Now, before I start this very long and in-depth review, I'd like to say three things.
1. As opposed to other people, I actually consider 6/10 to be a decent score. It doesn't mean that I thought that this was a bad show, it's without a doubt decent entertainment. I put a lot of effort into writing this review, so even though my opinion may not be the most popular one out there, you should at least give it a shot and listen to what I have to say.
2. I have read the entire Fate/stay night visual novel and am quite familiar with the Nasuverse
in general, having read Tsukihime and Fate/hollow ataraxia in addition to having seen every anime adaptation there is of Type-Moon related works. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a big fan of the original work, I have to admit, but I just can't do this without referencing the visual novel. I will be bringing up the original material on multiple occasions during this review and make comparisons to it, as what lies in there is an integral part of my argument on why I think that this show ultimately failed, both as an adaptation as well as a standalone series, so please bear with me on that, I am not just complaining about things being changed or cut.
3. This review will contain spoilers. So, if you haven't seen the series and don't want to get spoiled, here is my TL;DR version: A flawed adaptation that is brought down by inconsistent direction, misuse of its medium and source material that is very hard to adapt. Good enough in its own right to be worth a watch. Check it out if you like pretty yet short action scenes, ideological conflicts that don't require a philosophy degree to understand and don't mind excessive amounts of exposition.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's start this review proper.
I can't lie, I was excited about this series before it came out. Looking back, I probably shouldn't have been, considering the circumstances. I shouldn't have let the promise of Fate/Zero blind me, I knew that Fate/stay night is way too different from Zero to properly compare the two. Now, nine months later, I am almost certain that we'll never see an anime adaptation of Fate/stay night that will be able to come close to the same level of quality that fans dream of or that Fate/Zero had. The original work just doesn't lend itself to adaptation very well, at least not to a medium that is dependent on visual storytelling like anime. Still, I personally think that the people involved could have done much better with this season than they ended up doing.
As this is a sequel, I think I should state my opinion on the first cour as well: A good representation of the first half of the story that has trouble standing on its own, seeing how it is just the first half and both characters and story are still in an undeveloped state, where you can do little but consider them average and at best intriguing. It also has some of the same problems as the second cour, especially in regards to how it handles its dialogue heavy scenes, but more on that later. Nevertheless, I think that it can be called a good show, which is largely due to how it handled the difficult issue of pacing, which it did relatively well.
And that is exactly where one of my major problems with the second cour lies: The pacing. Seriously, what is up with that? The first episode flies by in a flash, making it seem like a lot of material was cut. Everything just happens way too fast, which results in a lot of things not making sense at all. Why was Shirou in the church? How did he know to go there? Is he psychic? Then episodes two comes around and it is even more confusing. They spend a good half of the episode on anime original content that adds nothing to story or character, but instead cut out major parts from the visual novel relating to actual character development, just to move the story along. Now, anime original content doesn't necessarily have to be bad, as I mentioned before, I am not what you would call a purist and thus far from the kind of person that hails the original material as the Holy Grail (hah, jokes). For example, I really like what they did with Ilya in episode three. But it has to benefit the story in a meaningful way. And I don't feel like that was achieved here. Again, it seems like a lot of scenes fell victim to the cutting room. While the next few episodes are still rushed all things considered, they do manage to find a certain pace within them. Especially the Archer/Shirou confrontation episodes (though flawed, again, I'll get to that) are pretty well paced and it really shows that they wanted to take their time with the central part of the story. Granted, it doesn't fit well with the other fast paced episodes this season had to offer, but as stand alone episodes, I struggle to find serious flaws with them. Now episode ten is where the problems come back. This episode is slow as hell and stands in stark contrast to what we have seen before. Very little actually happens and barely anything is achieved, I could sum it up with one sentence of twelve or less words („Rin implants her Magic Crest onto Shirou so he can fight Gilgamesh“ for example) and you could just skip it entirely without missing a thing. The next two episodes I don't have any particular problems with in this regard, but that is unfortunately not a thing I can really say about the last one. Now, episode twelve pretty much wraps up the story. Problem is that we had to wait an entire week for an episode that is dedicated solely to the epilogue of the story, which is something I have rarely seen before and for good reason. You don't tack on another episode that is really just the story fading out after everything has been resolved, that is not how you end a series. It also lets me ask the question, why they couldn't do episode twelve at double length instead, like they did back in season one. I'll get to what I specifically think about the epilogue later, but its existence as its own episode is a problem in and of itself. Point is that the show's pacing is a mess. There is a huge contrast between episodes that are incredibly fast-paced for no apparent reason like episode one and those that are slow and have very little actual plot or character development happening like episodes ten or the essentially unneeded episode 13. These issues make you wonder whether or not the series was planned out properly with a clear image in mind.
Now, before we get to the real meat, by which I mean story and characters, let's talk about the presentation for a bit.
First up is the OST and I am honestly experiencing mixed feelings here. This is so because the OST itself is great, with plenty of beautiful pieces, as you would expect from a composer like Fukasawa. But the use of the OST is what bothers me. I'll get to director Takahiro Miura's part in this eventually, so let me just say that his use of the OST is mediocre at best and he certainly could have done much better. A lot of the better tracks are rarely used within the anime, if at all, while some of the less poignant tracks end up being overplayed and some scenes just experience a complete lack of music, when it was desperately needed. At the end of the day though, the OST is still good enough for me to give it a pass. The insert song used in episode eight (Aimer's „Last Stardust“) was a really nice addition to the scene, plus the final few episodes see the use of a lot of good and fitting remixes of classical visual novel tracks such as Emiya, This Illusion and New Dawn, which long time fans will appreciate. Not to forget the opening and ending themes, Aimer's „Brave Shine“ and Kalafina's „ring your bell“, which are great by themselves and compliment the visuals rather well. In addition to the OST the voice acting is as good as you would expect it to be, seeing how these people have been voicing their characters for many years. They all do a fantastic job, special mentions go to Junichi Suwabe as Archer and Tomokazu Seki, who just perfectly encapsulates the nature of the arrogant and prideful Gilgamesh.
Now we get to art and animation and I bet that everybody reading this review will expect me to praise it for looking so damn pretty. You know what? I won 't. Yes, the show looks pretty, very much so, but I don't think that it uses its medium very well. A point of comparison that I like to use is last years sports anime Ping Pong The Animation. Now, comparing Ping Pong with Fate/stay night on a technical level, I don't think that there would be much of a debate which of them looks better. Fate/stay night has way higher production quality, every single frame looks smooth, the characters are never off-modell and the lighting effects are simply spectacular. Granted, some of the 3D is still a little off-putting when mixed with 2D elements, as it is usual for ufotable, but the show looks amazing, no doubt about it. Still, I actually prefer Ping Pong. Why? Because Fate isn't interesting. What does the show get out of being an anime, what does the adaptation add to enhance the story? Pretty fight scenes. That is all. Story and characters don't benefit at all from the transition from one medium to another. Ping Pong has tons of interesting imagery, symbolism and an expressive art style that helps in developing the characters and telling the story. Fate on the other hand has none of that. Fate/stay night is a very dialogue and monologue heavy visual novel, so adapting it into a visual medium like anime isn't very easy. Yet what they decided to do is probably the worst way possible. They either left the dialogue as it is, resulting in a lot of boring exposition that is borderline unacceptable for a visual medium or made massive cuts that affected the characters in a major way. The outright denial to use interesting imagery and other visual forms of storytelling to properly develop the story and portray dialogue and monologues in an interesting way angers me. Sure, there were moments were they actually tried, episode eight serves as a good example, but they were too few and far between to be satisfying. And it's not like this can't be done. The Monogatari series is based off very dialogue heavy source material and it manages to deal with that just fine, so why can't Fate/stay night do the same? Of course, exactly the same style wouldn't work as those two series are very different in both tone and content, but the problem lies elsewhere. First, there is the inexperienced director, who probably just wasn't a good choice for adapting this difficult series. But more importantly, I think that it has a lot to do with the amount of money that was put into this adaptation. Monogatari was a gamble that could have easily backfired. Ufotable couldn't afford to take a risk on this, considering the amount of money spent in production (a.k.a. a lot, that much should be obvious). This had to make its money back, no questions asked. And this ends up showing when looking at the final product. It all just seems so safe, like it was made to appeal to the most common denominator (more on that under characters). I understand why it is so, but that certainly doesn't mean that I have to like it.
Now, the part that I have been waiting to get to: Story and characters. Though to be fair, it should probably only be characters, since the story is nothing to write home about in the first place. Young inexperienced boy is unexpectedly (and somewhat unwillingly) thrown into a battle to the death. There he meets friends and foes, polishing his skills, facing his own weaknesses (quite literally in this case) and also having some romance on the side. At the end of the journey he overcomes his weaknesses, grows into a man and lives happily ever after with the girl of his dreams. The End. Pretty standard stuff, right? Yeah, we have all seen that type of story before, but what makes Fate/stay night great in the first place isn't the core story, but the complex and interesting characters that are often subversions of popular archetypes. And here is where the problem of adaptation comes in. The characters of the original visual novel take their strength from Kinoko Nasu's detailed descriptions. We see them go through a myriad of emotions and grow as a result. This applies especially to Shirou, who gives away his every single though to the reader. Now, of course there are also characters in Fate/stay night that are interesing and entertaining without going all that deep into them, but Unlimited Blade Work's two main characters suffer immensely from the stuff being cut, as they are actually rather generic on the surface.
Without getting a proper look into Shirou's mentality, he seems like nothing more than a generic Shounen protagonist with a case of extra dumbassery. Of course on the inside he is a way more complex character that you could easily describe as mentally ill in comparison to normal society, which is the entire point, since one of Unlimited Blade Work's major focal points is the deconstruction of „Shounen heroism“, but we get to see very little of that during the anime. When Rin confronts Shirou about his mentality in episode four it comes out of nowhere, since it lacked proper build up. Then we get to the big ideological confrontation between Shirou and Archer and honestly, I really like most what they decided to do with this part, but, again, it lacked any punch since we know so very little about Shirou at this point. Naturally a lot of the blame should be put on the first cour for missing out on proper character development, but it brought down the series as a whole, so I am still going to use it as a point of critique here. Nevertheless, I think that the aforementioned confrontation was done rather well and episode eight is by far my favourite episode from the entire season. After this we get to episode nine and here is where I really struggled as „Answer“ is probably my favourite scene from this route. But again, this really lacked the impact that it originally had. It goes by way too fast and seems kind of half-assed, making you question why it is that both Archer and Shirou suddenly came to their respective conclusions. It is still a somewhat epic scene, thanks to the visuals and the way the dialogue is delivered, but as the emotional climax to the story and what is supposed to be the point where Shirou's character achieves maturity, I found it to be disappointing.
Look, I don't think that Shirou is a bad character, but I definitely do not like what they did with him and I think that he comes across as rather bland here. As said before, a lot of this is due to the problem of adaptation, but as I mentioned in the art and animation section of this review, this only excuses so much. There was far too little character development for him.
