Jan 5, 2017
CountZeroOr (All reviews)
Adaptations of visual novels to anime are something of a mixed bag. Sometimes, like with Clannad and Comic Party, the adaptation is a hit. Other times, it doesn't work quite so much. Fate/Stay Night falls into the former case, though there are times where the work stumbles in its execution, primarily on the animation front, though there are some narrative issues.

The animation for the series is done by Studio DEEN, and this is made during their dark period, after their high points back in the 80s with works like Angel's Egg, and before their modern redemption with Konosuba and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. This leads to some weird animation moments - such as clear moments where dialog scenes are taken off camera, to avoid having to animating mouth movements. Some of the action scenes also feel under-animated - including some of the shows more significant fights - like Archer's battle with Berserker. It feels like a deliberate attempt to save money on the animation budget so they can go all out in the series finale, which has an incredibly dramatic animation bump - so dramatic that it almost feels like it was animated by a completely different studio.

That said, the show's music is generally good, with a score composed by Kenji Kawai, who is known for his work on Ghost in the Shell - though the scope of the music feels, once again, limited by budget - as if he envisioned the music to be played by live musicians, only to be informed that all they could afford was a really nice synthesizer, loaded with some really good MIDI voices.

The writing is generally good. The women, particularly Saber, Rin, Taiga, and Ilya are all very interestingly and entertainingly written characters, with some great character moments. In particular, Miki Itou as Taiga livens up every scene she's in with the work, and you can almost feel her energy liven up the rest of the cast in the scenes she shares with them. That said, some of the writing around the character of Shirou stumbles. He's overly patronizing of Saber. In particular, early in the series he's unwilling to acknowledge or recognize her combat skills to a real degree - choosing to fight instead of her even when it's been demonstrated to him that she is far better with a sword than pretty much everyone. Later in the series he shows a better degree of trust, but it is still frustrating early on in the show. Later on in the series the show develops a twist that comes more or less out of nowhere, but it introduces one of the show's better antagonists, so I'll cut them some slack for that.

As far as whether you should watch the show - Ufotable has spent more time in this universe than Deen has, with prequel Fate/Zero, and the Unlimited Blade Works anime (which adapts another route through the same game). Fate/Zero sets up the rules of the Grail War, much as this does, but Fate/Zero front-loads the exposition with a massive infodump in the first, double-length episode, while this show paces the exposition better - and explains some other concepts that Fate/Zero doesn't get into (like how the magic system works).