The Holy Grail War is a battle royale among seven magi who serve as Masters. Masters, through the use of the command seals they are given when they enter the war, command Heroic Spirits known as Servants to fight for them in battle. In the Fifth Holy Grail War, Rin Toosaka is among the magi entering the competition. With her Servant, Archer, she hopes to obtain the ultimate prize—the Holy Grail, a magical artifact capable of granting its wielder any wish.
One of Rin's classmates, Emiya Shirou, accidentally enters the competition and ends up commanding a Servant of his own known as Saber. As they find themselves facing mutual enemies, Rin and Shirou decide to form a temporary alliance as they challenge their opponents in the Holy Grail War.
This is the most overrated anime I have ever seen. If one is expecting a grand follow-up to Fate Zero, one is gravely mistaken. You are about to say ‘8.43?’, ‘How can this be?’, and ‘This is scandalous.’ (Jojo reference). Well move closer to the screen and let senpai explain.
The story consists of tossing a teenage boy into the Holy Grail war (an Armageddon between masters (contemporary individuals who supposedly command their respective servants) and servants (summoned titans) for the sake of obtaining the Holy Grail). This should be a gruesome event with fights to the death, BUT . . . ‘Fuck that,’ Shirou brazenly proclaims. ‘I am going to lead my harem life and ignore every peril.’ As one may have guessed, this anime isn’t really about the war. It’s about the harem Shirou obliviously leads. Most of the anime is focused on the relational struggles of the protagonist and some high school girl. For 8 episodes, we are forced to endure Shirou’s petty conversations with Rin inside his home or at school. Not much is done to contribute to the Holy Grail War as apparently—going on a date is more important.
Progress in this anime is almost non-existent. The characters are non-progressive as they are constantly engaged in purposeless chatter and dawdling. The story is littered with pseudo-drama, pseudo-fights, and cliff hangers, which are sometimes intriguing, that evokes utter disappointment and results in pointlessness. The fights are just random clashes with no deciding outcomes and little build-up. Oh, a few episodes later a servant dies. Due to the complete absence of characterisation, no one cared.
There are multiple flaws in the anime. One being Saber commenting on Berserker’s ability to simultaneously solo all the servants. She then proceeds to 1v1 him as though they are of equal calibre. Then she moves to ’cover’ (behind a little gravestone) and wrecks berserker. The most flagrant one is Shirou's plot armour that countlessly saves him.
Trivium; for some reason, this anime was revered as a slice of life when it was airing. Upon inspection, these ’slice of life’ moments were just fan service.
Most of the characters were scarcely developed and characterised. Literally nothing is known about them asides from their superficial identities. The characters that received most of it were abjectly cliche and mundane.
Shirou is the naivest and most idealistic cherry boy I have ever seen. His special ability is being impervious to anything macabre.
Shirou logic: I have almost been killed multiple times . . . Oh well, they must have their reasons. I forgive them.
These types of characters, the type that starts off naive and idealistic generally mature or at least develop but not Shirou. Despite all his near-death situations, he remains ignorant. What’s annoying is Shirou’s lack of concern for the war throughout the show as he seems to be preoccupied with maintaining his high school life. I just can’t help but mirror his disinterest, while viewing this show.
Shirou can be described in three words, ‘asinine and mundane’. He is so often brushed by the verge of death but lives or is kept alive because he is ’interesting’; however, that’s just his naivety and incredible plot armour rather than anything interesting. He is also indecisive and mostly follows the instructions of others. Whenever he decides for himself, the outcome is boring, being completely predictable, and/or completely irrational. Their current route with Shirou seems to be:
1. Protagonist has no experience and is completely rash.
2. Magically becomes shrewd and can pull off incredible moves in the most critical of situations.
3. Will soon surpass Rin despite being completely incompetent and useless.
Rin is one capricious vixen. Her daily routine involves whining to and about Shirou and then having the biggest mood swings.
Rin: I am going to kill Shirou; Wait, time to team up again.