Now onto someone who I think actually qualifies as a bad character: Rin. Again, the problem here is that Rin is little more than your typical tsundere love interest on the surface that turns out to be a more interesting character once you look past the facade, which is something this adaptations allows us to do on too few occasions. As opposed to Shirou I can't say that I was ever a big fan of Rin's character in general due to me not quite buying her as a romantic partner for Shirou. I always felt like their romantic development felt a little forced. To me their relationship seems to be more similar to that of friends, fellow mages or student and mentor. Yes, they have great chemistry with each other, but it was always more comedic chemistry than it was romantic. That is why I prefer Heaven's Feel's Rin over Unlimited Blade Works' Rin. And this problem wasn't alleviated in the recent adaptation, no, it was exacerbated. Nowhere is the lack of romantic chemistry more apparent than in episode ten. This is supposed to be the height of romantic interaction between the two, but it felt nothing like that. Of course, this has a lot to do with the removal of all sexual interactions, which I'd say isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the scene just lacked any kind of emotional impact as a result. Of course we also have to go back to the problem of too little build up. When Shirou says that he likes Rin in a romantic way in episode one, it, again, comes kind of out of nowhere, because he showed little signs of actual affection towards her up to this point. Of course, reading the visual novel, and thus reading Shirou's thoughts, this makes sense, but we're not doing this right now and at this point in time it seems forced that Shirou would say such a thing in a supposedly honest manner. My main problem with Rin though is that they decided to really play up the tsundere part of her character and make her far more „moe“ than she needed to be. This even goes as far back as the character design, which ufotable decided to change for this adaptation. They did have another Rin design before, just look at some of the visual novel trailers they have made, which makes you wonder why they decided to change it. Well, my best guess is that they saw what Deen Fate actually managed to accomplish: It made its female lead insanely popular. Yes, we are not talking about Deen Fate here, but it certainly gave Saber's popularity around the world a huge boost, turning her into the incredibly popular character she is today. This is probably why they decided to really play up the „cute“ part of Rin's character to make her more appealing. She looks very different from all the other characters that ufotable have animated during the last few years, considering her nose, pointy chin and the shape of her face in general. She also has a lot of facial expressions that go way over the top in relation to the rest of the series, excessive blushing at every possible opportunity included. Not to mention all the obnoxious tsuntsun violence that was added for no other purpose other than to make her more stereotypical (take episodes one and ten as an example).
While I do not like Rin as a character in general, I can definitely appreciate her relative depth and the relationship she has with Shirou within the realms of the Visual Novel. But when it comes to the anime, I cannot say the same. They just went too far in playing her up as the cute tsundere instead of the tough mage, cutting out rather hefty chunks of story and important dialogue directly relating to the struggles that she goes through. As a result she appears to be almost flawless, which is rarely a good thing. We really don't get to see a lot from Rin, rarely does the anime decide to give us insight on what she is actually thinking and large parts of her back story and motivation are merely glossed over. All of these points lead up to me just finding her character to be flat and annoying.
The only other character that could be considered a main one is Rin's servant Archer. Now Archer is a character that I personally really like in his role as the literal representation of Shirou's ideals gone wrong. But as it is the case with Shirou, he also suffers from us getting very little insight into his way of thinking. His development feels too rapid, his ideals underdeveloped and he can come across as rather bland. I think that having a few more scenes from Archer's perspective (like the one after the final credits in the last episode), giving us more of an idea of what he is thinking and who he truly is as a person, would have been an absolute necessity for his character to be believable and likeable. He is still alright the way he is, Junichi Suwabe delivers all his lines perfectly and I personally really like the relationship he has with Rin (the last scene of episode twelve is truly a great one), but there is much more they could have done with his character, so I can't help being disappointed.
When it comes to the side characters, I actually have very little to complain about, they all managed to do their job rather well, but none of them truly stand out as great. Shinji is as despicable as he needs to be, Lancer has his moments as a kick-ass side character and I actually liked what they did with Saber and Ilya. I was fine with them being nothing more than plot devices and getting very little screen time, but the way they elaborated on their characters, even though it was little more than service for the people who watched Fate/Zero and were hoping to see those characters get some development, was good enough for me to give it a pass.
My problems come back when we get to the pair of Caster and Kuzuki, who are the secondary villains this cour. As I mentioned before, episode two suffered major cuts, which resulted in Caster's back story being trimmed to very little actual development and a lot of essentially irrelevant anime original content. We barely see any interaction between Caster and Kuzuki, not explaining the bond they share at all. This is a shame, because what we actually got did very little for Caster and could have just been dealt with the sentence „Her last Master was an asshole.“ (or at least a far shorter scene) to make place for more meaningful development, especially concerning the Master/Servant relationship these two have. Thanks to this Caster just ends up being boring and forgettable.
Last but certainly not least there is Gilgamesh and he is still the smug asshole that people love. True, he is not exactly a deep intriguing villain, but I find him to be highly engaging and enjoyable nonetheless. He feels kind of removed from the main narrative for the most part and his part of the story does seem a little tacked on („Answer“ being the big ideological climax and all), plus you probably know close to nothing about him if this is your first time with a Fate series. Still I end up caring very little about those problems since I just find him to be a joy to watch in general. Nevertheless, I have to say that the way he gets defeated seems a little too convenient and hardly believable (even with Shirou being a perfect match for him and Unlimited Blade Works strengthening Shirou's body, he should technically still be blowing Shirou's arm off every time they trade blows given his physical strength) and Shirou pulling a bunch of superhuman powers out of nowhere for the sake of a cool action scene alone kind of bothers me. But the first thing is a problem I also have with the original route and the second did allow for a rather great fight scene, so I will refrain from elaborating on it here. It managed to be a rather satisfying scene and that is most important after all.
Aside from that I actually liked the finale to the series quite a bit. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but they managed to create a certain sense of scale and urgency that I was hoping to see from an anime adaptation and that they did well to portray. It is also much appreciated that they went with the True End to the story rather than going with the Normal End, which I consider to be less fitting. Speaking of endings: The epilogue. As it seems to be the case with this review, I have to directly counter every positive point with a negative one. Deciding that the entire last episode should be dedicated to the epilogue to the story was a poor decision. The original epilogue has far too little content to warrant its own episode, so they essentially stuffed it full of fanservice to make it a full 20 minutes. I would be lying if I say I didn't enjoy it at least a little, I am familiar with the source material after all so I was happy to see characters like Luvia or Waver appear, but this would have been far better suited to just being an OVA. It has no place in a TV series, let alone one that is 13 episodes long and feels incredibly rushed during parts.
Now, why do I think that this show became the relative failure that I consider it to be? I think that most of it is due to too many different visions coming together on one project. To bring together the interests of Type-Moon and ufotable with the ideas of Takahiro Miura and the individual episode directors seems to have been too great a task. It's kind of a mess as a result. This is neither an accurate representation of the visual novel nor very good as its own thing. The pacing is all over the place with the episode quality being very inconsistent, the use of animation is disappointing when it comes to actually telling and furthering the story and the main characters lack the appeal that made them stand out in the first place. As much as I hate bashing one person in particular, Miura might be the person to blame here. He just wasn't fit for the job, too inexperienced and he may have lacked the necessary authority over the production staff to make the product he wanted to. Unfortunately, we'll never know.
At the end of the day, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV) 2nd season isn't bad. The OST, the pretty fight scenes and the engaging enough story with its simple yet interesting ideological conflict are enough for me to give this show a pass. Honestly, this is less of a review and more of an essay explaining why I don't think that this show is great and what they could have done (or couldn't have done) in order to make it so. I was entertained. Yet I am still disappointed. If you managed to make it through this review without having seen the series: Go check it out. You'll probably enjoy it. Just don't expect to see a masterpiece. Because as decent as this series turned out to be, it unfortunately missed out on being amazing.
Only having experienced Fate/Zero, I never encountered a Type-Moon written work before. But after watching UBW, I’m truly appalled at how terrible Type-Moon’s writing is.
The basis of UBW’s plot is covered by its synopsis. In different wording, it’s a grandiose battle royale-like duel between seven masters who each get a servant to fight for them. The goal is to kill every servant to attain the Holy Grail, which can grant a master and servant any fathomable wish.
This plot, even though basic on the surface, can become a masterpiece with proper execution, as seen in Fate/Zero with
its large-scale fights, charismatic characters, and intriguing battles strategies. As the follow up to such an impressive series, UBW had a lot of weight on its shoulders to deliver the same grade, or possibly an even better, of quality. But unfortunately, not only did this series become a wreck within itself, but it also became one of the biggest disappoints that I’ve ever experienced.
Both seasons of UBW suffer from the same pitfalls that include lacklustre characterisation, laughable battle strategies, and choppy protagonists. But the second season specifically has its own unique failures which I’ll get to throughout the review. Let’s get started:
The characterisation was one of the most noticeable falls of the show. The show virtually revolves around our protagonist two-teamed quartet Rin Tohsaka and her servant Archer, and Shirou Emiya and his servant Saber, while the other characters don’t get the proper circumstances and/or screentime to become worth talking about. The show’s first problem child is the “intelligent” Rin Tohsaka, who is the strategist on the protagonist side. Rather than intelligent, the word perseverant describes her more accurately. Many people say that she’s smart, and while it’s shown that she’s book smart, she has no experience in applying it properly. Examples of these failures are shown in her “strategies” that she comes up with. She's capable of generating multiple theories that appear profitable, but in the end all of her elaborate strategies amount to repeatedly showing up to a servant’s base, provoking them until a battle breaks out, and ultimately losing in the end. On the off chance that she does manage to kill a servant, it’s with an unexpected factor or the assistance of another servant. For example, after the oh-so-many attempts of trying to kill Caster, in the midst of yet another failure, the only way Caster was killed was by Archer - after his contractual separation from Rin - who launched an attack on her off-guard master, anticipating that she come in to protect him. The remainder of her victories are due to even more outside assistance that would otherwise leave her and her team dead.
Next we have Saber, one of the main servants of the show and on the protagonists’ team. Her gender bent character in Fate/Zero captured the eyes of many with her chivalric and powerful persona. But sadly, in UBW this strong personality was reduced to a slapstick tsundere and fanservice device. With erotic shots of her in BDSM-esque positions from her capture by Caster further corroding her character, it also gave the series an unintentional comical tone.
And unfortunately, to finish off, we have Shirou: our dense protagonist that’s plagued with a terribly-conflicting Samaritan complex; to such a degree where it makes it appear like his character is a parody of the average shounen protag due to how flat, irritating, and stupid his character is in the show. His boring dialogues with Rin and idiotic remarks aside, the most obnoxious part about Shirou was his philosophical stance towards the end of the season. The latter end of season two held a philosophical discussion with Archer and Shirou’s battle about the pursuit of seemingly impossible ideals and its potential risks. The show took an interesting take on this by adding in an element that, in my opinion, serves as a device of self-reflection that further enhanced the potential of this discussion. Shirou faces the scorn of Archer who, as a future version of Shirou, is morally-crippled and dispirited as a result of the despair and anguish he faced due to Shirou’s far-fetched altruistic ideal of saving everyone while ignoring himself in the process. Archer, trying desperately to convince Shirou to quit pursuing this seemingly impossible ideal to avoid the future tragedy that is himself, brings up several opposing points, including the most obvious one that shows how his ideals are contradictory: “It's true that you can probably achieve your wish to save others. But there's no hope of saving yourself in doing so.”
After Archer’s defeat in battle, Shirou fights Gilgamesh, who also adds onto Archer’s scolding by telling Shirou that his philosophy is contrived and “fake” as a result of trying to become like his father, Kiritsugu, who he essentially copied his ideals from him. Shirou concedes to all of the points given by Archer and Gilgamesh, but somehow manages to come to some sort of epiphany and unexplainably validates his ideals and insist that they are “right”, even in the presence of the overwhelming evidence that blatantly showcases that, without a sense of realism, his ideals will remain damaging and chaotic. The point this discussion was trying to sell was that the pursuit of one’s ideals and dreams is not in vain even with risks and failures up ahead. Where the discussion went sour was with Shirou’s final justification of his ideals, which none of it rebutted the statements and examples of Archer and Gilgamesh. His justification can literally be summarised with his new infamous quote “Just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re right.”
With my expectations so high for this series, it pains me to write such a scathing review. I truly wished for the best and tried to ignore the faults, but they became too large in number for me to continue to be blind to. With the fights and animation as the only two saving graces, I can say that in some moments, UBW was truly entertaining. But the journey overall was a boring and painfully bleak one with this show.
This Review is written in the perspective of an Anime only viewer thus far.
The overarching story of the Visual Novel is absent from this Review and is solely based upon Ufotables adaptation.
At the end of Unlimited Blade Works we were left with a rather monotonous and filler-full episode.
Season 2 kicks off with a rather hefty amount of character development and back story to further develop the overarching story as a whole.
It's clear and concise, and creates a competent understanding of who the characters are, and what their motives are for.
The first few episodes might be slow, but they are certainly important.
unveils some major plot events that are fundamental to the story. We begin to understand the backgrounds and motives of several characters; most notably Caster, Archer and Ilya, which were absent from the first season.
