A technological hell masquerading as paradise, Tsukimihara Academy is an artificial high school that serves as the setting for the next Holy Grail War. Created by the Moon Cell computer, the school is inhabited by Earth-projected souls who have even the slightest aptitude for being a "Master." Of these 256 souls, 128 will be chosen for the main tournament and granted a Servant. With all of the Masters selected, the Academy activates a purge, targeting the remaining lifeforms for elimination.
Awakening in a pool of his own blood, Hakuno Kishinami refuses to die. Fueled by unknown feelings of hatred, he vows to fight for survival. As he struggles to escape from a relentless pursuer, he finds a crimson blade plunged into the ground; and by pulling it out, Hakuno summons his own Servant, Saber, who instantly destroys his pursuer in a flurry of rose petals. With his newfound power, Hakuno must now begin his journey to Moon Cell's core, the Angelica Cage. There, he will unveil the reason for this artificial world and the secrets of his own blood-soaked past.
Oh boy, Fate/Extra: Last Encore. I should say, right off the bat, that while I am a fan of the Fate universe, I am not a fan of some of their more recent adaptations. (I’m looking at you, Fate/Apocrypha) As a series that’s over the top like Fate/Extra Last Encore, it felt like a chance for me to take a wild ride, turn my brains off, and try to enjoy this for what it is. How did I feel at the end? Well, let’s just say that I want my time back if I had a holy grail.
When Shaft was announced as the studio for
production, I immediately raised an eyebrow and found myself wondering if this could ever work. As an anime adaptation of Fate/Extra, this became a plot that’s modified for the sake of anime storytelling. It sells its story similar to some of the other Fate franchise’s series if you’re familiar with the franchise. Jumping into this show was not easy for me despite my familiarity with the Fate universe.
So I decided to give this a shot anyway. Why not? It has an alluring premise and takes place in an alternate timeline to Fate/stay night. In this timeline, mana have disappeared and Wizards are forced to use virtual space for magic. Similar to some of the other Fate series, a Holy Grail War is set up by a computer that pits 128 Masters in a tournament. The winner will be chosen with a wish to be granted by the Moon Cell Automaton, a mysterious computer of unimaginative powers. Main male protagonist Makuno Kishinami gets caught up into this battle for survival and is clueless on why he is involved. Luckily for him, he gets a servant called Saber. (do note for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just refer her as “Red Saber” from now on)
Yes, this formula is definitely not something new despite some differences with the world setting and premise. What bugs me though is how the main plot is executed with Hakuno and Red Saber as the main characters. Don’t me wrong. They are highly entertaining to watch at first but after a while, you may wonder if it’s worth investing time into them at all. In particular, Hakuno is a very oddball character and seems to be only motivated to survive and avenge the deaths of others. In a way, the guy can be viewed as an anti-hero. My impression of Hakuno gradually faded more and more after seeing his development. In essence, he doesn’t develop much at all and his personality feels all over the place. It doesn’t help that Red Saber is incredibly one dimensional and behaves like a child. While she can be addictively cute to watch at times, Red Saber is hardly a character I would declare as well-written. We don’t know much about her and it’s hard to judge what her motivations are in the story. So yeah, watch this for the mindless character chemistry but if you’re watching for concrete characterization, look elsewhere.
If you’re hoping some of your favorite Fate character to show up in this series, then prepare for disappointment. Only a small handful of characters like Rin, Sakura, and Shinji appear and most of their roles are downplayed to get over the main cast. Some of the characters from Fate/Grand Order game also shows up although their roles are so small that you’ll likely forget them incredibly easily. Most of the minor characters have their roles minimized and episodes’ resolutions feel rushed. Oh and Shinji….what a bastard. I wish the series deleted him and never gave him a chance to show up for his abominable personality. But the series’ main story is not abominable. It’s actually much worse. For the majority of viewers, you’ll probably scratch your head on what the hell is going on. I know I did and feel like the series tries to do way too many things at once. Now, I know Shaft is known for their style to present this anime like a theatric thriller with avant garde cinematography. But wow, this show easily fell apart in the beginning and didn’t manage to salvage itself at all. With just 10 episodes, it became more of mindless popcorn entertainment than a creative story to tell.