Repeat this throughout the show, and it becomes annoying.
Her character clashes with her backstory and motives. Her childhood was riddled with traumatic events, such as her parent’s premature deaths and the early separation from her dear sister. She’s also lived independently for most her life endeavouring to further herself as a mage. She explains an inherent character of a mage is being able to further one’s goals despite the means. One would expect a more mature, traumatised, or troubled character, right? No, she’s infantile, simple, and sometimes unduly cordial. Putting it in anime terms, ‘I AM TSUNDERE INCARNATE!’
He is one of the better character in the show but he lacks sufficient characterisation, development, and screen-time. He also seems to be the only one taking the war seriously on team Shirou.
For anyone who has seen Fate Zero, RIP Saber’s character. There is almost a complete loss of her original character.
The anime was initially somewhat enjoyable (6/10), but it just frivolously dragged on. As mentioned above, the fights were and the plot was largely meaningless. The anime fails to build the necessary tension and suspense to lead an engaging plot. The outcomes were predictable or completely irrational, and the story was somehow unreasonably slow paced.
Unless one fanatically love shounens, avoid this show at all cost. It is a blender of cliches.
If one wishes to learn about more plot holes, reading this https://www.reddit.com/r/anime/comments/37vxka/spoilersten_reasons_fatestay_night_ubw_sucks/ is recommended.
Keep scrolling; curiosity compels you.
Despite what I’ve written, you’re still going to watch it aren’t you? read more
In life, one thing is true for everyone: we all have desires. Wanting to be wealthy beyond imagining, finding the love of one's life, obtaining that dream job; there is always a goal, a wish that seems impossible to reach no matter how hard one tries. Aspirations bring about both the best and the worst in people, due to the very nature of what they bring. And if these wishes do happen to come to fruition, they affect not just the winner, but those closest, too. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Season One is the beginning of such a literal wish-fulfillment journey.
The story begins with Emiya, a high school boy who witnesses a strange fight in a nearby courtyard. After being cornered, he somehow summons Saber, a noble woman who calls him Master. Knowingly or not, Emiya officially joins the Holy Grail War.
UBW (the acronym of choice from here on out) sits in a precarious position. It's not technically a sequel and, simultaneously, it is the first half of a two part adventure. As such, it takes the burden of introducing the characters and spearheading the world-building for what is to come. On this end, the anime holds its own. In order for the audience to completely understand what is really going on, it intersperses the battles it is known for with heavy dialogue and exposition. These moments craft the rules involved, the players of the game, the limitations, the terminology, the magic system, etc. A lot of it is mostly shoved towards the viewers because there isn't much time and the anime wants to focus on other aspects (i.e. the fighting).
The anime has a strange habit of allowing many of its characters to live through seemingly impossible situations. This type of behavior is fine if it's done within reason (no huge deus ex machina or logical reasoning exists). However, on numerous occasions, many cast members, and more specifically Shirou, are permitted to fight another day. Often times, the answer is frivolous: "this was fun, let's do it again," "you were entertaining, so leave," "I can't kill on merit, so walk." The idea is obviously not to eliminate the characters so early, since they play roles later on down the line. But without proper explanations backing their escape, the effect is lost, and it becomes an eye-roll as time and again the battles involved amount to nothing more than pomp and flash.
Beyond the world-building, past the fighting, UBW's core ideals are, in a phrase, less than ideal. Again, it's difficult: the anime is juggling multiple different facets at once, all within what is the first half. Essentially, the show looks at the idea of whether it is possible to fight for pure justice, and what that ultimately entails. What is justice to one person may be defined separately by another. How much of it is considered enough in a given situation? Who delivers the final judgement? These kinds of questions are, sadly, not looked at in-depth within UBW. It begins to present the idea, having two upholders of such morals against one another, but isn't explored enough to warrant it a conversational topic. Because, per usual, the fighting takes the spotlight, preventing any form of thematic merit.
The art and animation within UBW is some of the best in the business.