My thoughts on the story, are for the most part positive; It introduces us to some more serious themes, which seemed lacking in the former part of the show. The first season felt more Slice of Life esque between Emiya and Rin, and the fidelity they felt towards each other. The second season instead begins to dive deeper, and starts to unravel the hidden subtleties that the viewer may not have initially picked up on during the first season, such as Rins Locket.
This suspense and tension keeps the viewer intrigued for what events are inevitably to be revealed. The first few episodes build up a lot of tension, the pay-off created in the end, is done astoundingly well.
The art is largely the same as the first season, some scenes are noticeably jaw-dropping in terms of animation quality. These captivating scenes are especially apparent in Episode 16. You can't help but squander over the imaginative and creative landscapes that ufotable seem to create so consistently. The amount of detail put into the scenery is beyond staggering, showing that ufotable know how to correctly use their time and resources effectively.
The battle scenes, albeit few have truly piqued in terms of raw animation quality, which have been crafted even more beautifully than its predecessor.
One thing that I couldn't quite get to grips with art-wise, was Emiyas expressions. I don't know whether it's just me. but they seem rather over the top at times, or at the very least out of place. Perhaps this is just my opinion, but i'll let you decide for yourself.
When it comes to the Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks, the soundtrack is remarkable in many different ways. The music creates a certain ambience in the right moments; whether it be tension and anger during fight scenes, or calm and melancholic music during sad and painful scenes, the music seemingly accommodates the pacing and rhythm of the anime tremendously well.
Another great quality about the Fate/Series that is very apparent in the Second Season is the Opening and Ending.
Brave Shine sung by Aimer, balanced with the amazing art and production during the opening creates an unprecedented raw amount of hype and excitement. The music corresponds with the animation creating a humongous amount of anticipation for what is to come in the current episode.
The ending decides to take a more melodic and soothing approach, Ring Your Bell sung by Kalafina is certainly a great track in its own right, and I appreciate how Ufotable decided to create an entirely different animation sequence at the end of Episode 15. Having said that I prefer more rock-eccentric music when it comes to the Fate Series, but that's a personal preference and the ending should be interpreted in anyway you see fit.
The Characters as previously mentioned have received a tremendous amount of development and back story, Emiya and Rin seem to have taken a backseat in terms of development. Probably because the first season was on the most part, focused heavily on the Rin and Emiya relationship.
Regarding characters, more specifically Ilya and Archer; They both receive a lot more explanation and helps the viewer obtain a greater understanding of their ambitions and motifs for fighting, they dedicate episodes to explaining what has happened after the Fate/Zero story.
Archer has been given a more competent reasoning behind his morals, and hints towards his goals of entering the grail war, a lot of plot twists occur due to Archer, and keeps the viewer guessing at what he's planning.
My enjoyment of the series thus far has been on the status of "elated," Many aspects of the franchise that viewers have come to love have been brought back; from the animation and sound, to the story. Fate is back, and it's definitely in full force.
If you haven't already deciphered what I have been saying for the last few paragraphs, I will summarise it in a few words; Go watch it right now.
Thank you for taking the time to read my Review, I hope my opinion and standpoint helps you create an informed decision! If you have any questions please don't hesitate to question me on my profile.
*Revisions made 26/04/2015 21:35*
*Revisions made 02/05/2015 20:12*
This review covers the Prologue, Season One and Season Two. My ratings are 6/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively. There are spoilers in this review.
The prologue/first few episodes of Unlimited Budget Works establishes the Fifth Holy Grail War; a battle royale between seven servants (made up of mythological figures such as Heracles) and mages where the last survivor is rewarded with being presented the Holy Grail which can grant them any wish they desire. During these episodes it is emphasized how dangerous this war is where even witnesses of the war will be murdered. Then in episode three the feeling of danger for our protagonists disappears
in an instant when Ilya decides to suddenly quit her battle with Rin and Shirou for no reason and go home. This doesn't get followed up on nor does it develop into anything. Perhaps my expectations were too high expecting fights to have an impact from the beginning, but these kinds of moments happen frequently. Some examples include; Archer's many chances to kill Shirou, Caster and Kuzuki not finishing off Shirou and Rin in episode ten and every fight where Gilgamesh is involved.
With the characters not taking fights seriously, another way to create tension in these fights is to emphasize the stakes of the Holy Grail War. To an extent, this works in UBW. The mages and servants eventually get eliminated, there are stories of innocent people disappearing or dying and the end game for Gil involves attempting to kill everyone. But these aren't executed well. The mages and servants would have their backstories explained in the episode they are about to be defeated, making it predictable. The innocent people's deaths are left in the background and their effects are never seen.
As for the end game, only a simplistic understanding can be gained from it due to the lack of explanation of the history, function and importance of the Holy Grail. All that's told by the show is that the Holy Grail may potentially be able to grant a wish of some kind, it can be used for evil, might not even require the war to be summoned and can be summoned by using a mage as a host. The Holy Grail itself appears as a pink blob. Most of these things get explained properly in other Nasuverse publications, however I believe that for a better viewer's experience they should have tried to address these problems in UBW. Nevertheless, they already have sequels planned so perhaps they will go into more depth then.
The focus of UBW is the emergence of Shirou as a mage. As a protagonist, Shirou comes off as a generic anime male teen with a naive mindset. He is a self proclaimed "hero of justice" because apparently everyone needs saving and only he can do it... by murdering people. If this show had a darker tone he would sound like a crazier version of Batman. Sadly though, the only exploration of his naive ideas and any other themes in UBW comes during his battle with Archer, which mostly involves repeating lines ad nauseam. There is also a forced romance thrown in to attempt to show Shirou's progression. He's not terrible as a character, but he's nothing special either.
The other characters in UBW lack development. Some characters will be given short backstories before dying, but no characters show any real change. The closest are Saber and Shirou deciding that they're proud of themselves. Rin simply stays as a typical tsundere for the whole show. An argument could be made that there wasn't enough time given to character development. However, there would be more than enough time if the pacing was improved. For example, the character monologues during fights (Shirou vs Archer especially) could be edited down or episodes such as Winter Days, Faraway Home could be condensed into a few minutes. While I feel the phrase "show, don't tell" is overused, I believe it is appropriate in this case.
There are other issues and potential plotholes that could be nitpicked, such as Archer not having any knowledge of his earlier life, but I'd rather now look at the positives in UBW. The animation is incredibly fluid, especially during fight scenes. The incorporation of CGI feels natural and makes some scenes a real spectacle to watch. The sound effects are great and the voice acting is satisfactory. These technical aspects alone are enough to make UBW watchable. The soundtrack adds an extra level of enjoyment, especially the fan favourite OP Brave Shine by Aimer.
Even with all the faults in UBW, the journey the characters go through is enjoyable enough to make this show satisfactory. Watching this won't be a special experience and other than the fight scenes, most of it will be forgettable. Nevertheless, unless you're a big fan of the Nasuverse, I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to watch it.
The franchise of Type-Moon. Fate/Stay Night is a trademark for what the product has been with its key characters, premise, and setting. Fate Unlimited Blade Works is one of its major routes and returns for another season. A show about the Holy Grail sparkles into a pendulum of events and animated by the infamous Ufotable studio. Part 1 delivered what many fans wanted while part 2 attempts to do so yet again.
With the way the first half of Unlimited Blade Works was handled, part 2/Season 2 essentially sets up major events for the story. As for those who remembers, Saber is taken by Caster, Rin
leaves after telling Shirou not to get involved in the Holy Grail War anymore, while Shirou wonders what awaits him next. The process of this buildup is quite thrilling as it sets up many potential events. Along the way, there are also other characters that becomes imperative to the ongoing storyline. A good amount of focus is Archer, Rin’s former servant who apparently betrayed her. This season focuses a lot about his past, role, and purpose for what he is doing. As a show that’s indulged by ideologies, it’s interesting to see his arguments with others in particular Shirou. It defines their personalities and existence in this show not only but what they do but their reasons. From Shirou’s viewpoint, his father Kiritsugu has inspired him to become a hero of justice. This becomes a central theme of Shirou’s character as he tries to save the people he cares about. At the same time, there’s some romance development between him and Rin. As cliché it seems, it’s not entirely surprising given the amount of hints the two have been throwing around.
Of course, the series’ main story still focuses on the Holy Grail War. Character building is important but at the same time, it allows the viewers to directly see their actions. While Illya isn’t the most powerful servant in the show, she does make quite an impression against Shinji’s servant, Gilgamesh. What comes around goes around and events that unfolds shows her devotion to Berserker. She even shows her genuine concern towards her maids. The show also does a decent job with characterizing her past including the Einzbern family. Do be warned that there will be some Fate/Zero spoilers involved. However, by this point, you should of watched Fate/Zero anyways. Later on, there are also some big reveals regarding Shirou and what his destiny may await him. It’s what really makes the show thrilling as it anticipate what viewers awaits next. What is holding the show back though is some of the omitted content from the visual novel. From what I understand, it added filler material (or so some fans call it anime original) and extended dialogue that makes some scenes unnecessary longer.
A strong point of this series is also the character relationships. At the center of it is Shirou who builds connections with others. In season 1, he build a prominent relationship of trust and respect with Saber. In the second part, he plays an important role alongside Rin. The first half of the series neglects Saber’s prominence as the majority of the time, she is trapped by magic. And without a servant, Shirou is running around without a servant. He can only put trust in people such as Rin and at one point even admits that he has feelings for her. In essence, it shows how Shirou’s role can have profound influence on others through his ideology. In the meantime, other characters such as Illya/Berserker, Shinji/Gilgamesh, Caster/Kazuki all gets their screen time of relationship connections. There’s obviously some contrast between these especially with their climatic moments. But for what’s worth, Fate Unlimited Blade Works can really make some impact when it shows the way these relationships are executed.
As the protagonist, Shirou’s ideal and growth is a pivotal part of the show. This becomes a bit controversial at some stages as some people may not agree with him. Furthermore, these put into conflicts with others such as Archer and Gilgamesh. His idealism is similar to his former servant, Saber in many ways as well. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t put much emphasis in Saber as much as part 1. It still gives her some time for development and evolves both her and Shirou, but just not them on a personal level or at least as much as Shirou and Rin. Similarly, Shirou’s battle against Archer seems more like the apex of the show to me rather than the final fights. Here, we can see that Shirou is fighting for an ideal rather than just winning the grail/fight. On the other hand, Shirou’s battle against Gilgamesh is stereotypical. Gilgamesh is a character that lacks strong characterization compared to the others although the show does flesh out his personality in full view. Egoistic, prideful, and arrogant are just a few words to describe him. But unlike some of the other servants, his relationships aren’t so well developed. Just look at Shinji for an example and see where how he ended up. As the latter half of this season unfolds, we’ll learn much more about each characters’ reasoning for their choices. And Fate being a show that emphasizes a lot on this with lectures and metaphors, it’s no surprise by this point. What I do have some issues with is the comedy and romance development. The comedy part seems like it has some improper timings. While it’s not a core part of the season, I feel like they don’t belong in this franchise at all except for some of the slice of life scenarios; mostly seen in season 1. The romance is also lacking. One of the episodes later on presents this in with a bit of symbolism. (yes I know what you are thinking, the infamous “dolphins”). However, what the fans got instead is a big question mark. On the contrary, the action bits of the show is a blockbuster hit. The climatic battles in the Unlimited Blade Works is a big part that was hyped from the buildup. Both times, Shirou shows his growth and what he has learned. Not to mention, he is a man that runs about his perspective ideologies so by some point, you’ll even remember his lines.
Ufotable does it again. When it comes to artwork and visuals, the series shows why it’s a powerhouse. Action is fairly solid especially in some of the more exciting fights. The Unlimited Blade Works is also highly decorative with the countless swords and symbolism. The backgrounds also has a mythic feeling to it when it matches its fantasy elements. My favorite parts would be the flower garden in one of the earlier episodes as well as the Unlimited Blade Works world. They really gave the word elegant a worthy meaning. Furthermore, we get a bit of violence to go along with all the action. Shinji, Illya, Caster are among some of these character that becomes a prime sample of this. On the other hand, the show isn’t immune to censorship. Some of the more graphic content is censored by magical context while we get a rather obscure symbolism between Shirou/Rin’s bonding. Hey, it’s not like this was surprising though. Did you actually expect them to do it on screen?