I mentioned Shaft few times already but I’ll do it again. The studio’s ideas can easily be recognized by their artistic choreography and avant garde artwork. Running gags with violence and head tilts are also pretty easy to spot. The biggest culprit here is Hakuno as he gets his limbs tore apart, body impaled, and put into a position where he can easily die. Somehow, he survives and we see his reaction in a dark grimy way. I think Shaft wanted us to experience what they do best at and honestly, I think they went a bit overboard this time. The shock value in this anime feels impactful but serves little purpose besides amplifying Hakuno’s personality up to the 11. Oh and the fan service. It seems this show wants to milk Red Saber as an eye candy ever chance it gets. The camera always flirts with her by showing lewd body parts, poses, and try to make her as sexy as possible. Bath scenes occur several times in the show and Red Saber never seems to be uncomfortable being nude. It’s pretty shameless and easily distracting to the point where viewers may talk more about the fan service than the story. On the other hand, I think the battle cinematics is nicely made. It’s fast paced and captures an alluring style of fighting. While glorifying servants’ abilities to fight, it also doesn’t make us forget how badass Hakuno can be. Finally, I have to point out that both the OP and ED theme songs are quite attractive once you get used to the style. The charismatic movements of Red Saber is exceptional there.
After watching Fate/Extra Last Encore, I have to wonder what the hell the producers were thinking. Were they trying to make a show to get us viewers into liking the characters and story? Or was this another attempt for cash grab so fans can pour their money into their franchise. Either way, this show ended up being a disappointment for me. I can’t recall how many times I scratched my head. Oh and Red Saber's voice...she sounds like a kid stuck in an adult’s body with that infamous UMU. What a shame for a show that could have been something so much more.
When it comes to what makes the Fate franchise what it is, some will might say it's the very well-made fight scenes while others will say it's the dark psychological tone that it has. While all of that is definitely true, what really makes the Fate franchise what it is; it's the interesting philosophical dialogues between the characters and that is really, what Fate/Extra Last Encore succeeded at most.
Fate/Extra Last Encore is a studio Shaft's adaption from a game and it serves as an alternative setting to Fate/Stay Night's. The concept of the story is pretty much the same as you can imagine, there are
chosen masters that summon a servant each, each servant and master are fighting together to be on top and get a wish granted. The big difference is that it's happening in a tournament in the far future, year 3020 where not a lot of humans are alive. It's hard to get any deeper than that in the story because otherwise, it will be a spoiler. I also don't think you came to check this anime out thinking it will be very different than the original series story anyway. What is very different is that compared to Ufotable's adaptions of the Fate franchise, Fate/Extra focus more on the philosophical dialogues and less on the flashy fight scenes but it has those as well. As I mentioned before a lot of twists will be discoverable later in the story but I will not mention them to not spoil, just so you know that there are a lot of other interesting differences. The downside of the story category is that it doesn't explain the settings really well.
The characters are easily the most interesting part here. There is the protagonist, Hakuno who seems a bit uninteresting at the start but don't worry they made sure he will be interesting, there is a lot of focus on "who he is?" which make the character a lot more interesting as the story goes on. For the face of the series, it's obviously the Saber "UMU" Nero, she will get a lot of focus, even more than you imagine which is a good thing in my opinion since she is probably the most fun character to watch (Red Saber>Original Saber, fight me). Rin also gets a lot of shine here, she is more badass than the usual herself. Besides that, there are the other servants and masters, I will assure you that they all have an interesting unique design so you might enjoy watching them.
Well for the art it's really a matter of opinion, those who are familiar with Shaft's works like the Monogatari series and such will welcome the art easily and would even find it great and suiting, others might despise it, as it doesn't look like ufotable's art and flashy animation. I personally belong to the group who are familiar with Shaft's works and finding the art great even though ufotable is my favorite all-time studio. The one thing that most fans will most likely won’t admire shaft for, is the different character designs for the characters that aren't new to Fate like Rin, Sakura, and Shinji. Overall, the art and animation style is a plus for me as I think it's really suited for the psychological and mystery tones of Fate/Extra.
