kara no Kyokai, a series of movies that was created originally by the same writer of Fate/Stay Night, Kinoko Nasu. Kara no Kyokai was widely received and fans wanted to see Saber and other characters come to life by the same people. Everything is beautiful, the characters move naturally and even have the tiniest details and micro-expressions that make you shudder with how well each character is captured. The fighting and action is nothing like you see in most anime. It’s almost Dragonball Z-esque with how wild each step and attack is shown while still keeping a foot planted in enough detail that you can follow it. It is clear that no shortcuts were taken and you can see two characters fighting rather than two lesser representations of characters fighting. Their representation of magic, which flows through something similar to veins in the body called “Magic Circuits”, looks awesome. Things that are magic infused are bright and looks like it’s wrapped with it. Screenshots of the first volume of the Blu-ray released in japan and it looks even brighter and better than the original released on Japanese TV networks and streaming sites.
I’ve played he visual novel and own the original anime series on DVD, but this retelling blows the 2004 anime even further out of the water than Fate/Zero had done before. If you’re by any chance curious about the original anime, you wouldn’t need to worry about spoilers. The original visual novel has three timelines that you can reach depending on the choices Shirou makes in the game: “Fate”, “Unlimited Blade Works”, and “Heaven’s Feel”. The 2004 anime mostly takes from the “Fate” timeline, while taking liberties with the story wherever they saw fit. The new anime however, takes everything from the “Unlimited Blade Works” storyline almost exclusively while only adding new and original scenes that only serve to further strengthen the relationship between this current anime and the Fate/Zero anime that aired in 2011. Just be warned however, it’s not pretty to look at, nor does it aged well. Watch Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works from ufotable, wait until April to see the second half, and buy the Blu-ray when it eventually reaches the states! Do anything and everything to throw your money at these guys. It’s totally worth it!