Soundtrack is a stronger point of the series. The OP and ED theme song has an eerie tune that matches with the coordination of its presentation. Shirou’s battle theme is also emphasized to show how much he has grown throughout the season. Finally, voice mannerisms is uniquely dynamic for the most prominent characters in this season. In particular, I find Gilgamesh’s narcissistic personality to be so matching with his voice. We can also feel the emotions that Saber expresses by her voice tone and Archer’s revelation. Unfortunately, I can’t say the overall soundtrack gets any better than that. In retrospect, it’s a strong technical aspect of the season but doesn’t exceed the expectations I got from part 1 either.
So how does Fate ultimately deliver? Well, for a show about magic, grail wars, and drama, it’s certainly a chilling thriller that any Type-Moon fan should see. Director Takahiro Miura makes this story stand uniquely with its themes and style. And although some parts of the visual novel is omitted and replaced, it still ultimately lives up to its mature magic. That’s because the real magic comes from the story and characters. For a talky show like this, it’s often important to capture a viewers’ interest before they are bored to death. Thankfully, on most parts, the show knows its strategies. It’s also no surprise that the series continues to maintain its visual wonder. Suspenseful, thrilling, and crafted with emotional storytelling, the second season of Fate Unlimited Blade Works is a magical gift from Ufotable.
This review will be harsh, but second season of Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works fully deserved it. And don't be deceived by the catchy slogan "Unlimited Budget Works". The only thing which is truly unlimited in this anime is characters' redundant talking.
Some of the show's weak points were unavoidable - the original material's storyline quality is dubious at times and the fact that Unlimited Blade Works as a second route of Visual Novel is supposed to be built up over experiences from the first one definitely doesn't help when someone is adapting it. But VN's weaknesses aside, its premise is interesting enough to make
an entertaining show with lots of cool fights. And first season of UBW managed to do that fairly well.
Second season, on the other hand, does almost everything wrong. The animation is still gorgeous, but all the rest, oh girl. First of all - the creators seem to think that main strength of F/SN UBW is its story and, inevitably, character of Shirou. It's a massive problem, because Shirou is really not that great (which essentially means: he sucks). He wasn't that great in original VN, neither in F/SN 2006 and he still isn't in UBW. But now not because of his sexism or blandness but because his central conflict (which is the central conflict of the story now) is shamelessly moronic. What's much, much worse (moronic conflicts in action flicks aren't necessarily a bad thing) - the series abandons much of the action and characters' interactions in favor of explaining his utterly idiotic conflict to the viewer. Explaining again and again by two, three, four (I've lost count) episodes of pure talking. And by the end of this talking they still explained not very much - the viewer gets crazy amount of plot holes and plot conveniences instead. It's very clearly inherited from visual novel, but transfer of this style of exposition and this lazy writing into TV is inexcusable. The exact same problems haunt the interactions with and exposition of the main villain of the anime. Both these arcs are just plain bad - and because they happen to be the final ones they basically kill the show.
Also, as a result of putting emphasis on Shirou and his internal struggles, the show wastes other, much more interesting characters. Rin and especially Saber are sent off to backgrounds and play a role of damsels in distress. Rin in second part of the season continuously acts out of her supposed character. Saber on the other hand is literally doing nothing - which was explainable in the VN (she had her own route) but in the stand-alone anime it looks bizarre, to say the least. The anime even manages to botch the highlight part of its fictional universe - the moment Saber screams "EXCALIBUR!!!" isn't particularly memorable in this version. Which is really a shame.
The other part which seems to be forgotten by writers is the romance part of the original material and constitutes another example of character wasting - it started off quite well but it gets abandoned in favor of Shirou's struggles for many episodes. And then the series returns to it for a brief moment, in most convoluted sex-scene replacement I've had an honor to witness. This replacement is out of place, out of character and completely out of story's coherence. And honestly, if the series wasn't bad in the first place, its low score would be warranted on virtue of this scene alone - the very idea that, gasp, physical contact between characters (even in form of a kiss) is something which needs to be replaced in the show for teens is insulting and actively helps to make the world a worse place. The only thing which could be said in defense of the replacement is the fact that the actual sex-scene from VN was also insulting, out of character and degrading to women. But certainly it doesn't justify horridness of the replacement. Shame on you, ufotable.
All of the above maybe wouldn't be that annoying if only the action part of the second season was any good. It isn't. Most fights are static, anti-climactic and/or resolved too fast and constantly interrupted by excessive talking. I must also note uninspired choreography and lackluster design of some of the characters outfits. What's really weird - many earlier ones are actually not that bad, but in this anime the more important given fight is the more underwhelming it will be. Very peculiar and quite infuriating. The Gilgamesh's way of fighting is partially to blame for that, but still, zero imagination on the creators' side certainly doesn't help.
In summary: the series obscures the strengths of original novel (entertaining premise, cool servants, fascinating fights, good side-characters, romance), instead it emphasizes its weaknesses (main story, Shirou), amplifying it by ridiculous amounts of "tell, don't show". And as a bonus it damages the society by promoting petite bourgeois morality.
Finally, this show is nothing more than a proof that world doesn't need any more Fate/Stay Night adaptations.
When news about this series was launched, I somewhat had mixed feelings; the original Fate/Stay Night was so horrible, I pity myself for watching it, while Fate/Zero was absolutely fantastic, plus Ufotable, responsible for Fate/Zero, were producing it.
That brings me to Fate/Stay Night UBW.
In short, I'd say that this series was absolutely stunning. I'm so glad it didn't turn out like the 2006 one.
Granted, the story was not as compelling as Fate/Zero. However, I was deeply surprised by the dark elements that were introduced. The 2006 one felt like a sad piece of shit, where viewers are supposed to feel sorry for Shiro throughout,
for being the absolute dimwit he is. Rather than a hopeless romance that Stay Night (2006) was, UBW is more focused on progress and action sequences. UBW might not have an extremely good story line, but it is fairly entertaining, without the presence of any loopholes.
One word. Beautiful. Ufotable probably produces the most beautiful and amazingly stunning visuals I have ever seen to date. If Fate/Zero amazed me, this has managed to surpass even that in terms of animation.
Both opening soundtracks, especially Brave Shine, have found themselves cemented on my playlist. Sound effects, outstanding.
If this anime has even a small flaw, this might be it. Obviously, this was a HUGE step up from the 2006 version, but it did lack character depth. Characters like Kirei, Ilya and Saber could have added more to the show, and I would have preferred slightly more prominent roles (but then again, it might not have been that way in the visual novel). The apparent lack of a distinguished antagonist didn't help the cause. Kirei was the perfect antagonist in Fate/Zero, so I was expecting quite a lot from him in this as well (as this was supposed to be a direct sequel). Nevertheless, the annoying character of Tohsaka Rin has had a huge improvement, and she is pretty likable now. The most significant change I've seen in terms of character, is Shiro's. The hopelessly pathetic sorry piece of shit in Fate/Stay Night (2006) has turned out to be full badass in UBW; I hated him in the 2006 one, and was quite disappointed that he wasn't killed off by the end. However, his UBW character is the definition of a shounen anime/manga protagonist; it's as if his UBW character was finally provided with some balls, which the original clearly lacked.
It's one of the few anime I've really enjoyed in 2014-15.
Give it a watch if you're in for a ride.
(P.S. Some of the subs don't make even the slightest of senses, so bear with it, or wait for it to be updated with better translations)
Ever since I first watched Fate/Stay Night anime, I got hooked. A lot of people were complaining how it didn't live up to their expectations especially the ones who played the Visual Novel before, but as someone who didn't, I quite enjoyed the anime a bit. Of course afterwards I immediately went to play the game, and I managed to only finish the Fate route for some reason. Then I went to explore a bit for other TYPE-MOON series and discovering Tsukihime and Kara no Kyoukai, which the latter is one of my all time favorite.
Now for years people have been saying that Unlimited Blade
Works is the best TYPE-MOON story in the game, and how amazing it is and that it is levels above the Fate route. So of course, an anime adaptation at last of the best route should be pretty enetertaining - and it was.
Unlimited Blade Works is about a boy named Shirou with a strong sense of justice, and selfless boy who rarely or almost never says no to anyone. He gets pulled into a sort of an age-old ritual, where the Holy Grail chooses Masters which in turn they summon servants, who are heroic spirits from the past (ex. Heracles, Gilgamesh, King Arthur etc.) to aid them in their quest. It is said that the Grail can grant the winner any wish he desires
Now, the plot sounds very interesting - and it is, especially when in the series we get to see some famous and interesting characters from other tales we heard like Heracles and King Arthur. The series also has some high quality animation with flawless character designs, ways improved from the past adaptations. However, as far as the OST goes, I must say I prefered the version of the 2006 Fate/Stay Night adaptations, especially the opening "Kirameku Namida wa Hoshi ni", one of my favorite anime openings. I never skipped listening to it in Fate, while here I always skipped them.
However, Unlimited Blade Works is not without flaws. I felt like a lot of people expressed in their opinions that some episodes were very rushed, and it seemed like a lot of it was cutout. The fight scenes were very impressive, however the constant dialogue and flashbacks occuring ruined the intensity which resulted in being a little anti-climatic. The main character doesn't just suffer from the typical idealistic shounen character views as to "save everyone without anyone getting hurt", but also suffers from out of nowhere "power-ups" like how he could fight on equal footing with the Heroic Spirits and even defeat them, when he didn't really have that much time to properly train. I can see why many people would dislike Shirou also because other supporting characters are much more interesting than him, like Archer, Gilgamesh and Lancer (Lancer suddenly acting out of character and dying for Rin and all, what the hell was that about? It didn't give a proper explanation for his actions).
His idealistic views can be considered childish, especially in the world we live in today, with all the corruption, terrorism, crime and povery all over the world. The truth is you can't save everyone which is why a lot of people failed to symphatize with our main character. Rin also sometimes annoyed me with the over-used high-pitched voice tsundere archetype. However I must admit I admired how sometimes straight forward Shirou was with expressing his feelings for Rin and how she gets all flustered and embarrased, it was pretty funny.
I felt a little backstory on some characters would have made the show more entertaining and we could have connected with the characters more. I would have liked to see some Gilgamesh, Lancer, Caster and Heracles backstory. Also Rider felt like it barely was part of the series. By the second season I completely forgot about her.
Still, this was a pretty entertaining and fun ride. It had a lot of potential and great build up, but it ended up being anti-climatic and a little rushed, but the the ending was satisfying and a happy one. I admit I expected a lot more since as I said, for years I've been told that Unlimited Blade Works is the best damn thing TYPE-MOON came out with, but it was still good. The other Fate anime defiinitely had more memorable moments but every fan of the Fate series and TYPE-MOON has to watch this. Maybe it's time to resume playing the game for me and finish UBW and Heaven's feel route.
The Fate series holds a very special place in my heart, the escapades of Shirou Emiya and his servant Saber have enthralled me in a way that a lot of stories did not. From the romance in "Fate" to the climatic "Heaven's Feel", Fate/stay night hasn't just become one of my favorite stories, it's honestly become my favorite thing to come out of Japan.
To give you a bit of background as to where I stand with Fate, I have read the visual novel and its semi-sequel multiple times, I have seen and own the 2006 anime, the prequel Fate/Zero, and the 2010 film adaptation of
this anime's route. So (not to toot my horn) but I think I have at least a fair understanding of the Fate universe, and from a fan's standpoint I can say without a doubt that this is an excellent adaptation of "Unlimited Blade Works".
Whereas the 2006 anime adaptation was mostly based on the 1st route (entitled "Fate"), but added elements of the other 2 routes which turned it into a strange mix (and pissed off a good deal of fans), this adaptation sticks completely to the "Unlimited Blade Works" route while adding some anime original material to add more to the story. Now as the Fate series is based around the concept of the Holy Grail War, "Unlimited Blade Works" is probably the most war-less of the 3 routes, with the main conflict being a clash of ideologies rather than swords (although there is a fair bit of those as well). It is in this that the anime can be at its most exciting... or its most tedious as the anime is very dialogue heavy, and while I myself loved each conversation, not everyone will be as enthralled.