For the music part of the series, the opening ("Bright Burning Shout" by Takanori Nishikawa) is amazing, it's rocky and catchy, really suiting for this series, it took my favorite opening spot this season (Winter 2018). Visually it only shows Nero fighting with different hairstyles, take that however you want. (Fun fact: It's the first time that a male sings the opening song for a fate series). For the ending ("Tsuki to Hanataba" by Sayuri), I think it's quite suited, don't sure if I love the song but I do like it, what I love is the visuals, they are showing the connection between Hakuno and Saber while also showing the Master and servant they are currently fighting, I really liked that. For the voice acting there is, of course, the umu so enjoy it. The ost has all kinds of tracks from futuristic to emotional, nothing crazy but I think it's very suited.
- Characters are fun to watch.
- Interesting philosophical dialogues.
- Great and catchy opening.
- Suited animation style. (Makes the dialogues more psychologically interesting)
- The art style might look weird to some.
- The story isn't explained so it'd be easy to understand.
Fate/Extra Last Encore isn't for everyone, that's for sure and that's why I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't a huge Fate fan. Because if you have only watched Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] then you have nothing to do with this series, you wouldn't enjoy it. However, if you are a huge Fate fan who have read the original visual novel, watched all the anime adaptions or of course, if you played the game then watch it, it was made for you.
There is a saying that goes between the Ufotable Fate series purists, that “Any Fate not made by Ufotable is shit” and that statement was usually right from what I've seen, Fate Loli was as mentioned all about Lolis, Fate Apocrypha was a laughable joke to most and then we have this anime, Fate Extra Last Encore that was made this time by Shaft. The Fate series is popular enough to be adopted by almost every studio and this brings either positive or negative results, and fortunately unlike other non-Ufotable Fate anime series, Fate
Extra did not disappoint as much. Why? It had a main character even better than Emiya Shirou. And that's saying something.
Based off the game of the same name, Fate Extra introduces us to a character named Kishinami Hakuno who is betrayed by his friend Shinji (oh Shinji you are there every time) but escapes death and is chosen to participate in the Holy Grail war, not before getting the most powerful servant of them all, Saber (yada yada same introduction as all other Fates) but this time Saber isn't an elegant King of Knights, oh no, this new Saber is a busty mainly-for-fanservice character whose sole purpose isn't just to attract horny teenagers to get a Saber Figure but this Saber also plays an important part and thankfully unlike Unlimited Blade Works, her backstory is given a proper explanation in a later episode, further fleshing her out as a character (no pun intended).
Even though we had 10 episodes we didn't see much action, it was mainly build-up, discussion, backstory and meetings. This Fate wasn't the action Fate, if you want that go to UBW, this Fate’s focus was more in world building and character introductions like Rani who play an important part in the Fate Universe (although she plays a small part in this anime). One of the things I didn't like much about this anime was that mostly adopted a 'villain of the week’ Shounen trope and to be honest it didn't bring as much development as I had hoped, although it’s portrayal was better than many Shounen anime out there it still felt somewhat lacking, either due to my dissatisfaction with the trope or because it wasn't done well. On the other hand the plot progressed smoothly, thankfully the episode number was increased from 6 to 10 mid-season this meant we got much more development especially for our main character Kishinami Hakuno.
Many times (or actually every time) it is the male main character who defines an anime for what it is, Emiya Shirou defined the storyline for Fate UBW, Kiritsugu defined Fate Zero, much in the same way, Hakuno defined Fate Extra. Although he had little to no personality in episode 1 (please note that he was still better in character than Shirou, at least to me) the focus and improvement noticed in the second half is what made me increase my score from a good 7 to a great 9, Extra just felt that good that it felt equal to UBW and to a lesser extent with Zero (Fate Zero is best Fate, fight me :P). As for the other characters Saber was quite the focus as well even though her relationship with Hakuno felt more like Saber was teaching Hakuno everything instead of them both working together equally (although I must say that also changes later on) but the important fact here is that Nero got her backstory while Arturia didn't. Or at least it was much more explored. So overall for the main characters development was excellent and elegantly done.
