Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] 第1話 「プロローグ」
Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] #01. 「Prologue」
Source Material: Visual novel series by Type-Moon
Director(s): Miura Takahiro (三浦 貴博)
Storyboard: Miura Takahiro (三浦 貴博)
Animation Director(s): Sudou Tomonori (須藤 友徳), Tabata Hisayuki (田畑 壽之)
Fate/stay night is a Japanese visual novel developed and published by Type-Moon for Windows computers. The visual novel was originally an eroge, but after a more toned-down TV anime adaptation by Studio Deen aired, an updated version for ages fifteen years old and up entitled Fate/stay night Réalta Nua was released for the Playstation 2 game console and then later ported back to Windows computers as a trilogy containing three diverse main story-lines. A manga adaptation written by Nishiwaki Datto and published in Kadokawa Shoten began serialization in 2006 and concluded in 2012 with twenty volumes. The anime film adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works, one of the three story-routes, was produced by Studio Deen and released in January 2010. In 2012, Fate/stay night Réalta Nua was ported to the Playstation Vita gaming console. Also within its franchise are Fate/Zero, a prequel to Fate/stay night, Fate/hollow ataraxia, a sequel to Fate/stay night, Fate/Prototype, an original video animation that features early character designs for the series, and various other stories presented in various other media forms.
Tohsaka Rin, an independent teenage girl, has the priorities of a high school student on the surface of her life, but what she desires more than anything in life is to live up to her family name as an elite magus, earn her right in the participation of the Fifth Holy Grail War by successfully summoning a Servant of her own, and win the actual war, thereby proving her family and her own stature. However, due to a slump in her preparations, she has yet to earn her bid in the Holy Grail War. Pressured by Kotomine Kirei, the mediator of the war, she decides to take her chances and try to summon the strongest class Servant, Saber, while her magic potency is at its supposed zenith in the dead of the night. Her summoning ritual is successful but only to the extent that a Heroic Spirit has answered her call. Rin is initially disappointed that she has summoned a Servant of the Archer class and furthermore that he himself cannot even remember his own identity and origin, but the two more than gradually become a harmonized pairing. One night on school-grounds, they discover that one of the other Servants is siphoning the life force of the students on campus in order to make use of the extra magic reserves for the upcoming war. Their discovery is interrupted by the appearance of Lancer, who engages the two in battle despite being without his master. Archer is able to stand on even ground with Lancer in close-combat until Lancer prepares his Noble Phantasm. Suddenly, an observing student accidentally reveals his presence, and Lancer ceases his attack to give chase in order to execute him as a witness. Rin rushes to the scene only to find the now slain student to be Emiya Shirou, a rather close classmate; she uses the only means she has to save Shirou’s life, the red jewel pendant left behind by her deceased father. Upon arriving home, Archer returns the pedant Rin had left behind, which triggers Rin into realizing that Lancer will simply kill Shirou again once he finds out he is alive. Rin and Archer rush outside to find and protect Shirou from Lancer’s onslaught but are ambushed by the worst possible intrusion, Saber.
*As disclosure, I’d like to mention that I have no previous experience with the Unlimited Blade Works route in neither visual novel nor animated film form. I had been so put off by Studio Deen‘s adaptation of Fate/stay night that I’ve put off checking out the Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works movie despite hearing it actually being much better than the television series. Furthermore, I’ve never played a visual novel game in my life, so, yeah, that’s that.
Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in, from the magical world of wonderful anime productions. Ufotable‘s TV anime adaptation of Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] makes its gallant premiere oh-so-similarly to the studio’s previous adaptation of Fate/zero in form, but the results couldn’t have been any more different. The two premieres both focus on the prologue to the respective Holy Grail Wars, specifically through the perspective of the respective protagonists’ preparations for war; and interestingly enough, the two premieres both ended with the magnificent appearance of the coveted Saber class, the
man, the myth, the legend, the King of Knights, Arturia Pendragon, King Arthur. Indeed, while the turn of events are essentially one and the same, the rest that follows are not, specifically the character interactions. A definitive far cry from Emiya Kiritsugu and Saber’s relationship (from the start until the very end) is Tohsaka Rin and Archer’s relationship that, after the shortest of short-lasting minor misunderstandings, quickly develops into a solid rapport, construable as so even without the formalities of a Master and Servant being spiritually and transcendentally linked. No, Rin and Archer’s contract has already begun blossoming into a friendship, as the two gradually find themselves agreeing on various courses of actions as well as various underlying ethics that drive those actions; at this point, it’s pretty apparent how worthy the two are of being the main protagonists (in this route at least). And while the episode does center its focus on this dynamic duo, I reckon any viewer with previous experiences with the Fate series will take notice of the various foreshadowing of to-be subplots and incoming grand plot-points at play. While this has undeniably been one of my own most anticipated series of the entire year, I wasn’t quite ready to be completely blown away by anything other than the bang-up production job from ufotable with the first episode. Before Fate/zero properly became my favorite series of 2012, its premiere episode also received the red-carpet treatment of a hearty double-length feature, and it was indeed damn impressive; but at the same time, it was nowhere near the level that the series eventually built up to through not only superb art and animation quality but also thoroughly thrilling story-telling. To be honest, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t expect Unlimited Blade Works to ever be a better series that Fate/zero was; I’m avidly aware of the lack of a certain script-writer and how other atmospheric alterations, such as the school-life setting, are bound to hinder the implacable brutality and atrocity that made Zero the great account it was as it scoured the depths of the world to properly place heart-breaking narratives of love, mutilation, suffering, betrayal, and the likes in all the right places. That being said, what I can say is that the premiere of Unlimited Blade Works has proved to be a more well-rounded presentation; it firmly establishes the most integral part of its cast, does well in re-constituting the mythos of the series, and features not one, but two Servant-on-Servant face-offs. By all means, ufotable delivers Unlimited Blade Works with the resoluteness that they have evolved as a studio in some respects; and I don’t mean that so much as a matter of better art and animation (because let’s face it, they were securely position on a god-tier pedestal in that department even before Fate/zero), but as a matter of perspective and self-awareness. Even now, it’s easy to view ufotable as a relatively dormant production studio; with the exception of their Kara no Kyoukai film series, they seem to distance themselves from conventional anime forms and tend to specialize more in the production of short anime cut-scenes featured in video games and such. Fate/zero‘s critical acclaim as a series has done well in thrusting the studio out of that shell; it not only gave way to an incoming television roster with anticipated TV anime adaptations like the current one in review and the recently announced God Eater series, but in the case of Unlimited Blade Works, you can somewhat gauge how they’ve reinstated the elements that made Zero a grand slam of a series into this follow-up production, but to an even better effect. And at this point, I’m not sure there’s anymore lauding to be done. The premiere of Unlimited Blade Works has shown that the series will be to movie productions what movie productions are to television productions (if that makes any sense) in the realm of visual excellence. All that’s left is to let the story-writing aspect of the series take care of the rest and enjoy the beautiful ride. And while I did disclaim at the beginning that I’ve ever actually played a visual novel, I hear the script is a rather crucial element for the medium, so I think we’re pretty damn safe in that regard.