I mentioned above that I felt that this anime was an excellent adaptation of the source material, and I believe that to be true, however that's not to say that the source material itself is perfect. As much as I love the "Unlimited Blade Works" route, I cannot deny when there are flaws with the story, and there are a few. There are many instances where characters seem to be coated in layers of "Plot Armor", some story details don't make very much sense, and side-characters are thrown to the side just to be picked back up for relevance later on. That being said I do think the story presented here is very strong, having a tense beginning, plenty of twists and turns,and having what I believe to be one of the most satisfying conclusions to an anime that I've seen in recent years.
Speaking of characters, the anime is populated with them, with the main focus being on our quartet. Saber is definitely the least developed out of the 4, as her story was the main focus of the 1st route, where she was also the love interest. That's not to say that she's a bad character here though, but her role is definitely toned down to being a nurturing friend. She conveys a very warm presence and is very welcome in the story. (There's also the fact that she may or may not be my favorite love interest of the franchise, and all anime in general.) Rin Tohsaka on the other hand is the main love interest, and as such gets the most screentime with our protagonist. She definitely has a very strong attitude and way of thinking, and has a lot of depth underneath what some would consider a tsundere personality. Her relationship with Shirou is also well done at points, but can be tedious if your not into teasing and excessive blushing.
Rin's servant Archer is the perfect definition of a badass, (You ever hear of the GAR meme? It came from him.) making short work of enemies with ease, with a smirk on his face. He could also be considered the deuteragonist of the series, with a good portion of the show being focused on his back story and overall mystery, adding a good layer of depth and being the focus of the show's most exciting conflicts. Then we have our protagonist, Shirou Emiya. The view of his character is very divisive within the anime community; some view him as an incredibly interesting character, others find him to be incredibly idiotic, I myself lean towards the former. Its hard to portray a character like Shirou in an adaptation as most of his character is shown through endless monologues in the visual novel, but putting that into an anime would grind the pacing to a halt. This results in a mixed bag from both anime watchers and visual novel players, but I personally found his character to be handled as good as it could for an anime adaptation.
Studio Ufotable (the animators behind The Garden of Sinners and Fate/Zero) return to the Fate series and they return in style. The animation in this series is some of the best I've ever seen, with the entire series looking like 1 massive movie (leading to some to call this "Unlimited Budget Works"). The action sequences are absolutely jaw dropping, with characters zipping all over the screen with the jarring clashing of swords, its truly amazing stuff. It's not only the animation and the action that's great, the backgrounds are also stunning, with the art designers doing their best to create a photo-realistic representation of Japan, I'd get framed wallpapers of some of these backdrops.
On the music we have Hideyuki Fukasawa, composer of the other Type-Moon visual novel Witch on the Holy Night and the 2013 anime Flowers of Evil. Whereas most anime composers tend to create a few tracks and constantly replay them throughout a show, Fukasawa has decided to do something different : film scoring, having new music play throughout each episode. (That's 26 episodes filled with original music, 3 of which are an hour long. That's a lot of music.) His method is certainly ambitious, but how is his actual score? I found his score to be excellent, maintaining a consistent quality throughout the entire series. His action set-pieces filled me with adrenaline, his emotional moments moved me, and his renditions of of the classic visual novel music are just pure bliss.
Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] is not a perfect anime, nothing is. Some characters are flawed, story details don't make sense sometimes, and the pacing can feel really jumbled at some points. With that being said however, I've come to love this adaptation just as much, if not more than its visual novel counterpart. I came into this series expecting the core story of "Unlimited Blade Works" to be told in the anime format, and Ufotable has done that and so much more. I have enjoyed this series from beginning to end, not once feeling bored or let down throughout all of its 26 episodes. I cannot recommend this enough, why wouldn't I? It has become my favorite anime I've seen thus far after all.
"Just because you're correct doesn't mean you're right!"
The legendary words of Shirou Emiya have spread far and wide around the world ever since the 2006 adaptation of Fate/Stay Night with his infamous "people die when they are killed", and now our frustrating hero is back with more internal contradictions and bullshit ideals than ever. Through the course of Unlimited Blade Works one can watch Shirou go through the difficult process of realizing that his ideals are not only absurd but also simply borrowed from his father in a series of powerful scenes such as "saying the same thing to Archer for two episodes," "never talking
to Saber," "flirting with full-on tsundere Rin" and "fighting all-powerful heroic spirits with some swords he made, somehow."
Now I want to be clear about one thing upfront. Unlimited Blade Works was FUN. It was fun for nearly the entirety of its run. It's legendary to-die-for animation done by Ufotable, Lord of Action made sure that every single fight scene (of which there were plenty) was pretty much like getting an injection of cocaine. The story was rarely stagnant, always throwing itself onwards and upwards with more heroic spirits, more noble phantasms, and more right-before-death backstories. There were plenty of delightful cameos from all over the Fate universe, there were just enough scenes involving bro Lancer and SAO villain Shinji, and there was everyone's favorite Arthurian legend yelling "EXCALYBIUUUUUU" at just the right moments. For me this is definitely a show to be watched with friends, especially those who already have some background in Type Moon's elaborate universe, but that's not a requirement.
However, I can't say that I wasn't disappointed as well. As someone who came into the Type Moon universe through Fate/Zero, my expectations were fairly high. This was likely in part due to the fact that the writer for Fate/Zero was Gen Urobuchi, as the lending of his ideas and philosophies to the story made the inevitable monologuing between characters actually quite compelling. Basically, Fate/Zero was a fantasy epic: a fun, gorgeous, over-the-top battle royal marked by compelling characters arcs, sharp-enough writing, and a crescendoing conclusion that kept you on the edge of your seat and felt truly earned by the development that had been interwoven throughout the show, making full use of the show's slow start. It was fun, definitely, but is was also GOOD; it was akin to Game of Thrones for me and I loved it. When it was announced that Ufotable was adapting Unlimited Blade Works into a TV series of similar length, I was ecstatic. The epic could continue. Grown-up Rin and Sakura having to clean up after their fathers to try and stop the all-powerful Gilgamesh Reborn and his sociopathic sidekick Kotomine? Sounds AMAZING. I already found all of those characters compelling, I couldn't wait to see what kind of creative development had occurred during the time skip, and I was practically drooling for more Gilgamesh.
What I got instead was pretty much a wall of orgasmic fight animation and a plethora of awesome one liners. And not much else.
Unlimited Blade Work's most fatal shortcoming is without a doubt the lack of a strong supporting cast. In contrast to Zero where characters were like to discuss their philosophies and ambitions while facing off, in Blade Works they usually just talk about their power levels and abilities and how much they are going to win. Because of this we don't really get much of an insight into the minds of very many heroes and masters, and that leaves us feeling less like we're watching the battle royal that the Grail War is in which many different sides compete for different reasons for their own all-important causes, and instead watching "the adventures of Shirou, Rin, and Saber when she talks occasionally." Usually the only time in which the other masters and their spirits get development is through flashbacks that show us little about who they are now, just who they were, and often take place right before their deaths as if they are shoehorned in there just to make us care at the moment we're supposed to. That's not how it works: you can't make me care about a character by killing them, you have to make me care enough about them before anything happens to them that I don't want them to die in the first place. There's no tact to the way that the story unfolds: it's pretty much broken up into chunks in which the protagonists deal with struggles of increasing difficulty, and the other characters pretty much wait their turn until it is time for them to appear and have their chunk of time, forcing all of their development into this conveniently blocked-out area. That's not how good storytelling works: you have to weave these strands together from the beginning, slowly building the characters and the nature of their struggles until these arcs begin to culminate. Unlimited Blade Works does not do this, and when the second half comes and it starts pulling off its big moments, they aren't really all that big because they rely on elements that are essentially introduced on the spot. We aren't watching the satisfying culmination of previously set-up story elements, we're watching what in another show might be an outstanding scene if it had and prior weight to back it.
With the lack of a strong supporting cast, the burden of the story falls almost entirely to our screen-hogging duo, Rin and Shirou, and their heroic spirits Archer and Saber. Saber's been around before, and her story is FASCINATING: last time, we left off with her realizing that it was her own martyrdom that made her fail as a leader, then she was forced to destroy her one piece of hope to change that and sent back to the waiting place to despair over her failure. Now she's back, and all i want to see is how she's changed, how she's going to express those changes, what kind of path she's decided to take now, etc. But do we get any of that? Ever? Not in Unlimited Blade Works at least: Saber is pretty much a side show and a fighting tool, throwing around her epic city-leveling noble phantasm when necessary and besides that just quietly telling Shirou that she'll protect him and eating his sandwiches in silence. Rin takes her place as a female lead, doing everything she can to keep the audience emotionally invested, and at first she does a pretty good job: the hour-long prologue is amazingly good, especially for her character, and at first her drive in the Grail War and her distant yet not completely uncaring relationship with Shirou are the makings of a strong lead and potentially tragic adversary. However, it's not a particularly long period of time before the entirely of Rin's character can be summed up in two lines:
- Knows useful things about magic
- Is a tsundere
It's tragic, really, and while her character never really makes the story drag she doesn't really do much to make it compelling either. By the end she's mostly defined by Shirou, talking almost exclusively about his struggles and internal contradictions, blushing aggressively at times and telling him how to use magic the other times. I feel like the show almost forgot about her own extremely passionate desire to uphold her father's name and avenge his death, and she seemed to have most of her complexity sucked out of her.
Which brings us to Shirou & Archer. I don't want to go to far into them for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but the show is essentially their story at this point, and as such it backs itself into a corner where they pretty much make it or break it. On the one hand, they make it: the ideas behind their characters and the philosophies that they espouse are fascinating, and the basis for both of them could be taken great places and no doubt was in the visual novel. However, they are undermined by a single factor: the writing in the show is appallingly bad. It's contrived, insultingly repetitive, watered-down and lacking in virtually any substance. This isn't helped by the fact that the story is disjointed and poorly-organized. Combined, these shortcomings inflict irreparable damage both to these two characters and to the show as a whole, and now we're back to the beginning:
The show is fun to watch. That's about it. It has phenomenal animation, plenty of hilariously cheesy lines, a beautiful soundtrack including a second opening that will never get out of your head (Brave SHINNEE!!), scenes that should be too stupid to exist, and have I mentioned the art yet? However, unlike Zero, it is no longer seriously compelling, it no longer earns emotional engagement, and it loses much of the epic feeling of the story through lack of proper buildup and insane excuses for writing. This would have been more bearable if it wasn't supposedly a sequel to one of the greatest fantasy epics of our time: this was like watching the Phantom Menace or the Hobbit movies and watching characters that I loved and cared about get tossed around by some insane director until they were reduced to poorly-written shadows of their former selves. On it's own, it's a blast, but as a sequel to Zero it's a disappointment. This is in no way an attack on the source material: the story that was trying to be told seemed to be one of merit, but it was slaughtered ONCE AGAIN (Fate/StayNight cannot catch a break) by appalling execution. The budget might be higher than Japan's GDP this time, the voice acting may be superb, the music hype (apparently several songs from the visual novels were pulled and used in the show) but the pacing and arrangement of the story combined with the terrible writing (as well as a few scenes that were just straight-up adapted awfully) made Unlimited Budget Works into a bit of a letdown and an unworthy successor of Fate/Zero.
If this is your introduction into the Type/Moon universe, you probably couldn't pick a better place to start. This show is incredibly fun by itself, and when you've finished it everything else you watch will exceed your expectations (except the 2006 Fate/StayNight) whether it be the mighty prequel or the acclaimed Garden of Sinners or the soon-to-be Heaven's Feel and Hollow Ataraxia. However, if you liked or loved Zero for any of the reasons I did and you've been waiting until this show finishes to decide whether to watch it or not, I must unfortunately advise you to stay away from it. The closure it provides for Zero isn't good enough to warrant tainting the characters/story. You're better off with the strong yet open ending of Zero. Watch Garden of Sinners instead, or wait for Heaven's Feel and hope that they get a different writer and director.
The first cour had a great progress. However, it declined a bit this second cour.
