Review: Fate/Stay Night


Fate/Stay Night is one of those shows that has been around for a while and you hear a lot of good things about. Don’t think that those things go to their extremes though, it’s nine years old and people have recommended plenty of other things over this. You get it though, not new, not awful- surely worth a watch?

Background:
Ten years ago an area of Fuyuki City was inexplicably burnt down with the only survivor being a young boy, Shiro Emiya. After being saved and taken in, he promises to uphold his father’s ambition of being a ‘champion of justice’. As it turns out, Shiro’s father is what we call a magus (magician, wizard etc.) and has passed a degree of his power onto his son. ‘A degeee’ is just the right way to talk about it, as Shiro can only do one type of magic which is viewed by the other magus’ as largely useless. The story focuses upon the ever recurring ‘Holy Grail Wars’, a battle royale of the sorts between pairs of masters and servants to gain the Holy Grail, an object which can grant the user anything they want.

In the beginning Shiro is clueless. Actually, he’s always clueless.

Plot:
As with most anime, our main character (though some bad things have happened to him a long time ago), starts off living an extraordinarily normal life. This very quickly changes as he is selected to be a Master in the Holy Grail Wars and accidentally summons his Servant, Saber. Between the two of them they have to defeat the other masters, which unsurprisingly they manage before meeting an unseen and much greater challenge at the end of the series. As it happens, Saber has already been involved in the Holy Grail Wars before, fighting with Shiro’s father, coming very close to winning before the Grail was destroyed (or was it?!) burning down a large area of the city (see, it’s come full circle).

Character Development:
I’ve reviewed a couple of anime now, and a good deal of them seemed to be quite good, but don’t have great male protagonists. That isn’t the case with Fate/Stay Night: Shiro makes for a very good lead, even if his motives are questionable at points (it’s anime, that’s a requirement right?). There’s no messing around trying to change him from someone quiet and timid into the great hero, he just wants to be the hero and the journey we are put through shows him finding out what he really wants (not so obvious right).

On the other hand, I can’t say I rated our lead female, Saber, as a particularly interesting character- in a way she kind of fills the space that wasn’t taken by a conflicted/socially challenged male. There’s no doubt about it that she has a motive to begin with, but it is all too typical of a whiny teenage girl who wants to change something that happened in her past (despite being a centuries old ‘epic hero’). That said, it would be unfair to characterize her as a completely awful character. The development of her relationship with Shiro is interesting if not overly exciting and it goes without saying that she is pretty great in combat.

As for the rest of the characters, Shiro’s sidekick/teacher, Rin, is developed very well. Despite being a magus herself, it becomes pretty clear early on that her purpose isn’t to create an awkward end game scenario, but instead to make sure Shiro doesn’t mess up too much. It’s also worth saying that even towards the later stages of the show she is still more adept than Shiro is, allowing for a particularly impressive fight scene.

The side characters are okay. The bad guy (who shall remain nameless for the purpose of avoiding spoilers), was interesting given the way he is set up, but it would be nice to get some more background give to him (but there is a prequel so I might get my wish there?). Illyia is also an interesting character both as an enemy and as an ally, but also lacks the development you really want (but then she’s got her own spin-off as well…). Archer, Rin’s servant is probably the best of the side charcters, but unfortunately doesn’t make it through the season (he must be in another show somewhere). Sakura, the third female ‘protagonist’ if you really want to call her that, is the weakest of the lot by quite some distance- it almost feels as if the producers decided someone else was needed to fill a vaguely important roll that wasn’t one of the three mains at the last moment. Safe to say it didn’t really work.

Things get quite intense towards the end of the season

Sound, Artwork and Animation:
The artwork and animation in Fate/Stay Night is largely very good, the style is slightly different to shows being released right now, but it still works well and the fight scenes are animated to a high standard. The sound however is quite underwhelming, both the openings and endings give little to shout about and I can’t say there was any stage throughout where I thought the backing sound significantly added to the presentation of the show.

Favourite Episode:
Episode 14: End of the Ideal. This episode probably has the best battle scene of the whole show, with Archer taking on Illyia’s servant, Berserker. It’s also the episode where we see Shiro start to realize his potential.

Overall:
Fate/Stay Night was a funny show to judge. Watching it I couldn’t say that there was anything that really let it down: the main characters were largely good and the plot was very interesting. At the same time though I couldn’t really pick anything out that made it a particularly great show. Despite not falling into the trap that some leading males do, Shiro isn’t unique or overly exciting and the paired survival game, though original, didn’t grab me like other concepts have. What it does do very well though is set the stage for many other spin off shows. That point then makes me wonder that the problem with Fate/Stay Night was that it tried to bite off more than it could chew in 24 episodes. Not because the story wasn’t resolved,because it was, but because some of the more interesting characters didn’t have get enough time to develop.

 

What did you think of Fate/Stay Night? Am I missing the point here? Or is 7.0 too kind? Does it in fact deserve less? Rate the show and rage (or not?) against me in the comments below.

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