Now where does that leave the side characters? Unfortunately they didn't get enough screen time or development. Tohsaka came at convenient times and although her fight with Berserker and another friend-turned-enemy (I'm not spoiling it, watch and understand) was amazing she had little or nothing to do with the plot progression which is unfortunate since she could have done much better given the chance. Other than that I could only find Rani a recurring character that too only because she came for 2-3 episodes and not 1-2 for the villains and she didn't get development at all. Her story as well was very brief and felt like an afterthought. As for the other characters we have the villains, only some of which got development and the cameos by Shinji and Kotomine Kirei in the first episode. Pretty disappointing for the side characters but amazing for the main ones.
Disappointing and amazing reminds me of the confusing yet amazing yet somewhat disappointing art style of the anime. Animated by Shaft (you know, those Monogatari people?) I made a huge mistake by expecting Ufotable-like art style and instead got an animation below average. It felt horrible at first and I couldn't get used to it at all in the first episode. Fortunately the staff themself might have realised and fixed most of the issues and after episode 3 or so the art improved considerably, especially so in the Dream Land. The Dream Land arc was my favorite since it was so dark and intriguing not to mention mysterious, the Dream Land arc might as well be the only reason Fate Extra is so amazing. If the main characters don't impress you, there's a high chance the Dream Land arc will, so I won't gloss over it much and move on. Something you should gloss over is the soundtrack, because that is amazing and my favorite part about Fate Extra apart from the main characters.
As a nod to UBW, the OP started off a lot like Brave Shine and the song itself was just as amazing not to mention the visuals used. Meanwhile something I found much better was the ED sung by none other than Sayuri who sung Tsuki to Hanataba and all you need to do is to go on YouTube, search this song and listen for yourself the amazing power of Sayuri’s voice, if you haven't already heard Sora wa Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Youna from Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED) and fallen in love with her voice. On the other hand the background music used was unsurprisingly excellent, why unsurprisingly? If you've watched the Monogatari series you'll realise.
All in all Fate Extra is an anime that although falls short of beating Fate Zero it does pretty much equal UBW in many aspects which says a lot about it's quality since most other Fate anime made by non-Ufotable studios were either flawed or garbage (very rarely did we see a good non-Ufotable Fate) but Fate Extra has its shortcomings and they measure up on the scale as well. Although this was a show I enjoyed a lot, I can't ignore it's flaws as well, side characters, art style and villains were problems Shaft couldn't fix for the anime and so I felt disappointed to a certain extent but also was amazed too since this quite literally is the best non-Ufotable Fate we have (apologies for repeating non-Ufotable so many times) so we can move forward. What will the next Fate be? Will it be better than UBW (arguably the most popular Fate)? Will it surpass Fate Zero in quality? These are questions only the future can answer so all we can do is wait and see what happens. As for now, enjoy this beautiful anime.
Overall Rating: 7.2
P.S: Hakuno x Hakuno (you won't get it unless you watch it so don't worry :P)
The murmuring of the audience revibrates off the walls of the auditorium. It's opening night. Many are anticipating the performance because it's a branch story of a famous franchise. Others are skeptical and don't believe that it will be able to hold up against it's predecessors. Soon the lights dim and the audience silences as the curtain opens, revealing the stage. As the actors put on their performance, many watching become immediately confused with the story and find themselves unable to connect with the protagonist. Though the crowd is losing interest, there's suddenly a change in dynamic. For the heroine finally steps out
onto the stage, her blonde hair and red attire immediately captivating all who gaze upon her. The crowd roars and vigorously applauds, for the theatrical woman was the primary reason why many attended the show to begin with. But would this stunning lady be enough to cement the performance as something truly spectacular?
For the majority of viewers, apparently not. But the beautiful heroine known to many as simply "Saber" isn't the only positive aspect of the show. If viewers were to simply dig a little deeper, they might discover that there's more to the show than meets the eye.
Fate/Extra is yet another installation in the popular Fate franchise. Being a fan of the series, I went into this anime with some expectations, especially considering the fact that Studio Shaft, the one who took on this project, is one of my favorite anime studios. Now I've never played the source material, so I came into this anime with no knowledge on what it would cover. Unfortunately, by the end of it, I still wasn't entirely certain on what it was about.