We had more action and character development. Giving focus mainly on the clash between Shirou and Archer. The animation in general was very good, just gave a fallen light in some scenes, but nothing too serious. In this adaptation of Fate managed to convey very well what the Visual novel wanted to spend. It was not a 100% faithful adaptation (maybe 90% faithful ), but unlike the previous studio, that enriched the story, adding more detail and develop harmoniously. We have seen some situations from the perspectives of other characters like
as Illya, Saber and Caster.
Something I loved in this adaptation was the constant use of symbolism to represent the feelings and suffering of the characters. I also really enjoyed the monologues placed in the anime, especially in flashbacks of Archer.
My complaints with the anime are relative to some anti-climatic cuts, which in some episodes totally broke the climate of the previous episode (or previous scene). A serious error direction.
Another thing I did not like, was again forgetting some important explanations, which have not been placed, left the anime with some information missing. Not are things so serious, but would have left the anime with a lot better.
There are several opinions about the protagonist. I can not hate him ... he just follows what he believe is right, however this is wrong. He does not care about the opinions of others, and has no regrets what he does. This can be seen by many peoples as something stupid, but in my viewpoint, I just see someone following and believing what think it's correct, hypocritical or not.
The anime ended in a very pleasant way, with an epilogue going on two years after the war and showing a bit of life of the protagonists after that. We had a surprise appearance of a character who was present during the Fate/Zero events.
As a general, the anime was not something completely spectacular, but just something good which provided striking scenes and interesting characters. 8/10
The anime first of all had a different feeling compared to season one for me while the animation style was great as well as the sound the storyline didn't really indulge me as much as the first season did their wasn't that want for more really and the need to watch more and hate the fact that you had to wait a week to watch the next episode there was a lack of that really i mean some episode had a splash of cliff hangar but only three or four really did.
Really the producers replicated some of the antic of popular anime in which something
had to be explained over two episode when really it could of been done in one or three scenes.
However I am one not to complain all the way there were moments where I did not feel the need for more action but a little drama and this anime did that impeccably I mean kudos to the the producers. Some moments did seize the opportunity to surprise out of nowhere and that was the beauty of season two unlike season one there was the element of surprise that you sort of expected in a way (I know what the heck does that mean) but if you watched season one which you must of if your reading this review, there are moments that will surprise out of nowhere so be prepared.
All in all this anime lives up to be a good season two or squeal (if that floats your boat) for anime that has a rich history of being a top notch animation technique accompanied by actionful ( made up word of the week ) scene covered in frosting of drama and feels but is good enough to live up to the legend of season two good enough to watch rather than reading or watching the summery.
Why Unlimited Blade Works? Why this underwhelming, anticlimactic excuse for a spluttering car crash of a visual novel route? Did ufotable have to faithfully adapt every wheel-spinning two hour conversation in which Pollyanna protagonist Shirou is repeatedly called a dweeb for his goofy idealism? Did they have to make sure we were reminded what a complete loser Archer is every time he appears, legs spread like his balls are prickly pears, perched on some conveniently placed rubble? What is actually appealing about Archer when his only major personal distinction from fellow Fate/stay night snarkster Lancer is his adolescent moral
nihilism? What is there to admire about a character who is so unimaginative that his inner world is literally a wasteland full of imitation swords? Why do people like Archer?
Why did ufotable pick the route where the mid-boss is Caster and the teacher with the upside-down glasses? How did they fail so hard at making a pair of cynical murderers interesting? Why include a half-hearted tribute episode to the tragic homunculus Illya in the route where Illya and her Servant, Berserker, are a mere afterthought, as though ufotable realised that she deserved more attention than Caster ever did? Why couldn't we just have had the Berserker vs. Saber fight like in the Fate route? Why couldn't they at least have spared a thought for the narrative arc of poor neglected Saber, left to wilt after the misery she withstood in Fate/zero? Why did every free second of this show have to be filled with endless identical monologues about youthful idealism?
On that note, what is even the point of adapting a route where breakout character and franchise cash-cow Saber is fully relegated to the background throughout and possesses barely any agency of her own? Why did they retain the awful premature ejaculation of an ending, in which school rapist Shinji turns into the Smooze and Shirou has the worst fight ever with the supposed King of Heroes, Gilgamesh, who can't even be bothered to change out of his chavvy streetclothes? What kind of action anime peaks with two angry men yelling repetitive dialogue at each other while swords fly everywhere? Why is Saber's only half-decent action scene a stilted sword battle with a literal fake Servant whose entire shtick adds up to a convoluted version of the air conditioner's dilemma in The Brave Little Toaster (I was designed to stick in a temple! I like being stuck in this stupid temple!)?
Why was the last episode an OVA set in a twee version of London? Why is this new environment merely used to stage an oh-shucks cameo from Luvia and an extended moment of incredulous Jaden Smith-esque brain-death from Shirou as he spews all over Saber's dimly remembered non-heroics by wondering how it could be that history is real if English people aren't real?
Why do people like Unlimited Blade Works? How was this better than the Studio DEEN anime besides its production values? Is it really any less slow and repetitive? What is there to like about Shirou's stupid, abortive psychodrama? Is it just Rin? Is that it? If so, how can you account for the horrible, horrible reality that this route isn't even about Rin so much as it is about Shirou literally talking to himself for hours and hours only to come to the same conclusion with which he began? Is she really worth it, guys? Is it really worth *this*? Really?
I hope you're all happy, Tohsaka fans. Go cross-dress in some thigh-highs and hate yourselves, you failures. Roll on Heaven's Feel.
Clarification edit: UBW does work well in the context of the VN, but holy holy it was a bad idea to adapt it straight.
This Review applies to both seasons of Unlimited Blade Works. The Video review is up on my channel, but here is the written.
Story - 8/10
If you’re familiar with the Fate series, its pretty much is the same. But in Unlimited Blade Works it follows a different scenario. Sure the beginning is pretty much the same as it was in Fate/Stay Night, but the focus is much different. But to put you up to speed, 7 masters and heroic servants fight in the war to gain the ultimate wish fulfilling device known as the Holy Grail. The story this time around focuses a lot more on
Shirou, Rin and the mystery on her servant Archer. We never really got to know Archer all that well in the original Fate/Stay Night, but in Unlimited Blade Works, we see the trials and tribulations he had to go through to become a servant and when we learn where he comes from, we question if whatever he was doing was right or wrong, and we also see if it can be fixed.
In my personal opinion, I prefer the Unlimited Blade Works path over the Fate/Stay Night path. The story felt more believable and the relationships between the characters felt more natural and not as forced. The story does however have pacing issues, as for some parts it does drag and there a some moments that felt unneeded. It does have a slow start, especially if you start from episode 0 then watch episode 1 as they are 40 minute episodes also they’re the exact same except, told through different perspectives. And it does suffer from the usual problem of a Fate series, if you’re not familiar with the world, it’s hard to follow and understand. However I must say, if you never watched the original Fate/Stay Night, before it’s definitely ok to watch this adaptation, but it’s sort of also made for those who watched Fate/Zero. The story is much more thought out in Unlimited Blade Works, and the writing is more consistent as the character interactions with each other, makes more sense than it did in the original.
Characters - 8/10
Shirou Emiya returns as the main protagonist for Unlimited Blade Works. What I like about his character in this adaptation is that his is actually not an idiot. Shirou is actually more competent in this adaptation than the original, he respects those around him and acknowledges their powers and he also a better learner in magic, which makes him more formidable in battle, compared to his dumb luck in the original. Shirou does however still retain his sense of justice, as he believes what he is doing is right, despite what is shown around him, yet he continues forward with his views. He just wants to be a Hero of Justice, and save as many people as he can.
Saber returns, but rather than a main role she has more of supporting role this time around. And personality is a bit different than the original. For instance she is more cool and calm than before but also more cooperative. She has a more chilled personality than the serious Saber, don’t get me wrong she still goes serious in fights, but outside of that she has a more approachable personality, and she so adorable in this adaptation.
Rin Tohsaka take the role as main female protagonist. Rin serves more a purpose in this adaptation as she trains and gives Shirou the ins and outs of the Holy Grail War. She does in this adaptation, show more interest in him, and you can see this further down the track and the reason for it. She is a competent mage, showing high level of strategy in different situations despite the odds. And her relationship with Shirou felt much more natural, rather than forced. I like how in this adaptation she is given more purpose, but also better explained behind her motivations.
The true star of this adaptation is Archer. Archer’s backstory is delved into much more detail. His origin story is probably the biggest twist in the series and you’re just so sucked in by his misfortunes and you feel sorry for the guy. He fights for his beliefs despite if it’s wrong, but is correct. At the same time he’s still a badass and probably gets the most time to shine in action scenes. Archer plays more of an anti-hero in this adaptation and his interactions with Shirou gets really interesting later on, as we see why he has an interest in Shirou.
And of course I want to talk about my personal favourite servant, Gilgamesh who returns with a bigger role than original Fate. Gilgamesh is given more of the overall antagonist of this adaptation. And he’s still as arrogant and badass as ever. The only thing about him in this adaptation, is that we don’t see him in his armour. Despite this retains his arrogant high chair personality all the way to the end, which I why I love him as a villain.
Despite all these great characters, some other characters this time around didn’t get as much screen time as they did in the original. Some characters felt very pointless, because they hardly made an appearance at all and some backstory’s were definitely left out to make way for our mains. But some characters also did get more time to shine than they did in the original. Some characters I was rather surprise, at first I didn’t care for Caster, but after seeing her backstory, I felt a bit sorry for her, same for Ilya especially after I found out what happened to her. The characters this time did touch more heart a bit, but some of the development and lead ups to was very slow. The main, despite being developed quite well apart from Saber, who pretty much wasn’t developed that much at all, it was kind of slow and of course it’s going to be slow, because it’s 26 episodes long, including episode 0.
Animation and Sound - 10/10, 7/10
If you have been hearing of this show being called Unlimited Budget Works, you are not wrong, it is literally unlimited budget works. The animation is dropped dead gorgeous, the special effects look amazing the particles look incredible as well. The action scenes are probably the best animated sequences I have seen in anime, the fights are well choreographed to go with it as well. No scene is dropped with quality, everything runs very smoothly from frame to frame. The characters designs look much better than original as they look more realistic, they don’t have a huge upper body like the original, but more even out. So much thought has been put into each action sequences, as they don’t really repeat any animations at all and you especially see this when they’re fighting in Archer’s noble phantasm and Gilgamesh, when you see a lot of different designed weapons. The animation and art is amazing, when I saw Fate/Zero I wondered how are they going to top the animation, and Ufotable has pulled off something amazing in Unlimited Blade Works. It really felt like their budget is unlimited, they pretty gave everything detail even if it’s the littlest of things.
The soundtrack is as enjoyable. It’s still does a great job of complimenting the anime, there some very nice orchestral music to complement each scenario plus there is the added touch of electro here and there. However the soundtrack compared to Fate/Zero doesn’t have the epic feel towards it, there is really not that much epic choir to go with the music. Which could’ve made some scenes better, it was good, it just wasn’t epic. The opening themes are good, they do their jobs, the animation for it however is great, just like the whole show. Same things can be said for the ending, they do their jobs and a good, but not really as memorable.
Enjoyment - 8/10
Watching Unlimited Blade Work did feel like re-watching the original Fate, so some episodes, I was like oh my god, I’m watching it over again, except the animation is better. I did enjoy the show a lot more than original fate, as I preferred this path over that. The relationship between characters made more sense and I like the character interactions more than the original. The most enjoyment I got in this show was watching the gorgeous visuals and action scenes. Whenever I was watching Unlimited Blade Works, I did not want to watch another anime, in knowing this is probably the best animated series to date. The action scenes are very cool and the fact that the story focuses on characters I was more interested in made it a huge plus. The only thing that sort of disappointed me was that some characters were given less to work with this time around, and it’s a shame because I think all the characters deserve to shine.
Verdict - 8/10
For the story of Unlimited Blade Works, I give it and an 8, as the backstory behind Archer was really interesting the theme behind doing what’s right was really motivating as well. The writing made more sense this time around and it was good story. The story does suffer from the usual Fate problems, with an uneven pacing and hard to read concept.
