Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

Alt titles: Gekijouban Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

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FalseDawn's avatar By FalseDawn on Oct 31, 2011

Story

Before I get into the real meat of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and find out what makes it tick, I'd like to point out that this review is going to be equal parts an overview of the pros and (many) cons of this movie, an insight into the reviewing process itself and a lesson in how to write a screenplay. Why, you ask? Simply because it seems Studio Deen need to be told how to do it right.

But let's start from the top: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bean Works is set in an alternate timeline to Studio Deen's previous Fate/Stay adaptation, Fate/Stay Night, but with the same basic premise: Seven mages are chosen to fight in the Holy Grail War, summoning legendary heroes from the past to help them in their goal of surviving a humongous battle royale. Emiya Shirou is one of these chosen mages who befriends another chosen mage, Tohsaka Rin, straight off the bat, therefore pretty much neglecting the whole “fight to the death” scenario. Shirou then summons Saber quite by accident and sets about his mission of being the only person in the War who seemingly wants to fight every battle himself as some kind of suicide mission.

I feel I need to interject at this point. Despite the previous paragraph, I did actually enjoy the plot to F/SN:UBW because the premise is an interesting one and Unlisted Blade Works is a lot darker than the original series. Whereas the best scene in the 2006 edition of the Fate/Stay universe was undoubtedly a snarky but honourable Archer taking on a vastly overpowered Berserker in a dark, tear-soaked, nihilistic setting, this 2010 update decided to build its very foundations on that atmosphere and pepper it with some truly gory (not to mention, simply cruel) moments. Yet, overall, the story failed horribly.

A rule of reviewing I've learnt to live by is: Always view a series/movie as a standalone piece of art. This isn't steadfast but it works. Take Code Geass, for instance. Fantastic first season, terrible second season. However, memory of the first meant that it took a while for me to see R2 for what it really was: a steaming pile of horse manure. To apply this to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Widgets, the only thing that really holds the story up is the fact that everybody already knows the characters and the basic plot. Take out this foreknowledge and despite it being a complete reset, the viewer is lost from the start.

To say that pacing is an issue is like calling the duckbilled playpus “a little different”. The first ten minutes is a barrage of plot points, not to mention a pointless exercise in dot-to-dot, which results in a laughable summary of the Holy Grail War and Emiya's involvement in it playing out like an animated version of a wiki entry (or my overview above even). Characters are thrown at us and the writers cross their fingers that they'll stick. No-one gets an introduction, everyone just appears. Then disappears. Twists fly at you in a flurry before you've even had time to check if you're still in Kansas. And the reason for all this is because Studio Deen have done the ridiculous thing of trying to squash a whole game's worth of plot into a measly hour forty-five [insert facepalm here].


Animation

The animation has changed very little from the Fate/Stay Night series, with only minor touch ups with regards to character design. Gilgamesh notably loses his golden suit of armour but the symbolism behind this is beyond me. The artists themselves seem to have attended the “Dragon Ball Z School of Art” (probably sat next to the Bleach artists) with their tendency to spawn crater-inducing aura explosions all over the shop and giving every familiar the unerring ability to fly into battle despite it being pretty common knowledge that King Arthur wasn't a flier. It would have come up at some point if he'd been caught doing that (then again, if they couldn't figure out he was a she, then who knows what else they left out!).

Aside from the psychedelic sex scene which implodes into lots of lovely blue diamonds, which was nice and all but completely inconsequential mumbo-jumbo – aside from that, there's no subtlety to the art. It hammers away at the viewer like the plot does – in short, sharp sword stabs. One of the things I liked about the original F/SN was the decision to show Shirou being slightly repulsed by Saber's rather manly body, but it was quite clear that she occupied the damsel in distress role in UBW. Quite how anyone managed to mistake that ample bosom in Anglo Saxon times is anyone's guess.

It's worth noting that this score is also lowered by ufotable's 2011 effort, Fate/Zero, because while I'm conscious of my reviewing rule about viewing in a vacuum, it's clear to see what can be done with the right tools and only a year later, no less.


Sound

The only saving grace. The opening is almost tribal and the soaring melodies give a good springboard for the movie that the action unfortunately doesn't take up and run with. Kenji Kawai's score uses the chorus as an instrument, rather than letting words drown the heart-thumping soundtrack. This only lets up at the end when a power rock ballad invades, but even then, it oddly suits the movie's ending of bitter-sweetness.

The cast of voice actors is largely the same as the 2006 version, but they all seem to have learnt a lot in the four year gap. Gone are Shirou's constant mewlings and thankfully, he's learnt more words than just Saber's name. Noriaki Sugiyama even managed to make this Shirou sound worthy in his ideals and that takes some effort.


Characters

Sure, we all like Saber and the other familiars, especially the unpredictability of the villainous Gilgamesh and Archer going rogue was a touch of genius too, but then he flitted between different alliances like an indecisive whore. Hint, Studio Deen: there's a reason I use “touch” – if you put your whole hand on it, you smother the “genius” part.

