The Fate franchise past, present and future – a guide


Yesterday, we got yet another addition to the Fate universe in the form of the feature length Fate Grand Order: First Order. The Fate franchise has been constantly expanding since it’s inception with the 2004 visual novel Fate/Stay Night (the most well known and popular part of the world), but that has possibly never been as true as what we are being promised looking forward to 2017. Before we look at these new adaptations, I’ll run through the previous anime appearances.

Fate/Stay Night (2006)

The very first anime adapted the Fate route of the original visual novel. It follows the now familiar story line of Shirou and Saber in the Holy Grail war against six other pairs of mages and heroic spirits fighting it out in a battle royale format for the Holy Grail. It’s full of well fleshed out main characters with interesting motivations which set a reasonable benchmark for future instalments, but it suffered from bad pacing and a questionable selection of sections from the visual novel (when you see the bit I mean, you’ll know exactly what I mean). My full review is here.

Saber is the main female character of the first incarnation of Fate/Stay Night
Saber is the main female character of the first incarnation of Fate/Stay Night

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works Movie (2010)

After a four year break, Fate/Stay Night returned in movie form adapting the second visual novel route, Unlimited Blade Works. I will admit I’ve chosen not to watch this particular adaptation because of some of the reviews I’ve read about it. The movie takes one of three main routes of the 50 hour long visual novel and tells it’s story in 90 minutes – I suppose that tells you all you need to know.

In Unlimited Blade Works the focus shifts from Saber to Rin
In Unlimited Blade Works the focus shifts from Saber to Rin

Carnival Phantasm (2011)

Carnival Phantasm is very different to any other Type-Moon anime. It takes the characters from the Fate world and it’s sister franchise Tsukihime about puts them into short comic situations. In terms of plot it gives us pretty much nothing, but it’s very entertaining and essential for fans of the series.

Although it doesn't have a lot to do with the rest of the franchise, Carnival Phantasm is a good laugh if nothing else.
Although it doesn’t have a lot to do with the rest of the franchise, Carnival Phantasm is a good laugh if nothing else.

Fate/Zero (2011/12)

The most well received anime adaptation to date (at least according to the gospel that is MAL) is Fate/Zero. Based on a series of novels of the same name, Fate/Zero is a prequel to Stay Night set in the Fourth Holy Grail War. It features Saber as a returning character along with the previously largely unknown father of Shirou, Kiritsugu Emiya. It’s a story that gives us a lot of information about the workings of the Holy Grail wars and the situation at the start of Fate/Stay Night. Oh and did I mention the art and animation is mind blowing?

Fate/Zero sets the scene for Fate/Stay Night through the portrayal of the previous Holy Grail War
Fate/Zero sets the scene for Fate/Stay Night through the portrayal of the previous Holy Grail War

Fate/Prototype (2011)

Before Fate/Stay Night as we know it today, it existed completely differently. Saber is male, Shirou is a girl called Ayaka. For better or for worse, the only anime adaptation of this version is 12 minute OVA. Watch it or don’t – I’m imagining this won’t change your life.

The centre piece of this trailer like entry seems to be set in a greenhouse.
The centre piece of this trailer like entry seems to be set in a greenhouse.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya (2013- currently airing)

One of the most loved characters from Fate/Stay Night was the Master Illya. What do you do when you’ve got a popular young girl in a serious anime? Make a magical girl spin-off of course! With 40 episodes so far plus a movie in the works it certainly seems to have been a good idea by Type-Moon and Silver Link. I haven’t got any immediate plans to start watching it but who knows… I refuse to rule anything out.

Need I say anything?
Need I say anything?

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works TV (2014/15)

My personal favourite Fate anime is the TV adaptation of the second route of the visual novel. With some of the best visuals in anime, three spectacular double length episodes and well fleshed out characters, I can’t recommend it enough, even as a standalone series. The fanservice in second half is mixed (wedding dress – NO, epilogue – YES), but generally this is a top tier anime and I won’t give you any complaints (if you’re interested here’s my full review).

While UBW focuses on Rin as the main female, Archer is just an important as Shirou.
While UBW focuses on Rin as the main female, Archer is just an important as Shirou.

Fate/Grand Order: First Order (2016)

The newest edition to Fate in the anime world is a cheeky advert for the Japanese mobile game, Fate/Grand Order. It presents a world where humanity appears to be losing it’s grip, as a singularity is found 12 years previously in Fuyuki in 2004 (i.e. the fifth holy grail war). Without giving anything away, the two main characters go back to the war where things are very different from Fate/Stay Night. With no promise of further anime, the 70 minute episode/film developed it’s characters and concepts poorly, but is probably worth a watch if you’ve seen everything else on this list.

Familiar faces return in a largely different setting for Grand Order.
Familiar faces return in a largely different setting for Grand Order.

So you’ve seen all of those, what now?

Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that 2017 is shaping up to be the biggest year for the Fate franchise yet.

Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel Movie #1 

From the studio and director that gave us the latest incarnation of Unlimited Blade Works and Fate/Zero (ufotable and Tomonori Sudou) is the first of three films adapting the third and final route of the original visual novel. Of the three Fate anime coming this year, this movie is by far the most exciting for me as it completes the adaptation of the visual novel routes (following on from Fate and UBW). My only reservation is that instead of 24 TV episodes, we’re getting 3 feature length films; in principle I don’t have a problem with this format, though there’s always a greater possibility of something going wrong when things are done differently. That said, I’m still immensely looking forward to this!

Fate/Extra Last Encore

Last Encore is a planned TV series based on the dungeon crawling PSP game Fate Extra. The story is based around the Holy Grail and the concept of Masters and Servants, but the twist this time is that the world is virtual! We haven’t had many details about this one yet though we do know that it’s being produced by Shaft (Monogatari Series, Nisekoi), so the animation should be fantastic, if possibly a little abstract! Much like Grand Order, the real test for Extra Last Encore will be converting a game with little story into a fully fledged anime with interesting characters and a cohesive plot. Don’t get too excited though, as it seems it’s now being delayed to Winter 2018.

Fate/Apocrypha

The latest announcement from the people at Type-Moon came on New Year’s Eve. Fate/Apocrypha is light novel series set in a parallel world to Fate/Stay Night focusing upon a battle between the Red and Black factions over ‘the greater grail’. I can’t say I know a lot about this one as I haven’t read the novels myself but it’ll definitely be exciting to see some new servants in action with fresh masters as well.

So there they are.

There’s a lot of Fate to look forward to in the coming year for fans of the series. There’s one final thing I’d like to do (thanks for making it this far by the way!) for those who have yet to dip their feet into the Fate infested water.

What order do should I watch Fate/Stay Night in?

The answer to this golden question is different depending on who you speak to but I would recommend the order I watched it (completely by accident).

Fate/Stay Night (2006) -> Fate/Zero -> Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works (2014/15) -> Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel (2017)

By watching the show in release rather than chronological order, you don’t spoil the biggest surprise of the Fate route with the events of Fate/Zero. As for my assumption that UBW should come before Heaven’s Feel, in the original visual novel you have to complete UBW before you can start Heaven’s Feel. 

Hopefully this was interesting for fans of the series and convinced others to give Fate a go. Was there an anime I missed or do you think there’s manga, novels or games that are just too important to ignore.

Thanks for reading! 😀

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