Starting with the art, the scenic backdrops and amount of detail found within them are usually breathtaking. Bustling cities, panoramic bridge shots, populated parks, and eerie cemeteries are just a sampling of the beautiful art pieces that the anime dishes out.
The character designs are distinct in their lack of facial detail. This seems strange, considering what the art itself has to offer. But this is done for a reason; it provides an accentuating difference between the characters' faces and the outfits they wear. Saber's blue regalia, Rin's red and black mage attire, Archer's trench coat, Emiya's scarf, and Illya's purple winter clothes appear simple in nature, but provide each character with an iconic look that makes them memorable outside of the show.
The actual animation does not falter. UBW contains, without a doubt, some of the best, most well-choreographed fight scenes in all of anime. And it should, considering how much attention it is given. The battles are incredibly detailed, with flying swords, dazzling effects, and a superb amount of variation between the duels. One can feel the immense power that the Servants have, and it is always a spectacle to watch on-screen. Outside of the battles, the show maintains an above average amount of quality. Characters move naturally and small details like the reflection of water, nuanced hair movements, and the 3D enemies bring about more of the animation that has made ufotable famous.
As a shounen and "battle royale," the cast involved is large, with the more important among them garnering the most screen time. Reiterating myself, it is important to remember that this just the beginning of what UBW supposedly has to offer.
The most famous of Servants, Saber is a regal woman of nobility and honor. Fair in beauty, strong of will, and unrivaled in combat, she is considered by many to be the best subordinate any Master could hold. Like the other Servants, her past and namesake are shrouded in mystery, but it's unquestionable that her convictions take the form of exacting justice on the evil and bringing hope to the weak. Emiya is her Master, and their personalities fall in line hand-in-hand. She trusts him and he trusts her, bringing about a duo that, no matter the circumstances, have a bond that cannot be severed.
Speaking of Emiya, he is a high school teenager who was saved by a man named Kiritsugu ten years prior to the events. Level-headed and kind, he seemingly cannot deny helping those in need, regardless of their moral status. His status as Master is considered odd. Having only the ability to strengthen objects, one of the lowest forms of magic, he can do little besides lean on Saber and her insane abilities. It's an interesting dynamic, because the one who wants to be the savior, the justice bringer, must first be helped and supported himself. And not just by Saber, too. No, a lot of aid is provided to him by a certain "tsundere."
Arguably the fan favorite of UBW, Rin is a high school girl who descends from a family of magic wielders. Having lost her father and mother, she has trained rigorously for the day the Holy Grail War would come about once more. Extremely playful yet easily embarrassed, she takes pride in not only her magic but also in her ability to manipulate Emiya so easily. Where Emiya wants nothing to do with the War but save others from it, Rin's reasons are more apt: she's in it to win it. She may put up a front, but it's only because she can't bear to lose anything precious to her any longer.
Archer is Rin's Servant. Among the whole cast, he is the most interesting of them all. Seemingly devoid of emotion, he utilizes swords instead of arrows to inflict damage to his foes. His personality is mirrored with Rin's: calm, unapproachable, and chiding. While he follows his Master's orders, he freely speaks his mind. More often than not, he clashes with Emiya, who holds contrasting beliefs. Like a typical bowman, he usually sits on the sidelines, always watching and listening, until he is ready to "fire."
These characterizations have somewhat shown a small connection: the Master's involved summon their initial Servant that best pertains to who they are as a person. Emiya has the kind and determined Saber, whereas Rin has the standoffish and direct Archer. But what of the others? Berserker's Master is menacing and cruel, Caster's goes about its business as she does, and Rider's is every bit as deranged as she is. It's as if each person's characteristics have manifested themselves in spirit form, with the ultimate victor proving just what type of human is deserving to win it all.
The OP is good. It contains a good mix of guitar and violin, with a nice set of vocals. The falling piano playing, catchy beat, and lyrics make it great to listen to both in and out of the anime.
As for the ED, it starts off with an eerie vocal piece. What follows is very float-y instrument playing and singing that seems to invoke hope within the listener. After the halfway mark, the drums and beat do the singer little justice.