The overriding problem with the characters though, is the lack of any semblance of characterisation. In the mind of F/SN:UBW, characterisation means saying the character's name. In this manner, we meet Lancer, Ilya and Shinji – then promptly don't see them again for half an hour or more while more names are thrown at us. Plot twists were severely let down by the fact that characters appeared from the smokescreen to audible gasps, only for the viewer to go “Wait a tick, who's he?” Shirou's teacher is the perfect example: Was he even introduced before that scene? I mean, even Scooby Doo introduced the ghost's real identity before they got to the unmasking bit. That's logical, isn't it, Studio Deen? Here's a tip for you: real scripts should go:

Basis → Character building → interaction → internal struggle meets external forces → twist.

It shouldn't go:

Basis → twist → twist → twist → twistwistwist → deus ex machina → end.

I'm afraid, try as I might, I can't add anything else under the banner of characters because there literally isn't anything else to say about them. Key conversations were never had, back stories were never completed, motivations were never even discussed (except for Shirou, briefly): with failings like that, how can a character even be called a character?

2.5/10 story
5/10 animation
8/10 sound
1/10 characters
2.5/10 overall
shadow7412's avatar By shadow7412 on Sep 30, 2010

I really wish I could give this 12/10 - but I just can't.

The reason? They haven't explained enough in this movie. It really should have been done over 2 movies.

If you have played the Visual Novel of Fate Stay Night, you will really enjoy this. If you haven't, then all you will see are a bunch of fights with non-explained powers and, to some extent, motives.

9/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
8/10 overall
Wanginator's avatar By Wanginator on Oct 2, 2010

Disclaimer here: if you have not played the visual novel OR watched the anime series, I suggest you put this one off, or otherwise subtract like 5 from the score I've given. To put it bluntly, the movie expects and assumes that the viewer has some background knowledge of Fate/stay night's story. Most importantly, knowledge of the first two nights of the story are vital in understanding what is going on. For the anime series, this would encompass watching the first 3 episodes, as the movie chooses to forsake all the early development stuff, instead jumping straight to where the storyline branches off after a short introduction. That being said, I still strongly encourage new viewers to watch the whole anime series before delving into the movie. The very nature of it being a movie leaves very little character development time for anyone besides our lead characters. That means other lesser characters, though not by any means unimportant to the story, will potentially look like random character additions, which will likely take away from the viewer's enjoyment of the movie.

The movie in itself reminds me quite a bit of those expansion packs you might buy for various games; the original game has mediocre content, whereas the expansion will (usually) add something to the game that makes it worth playing. In a nutshell, the movie recreates the same world that we were introduced to in the anime series, with the same characters, but with a completely different story route. As such, the characters we've known from the series play very different roles in the movie, as some characters are killed off earlier while others stay around.

The time allotted for character development, unfortunately, is severely limited, so the movie focuses its time on just a few: primarily Archer, Shirou, and to a lesser extent, Rin. Saber, unfortunately, gets very little development time, but her on-screen presence during combat scenes makes up for this. For the other three, background information and other details that we didn't know about in the series are presented in such a way that makes the character interaction look incredibly believable, and also lets them be seen in a new light compared to the anime series. Shirou, in particular, is a bit less annoying and a VERY good deal less helpless than he was in the series... a plus, to be sure. Rin's tsundere qualities are also highlighted a lot more in this route, and Archer was a badass to begin with: he just gets a lot more screen time now!

Overall, for viewers that enjoyed Fate/stay night the anime series, definitely give this one a try. I also urge viewers that gave the series negative comments based solely on Shirou's behavior to check this out too. Unfortunately, for Type-moon fans who are familiar with the visual novel, there's nothing new presented in the movie; the visual novel still does a better job of telling the story. Though, it's always cool to see some awesome scenes animated.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
8/10 overall
Azmodeous's avatar By Azmodeous on May 17, 2012

For starters, to watch this movie and get any sort of semblance out of the plot you really just have to be familiar with the series.  This can be explained by the Fate/Stay Night series.  Also, one more thing to understand is that this is an ALTERNATE ROUTE from the Fate/Stay Night series that shows different endings, battles, etc.

With that said, the movie was excellent.  The animation was good for its time (not the best, but certaintly not the worst), the sound was good, and the best part was the story and the characters.  In Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks you learn much more about the main character (Emiya) and the heroic spirit Archer than anything else.  If you have seen Fate/Stay Night, this is an excellent compliment and will answer many questions you had about the two (trying not to give spoilers).  If you enjoy the series or the visual novel its based on you will definitely enjoy this movie.

Overall I gave it a 9/10 simply because while I understand that movies need to be concise, I feel there could have been just a bit more of that "something" that I can't seem to put my finger on.

9/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall
Hyperiion's avatar By Hyperiion on Oct 27, 2010

Well , It has it's down sides and it's upsides , Vey liked the anime  , the characters are quite interesting with their story . About the story , as some of the people sayed : " If you didn't watch the anime , most of it , wont make sense at all " And if you read the visual novel , then you wont find anything new .

As for me I saw something new , because I didnt read the novel . And I'm really satisfied that I saw it ,

Yes I would recommend to watch it , but only after the Anime .

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall