The Holy Grail. The ever so longed for artifact, able to grant any wish, but only to those who prove their worth during the Heaven's Feel, and manage to win the battle royalle with strenght, intelligence, lucky, pacience and guidence.
After the lukewarm Fate route and the grandiloquent and bombastic Unlimited Blade Works, we finally have an adaptation
of Fate/Stay Night's last route, the Heaven's Feel. The bloodcurling and horror-filled story takes place in Fuyuki city and it is the most beloved and critically acclaimed part of the story. But is it really deserving of such status? Yes, yes it is, and in this review I'm going to show you why it is so good and why it also deserves it's many comparisons with the Zero saga.
The Heaven's Feel route is the darkest entry in the saga, it has many twists and turns and a lot of stuff worthy of praise. And the Fate series is at it again, now deconstructing yet another demography. With Fate and UBW it deconstructs many Shounen tropes, motifs and clichés. And this time it deconstructs Shoujo/Josei, because, if you haven't noticed the HF looks a lot like many Josei stories, but in a good way of course. I love Chihayafuru, Sakamichi no Apollon and many other great works aimed at women. Since I don't discriminate manga or anime because of its demography because if I did I wouldn't be able to sharpen and broaden my critical sense like I did, of course.
The main twist of the route, for whatever ungodly reason it may be is given right away at the very prologue of the story. It kind of ruins this long, very long story but not so much. Because to me Fate, just like Sword Art Online and Neon Genesis Evangelion (three of my favorite controversial franchises of all time), is a series that is pretty much immune to spoilers and manages to be impactful regardless of them.
Rape is something disgusting and everyone knows that, or at least they should. It's sick and disgusting to see how much rape and sexual assault are romanticized in popular media, especially the ones aimed at women, I'm talking about Shoujo/Josei/BL manga with rapey male leads. And with this story is nice to see such serious subject being treated with respect and having a satisfactory outcome insead of following the disgusting 'Rape is love' trope, which is, personally, the one I dislike the most.
•Profound and meaningful themes;
•Dark, somber and obscure;
•It looks like a mixture of Shounen and Shoujo;
•Rape is a proeminent theme;
•Long, very long, but worth it;
Shirou, the protagonist, is (along with Kirito and Shinji Ikari) one of the most misunderstood main characters of all time. He's more mature and likeable in this route, since his role is not to be taught but instead to learn his ways on his own. Shirou Emiya is the deconstruction of the Shounen/Ideal hero, so you should interpret his character based on this, instead of just judge him based on his actions. And he is, along with Yuuji Kazami, Tomoya Okazaki and Battler Ushiromiya, one of the best Visual Novel protagonists of all time.
Sakura, the main heroine of this story, is the least likeable heroines of the entire saga. No charisma, and little to no personality, but everything changes when... whoops, can't go there yet. I don't want to ruin the story with spoilers, but she becomes more likeable after a major twist in the story. Her story is sad and tragic and may change your opinion drastically about her.
Rin, the badass magician, has the same role as she always had, the sensei of Emiya-kun. Her 'tsundere queen' status is not given to her without reasons. She's one of the best tsunderes ever written (along with Asuka and Senjougahara). But there's more to here character than this. She's strong, head-strong, determinated and beyond perfect as a character. She's very realistic and down-to-earth, and just an amazing character oveall. Definitelly the best girl from this series.
Illyasviel, the cutie and troubled little sister character. There's nothing much that can be said about her without giving away heavy spoilers all I have to say is for you to expect your heart to be shattered because of her fate. And she and Kotomine are giving more importance in this route, unlike in the previous ones.
Saber, the face of Fate, is one of the most popular and beloved characters from this franchise, if not the most popular one. She's pretty, cute and very strong. She has a different and alternate role this time. But she doesn't remains as important as she was in the previous routes.
Rider, the badass and seductive servant, has a more proeminent role in this route and is give more importance because of this. She's easily one of the most dynamic and noteworthy servants this story has.
The servants and masters are all great as aways, especially Lancer and Archer. Don't get to attached to any of them though, that's my only advice to you.
The Antagonists are all great but I can't say much without spoiling you. The only thing that I'm disappointed is that Gil's role is diminished this time. He's my favorite 'villain' from this saga and I wished see more of him. But, oh well, there's nothing that can be done about it. And the actual antagonist/villain is not someone you would expect.
•Shirou looks and acts more mature;
•Sakura is the least likeable of all heroines;
•Illya and Kotomine have more importance in this route;
•The actual antagonist of this story is not someone your would expect it to be;
•Everyone is realistic, real and human, very, very human.
Task Ohna, the guy who drew the manga adaptation of Koten-bu Series, Hyouka, was the one responsible for this manga's art. And while he's not as good as Takashi Takeuchi, his traces are distinct, and he is pretty good at action scenes (and H scenes if I may add). I mean c'mon, it's about the Fate Series, the series known for the 'Unlimited Bugdet Works' meme because of its wondorous art. So, it's pretty obvious that they wouldn't ask an untalented person to make an adaptation for their manga, like they did with the Stay Night and Zero manga adaptatoins. All of which, let's face it, had horrible drawings.
•The art is beyond stunning;
•Amazing character designs;
•Way better than many Fate manga;
It's comparisons with Fate/Zero are obviosly not underserved. The Heaven's Feel is an outsdanding masterpiece with a great plot, deep and meaningful themes and an amazing and satisfactory conclusion.
Story - 10/10
Character - 10/10
Art - 9/10
Enjoyment - 10/10
Overall - 10/10
Reccomendations for those looking for dark stories with amazing storytellings, drama and character development:
Akame Ga KILL!, Berserk, Fullmetal Alchemist, HUNTERxHUNTER, Shingetsutan Tsukihime, Kara no Kyoukai: the Garden of Sinners, Mirai Nikki, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica, Zetsuen no Tempest and Sword Art Online: Project Alicization.