This review will heavily incorporate events that occurred in other works by Type-Moon, so I am going to assume that you are familiar with their other works.
I am pretty sure vast majority of the people who wants to watch this film are familiar with the original visual novel and have some general idea where the story is headed, but just in case you haven't figured it out, Sakura is going to become full yandere by the end of the film. Not the Gasai Yuno kind of yandere. The good kind of yandere, where the film properly explores the events that gradually transforms Sakura's fall from
grace and makes her character believable. And that is in fact the key triumph of this film; it is raking in all the emotional weight accumulated from Sakura’s love for Shirou from the first film by crashing her world down slowly. The film does make use of some classical yandere tropes like “confine your boyfriend in the house to protect him from danger” and the “smiles of insanity” to make Sakura’s deadly transformation clear, but it was more effectively told through visually like the static interference happening to Sakura’s body, the ominous shadow that keeps following her, and that one scene where Shirou fearfully tried to ignore the dark presence following Sakura.
If you are familiar with the collaborative works between Type-Moon and ufotable, then you cannot help but draw the comparison between this film with Kara no Kyoukai chapter 3. KnK came long before Fate/Stay Night was published, so you can tell that Sakura is inspired from Asagami Fujino. They have very similar hair color, extremely similar build, and both are incredibly timid girls who later on go on a rampage, but that is about where the similarity ends. The difference is that in this film, we had an entire 2-hour film prior to this to make us feel invested in Shiro and Sakura’s love story, and also that Shirou has a large influence on Sakura’s humanity, and the outcome of the story depends entirely on Shirou’s decision. There was a certain scene near the end where Shirou had to make a decision about Sakura’s future brought tears to my eyes, because it was a perfect illustration of how much Shirou and Sakura are dependent on one another. Once you realize what Shiro had been up to, it suddenly hits you just how much Shiro is conflicted by his own emotion and his sense of justice.
That scene also revisited the single key dilemma that characters from Fate series have to explore endlessly. Will Shirou stick with his sense of justice and forsake Sakura, or will he forsake his hero complex and save the one he loves? From the perspective of us audiences, Shirou doesn’t only have his love for Sakura to consider. Abandoning his hero complex means abandoning the legacy that his father (Kiritsugu) left for him, which at this point defines his entire existence. Ten years ago, we saw that Kiritsugu’s sacrifice saved countless lives by preventing the Holy Grail from being fully complete, so Shirou should follow suit, right? It is not an easy decision for sure, but I love it that the film brings new perspective to this theme of justice and sacrifice that Nasu Kinoko has consistently tackled from multiple viewpoints from intertwined characters from different works. I must also applaud this film’s production staff for clearly communicating this theme and dilemma by trimming the fat from the visual novel and treating key thematic scenes with the respectful grace they deserve.
Now, regarding the technical merits, I will say that the film definitely had large amount of budget to work with, almost to the point of making the producers value quantity over quality. I forgot exactly what happened in the original visual novel, but it felt like the only things happening in the fight scene were explosions. Saber and Berserker also spent a lot of the time jumping from place-to-place and performing mid-air kicks like Rock Lee with five gates opened, so there wasn’t much opportunity to explore the mental state of the fighters. Don’t get me wrong, the animation was certainly gorgeous and fluid, and it also featured this insane sakuga where the camera showed the background of a natural scenery changing from following the movement of a character while showing beautiful animated explosions happening in that same background (the staffs of this film were boasting about this particular scene being the pinnacle of Japanese animation). But these fights feel empty unless we can feel the emotional stake of the fight, which it had none. There was also this scene where Sakura was confessing her secrets near the beginning of the film where Sakura was making so much facial and body movements that it seemed incredibly unnatural. I think this is what animators do when they have nothing better to animate but still want to make the scene look impactful. I am not a huge fan of this. However, not everything was overdone. Ironically, I felt that the art shined the most when there was not much to animate, when the characters were living their daily lives, when silence and calm conversations tells a better story. The music suffered the same problem as the animation. There were a lot of explosive choruses during fight scenes (no pun intended), which sort of distracted me from the fights, but it was haunting and beautiful during gruesome and emotional scenes.