The soundtrack is a mixed bag. It is filled with mysterious arrangements for the more "hidden" scenes and acoustic guitar playing for the more relaxed ones. Guitar pieces fill the more "cool" moments, with the battles containing intense choir-like singing. As a final note, the sound effects provided are unique and add further to the overall experience.
Voice-acting wise, everyone involved gave average to above average performances. A special shout-out to Saber, voiced by Ayako Kawasumi, who continues to reprise her role as the top Servant, with the gracefulness and emotion needed during all the right moments.
The reason you, I, or anyone else watches this anime is for the battles. The awesome, killer, amazingly detailed fights that exist at a regular interval from start to finish. I wanted there to be that next fight when the characters were sitting around talking. I wanted to see Saber's Noble Phantasm, watch Berserker crush all matter before him, and view Caster's incredible witchcraft. The fights are the highlight, and they were delivered tenfold.
During the downtime, the skirmishes gave way to talking and world-building. While it was fun to see Rin and Emiya converse, or see Saber acting as her refined yet curious self, my inner conscious was saying, "Let's get back to those fights, now shall we?" Both aspects are done well on their own, but when you are comparing the two within their own show, you really want them to ignore everything else, even if it is technically important.
For now, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Season One contains an okay story, a starting set of characters, and insanely high production value. It's actually very reminiscent of Fate/Zero's first half. The popularity of the anime and the universe it depicts is immense, but this one is still far from a masterpiece. Hopefully the second half, like the prequel before it, can pick up the remaining pieces.
Story: Fine, nice world-building, too many conveniences, unrefined ideals
Animation: Great, stellar across the board
Characters: Good, Emiya and Rin begin their journey, with the Servants being more than just spirits
Sound: Good, good OP, okay ED, okay soundtrack, good VA work
If there’s one word that any anime fan can be familiar with, it may be ‘Fate’. The franchise adapted from the highly popular Type-Moon visual novel has been around for a decade. In 2006, an anime adaptation by studio DEEN was released in an attempt to adapt the visual novel. And while it included the characters from the series, there were controversy regarding the actual adaptation. Then, there was the movie titled ‘Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works’ movie that was released four years later. But even so, that only ran less than two full hours in a futile attempt to adapt the Unlimited Blade Works route. To say the least, it’s inefficient when attempting to craft a story in such a short time frame. Luckily, Ufotable decided to step up to the plate deliver what fans want – a faithful adaptation of the route in TV series medium.
Make no mistake. This series runs a lot longer than 2 hours with the finale extended to fit the double the time of a single episode. So in a way, this series can be viewed indirectly as having more than 12 episodes in total time length. (total of 16 episodes actually if including episode 0) What’s more though is how the series is set up. Because of the nature of MAL’s database, this review will not cover the episode 0 that introduces the story from Rin’s point of view. Rather, we are introduced to the young man known as Shirou Emiya. For people wondering about the series, it is not essential at all to watch Fate/Zero or the F/SN: Unlimited Blade Works movie. In fact, I would highly recommend skipping the latter and focus on this adaptation as that’s more of a promotional product. This TV series adapts the route known as ‘Unlimited Blade Works’ with high level of anticipation.
There’s little doubt the show has a variety of ideas whether it’d be related to magecraft, the Holy Grail, or the mechanics of the Holy Grail War. Taking these ideas and presenting them can be quite a challenge but I do have confidence to say that this adaption did justice. The first episode introduces Shirou Emiya who we see a normal teenager attending high school with his friends. There’s foreshadowing and hints thrown in the backgrounds already to show that not all is going normal around Shirou’s neighborhood. It doesn’t take long for the show to hit the supernatural realm when we see magic and otherworldly powers in Fate style. Shirou becomes the Master of a powerful Servant known as ‘Saber’ in a dangerous tournament (Holy Grails War) after nearly getting himself killed by another servant. Battle ensures and the series manages to craft a setup that will unanimously create more anticipation. The way the first few episodes are set up doesn’t just create a thrilling mood but also spawn questions especially for new viewers. This is where the show shines as the adaption adequately explains the mechanics. Although some bits can feel like typical info dumping, there are comedic points thrown in to ease the bits of unsettling boredom. But do note that it’s fairly important to listen to the explanations because it all connects to the characters and story.