For the animation and sound I give it a 10 and 7. The animation is amazing to look at, it really highlights what ufotable can do. The world looks amazing to the smallest detail. Each action scene is gorgeous to look at from the dust particles to the specials effects and the choreograph fights are amazing as well. However the sound, despite being a good soundtrack really lacked the epicness that we got from Fate/Zero, but unfortunately I didn’t find the opening and ending themes as memorable.
For the characters I give it an 8, the characters were much improved from the original. Shirou was more competent. But it’s the interaction between the characters that really shined, Shirou and Rin’s interaction felt more natural, and same with Saber. Archer had a very interesting past, which is pretty much the focus of the show. A lot of characters got to shine, but then again, a lot of characters didn’t, which is unfortunate because I loved some of these characters whether it was from Fate/Zero or Fate/Stay Night (2006).
For my own personal enjoyment I have to give it a 8. Because I did enjoy it more than the original, but at times it just felt like I was re-watching the whole series again, since I have an idea of what’s to come. The action scenes are amazing to look at, but there were a few problems in the story pacing you just want to end so you can watch the action scenes.
After rounding it all up, I give Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works an 8/10. The animation is amazing great, however they could’ve added more to their presentation, because the soundtrack was not as memorable. The story is improved and the character interactions are better as well. I recommended Unlimited Blade Works to an fans of the Fate Series, but also especially recommend it to action fans, as the animation for the fight scenes are gorgeous, you’re just going to get caught up in the world.
I gotta say I love the sunset fading to night scene leading to the ending credits. It makes the viewer actually feel like they are experiencing that world in real time alongside those characters. Something about it was too beautiful to put into words. Guess you could say it's a perfect way to end a thought provoking epilogue that makes you think twice about dropping out of school. Right before, Rin was saying there is so much in the world that is worth suffering for and experiencing, so it was worth dropping their things and taking a risk going off the
normal path. It takes the point home when you see the view from a small dorm room to the city landscape. And of course the night sky which is limitless and transcends every era of time like Saber's. I don't know if anyone noticed this yet: In the end, I think it is very likely they were trying to give weight to the title. Rin talks about their fate and staying together, which is followed by the night sky. Fate/Stay Night. Voila!
Unfortunately, I felt the second cour was mediocre as an adaption. I could tell the epilogue would have complimented a good adaptation very well, but it feels slightly out of line because it feels deeper than the previous episodes, which had no substance and lack of characterization. The conversation/monologues they had at Saber's grave site and just Shirou talking to himself is a great example of what the series was seriously lacking for VN viewers. There was really no good reason to leave those things out when they have so much time to fill with anime original scenes and this epilogue which is basically all original. So the ending feels less impactful than what was probably intended. I'd call this adaptation a tragedy because it was a wasted opportunity which took a decade to become a reality. Heaven's Feel next, which will have a lot less hype now because UfoUBW technically dropped the ball.
*spoilers down below for the review of this series*
Here's going to be my Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works anime review as a whole. Now before anyone goes and attacks me, just because either of my rating score or my review, keep in mind what I will say first. The series is pretty much debatable, people can like it, people can despise it. There's an amount of people that goes and tries to debate on the show, me personally, as a person who likes this series, I won't take the show as a masterpiece, because it's not even a 10/10. And if there are people from
the Fate/Zero franchise that goes and attacks me as well, keep in mind in here as well what I have to say. I do not like Fate/Zero at the end of the day, but it does not mean that its a bad series. The reason why I prefer UBW in terms of conclusion is because for me it actually had at least a satisfying ending. I know, Fate/Zero ending was incomplete, but that was before I even knew there were other routes. And I still feel like I didn't like Fate/Zero. But the same score went for F/Z and F/SN UBW as a whole series completely.
Please keep that in mind that this is just one person's opinion, nothing too groundbreaking that could be considered a disease but neither to the point of fangirling towards the point I call a series a masterpiece.
This is a sequel to Fate/Zero, Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works brings the continuation but rather with a different protagonist, Emiya Shirou, who then became the new master of Saber since it was passed 10 years. As the time passed by, we get to see some bits of things going on around the series. The first half of the show was alright but its just because I couldn't see the character development of the main protagonist. We see Shirou following the ideal that he grasped but doesn't take the consideration in the first half that what he would be causing is pain to himself. The second half of the series was more fleshed out in his character, as I look at the both perspective point of view of the same Ideal between Archer and Shirou. Archer its one of the characters that had the same ideal, but as the time passed, he slowly started to regret taking this specific ideal. For Emiya Shirou on the other hand, he takes this ideal as a beautiful thing because he wants to save innocent lives. The story progressed smoothly and gives us some things to understand this conflict. In the end of the day the ending of the show can be interpreted as one of the worst endings, or one of the most satisfying endings. But how can I call this anime series ending? Well in short, from what I can see Shirou will continue to follow the same ideal, but, he will never become like Archer (terms of guardian). So in the end he decided to take a different direction while keeping the ideal he got.
My only issue with the story is that for me some of the exposition or the info dumping may ticked me off. But then again this isn't the greatest story ever. But it kept what it needed to be.
As stated the characters would be a weaker part of the series just because they don't get well developed, but if I think about it in a perspective, then the characters were already developed in Fate/Zero. I don't have any type of issue, but that's just me though. My issue with the show is because they give so little screentime for these characters in this series, that sometimes snaps me out. But regardless there are characters that got developed.
Emiya Shirou developed as a character, which is the strongest center part. He learns from his ideal and his consequences, and decided to then take another path though he continues to follow the ideal.
Illya got developed in the show as well, but the issue was the same as stated in the first paragraph. She was given little time to become around that it ticked me off.
Besides that I still like the characters, even though some didn't fleshed out so much in this whole series, I guess you can say its department is decent in a sense.
Here are the good parts of the series which most people would agree with me for the most part. The art and animation was made by Ufotable, the same studio behind shows such as the Kara no Kyoukai movies and Fate/Zero, which this doesn't let me down. They have the "Unlimited Budget Works" throughout the whole anime series. I really like how they use the color pallet of the series, and especially with the effects of the weapons, the CGI looks very nice and also when it comes to battles, especially with Gilgamesh, they give impressive angles in the whole anime series. This is the strongest part of the anime.
The music department is rather very solid and show fitting, which for me the OST fits very well with the series. From heart warming to tension rising, even fighting OSTs. They use the instrumental approach, which is very nice from them to use.
Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Besides those little flaws, I simply enjoyed a lot on UBW. This is a manner of preferences but I think the enjoyment factor on the series is very much what I didn't thought it had. Entertaining fights, marvelous animation, the amazing soundtrack, and such ends.
Overall: 7.8/10 (Round to an 8)
For me personally, Unlimited Blade Works got the flaws, and I can't deny that. But it was simply one enjoyable experience. As stated this is an opinion regarding on my thoughts. So if you disagree I'm fine with that.
For visual novel readers and anime-only watchers alike, the attraction of the Ufotable-Type Moon pair-up is obvious. Nasu's highly intricate and appealing designs brought to life by Ufotable, who are excellent in visuals and art. This partnership works to great extent but was unfortunately lacking in the other important components such as character development, relatability and execution of the story that are needed to create a compelling narrative.
The problems have mostly to do with the conversion from one medium to another. Visual novels thrive on details, through the use of monologue while anime simply thrives on visual gimmicks. In essence, reading
VNs require a very long attention span, while anime caters to those who want instant visual stimulation. Going straight to the point, anime as a medium is appealing to those with shorter attention spans. Converting a details-heavy story into an anime therefore has its problems and UBW is yet another adaptation which falls into this trap.
It is no surprise that the anime felt hollow, especially in the second season. The anime misses out a lot of highly important dialogue that fleshes out emotions meaning we never got to fully understand the characters. Servants and masters with their own deep thoughts and motives simply became cannonfodder in the anime. What was a carefully crafted setup to a fight simply became "Boom! Explosions! Blood! Dead!". While the anime keeps the very barebones of the story intact, the lack of detail really removes any chance of forming connections with characters. This also reduces the "shock value" when a certain character gets killed off. In the end the anime becomes a "sit down, watch explosions, the end" experience.
Except it even fails on that regard. There are long moments in the middle of battles where the characters simply stand up and recite lines from the VN. Details is good, no? Except that it fails to satisfy neither VN or anime medium fans. The dialogue is too shallow and brief for VN fans while anime-watchers are treated with info-dumps which exceed their attention spans, and their craving for explosions go unsatisfied.
In the end, the amazing story that is UBW can only be told in one medium. The VN medium, as animation as a medium is incapable of telling a deep narrative, nor do their fandom want it. This makes the VN and VN fandom objectively superior to anime and anime fandom. For those distinguished people who want a complete experience, please go read the VN, for it is far deeper than any anime out there which thrives on the gimmicks of explosions, moe and fanservice.
Some say VNs are too hipster, but hipster anime also exist. The Aria the Animation franchise is highly popular and acclaimed by hipsters. However, this should never be watched or supported for it really is only fanservice, with unrealistically proportioned hips and costumes to suit those with a leg fetish. The hipster of anime comes nowhere near close to the hipster of all VNs; Asairo and Subarashiki Hibi. Now, this is a true masterpiece in narrative and execution that no anime comes close to, and will never come close to in the future.
(This has been adapted from my blog/reddit thread. Spoilers ahead!)
Everyone has their own set of convictions. Whether they are religiously, politically, or morally based, there are certain creeds that we, as individuals, follow. Depending on the ideals we hold, our very person is shaped, directing the lives we lead and the paths that we take. For me, I uphold a simple one: “a little kindness goes a long way.” So I try to do just that. I hold the door for others, give my thanks whenever I can, and call my family to check up on them. Small stuff, and probably pretty common too, but
such actions have nonetheless made me into the kind of man that I am today, and hopefully who I’ll be in the future. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd season hones in on the convictions we maintain, but it never escapes its own faults to make its beliefs worth listening to.
Stay Night 2 follows immediately where the second season left off. Shirou and Rin are still fighting in the Holy Grail War, Servants and Masters work to take out their enemies, and all the while greater implications are brought to the forefront.
There’s a well-known term in anime and other mediums where narratives are involved. It’s a negative one that most sane plots try to avoid because they literally don’t make sense. This term is called the “plot contrivance.” In short, it’s an event that isn’t fully explainable or even natural in the context of the show. Think “deus ex machina” where some godlike figure descends from heaven, someone thought dead reappears alive, or a character magically gains a brand new ability out of nowhere. The reasoning behind it is usually “just because.” Their existence is often the product of the author or director writing himself or herself into a corner, with the only option available being a free out that lacks any basis.
Stay Night 2 doesn’t partake in plot contrivances, but it constantly finds itself one step before, dabbling in something very similar called “convenient inconveniences.” What are these? They’re inconvenient events that just so happen to occur at precisely the convenient time for the plot to move in the direction it wishes for it to go. They are just barely believable and only marginally rational. But it’s evident that the plot is being forced down a specific path rather than occurring naturally. Many anime have this, but so long as they aren’t particularly egregious, frequent, or otherwise palpable to the viewer, they can more or less be excused.
What exactly constitutes as a “convenient inconvenience” and what doesn’t? Let’s start with something that isn’t. At one point, Shirou, Saber, and Lancer arrive once more at Illya’s mansion to confront Archer who had kidnapped Rin. Saber decides that, instead of going to her Master’s side – the logical conclusion – she will stay here and witness the fight between the two men, letting Lancer be the hero. This already sounds dangerous and stupid. Not having everyone available to save such an important person seems like a bad move. Thankfully, Saber’s decision to not help Rin is justified; the battle between Archer and Shirou is an outward representation of Saber’s inner struggle. Meaning, Saber’s decision coincides with the progression of the adventure (and by extension her character) thus far.
Now, what is a “convenient inconvenience?” Following Archer’s death, Gilgamesh is ready to face off against a questioning Saber, a distraught Rin, and a severely broken Shirou. However, Gilgamesh decides not to fight them because…there’s too much soot in the air. This perfectly captures the idea. Gilgamesh literally doesn’t fight the damaged trio because there’s too much dust around him. It’s a silly justification because the audience expects this confrontation to happen now, especially given the circumstances. Instead, the plot is pushed down a path that feels as if the anime wants it to go there rather than letting it happen naturally.