The biggest issue that I had with this anime was it's convoluted story. Now while I feel that Fate/Extra is somewhat underrated, I have to admit that the plot left more to be desired. I honestly tried to understand what was going on, but so much of the story and details around the characters were left vague or entirely unexplained. This problem can be partly attributed to the short supply of episodes, but that still isn't a good enough excuse considering the fact that many short anime are able to succeed. There were several intriguing plot twists, such as the origins of how protagonist Hakuno came to be, but even they were a sort of double edged sword. Because while they shed some light on the story and characters, they also opened the door to many more questions that were usually left unanswered. I sadly couldn't enjoy each episode to the fullest because I was constantly trying to make sense of everything that was going on, and based off of what I've heard from others, this problem plagued many who watched the anime.
The second and final significant issue that I had was that aside from the main characters, the rest of the cast received very little development. Now don't get me wrong, I actually liked a lot of the characters. The servants were pretty interesting, with my favorite being Nursery Rhyme. However, the anime decided to have several two episode arcs featuring the protagonists vs a master and servant pair, and after the heroes prevail, they move on and the losers are forgotten. Now let's briefly analyze how Fate/Extra's sister anime Fate/Zero went about showcasing it's characters. In the entire 12 episode first season, only ONE out of the 14+ participants in the Holy Grail War perished. This allowed for every master and servant pair to develop over the course of the first season, making them much more fleshed out and letting viewers more easily connect with them. Fate/Extra on the other hand barely dedicated any time in developing it's supporting cast, which resulted in many otherwise interesting characters being quite shallow.
Now that we've got the boring critical analysis out of the way, it's time to talk about the good stuff. UMU! Let's go!
First of all, the visuals are stunning. Shaft's animation techniques can be a bit of an acquired taste and aren't for everyone, however I think that they're amazing and really creative. I particularly loved the visuals used during the Alice and Nursery Rhyme arc, because they were similar to the inventive and unsettling animation used in segments of Madoka Magica, one of Shaft's most iconic anime. Another great aspect of the show was the soundtrack. There are several great tracks in this anime, with my personal favorite being the ending theme song by Sayuri.
Let's address the star of the show. Who is this stunning person you may ask? Why Saber of course! Since it's not immediately revealed in the anime, I'll keep her true identity a secret. Now I've seen complaints stating that the anime is just Saber fanservice and has no depth to it, but I'd have to somewhat disagree. Yes, the anime does dedicate a lot of time to Saber's antics, cuteness, and naked body. But she is also used as a device to dig into the mentality of Hakuno, the true protagonist of the story. The pair have many a philosophical conversation throughout the course of the anime that provide insight on each of their beliefs and conceptions of the world and themselves. These talks are oftentimes quite deep, and actually end up being the highlight of each episode for me. I don't think there's anything quite as intriguing as studying the psychological state of a character, and the anime really succeeds at gradually providing insight into Hakuno's thought process and his eventual spiral into despair. Saber herself is oftentimes full of inspirational advice that not only touches Hakuno, but can even reach out to the viewers themselves. This isn't an anime about cool and flashy action sequences. In fact, the fights showcased in this show are generally quite lackluster, especially when compared to others in the franchise, and I believe are one of the prominent reasons as to why this anime has generally low ratings. However, this isn't a show about fighting, but about people, as most good Shaft anime usually are about. And if you recognize this, then you may just realize that Fate/Extra isn't really all that bad.
You know, I really enjoyed this anime. Despite the confusing story and underdeveloped side characters, there was still so much to like about this show. The cast was still fun to watch, the presentation was fantastic, it was intriguing, and just a simply entertaining viewing experience. Oh, and it had Saber in it. Bonus! Now as the actor's take their final bow and the curtain closes, it seems that many in the audience left the theatre unimpressed. I, however, pleasantly enjoyed the show, and I hope that it satisfied you too.
The Fate series has come a long way over the last decade in anime, creating an expansive universe that can bewilder newcomers. So, in this analysis, we’ll take a comprehensive look into all the anime related to it and trace the threads of Fate.