The way the story is crafted involves the main cast, or specifically the Masters and the Servants. We already know who Shirou is but there’s also another prominent Master that is introduced from episode 0. Her name is Rin Tosaka, the master of Archer. For those who have seen episode 0, it’s likely that you’ve got to know her a lot more than the previous Fate franchise. Nonetheless, she comes into conflict with Shirou and the other Masters in the Holy War. The servants play prominent roles as well especially involving the infamous Saber. She is more of the poster girl as well as the warrior who wishes to win the Grail War. On the other hand, Shirou represents the most human character in the series. Honest, loyal, and courageous are a few words to describe him. And although he may seem like a generic character, there’s no doubt that he can influence others. What this first half of the series does is introduce the main players that the VN fans will be familiar with. For new fans of the series, they will be delighted to find out just how much the adaptation extends beyond the movie. Characters such as Illya, Kirie, Shinji, Issei, Taiga, and Sakura are all introduced in clever ways. Even more so, we have the servants who make their debuts as well. Lancer for one makes quite an entrance to create the intensity of the war. What we also have are also other servants that contrasts with each other in terms of their personalities. Whether it’d be Archer’s ideals, Saber’s chivalry, or Rider’s cunning nature, every servant offers something new to the table. Or sometimes, you may just have a big grunt like Berserker who wants to rip everything to pieces.
Like I mentioned before, the series offers variety. What that means is a balance of mood and pacing for the series to work. Yes, there’s mystery going on in the background with the events of the show. Yes, there is also action to keep up the momentum. Then, there’s also the slice of life-like atmosphere. Taking place in a high school setting, the series also finds time to lend comedy and even realism to what could have been an all-around action flick. While this may come as a mixed bag, the series does it cleverly to build narrative with the characters. Rather than just talking, they show what the main characters’ lives are like with others. Even more so, this series makes it quite interesting considering that Servants and Masters aren’t exactly similar with ideologies. Shirou is a prominent example unlike some others who wishes to win the Holy Grail war with their personal dark desires. What goes around comes around and this show proves a point when it crafts its story’s relationships between characters. There’s chemistry between certain characters that can easily been such as with Shirou and Saber or him and Rin. Unfortunately, not all of them get their spotlight and some are still shrouded in mystery (example: the mysterious blonde young man shown several times in the series). And mystery, that may be an overused word by some point. We don’t find out too much about some characters’ intentions such as priest Kirie Kotomine. But do we want to? For some, that’s a certainly and is why the show will keep the audience at their feet. It makes the audience want to figure out the puzzle with the pieces. The dialogues are cryptic but provides hints while dreams (such as Rin’s) create suspense. Then, there’s also the more charming moments as some tense scenarios focuses on Shirou’s own personal perspective. There’s no doubt that he is becoming closer to Saber and the show portrays this with tiny packages of hints rather than explicit fatal attraction. Still, don’t expect much romance for the first cour of this show. Treat it more as a setup with all the key characters bought into the series like players to a game. Because honestly, this Holy War is where winner takes all.
Thank you Ufotable. I’ll say this twice because the studio really deserved the gratitude for their superior effort in adapting the animation quality of this series. The animation style of this series looks lavishly done whether it’s the backgrounds, character designs, or the jaw-breaking action scenes. There is a good amount of action focused on all the fights that gives both the servant and their master a chance for spotlight. The action itself is well coordinated with rapid movement and clever camera angles. In short, Ufotable outdone themselves with the budget they have. And to be honest, there’s little criticism to say when it comes to the artistic frontier of this adaptation. Mage spells are also cleverly demonstrated while violence create the brutal reality of the Grail War. There’s minimal fan service except some suggestive camera angles. But judging exclusively, this series is almost flawless on the artwork.