The word “constantly” was used earlier because Stay Night 2 encounters and intentionally dives into this pitfall far too often to go unnoticed. Gilgamesh doesn’t kill Rin and Shirou at Illya’s mansion the first time because he’s “too tired” from fighting Berserker despite being the greatest Servant of all-time with the most Noble Phantasms. Archer betrays Rin and Shirou and joins Caster, yet Caster lets them walk away because Archer asked her too while ironically wielding a weapon called “Rule Breaker.” Lancer defeats Archer and has the chance to kill him but doesn’t because “my job is done.” Lancer manages to rise and defend Rin not once but twice in the span of five minutes after presumed perished. And even near the end, the Holy Grail manages to appear next to Gilgamesh after already being destroyed.
That last paragraph is basically a list, but they are all examples of the same tactic: artificially prolonging events through “convenient inconveniences.” There are even more not listed here – such as Kotomine having Lancer kill himself rather than Rin or Shinji given the opportunity to escape the burning mansion – that further demonstrate the narrative’s unnatural feel.
One argument against all of these examples is that they have some kind of justification backing them. For instance, Lancer living after killing himself derives from his overall terrible luck (is it unlucky or lucky that he missed his heart?) or Gilgamesh being so perturbed by getting particles on his clothes comes from his arrogant personality (why not just fight them outside?). But they’re often flimsy or weak; they generally require the audience to scratch his or her head and say “I guess…” in response. In essence it comes down to tolerance, but Say Night 2 teeters too much on the edge between acceptance and absurdity to give everything a free pass.
All of this says nothing of the inordinate amount of exposition used during the fight scenes, the disregard for needed information on topics such as the “Counter Force” or “Guardians,” and the show’s plot twists being lackluster in execution. Here again there’s an argument, that usually takes the form of “read the visual novel.” That’s great, and without a doubt gives a more fulfilling experience. But on its own, as a standalone anime, there is no excuse to make the narrative as bogged down or as broken as it is. One shouldn’t have to read other material to receive a complete offering. It’s like reading a book that has removed key words or paragraphs and asks you to reference a different book to fill in the missing pieces. It’s not fair to the audience and it’s not fair to the narrative, and the same applies to anime.
Due to the length of the previous section, this one will be kept short and sweet. To put it simply, Stay Night 2 has some of the best visuals in the medium. The background art is vivid, gorgeous, and realistic in its presentation; character designs are crisp, detailed, and appropriate for each person’s personality and demeanor; and actual animation is consistently high when it comes to duels, hair, facial expressions, explosions, running, and any other form of movement. The studio behind the venture, ufotable, demonstrates that, if anything, they can create beautiful shows that captivate the eye.
It’s pretty fascinating how much talking is done and dialogue that ensues which ultimately leads to nowhere with the majority of the cast members. Some of the worst that this second season has to offer are Illya, Caster, Caster’s Master Souichirou, and Lancer. Lancer plays a prominent role in the festivities but next to nothing is learned about him besides the honor that he holds. Souichirou is similar; he came from a faraway place and, outside of a singular flashback, we come to know very little about him. Caster also follows this same trend. We see her devotion to “fair” magic and her adoration towards Souichirou, but the vain attempt to make her likable near her departure doesn’t work because of her present behavior and how little there is given of her past. As for Illya, she is granted an entire episode dedicated to making her less crazy and more relevant – due to how much she had been sidelined after her initial outing way back in the first season – but her immediate removal makes her a second-thought.
There are more, like Saber and Gilgamesh, who receive just enough attention to not be completely useless characters, but unfortunately aren’t given the resources needed to make them worthwhile. Even Archer fails, having the same, repetitive backstory replayed over and over in an attempt to make his plight rational. The best side character is actually the one who appears the least; Assassin’s talk of meaning, and the most important thing being what’s directly in front of us, is one of the most profound insights the show had to offer.
Perhaps the worst character though is Shirou. It’s hard to say what sort of impact the Holy Grail War had on him. He seemingly goes through a ton of introspection, wondering if the convictions he has are the ones not just right for him but those he himself personally believes in. In short, he doesn’t develop but instead goes through a reconfirmation, having his ideals reinforced through both a physical and mental battle with himself. He doesn’t change his stance, he isn’t looking to follow a new creed, and he can’t seem to shake his unending stubbornness. He stays nearly the same for the entirety of the season, remaining quite the static character despite the dynamic events he experienced.
Rin is, surprisingly, the best character the anime has to offer. At the minimum, the viewer does see a gradual shift in her outlook. In the beginning, the War was for her and her alone; she had no wishes and was simply there to prove the strength of her and her family’s name. But in Stay Night 2, her gaze transitions away from this goal. Now, she focuses on saving Archer and protecting Shirou – essentially the same thing, but instead of being so selfish it becomes clear that she does have a wish she wants to see fulfilled. Her determination is evident throughout, where she concocts plans to fight their adversaries, she shares her mana with Shrirou in a deeply personal moment, and nearly dies upholding his beliefs. Simultaneously, we also witness her open up in terms of relationships. Again, rather than being so self-centered, she: forms a pact with Saber, forgives Shinji for his treatment of her, and even boasts the romantic connection she and Shirou share. She isn’t a spectacular character by any means, but she does manage, by comparison, to be a diamond in the rough.
The opening theme is mysterious, with the vocalist doing the majority of the work; raspy and calm, she carries the piece where it needs to go, from foreboding lows to hopeful highs. The beat itself is strangely slow, but it works to give the piece a sort of “tugging” feel that gradually fills you with adrenaline. The guitar, like the vocalist, also performs overtime, making the whole package pretty darn cool. The ending theme isn’t sad, but nor is it happy. It’s a strange mix of the two, with the singers and instruments unifying to create a steady song that has a lot of power but lacks the impact required to make it memorable.
Listening to the rest of the soundtrack is rather pleasant. Each track is extremely orchestral in composition, with choirs and instruments that make everything feel as epic as it should. It’s also capable of going emotional when it wants to or even branching out to more techno-filled pieces. Perhaps even more impressive than the tracks are the sound effects. The sword clashes, foot plantings, and replications give the fights and situations greater appeal than they would without such detailed sound-work.
Voice acting for the anime is above average in all cases. A special shout-out is deserved for Ayako Kawasumi as Saber for her refined speaking and signature “Ex…caliber!” Kana Ueda as Rin for her girly yet determined voice earns one as well, as does Noriaki Sugiyama as Shirou for all of the screaming and intense lines he gave. Realistically, many cast members deserve recognition for continuing to reprise the same roles to give the (entire) series a certain sense of authenticity.
With all of this being said, I still had a good amount of fun with the anime. Rin is one of the best “tsundere” characters in the medium, with her adorable moments shining brightly. Saber is one of my favorite characters from the series, so seeing her in action (at least, in the latter half) was awesome to watch. I like her more than Rin, but since this isn’t Saber’s tale, there was less of Saber than I would have liked to have seen. And the battles, when theywere in full swing, such as with Lancer versus Archer and Shirou versus Gilgamesh, made me laugh in awe by how incredible they were. Some fights though, like Gilgamesh versus Berserker, were underwhelming, which was strange considering how strong they normally always are.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd Season is an entertaining anime, without question. Its art and animation is top-notch, its music is powerful, and specific scenarios are a lot of fun. But with the massive amount of errors in its story and the majority of the cast being offensively bad, it ends up as a disappointing conclusion to a popular series. Hopefully when Heaven’s Feel comes around it doesn’t “trace” this one.
Story: Terrible, “convenient inconveniences” ruin the narrative, justifications are flaky, and awkward exposition tarnishes anything it attempts to do
Animation: Great, beautiful visuals, nice character designs, above average actual animation
Characters: Bad, the majority, from Illya to Shinichirou to Saber to even Shirou, are executed poorly, with only Rin and Assassin coming out on top
Sound: Good, nice OP, okay ED, good soundtrack, nice sound effects, above average VA work
Enjoyment: Fine, Rin is cute, Saber’s appearances were entertaining, and some of the battles were fun but not much else was
After the first season of FSN:UBW I had high hopes that the second season would make up for at least some of the issues I had with season 1. It turns out it did not in almost any way. I am not a reader of the VN, but that doesn't change the fact that a series needs to work as a standalone piece without the aid of extra information provided by the source material to completely enjoy it.
The story continues directly after season 1 (as one might assume) and the pace picks up considerably since season 1 had so much Shirou cooking
and Rin whining to get through that it was like the Holy Grail War just hit the freakin' pause button for the majority of the season. However, the quicker pace is not necessarily a good thing. In fact, after the first couple of episodes there were so many character farewells that it was almost like, "I can't WAIT to see what this character has in store for the series-... oh... they're dead now... after being in 2 episodes... hmm..." The pacing of this season was odd, to say the least, with important events being hurled at you one after another in one episode, then in the next episode nothing happens at all. Some plot elements were left dreadfully vague as well, most often dealing with Archer's backstory and Shirou suddenly obtaining OP Servant-level abilities. Because of this, the climax was poorly executed.
The art is still top-notch for the most part, but with some flaws mostly dealing with mediocre CG integration for some backgrounds. Fight scenes still look awesome (even if the outcomes of some fights make no sense). The Opening theme in particular is more entertaining to watch than season 1.
I may never hear an anime score as bland as this one ever again. The only salvageable track is EMIYA which comes from the VN anyways, but the original tracks are disappointingly dull. Fight scenes sound like something that was rejected from Hans Zimmer's studio with enough fast percussion and BWAHs to make me feel like I was being incepted. The insert song by Aimer was similarly bland and actually made me laugh when it showed up in an integral scene as it sucked out any of the drama or impact the scene possessed. Besides that, the Japanese VAs do their job well. I particularly like Archer's voice since it really suits him. In regards to SFX, hearing the same sword clash sound for the thousandth time got a bit annoying.
I had hoped the second season would make up some lost ground on this front, but it failed to in quite a few ways. First of all, many characters who deserved further development were killed off so quickly and pointlessly, that by the end, I forgot they were even a part of the show. Some characters don't show up for 10-15 episodes just to be killed in a single episode as if they never mattered. Shirou remains one of my least favorite anime protagonists. The show does a poor job of explaining anything about his trace ability making it seem like he gains random powers out of nowhere that he can use to beat anyone/thing. Not only that, but the big power-up he receives from Rin is one of the biggest Deus Ex Machina I've seen since he's pretty much unstoppable afterwards. Shirou's personality is fittingly terrible as well since he wants to save everyone so much that he lacks any form of common sense. While I get that that's kind of the point of his character, it doesn't make it any less frustrating when he somehow succeeds at everything. Can he just die? Seriously. How is he not dead? Why did Gilgamesh go from being the strongest servant to being a complete joke of a character? I think Lancer is the only character that I came out liking enough to consider my favorite. He had admirable screen time and was a total badass. I attribute the lack of good characters both to potentially poor adaption as well as flawed source material.
There were some episodes of FSN:UBW that I thought worked well and enjoyed watching while others were flat-out frustrating and left me weary of watching the next episode.
I can only hope that the Heaven's Feel movie will provide a more interesting story with more interesting characters, a more interesting soundtrack, and a less buffoonish MC.
The story was good, the animation was excellent, sound was good, and the characters were okay. So where this anime falls short is the pacing of the entire show.
The pacing was excruciating slow each episode. It took a really long time for the characters to do something resulting in bad payoff each week of an episode. They should've cut some of that slice of life scenes as well as their investigation scenes and concentrated on various characters instead of following just those two main characters all the time.
This is why fate/zero was awesome, we got to know various characters stories
and motivations including their "Heroes" and we also got to see how they all reacted to each other and each others motivation. In fate/zero something always seem to happen each episode, resulting in good payoff. In fate/stay night we just concentrate on our main protagonists all the time and they aren't very interested themselves.
Overall the payoff for this series felt lacking till the end. It felt as if nothing was happening for most of the entire series (until the end episodes).