So in conclusion, this is a film that is made for Type-Moon x ufotable fans through and through. You will especially get a lot of out of this film if you have already read the visual novels and have seen all the previous main Fate franchise anime. Ironically, the core hook of this film is its story and characters, which I didn’t think was going to be the case because I just simply didn’t think they would go in such depth in exploring the themes and characters in a humanistic way. The film is gorgeous to look at, but I question some of its animation directions. Like mentioned before, this is a story-focused film, so the best parts come from scenes that don’t involve actions. I will briefly mention here, that the highly anticipated sex scene was given the proper treatment. It was not overdone and it properly articulated the love between the participants. I just thought that you might be interested.
Once again Ufotable x Type-Moon did not disappoint. Watching it in the cinema (in Japan) with proper loudspeakers can enable me to experience the thrill of this fantastic display of animation choreography. The amount of time and effort by Ufotable once again demonstrates its class in perfecting high-quality animation and its visual arts. The unlimited budget work studio took time off from anime series and dedicate all their resources into this project and came out in fruition, and I could not be prouder for them.
The movie itself was breathtaking, astonishing and spectacular to watch. I was lost in words walking out of the cinema
as this was one amazing movie adaption to its visual novel source. Despite cutting out, or twisting the moments from its origin was well dealt with to make it as original as possible. The amount of detail dedicated to the colourisation of the background scenery was aesthetic and blends well into the climate of the moment.
Regarding the fight scenes, the amount of detail to each moment and time-lapse of the fight was well constructed to demonstrate the fluidity of the animation. Not to mention the sounds and background music incorporated fantastically to illustrate the intensity of the battle. I enjoyed the fight scene more compared to all moments.
The story building near the end was speechless as the unexpected happened, and demonstrated that Ufotable is willing to go beyond and adapted to the essential character development moment in this movie. Providing us with a much darker twist to the story than the previous routes. My view on Sakura for the past two routes changed entirely after this movie and will play a much more significant role in the final movie.
Finally, Ufotable did well with the changed in the tone of the last part of the movie from very lively/family oriented moments, and turns into dark/suspense moments, giving us a rollercoaster of feels. But by far, Heaven Feels is now regarded as my most favourite route compared to all routes.
Hope this convince you to watch the movie.
Feel free to watch my review on YouTube:
Heaven's Feel: Lost Butterfly does a great deal to improve upon Presage Flower and feels like a breathe of fresh air for the Fate/Stay Night franchise. While Presage Flower had to retread some of the ground Unlimited Blade Works and Fate laid, this new film does a lot to show you what is new this time around and the much more intense and dark direction the series takes.
One thing I loved about Lost Butterfly is the development of characters that have not yet been given their due in the new Ufotable series. Sakura was clearly
established as being the main girl of Heaven's Feel, and even outliers to the series likely know of her significance, but this film truly fleshes out and cements Sakura as the most tragic and complex of the main female characters in F/SN. Much of the main thrust of this film is fleshing out her and Shirou's relationship, as well as her (and Shirou) figuring out and dealing with her dark role in this trilogy. On top of lots of great Sakura scenes and development, Illya is finally given some love with some scenes where she's portrayed as more human than ever before in Ufotables recent adaptations. Both of these characters were highlights in this film and it was great for them to finally have some time to shine.
In Presage Flower, Lancer chasing Assassin and their subsequent battle in the swamp was easily my favourite animated sequence of 2017. I'm happy to say that the major battle in this film between Saber Alter and Berserker blows it out of the water. I watched this extended sequence with my hand over my mouth and truly thought to myself "This might be one of the greatest anime fights of all time". Even though 2019 has just begun, the music, the choreography, the effects, the explosions....it all came together to create what I'm almost certain will be the most impressive sequence of the year. I can't wait for more fans to see it.
In addition, while I briefly mentioned it at the beginning, it can't be overstated how much darker this film is in comparison to the last and even anything to come out of Fate/Stay Night thus far. A particular scene that takes place in an alleyway involving Sakura was a real "shits hitting the fan" moment for the series. The film heavily deals in Sakura's trauma , showcased through many different scenes and even has what is likely the closest Ufotable will come to adapting any of the sex scenes found in the original visual novel (though it is really quite tame).
Overall I had a fantastic time with this film. As much as I loved Presage Flower I think this film stands above it. With where they concluded the film, they've allowed for an extreme amount of exciting moments for the final film Spring Song which is releasing in spring 2020. My expectations were met and exceeded yet again and my anticipation for the final film is extremely high.