Soundtrack also plays a pivotal role although not as strong as the artwork department. The two most prominent aspects are the OST during the fight scenes and the character voice mannerisms. I give praise to Kirie Kotomine, Rin, and Caster for their character portrayals. It is very real to their personalities and to the point. Shirou even gets some praise at times when he makes his effort to what he has to say. Unfortunately, there’s also some bits that can be irritating at times; namely Sakura and her repetitive dialogues or Shinji’s narcissism. The OST is also a great comeback and treat for fans who are in favor of action. Every action sells with even tiny details being incorporated with the battles. This can be easily seen such as Saber being tossed into objects, Shirou being tortured by Rider, or Rin jumping several stories to avoid Lancer’s blows. While not as fantastic as the visual realm, soundtrack is by no means a pushover.
True to its hype, Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works is a must-see of the year whether you’re a fan of the visual novel or coming into series as a newbie. There’s much to adapt but the first half captures that very well with the setup. To say the least, this show has that sort of momentum every episode. It is set up and then delivery with the series capitalizing on every opportunity. Along the way, we also get breaks with useful info dumps, humorous gags, and relationship building. The action will no doubt leave you in awe thanks to Ufotable’s technical qualities. Still, there are some characters you may like and some you’ll despise; more people will probably have that decision by the second cour of the show. Characterization is not a masterpiece though and neither does the story offer perfection. There are parts in this series that sometimes will waver off with its mood and peculiar balance. Still, there’s a saying that third time’s a charm and Ufotable hit the bull’s eye on this show. Now, the second half of the series awaits…. read more
As a note, I have not read/played any of the Type Moon visual novels from which this anime is based. I did however find Fate/Zero to be excellent. Coming off of Fate/Zero I was completely pumped to jump right back into the world in Fate/Stay Night. After watching the entire first season I have to say that I'm slightly disappointed.
The story itself is relatively generic as a battle-royale for the holy grail, but is made more complex by the interesting heroes that are summoned to fight and their interactions with their masters. This season however was quite boring. There were not nearly enough fights or interesting story elements to justify the amount of downright dull scenes of Shirou at school or at home.
Ufotable sure didn't skimp out on the animation for this show. Backgrounds are beautiful and character animations are solid. Fight scenes are magnificent, but too few and far between to completely showcase the animation at its finest.
Sound effects are great and the Japanese voice-over is well done. Hideyuki Fukasawa's soundtrack is a bit lackluster in my opinion and lacks some of the impact that Yuki Kajiura's Fate/Zero soundtrack had, and while it certainly never detracts form the show, it isn't anything special.
This is where I was truly disappointed. Shirou is one of the least interesting main characters that I've seen in an anime. While his back-story is interesting enough to make you slightly sympathetic, his idiotic ideals and brash ignorance make him incredibly boring. Equally disappointing is Saber's portrayal. While she was characterized as a complex and tragic king striving to attain the grail in F/Z, In F/SN she is now a straight-up robot with hardly any personality. Archer and Rin can be fun to watch in comparison, but neither accomplish anything in this season. The show really wants you to care about Rin and Shirou's alliance so it hardly focuses on anything else happening with the other servants. I understand that development of the other servants/masters will come with the 2nd season, but that doesn't excuse the fact that they were nearly non-existent this season.
My enjoyment of this show mostly came with it being a sequel to Fate/Zero and getting to see what happens after the events of F/Z. Though the characters are boring thus far, I do have hope that they will develop more throughout the 2nd season which I am greatly looking forward to. I just wasn't as attached to the show by the end of this season as I was at this point in F/Z.
It's fine, but not spectacular. Can't wait for things to pick up in season 2.read more
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks is an intense anime filled with action, moral conflict, and exciting characters. It may be a fantastical show, but the Servants a.k.a. "Heroic Spirits" are actually based on our own history and mythology!